Saturday, May 29, 2010

Let's Talk: Self Publishing

I was thinking about waiting to post this since it's a holiday weekend and BookExpo America week in NYC. So many people won't be near their computers but I figured why not. This has been in my head waiting patiently to get out. I've been hearing alot about self publishing lately. So, I thought we could talk about it a bit.

Earlier in the week I posted a Women Writers of Color feature by author Kyra Davis. Instead of allowing her Sophie Katz series to come to an end the author plans to look into self publishing. I was suprised but I shouldn't have been. Davis isn't the only author to consider self publishing recently. Author John Edgar Wideman, PW article on his decision to self publish. Author Cory Doctorow is conducting an experiment, With A Little Help. The book will be available in many formats including print form courtesy of

With publishers only putting advertisting money behind a few titles, more established authors will consider self publishing. This year I read Erica Kennedy's newest release Feminista . I loved it so much I requested in 8 copies. The book made was placed on staff picks, another co-worker blurbed it and it sold out. Hopefully a few mother's got it as a gift. Though imagine how many more sales Feminista could have if only there was some talk behind it.

Yes, I know many many books are published in a year and publishers must be very smart about which titles they back financially. It is a business after all. But, does James Patterson really need another NYT print ad for his newest release?

I am still very wary of self published titles. If not for Zetta Elliott's A Wish After Midnight, which was originally self published, I would not be writing this. I subscribed to something, now every day or so I get emails asking if I want a review copy. All of the books are self published. I've been getting them for about 4 months now. They all look and sound very bad. I have yet to unsubscribe, 1) I don't know where to do that at. 2) If I knew I probably wouldn't, I am still hoping to find one good book.

Ari of Reading in Color, and fellow Color Online contributor has reviewed about 6 self published titles. (Ari, what is the exact number?) She loved A Wish After Midnight and really enjoyed Asleep by Wendy Raven Mcnair. Everything else got a 2 or 2.5 rating.

Would I read or give a self published title a chance? Yes. Though this is what I would need first.

1)If an author is going to self publish, they need to have a presence online. At least a one chapter or two excerpts of the book available to preview. Two excerpts so I know the first one isn't a fluke. If I am going to take a chance on a self published title, I think its only fair that I get a look inside.

2)Spell check and edit please. If you visit my personal blog, you know this is ironic since I am not very good at either. But, my blog is free. When someone sells a product they should do their best to make sure its as good as it can be.

3)Covers that don't look like they've been made at kinkos. I will not look twice at a self published title has a kinko looking cover with crooked wording.

There are probably more things but that's all I can think of right now. Would you consider reading or buying a self published title? Why or why not?


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Good topic, and really isn't that the truth about James Patterson? Sometimes life just isn't fair!

I also get emails for self-published books and even took a few up on it at first until I saw what that meant which was usually but not always pretty bad.

But But But! I think the whole equation changes for People of Color. Getting published is much more difficult for POC authors, so I imagine there are many more books of quality not getting published by established houses among that group and therefore some of these may end up as self-published. Thus, I would be WAY more likely to consider a POC self-published book only because I know the situation may have nothing to do with the book's quality.

But I think you have a great idea about a web presence so that we can get an idea about an author. And it's in their best interest as well. Who could read, e.g., Zetta Elliott's blog and not want to read every single thing she writes?

MissAttitude said...

I think it's actually 5 reviewed, but I've read six. I think 2 of them got a 3 rating and the rest got 2s (except for AWAM, Zetta set the bar so unbelivabley high!)

I so agree with this post! This idea has been swirling in my head too so I'm glad you went ahead and wrote about it. I would add that you (the self-pub author) should not try and censor reviews, if you send your book to a reviewer and are unhappy with the review, you simply have to deal with it. Don't get rude. And please please please EDIT! Have someone who is not your best friend or son or daughter read the book so they can offer constructive criticism.

I can usually overlook covers but if the teens talk like adults and the authors talk down to the teen readers (or use ridiculously formal words that few teens use), I want to throw the book across the room (I have actualy done this, lol!) Or what's worse, spelling/grammar/context (like when a character is talking to themself because of a typo in the name or something) errors

Zetta said...

Thanks for the love, ladies--where would I be without open-minded bloggers like you! I urge self-pubbers to hire a professional editor, and if they write for kids, I send them to Laura Atkins. Asking another author to proofread your book is NOT ok...and sending it out half-baked is just as bad. Posting excerpts online is important, and getting feedback from educators or librarians--which means sending out LOTS of review copies. Ari's right--getting your best friend to look it over is not enough (unless your best friend's a retired high school English teacher)...

Karla (Author K.L. Brady) said...

I'm a self-published author (or at least I was). My novel, The Bum Magnet, was actually featured on one of your giveaways some time ago, maybe the November timeframe.

I'm a proponent of self-publishing, but I'm also a proponent of self-publishing well. A well-written story, good editing, and a cover that doesn't look "self published. Unfortunately, not all authors take the time to put out the best product that they can put out and that hurts authors that do. But, there are a lot of diamonds out there, you must be selective.

My novel was recently picked up by Simon & Schuster. I accepted a two-book deal. This is an opportunity I might not have had were it not for the fact that I put the book out myself, had it not been for a few thousand people taking a chance on me. But hopefully, through the work that I put into it, I made the risk worth taking.

So, I wouldn't dismiss something outright just because it's self published. Just be selective. I have a Kindle now and I buy a lot more indie titles because they're usually $1 or in that neighborhood. I've found some very good authors that way. But I also order the free sample first to make sure it's something that will appeal to me. So, that's my two cents for what it's worth.

Amy said...

Great points - self published titles can be incredible, but you definitely want to check them out a little bit more carefully first!

Doret said...

I am keeping an openmind about self published titles but sometimes its hard.

Ari - I wish I could've see you throw a book arcoss the room and I know the book deserved it.

Karla - Thanks for the imput. What did you do to promote yourself? Congrats on the Simon & Schuster deal.

I thought of one more thing- self published authors should not have all their friends and family write 5 star ratings for their book at amazon.

Karla (Author K.L. Brady) said...

@Doret - Most of the promotion I've done has been through the Internet, any and everywhere I was allowed to promote a book. Most of the places I found just by Google searches.

I agree that you shouldn't tell your family and friends to leave five star reviews. But I would encourage honest reviews--and even if they genuinely like it, they should say something more than "this book is great." Sometimes, those initial reviews are what get people to take a second look but people know when they're not honest and just blowing smoke.

To get reviews, I reached out to book clubs, gave away lots of review copies to book blogs and reviewers. Every time I sold a book in a book festival, I put a sticky note on the last page asking people to leave a review if they liked it. That seemed to be most successful for me. Fortunately a lot of people liked it. :)

LM Preston said...

You know all of this hoopla about self-publishing makes me think back to my days in college. I went to an African American college and would wait anxiuosly for the book peddler's to come by and do readings and allow me to purchase books that spoke about people that looked like me. Poetry about my personal hurdles as a young girl. I kept one book that touched my heart over 20yrs ago...and guess what - it was self-published. I was reading it to my daughter, a poem out of it that gets me back on track when I get a little stressed. I also looked at tons of books published by the big guys that I couldn't seem to read more than the first page. I think having a sample of your writing available will best determine whether a book is good. Someone stamping it approved for publishing doesn't always prove that the book is any good.

campbele said...

Hey Doret!
Interesting topic, indeed. From the fringes, writing a book and becoming rich can looks oh! so easy! I think those who want to publish (self or not) should really research the business and realize the commitment it takes on the author's part not only to write the book, but to get it sold as well. You've got to market that baby, sell it from door to door and make yourself visible. I've only recently realized the work behind getting a book published and sold. Self publishing is not a short cut! It still requires all the hard work from start to post production.

I didn't want to read Zetta's book at first, but you convinced me to give it a try and I'm so glad I did! After experiencing a self published author who couldn't even compose a grammatically correct email, I wanted to steer clear! I'll look at author's websites because they often indicate how well someone can get their ideas across as well.

Like you, I feel making such a statement is like the pot calling the kettle, but I don't make a living as a writer. Even as an amateur blogger, I work to edit what I mean to say and I would expect a writer to make every effort to do that and to know all the tools available to them.

At the same time, there are master writers whose work never sees the light of day. How do we find them? How do their stories get heard? Self publishing could provide an avenue for them, but there still has to be a way for them to shine. Maybe their talent and commitment will come in their blogging, the websites and the site visits such as those LM Preston mentions.

BookWhirl said...

I think self-published books are also interesting. Usually, self-published books present eccentric storyline. And i find that really creative.