SELF-PUBLISHING – ARE AUTHORS MURDERING IT?

I am now metaphorically washing myself down after reading some of the threads on the Amazon forums about self-publishing. Those, who are thinking about self-pub, may want to look away now.

First Post in a Forum Thread

“If we stop buying the self-published books maybe we can stop all the OTT plugging that goes on in discussions forums. Every time I open a discussion it’s filled with authors promoting their own books. Without being rude most of them are rubbish anyway, so if we get a campaign together to stop buying them maybe the self-publishers will get the message and leave us alone. Anybody interested in joining in?”

-Actual Forum Thread

“Is there a way to work out what is self-published so that I can avoid it?”

Phew, makes you think doesn’t it? These were just a couple of statements from the Forum in the UK and the most popular threads are not the ones talking about books but the ones talking about bad promotion and lack of quality in Self-Pub.

I was so shocked by the level of vitriol expressed by some readers  that I had to go and have a stiff drink. I even felt slightly ashamed of thinking about self-publishing my work when finally finished.

But is there any truth, to what some readers are saying?

I started this blog (twitter account) originally as a promotional tool for my future book. This was after some good old-fashioned research into the “ins and outs” of self-pub. It came highly recommended as a great marketing tool for gaining a readership and promoting your finished product.

I learnt really quickly that Blogging has this funny way of making you take a good long hard look at yourself. I started reading other people’s extremely well put together blogs (on everything from knitting to photography) with their genuine and authentic style, and all thoughts of self-promotion quickly went completely out the window.

Will I, in the long-term, include a link to my books on the Amazon homepage? You betcha, but one little link to a page is all. Will I promote by engaging with others, of course; the efforts targeted in places where my readers might live such as Good Reads. Will I be saying buy my book now with a synopsis in every single thread – No way, I’ll be talking to others about topics that I find interesting and putting out (I hope) quality content and not shameless plugs.

In Market Research, we promote the idea that marketing unless done in a genuine way simply doesn’t work. “Word of Mouth” advertising  and a “Great Product” is the only way to get your books read. That is, if you are in it for the long-haul. The constant spamming by Authors of feeds such as Twitter with “LOOK AT MY BOOK” style posts really hacks me off as does the “FOLLOW, INANE QUOTES FOR AN ADDITIONAL 500 FOLLOWERS”. Why on earth would I want those 500 followers who are stupid enough to do this? Will they care, “What I have to say?” more importantly if they are that thick, will I be interested in “What they have to say?”

Promotion is fine and I am all for it – Just do it in a way that is engaging and creative. We are writers, are we not? Create quality content, discuss and let your free excerpt or chapter do the talking for you.

The traditional success routes are now dead. Everyone has a blog, twitter account and a Facebook page and the bad self-pub are bashing the hell out of them. I know that not all self-pub is the same but reader disappointment with shoddy workmanship could help the big six keep their strangle-hold on content.

Now there are some excellent examples of Indie Authors. I have just finished a free self-pub book that I loved! I will be reviewing on Amazon and hope that this helps this woman find her market. It will only get a four star because of a couple of typos and formatting errors.

Exceptions do not make rules and as such 90% of the work that I have come into contact with as a READER is poor. I have  on my kindle, no less than 50 novels which I’ve downloaded in the Self-Pub category. Some were free, others were 79 pence (99 cents) or £1.99 that I failed to finish (and I hate not finishing a book).  My immersion in most cases, destroyed by a train wreck of prose.

As a writer and a wannabe author, I am currently saving every month so that I can have my work professionally proofed and edited. I will also do a considerable amount of research and re-writes. I get really angry when I see an Author who says, “My readers will tell me, if there are any mistakes.”

”I’m sorry; I must have misread, are you expecting your customer to tell you that you have a defective product?”

Sheesh!

So that’s my rant over, I would welcome an open and honest discussion about the challenges faced in this area by both new writers and as importantly, readers?

18 thoughts on “SELF-PUBLISHING – ARE AUTHORS MURDERING IT?

  1. I think I might just put my work out for free and let people decide what they want to pay me for it. I posted my paypal donation button for the first time today and I’ve received one donation. Ten dollars. I would have had to sell five books at 3 bucks each to get that on amazon considering they take 30%. Paypal only took 68 cents. Amazon has done zero promotion for me over the past year since I’ve put my book there. I think I’ll just take my chances on my own.

    • Hi Jason, I saw a really excellent post of yours’ earlier talking about this. You are a perfect example of my point about putting out quality content and not spam marketing. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • Thanks. There is something to be said about attracting idiots, at least in large numbers. It made billions of dollars for Microsoft, Facebook, Wal-Mart… should I go on?

      • Microsoft was the most usable and understandable O/S for non-geeks. For all it’s faults it worked most of the time – there was an inherent quality to it. Facebook – Ditto in the Social Media revolution. Wal Mart will tell you they sell quality products for reasonable prices. All these companies had brilliant strategies at the beginning of their up-curve. Facebook was literally driven by WoM advertising by people who love the platform.

        As for idiots:

        “Nothing is more humiliating than to see idiots succeed in enterprises we have failed at” Gustave Flaubert

  2. Well Done! This is such a great and timely post. I share your sentiment completely and have recently written about one of those ‘buy my eBook or else’ campaigns. I love writing. So I write. BUT (picture a huge but here) is it enough? Is it all? No, of course not. If one truly writes for one self only, as I did for years, notebook will suffice. Once you decide to publicize your writing; via face book, blog, eBook, or wherever, you are looking for a reader. Somebody else apart from self. And at that moment the question is how much do you actually respect your reader? So little that you can’t be bothered with basic editing? Sad. One of the main, if not the main, obstacle I face every day is fear of putting the material out that contains errors. I am also thinking of working with a professional proof reader and editor … in time.

    Cheers!
    Daniela

    • I think you hit the nail on the head about readers. I have to admit that there are occasionally errors in my Blogs and these cause me pain. I always go back and re-edit, sometimes three or four times, to get the post to a standard that I am happy about! However, blogging is something I put out for free and I am never intending to monetise it. What I can’t understand is that the majority of really successful self-pub authors had editors. If you read David Gaughran – “How to Self-Publish and Why you should” he dedicates a whole chapter to editing and proofing and I whole heartedly agree with his sentiment that you can never quite get the personal distance necessary to properly view your own work. Yet, there are more and more pieces of work appearing that have barely even seen a word spellchecker.

  3. Self-publishing along with self-advertising only work when the ‘self’ doing the writing, proofreading, editing, publishing, and advertising is being completely open and honest with their audience, as well as with themself.

    It takes months, if not longer, to dream up a novel worthy of print. Nearly as long to work out the kinks in order to make each sentence ring clear and follow along with the upcoming. Research, dictionaries, thesauri, and many, many other resources are available for writers. — On one’s own, not many writers are willing to do the work needed, resulting in this ‘self-pub trash’ which has been discussed many times before.

    Main point: It takes a quality writer to make a quality piece. Publishing houses see the quality, which is why so many are rejected. Self-publishing allows writers of various skills to produce their work, even if they haven’t had the time to do the work needed to make it quality.

    • Hi C.A, agree whole-heartedly with your post but I am concerned that self-pub (with falling book sales and most publishers unable and unwilling to take risks) will implode and I think for the potentially 10% ratio of quality and interesting work, this is a great, great shame!

      Quality always counts – Nice Blog by the way.

      • Self-publishing, in my opinion, is still sitting in the rut that Home School education once sat in. Without the necessary support from contributors that actually believe self-publishing is able to make a difference, the whole is likely to fail. However, there are many writer-turned-authors among us who have decided to take the self-publishing route, for whatever reason, who also are bringing a range of supporters along with them. So long as writers take it upon themselves to strive toward offering their audience the best that they’re able to produce, I don’t see a reason that self-publishing would fail.

        From what I have read, I am still iffy about self-publishing. While I support the whole idea of having one’s right to be noticed and become published, I also feel that it should be a privilege that could be achieved, not simply offered. It’s difficult to say whether self-publishing methods will increase, or if it will become a fad of the past. Social networking sites of many genres have offered people a means to self-publish without spending anything more than their time in order to be noticed. Many writers still, are not looking for the fame nor fortune that tails becoming a professional writer, so these social networking sites allow them enough freedom to do just what they enjoy.

        Thank you for stopping by. I do hope you enjoyed. The feeling is mutual.

  4. While I support the opportunity for self-publishing, I personally would feel a greater sense of accomplishment if my writing passed some kind of evaluation before it was published in any format. I don’t want to simply publish for the sake of it. I really want to know if I’ve got what it takes. If the gatekeepers — agents and editors — are taken out of the equation, will the truly good and great writing be overwhelmed by the not so great?

    • Hi Margaret, thanks for popping over, your comments are always thought provoking. This is why I am saving for a professional editor; I want someone to be able to tell me where the saggy bits are. I want my writing to be the best version of itself it can be and I know that I can’t get it there alone. I think it’s ratios at present, anyone can sit and right 2000 words a day for forty days and they have something that could be published. I think once the true “vanity” self-pubs have got their books out there, not made any money and given up it may all settle down again. I just worry that Readers will be so disillusioned by then that the market will be dead.

  5. Hi Trying – Nice post. I’m writing for the long haul, so–as depressing as some of the horror stories are about epublishing and the crap that is flooding the market–I press on because I believe, as you seem to, that cream will rise to the top.

    Also, as you say, I think we’re wading in the middle of the creek of the epub phenomenon and, like any bubble or trend, there are going to be posers, schemers, and plain old talent-less hacks in the mix. In 3-5 years, that group will find out that it’s damn hard work writing books, harder to write good books, and even *harder* to make a name for oneself. As they drop out of the race–disappointed that they haven’t become the next Amanda Hocking–I think those who have stuck with it and paid their dues (learning the craft, getting professional edits, listening and engaging their readers) will find success.

  6. Hi Matthew, I think you are right, I just wish I didn’t have to put up with all the spam in the meantime. I’ve been put off purchasing certain books recently because of the kind of promotion that these particular self-pub authors are doing. I think (hope?) as you say, that we are at the peak of it and it will start to be about quality. Interestingly though, I am not a snob about books. I read everything and anything from trashy thrillers, sci-fi, contemporary, fantasy, steam punk to romance (blush). It’s the story that counts and the imagination, creativity.

    Good writers (I don’t class myself in this category, just yet ) don’t just write, they re-write and re-write and re-write and then if necessary they re-write it again. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  7. I wouldn’t worry about what’s said on the Amazon or any other forums. Forums tend to attract vitriol regardless of the topic being discussed. Just go with what feels right to you. If you believe in what you’re writing, probably others will too.

    • That’s what I am trying to do, the worst thing was that I knda agreed with some of it. Not the personal attacks, that was horrible but the quality argument I got. I’m a reader too. Thanks for your support. :o)

  8. Awesome post! I was just doing research on self-publishing and you are right, it can be discouraging! I like the idea Jason Alan had about the donation button. I think one of the problems is that people are hearing about the self-publishing success stories like Amanda Hocking and think “Oh hey, I can do that too.” I still need to actually finish something worth publishing, so I’ll check back and see how your book is doing. Best of luck!

    • Hi Writer Owl, the word awesome when it links to anything to do with my writing is extremely welcome and you can come back anytime. :o)

      I liked the donation idea button too.

      Keep writing it is all you can do!

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