Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Reasons Why I Don't Read Self-Published Works

I'm not criticizing the entire self-publishing industry, but I think even self-pubbed authors admit there is a stigma attached to veering from the traditional publishing route and this is why.

Reason #1: This woman.

If you didn't see this going around yesterday, check it out now. Self-published author, Jacqueline Howett, received a less than glowing review of her book and reamed the reviewer for it. She, as an individual, acted unprofessionally and I certainly don't think all self-pubbed authors would behave the same way or that even the majority would. The greater problem is she defended sentences like:

"Don and Katy watched hypnotically Gino place more coffees out at another table with supreme balance."

What?! I would have given it a much worse review. And not only did she defend her writing angrily and with more improper grammar, she showed us all she has no desire to improve her writing, and this I think may be a more widespread issue with self-publishing. As if the writer said, "Crank off a book and post it to Amazon. Become Kindle millionaire."

Reason #2: Covers like this

I don't want to specifically insult this author. This is just one of many bad covers I see from self-published works. The book itself has a five star review if you would like to read it, but this is why I won't.

I am a designer. I went to school for six years, I've worked in the industry for eight more and now everyone with a bootlegged copy of Photoshop thinks they too are a designer. Doing a fade out effect, a few dropshadows and slapping some Comic Sans over a photo does not a book cover make. What this says to me: "I put this together in five minutes."

If you don't take your cover seriously, what makes me think you took the pains to seriously edit your work?

Even though I am a designer and could probably put together a decent cover, I wouldn't. I have a friend who worked for Houghton as a book cover designer and you can bet if I self-pubbed, I would have her do it because she is a professional. If you're thinking of self-pubbing a work, contact her. She still does freelance.

Which brings me to...

Reason #3: If it was really good, an editor would have bought it.

There. I said it. Going the traditional publishing route is hard, and so I feel the pain, but I also get the feeling that after a book is rejected by a list of agents, an author goes, "Fine. I'll just publish it myself."

As I wouldn't deign to know the ins and outs of the book cover design world, I wouldn't assume I know more than the publishing professionals. Editors and agents read more books than you and I could ever read. It's their job. And they read books that we haven't heard of: new books, debut books, books from established authors. They know where the industry has been. They know where it's going. They have a crystal ball, and when you work with them, they'll share their knowledge with you to make your work better.

Maybe the book wasn't rejected because it was bad, but because it wasn't as good or original as something else. And if it wasn't as good or original as something else, why would I want to read it?

Reason #4: Time

I don't care if a book is only $.99. I don't have time to read it. As of now I have at least thirty books piled on my desk all waiting to be read. Books I know that are good. Books that have five star reviews from friends of mine with similar reading taste. Yes, I listen to a ton of indie music from unknown bands, but listening to song takes five minutes, not hours or days. When I have time to read a book, I have to KNOW it's worth my precious time, and three five star reviews from an author's friends and family does not convince me of that.

Reason #5: I can read pre-pubbed works for free!

I have author friends. We exchange works. We critique. We share ideas. If I'm going to read something not yet ready, it makes more sense for me to do this, so in turn, I can get feedback on my work. And I know it's coming from someone with talent, committment and a desire to improve.

But ah-ha! I am a hypocrite. I have read self-published works and they were good, but what did they do differently? The authors combatted the stereotypes above.

Check out my friend Karen's books. She hired an editor. She worked with an illutsrator. She has a website. She markets herself. She goes to events and does speaking engagements. She's showing a serious committment to her work, which is something I can stand behind.

And we've all heard of Amanda Hocking (or if we haven't we should have) Self-published Kindle Millionaire. She did the same. Put a lot of time and effort into writing, editing and marketing her book.

Of course now because of her success, we're probably going to see a slew of self-published works, and the question bodes will they take the time to edit, invest the money to hire a cover designers, and give their blood, sweat and tears to market it? Probably not, which is why I still won't go out of my way to read a self-published work.

What about you? Have you self-pubbed? Do you read self-published works? What is your opinion? And are there any good ones I'm missing out on?

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