Author Don’ts

As with anything, being a new author means making a few mistakes. With the help of the people in the NaNoWriMo group on Facebook, I’ve compiled a list of things new authors shouldn’t do.

  1. Publish a book too soon. Just because you want to get something out there doesn’t mean you should rush. If self-publishing, take the time to make sure that your story is ready. If putting out a sequel, make sure that it’s really at it’s best, and that you’re not just pushing it out there to appease fans.
  2. Never talk religion or politics on social media unless it directly relates to what you write. There is a fine line between supporting gay rights and posting incendiary comments and arguing with people. You don’t want to turn people off from your story just from some stupid comment on Twitter that they disagreed with.
  3. Another one on that front, never respond to a one-star review. Or a two-star review. Or any reviews, unless it’s to say thank you for the review. Never get into an argument with a reader over your book, even in private. You don’t want to be accused of attacking a reader, because that will inevitably turn readers off from your work. If someone gives you a bad review you don’t deserve, rant to your loved ones in private and keep it at that.
  4. Don’t criticize other authors. I have broken this one by ranting against Stephanie Meyer and E. L. James, but Stephanie Meyer will never see my posts again The Host and E. L. James is a bitch to her fans. If you must speak out, make sure it’s something you can stand behind. You don’t like their book? Do not slam them over it. They plagiarize and bash fans who give one-star reviews? I personally would not engage, but if you must say something, be sure to stress the fact that you don’t condone their actions.
  5. Never describe eyes as “orbs” unless they’ve been removed from the person’s head.
  6. Never beg people to buy your book. If people know you have a book out, don’t shove it down their throat. People will be annoyed if you see them as a dollar sign.
  7. Don’t follow every blog you come across. Sure, some of them might follow you back, but does that matter? Sure, follow writing blogs, author blogs, publishing blogs… but fashion blogs? Gardening blogs? These kinds of blogs follow me all the time, and that’s the end of their interaction with my blog. I don’t care about followers, I care about the people who actually read what I post and talk with me. I care about the people who also post relevant posts that I can continue the conversation with.
  8. Do not start or end the book with a dream sequence. That’s lazy.
  9. Don’t let yourself get distracted by talking writing. You can blog and hype your book all you want, but unless you actually write it, nothing is gonna get done.
  10. Don’t give up. Never put yourself down. No one can tell a story like you can, so be motivated! The world needs your story!
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“You’re self-published… so, like, not good enough for real publishing?”

A quick reminder that Kiss of The Fey is free on Amazon until Sunday 12/14/14!

There are typically three reactions when I tell someone I’m self-published.

  1. Oh, I’m self-published too! I understand. Let’s discuss relevant book stuff!
  2. Self-publishing? Is that different from publishing? I don’t read much.
  3. Self-publishing? So, a shitty novel that got rejected from everywhere you submitted it to?

Clearly, it’s the third reaction that’s the problem. I will admit upfront that there are lots of self-publishers whose books aren’t good enough to be published. I wrote an entire post about self-publishing fails. I’m not picking on those authors because I understand that some of them don’t really understand what it takes to be successful. They just want to be a writer, and I can sympathize with that. I’ve wanted to be a writer since 3rd grade.

In my internet searches, one article said that self-publishers flood their reviewing service and that they just can’t consider looking at them. Aside from assuming that self-published books are worse, they explain how traditionally published books “…are books that had to find an agent. And then a publisher. And then were professionally edited. And now are being professionally marketed by people with money on the line.” (source) Basically, traditionally published books have more work that go into them.

Ahem. For those of you who haven’t self-published, let me take a quick minute to explain how easy it was to self-publish. First, I wrote a novel. Next, I edited it. Then I edited again. And again. I then went out and found beta readers (sent out my novel to about 50 readers, heard back from 3). I started a blog to start getting people interested in my book. After reviewing the notes of my beta readers, I edited again. I spent hours looking for fonts and pictures for my cover, then I had to actually make my own cover.

I ordered a proof of my book to look at and realized that my cover wouldn’t work. I redid the cover completely. I ordered another proof and made sure there were no errors. I formatted my book for Kindle then released the eBook and the paperback. I looked though book blogs and asked another 50 people to review my book, of which 4 or 5 came through.

I admit that I didn’t get a degree in English or creative writing, but do I need one? I read and I’m a critical reader. I worked at my school’s writing center editing other people’s essays, so why can’t I edit my own novel? What I don’t know on the grammar end, I can Google. My covers aren’t going to be a fantastic piece of work, but they look good if I keep it simple.

To be traditionally published, the author has to write their novel. Then they probably edit it lightly before submitting to an agent. Then they submit to a publishing house. They are accepted and talk with the editor, make the changes that they need to. Someone makes a cover for them. Someone formats everything for them. Someone spends money to market their book and get reviews. These authors spend more time sitting around waiting, but they don’t personally put more work into it.

To say that self-published authors don’t put the same amount of effort into their work is an insult. Yes, there are self-publishers who can’t be assed to edit or make an effort on their cover, and I really think that it hurts the rest of us.

Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t self-publish because I was rejected by a publishing house. I didn’t want a publishing house. There was nothing an indie publisher could give me that I couldn’t give myself, and I didn’t feel like waiting around for 6-8 months wondering if someone sitting at a desk, reading thousands of submissions, would have the patience for my novel after they read the first three paragraphs and threw it aside.

I didn’t want them to say “Congratulations! We’re putting you in print!” and then give me a list of things I had to change to make my book more appealing to the lowest common denominator of readers. I didn’t want itty bitty royalties, or the threat of “write this or else!” to keep a contract. I wanted control of my work, and as someone willing to be patient in waiting for a paycheck, self-publishing was the choice for me.

Another blogger writes, “Despite the wealth of information found online and the relative success of the self-publishing industry, the general public is still impressed by actual publication. They want to read books distributed by well-known houses and imprints… and many will turn up their noses at the idea of a self-published book… Perhaps you are convinced that you’ve written the next Great American Novel… Unfortunately, most people won’t ever recognize your brilliance because of the stigma placed on self-publishing.” (Source)

It’s clear that the problem isn’t self-publishing, but the stigma of self-publishing. As authors, we can’t decide to publish if our manuscript really isn’t ready. Can’t afford an editor? Try to find someone will to trade editing for another skill you may have, like cover editing. Talk to old English teachers and ask, or make writer friends and offer to swap. Stop buying coffee and save up to pay an editor; do whatever it takes to make your novel the best.

Before you publish, get second opinions. Do four out of five out of your beta readers say your novel is crap? Maybe it is. Lots of people want to be writers, but some aren’t cut out for it. Even if you do self-publish, chances are you won’t make a profit. Go on a free site like Wattpad or Fictionpress where you can share you stories for free and get feedback, maybe improve enough to eventually publish.

Self-publishing is real publishing. Publishing is like a popularity contest now. If you have 5000 followers they’ll consider you. If you jump onto the right trend, they’ll milk your story for all they can get. If Stephanie Meyer can get published, and people consider that real publishing, then why not my book? I admit that it’s not perfect, but it’s not the pile of crap that people make it out to be, and that’s the case for lots of self-published authors.