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Friday, June 29, 2012

Are you ready to self-publish?

How can you tell if your book is finished and ready to go?

This is a question posed by blogger and Guardian writer Damien G. Walter, who has produced (or postulated) a checklist, called "7 signs you are ready to self-publish."

In essence, this is how I read these tips, along with the pitfalls that I see in some of them:

1. Do you have a great High Concept?

His example for this is the mega-seller The Da Vinci Code, which might not have been well-written, but had a High Concept.  Dan Brown didn't need to write well, Damien argues, because his concept was ready and waiting for an ad-style presentation.  It was the Idea that sold the Book to willing millions.  But surely the aim of book writing is to entertain and inform?  There are thousands of worthy books published that don't rely on the wow factor.

2. Have you practised your writing skills for at least ten thousand hours?

This, it seems, is the empirical figure reached by a guru who believes that practice makes perfect. Personally, I believe that natural talent plays a large part, too, and that there are people out there who will never be able to write well, no matter how hard they try.  However, I do agree that hundreds of hours have to be devoted to polishing to make a decent book.

3. Have you subjected your book to serious criticism?

And this does not mean showing your effort to friends and family.

In my view, this is a major advantage that traditional publishing has over Indie publishing -- that an experienced editor has worked with your book.  A developmental editor is a particularly valuable asset -- a man or woman who loves your book, but who says at the same time that it needs a lot of work, and who is willing and eager to go over the rewriting process with you.

So it is probably a very good idea to send your manuscript to an assessor, who will tell you if it is worth hiring a freelance editor.  But all assessors and editors are human, and humans make mistakes ... And we've all heard stories of books that have been turned down by dozens, to go on to bestselling status.

4. Are you well-read in your genre?

Knowing your subject is definitely a necessity.  The hidden hazard of obsessively reading a genre, though, is that you can finish up emulating, instead of writing in your own voice.  Harlequin and Mills & Boon editors, for instance, get very tired of reading manuscripts that are just imitations of their most popular authors.

5. Do you have promotional tools ready?

Or, as Damien phrases it, do you have a platform?  Facebook pages, blogs, and lots of activity on twitter help to let the world know that you have made the plunge and self-published.  So it is a good idea to have that all set up and swinging along well before that book comes out.

An excellent tip, in my opinion.

6. Are you ready to spend money?

This is really an extension of tip # 3. Damien recommends saving the capital to pay an assessor and then hire a professional editor.  And then, of course, there is the expense involved in promoting your book on various sites, such as those that will review your book, for a fee.

7. Are you ready?

This is what is known in debating circles as a "peroration" -- not so much a tip as a repeat of his original premise.

Which is thought-provoking, definitely, and valuable, too.  But is it too depressing?  Is it likely to discourage prospective Indie writers to the extent that they spend the rest of their lives tinkering with their books, instead of diving into publication?

1 comment:

Mark Hubbard said...

Um, have I missed the post, Joan, on how to sell one million copies ;)