What books have you published? Thanks to Facebook, I am asked this question quite often these days.
And my reaction is always the same – a hammering heart, perspiring palms and extraneous explanations before I tell the gritty truth.
Enough said, my potential reader sighs. It really doesn’t matter that I contributed to a highly acclaimed broadsheet newspaper in London. Why am I not published is what you want to know? Oh so many variables, but it does bring us back to the question of self-publishing, but this time from a different angle.
Do agents and traditional publishers have to validate writers before readers support us? Or can we win you over without them, you know if we self-publish?
I see the dilemma because as a reader, I do enjoy exploring the best-selling lists. After all the experts have vetted these books and recommended them. For the most part this guarantees the key elements of a novel, including significant push and pull and compelling characters. But there are exceptions, not to mention different opinions about what makes a good book.
Regardless, however, if the book is not my thing, I won’t buy it any more than I will a pair of pink high top sneakers no matter how much joy and success my favourite actress says they bring to her. No can do, I have a mind of my own.
I think most readers are the same, though old habits die hard. Let’s face it the modern novel (brought to us as we know it) has been around since the 18th century. So to suddenly accept it not only in this new e-format, but also without it going through a rigorous process before it can be worthy of a bookstore, can be a scary.
We’re talking about a major shift in norms, a revolution. And readers are evolving. You only have to look at the record breaking sales of e-books, some of them self-published, to see what I mean.
In general, we all know what we like and what we don’t like. My readers can say exactly where a story falls short, and many of you are bold enough to do just that. Good on you, you know who you are.
You might not know how to fix it, but you know what you want. So I keep employing readers, okay I don’t pay them, but you know what I mean. I also continue to post my short stories on my website, a form of self-publishing within itself. Tell me what you think.
In the meantime, let’s be clear that the traditional publishing process normally delivers polished books, although a book editor friend pointed out major grammatical and spelling errors in a recent best selling novel.
But even she admitted, this is an anomaly – at least we hope it is – that readers are likely to overlook because this writer has been validated time and time again. Also, maybe this has to do with fewer editors doing more work nowadays.
Apparently, editors don’t edit anymore, not like they used to. That’s another story. But if this happens with a first time author, particularly if she is self-published, the book will likely become invalid.
And so it should, self-publishing is no excuse for sloppiness and should not be the gateway to publishing rubbish. Authors need to bring the same level of professionalism to the table as they would if trying to attract a publisher.
My novel, The Barrenness, has already been through a rigorous editorial process but no doubt will go through another, if only for copy editing, also known as sub editing, how ever it comes to the market.
I still haven’t decided to take the self-publishing route yet, but I will say that there is more to publishing than publishing itself, regardless of the route, and if it is done successfully, perhaps the question (what books have you published) will no longer be relevant. The answer will be obvious.
But that still doesn’t explain what I have to do to win you over? Do tell.