Self-Publishing – The “Quality” Dilemma

If I were going to offer a sub-title for this post, it would be this: Hire an editor, damn it! Pardon the language, but seriously….

DISCLOSURE: Yes, I am a freelance editor, among other things.  HOWEVER: No, I am not accepting new clients for at least the foreseeable future.  (I just needed to be clear that this post is not about me pushing my service.)

Self-publishing, traditionally referred to as the Vanity Press, languishes under a long-suffering reputation.  For good reason.  Most self-published material, at least historically, has been… well… terrible.  Anyone with an adequate checking account or credit card could publish their work—no peer review was required, no editorial process, no professional guidelines or standards.

Thus, most self-published books were unworthy of readers’ hard-earned dollars.  Not all of them, mind you (one could find an occasional gem in the rough), only 98-99% of them.

Now, with the eBook revolution gaining momentum, even the financial barriers to self-publishing are crumbling.  The inevitable result is that poorly written swill, the so-called “white noise,” is flooding the marketplace.

This will make things extremely difficult for serious writers, those who hope to make writing a well-paying career—professional authors—who want to take advantage of these new eSelf-Publishing opportunities.  (Is eSelf-Publishing a recognized word?  It is now.  :D)

Yet one beacon of hope remains, one stubborn truth: Cream rises to the top.

Look, traditional publishing has always been an extraordinarily tough nut to crack, and it’s even more daunting in the current economic and industry climates.  eSelf-Publishing offers authors fantastic new possibilities, yet it presents its challenges.

Achieving a fair income-producing level of success will be as difficult, and as simple, as ever: You just have to be better than the rest.

The key driver in the new eBook market has already identified itself.  Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Word of Mouth, formerly of Prominent Shelf Space fame.  If you want to succeed, you’ll have to rely on readers sending forth Word of Mouth.  They must post positive reviews, an easy task in the new online environment.  They’ll also need to spread the word everywhere they have a presence, which means not just the traditional real-world, tell-a-friend gossip, but also the new virtual-world, have-you-heard platforms.  Social media—not just yours, but theirs—offers you great potential.

How do you coax your readers to participate in your marketing effort?  You give them a well-written, professional-grade, enjoyable book.  Plain and simple.

If you think you can do that without an editor, you are, if I may be blunt, sadly mistaken.  Hey, I’m an editor, and I wouldn’t think of publishing my own book without an independent, objective editor first giving it a once-over.

ALL professional writers use editors; those who don’t remain amateurs.  And in this new environment, freelance editors are popping up all over the place.  Be creative in your dealings with them.  Pay a flat, up-front fee for the service, or pay a commission of sales, or offer some combination of both.  Surely, you’ll find someone who will work with you in an affordable, mutually beneficial way.  (For more on how to choose between them, see this article: Freelance Editors: A Reemerging Profession.)

Now, as if it’s not bad enough having to compete for readers’ attention with writers who don’t dedicate the time and resources necessary to produce a professional product (the “white noise” generators), we must compete with spammers: Spam clogging Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing.

Dedicate yourself.  Be a professional.  Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll achieve all your goals.

‘Til next time, and as always, remember: To write well, you must work hard.  To succeed in this tough gig, you mustn’t be lazy (or discouraged).

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