Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Self-Publishing Meets Traditional

I'm reading my monstrous list of emails, attempting to keep up with Twitter at the same time, the little pop-up windows flipping onto my screen like fireworks. The trend is crazy. It's big, broad and in my face - self-publishing is becoming accepted in some circles.

Consulting editor Alan Rinzler (very smart man) spoke about how many agents are bowing to pressure and actually reading queries from self-pubbed authors. Of course some of them are more open-minded than others. Most still admit that most self-pubbed submissions are sub-standard. But . . . if they see great writing and/or great platform and/or great sales, they perk up.

PR Specialist Amy Edelman avows that indie published books deserve the same respective nod as indie music and movies. Indie means daring, creative, stepping outside the box. The traits are admired in other entertainment, so why not books? She's gone so far as to create an upscale review site for indie published books called Indie Reader.

Is self-publishing becoming the "farm team" for traditional publishers? When you throw e-publishing in the mix, I have to bow to the concept that if you publish a decent piece of writing and market it well, you deserve to be traditionally published. Why wouldn't a traditional publisher want anyone already vetted by the public? Talk about cherry pickin'!

Alan Rinzler mentioned in an earlier blog about the future of mid-list authors being the self-pubbed cream that rose to the top. "...the literary fiction, the cookbooks, the self-help books, the bread and butter midlist books that now make up 80 percent of every publisher’s list — those books they’d cherry pick from self-published authors who’d already tested the market and had the credible sales to prove it."

So, like Michael Buble sings, "It's a new dawn. It's a new day. It's a new life...for me."

You know I had to resist this open-armed acceptance of self-publishing. There are obstacles and prerequisites, and many writers will gloss over these comments and think the warnings do not apply to them. Well, they are in the dark and naive as heck if they do. If you go the self-pubbing route, you have no option but to pay attention to the following:

1. You have to create a strong online presence. Accept it. Do it.

2. You must write a remarkable piece of work. You cannot settle. You cannot guess. You have to work it and knead it until it is perfect. If you don't think your story is fantastic, you are falling short. Do not write your first book, type THE END, and start thinking about publishing. You haven't earned the right. Know your voice.

3. You have to promote. I don't care how shy you are, you must market your book. If you are unable to do it for yourself, how do you expect a publisher to trust you to do it for him? Become a commodity.

4. Do not factor Oprah moments in your plan. Luck and chance happen, sure. Just like the lottery. You'll die disappointed if you play those odds. Work hard and forget luck. If by chance it happens, fine. Just don't bank on it.

5. What is your long-term career plan? If it's vague like "publish books," you'll wander in the desert the rest of your writing life. What books are in your future? Where are your readers? What is your career path for the next year, two years, five years? What is your brand? Who is your mentor? Plan the journey, people.

Yes, the gates are opening, and the polar sides are rushing toward each other, blending, becoming more accepting. But that does not mean you let down your guard or lower your standards. Frankly, you might need to raise your standards. And now, instead of a publisher deciding all the publishing details like fonts, format, layout, and cover, you have to do it. Sometimes you get what you ask for, and it rarely turns out like you expect.

And traditional publishers will still cherry pick.

Will you try to self-pub to reach the traditional eyes? Thoughts?


Ellie Garratt said...

A great post - thank you!

Sheila Deeth said...

That cream rising to the top is such a neat image, unless like me you've always been creamily challenged. I used to try so hard to make it float on my coffee while other folks made it look so easy. Ah well, perhaps I'll use that as my excuse when my writing fails to rise...