IS SAYING ANYTHING THE HEIGHT OF ARROGANCE?
On this blog – and in comments – and on Facebook…, I am constrained by the available options for text and emphasis and images.
I live quite happily between the limits imposed by the constraints, find my own way of doing what I need to do (most of the time) so I can write the way I prefer.
And, as a member of various online groups, come into contact with other authors.
On occasion, we will exchange or list our book titles with/for each other, and I will see what choices someone slowly becoming a friend has made in self-publishing, from cover to content to interior book design.
And then the hard part comes: if I see potential that is not realized fully because of relatively small, benign problems, I am, mother-hen-like, pulled strongly toward saying something, making a small suggestion that would improve, IMNVHO (in my not very humble opinion) their work.
Their PUBLISHED work.
Who am I to make recommendations?
Someone who has read an enormous number of books – and has self-published exactly ONE so far.
Someone who went into excruciating detail in preparing Pride’s Children PURGATORY to look as good as the best traditionally published work (limited by Amazon and their paperback POD (publish on demand) capabilities), and, of course, my own learned-in-time skills, and spent months getting the ‘look and feel’ of the paperback, and the look of the ebook, to my own standards.
Someone who took a lot of advice from people who would give it.
And who rejected gobs more from people I didn’t end up respecting for their opinions.
Traditional publishing is not mine to condemn
Because, although every one of my opinions had been informed by what I’ve had to deal with in READING those books, I have no control over their choices, nor do I crave any.
Things such as tiny text on the page, double-spaced, surrounded by huge amounts of white space, and with a gutter so narrow you have to break the spine to read the words that edge it.
Or as pale gray text.
Or as fonts (leave that one alone).
Or… (insert here the things you hate the most about traditionally-published books that seemed deliberately designed to make it hard to read).
But self-publishing has an image problem
We are accused – and all SPAs are tarred with the same brush – of being, well, crap.
We are assumed to not be able to find a traditional publisher who will takes us on, regardless of the small to non-existent advances, predatory contracts, miserly royalties, accounting mysteries, and complete lack of control that we are pretty sure we’d have to live with if we tried.
And, unfortunately, I have to agree with a lot of the complaints (again, regardless of the fact that much traditionally-published material is of poor quality itself).
So what should I DO?
The question crops up almost every time I read an SPA’s work (and buy, usually because I’d like to find out how the story ended, and the price is usually quite reasonable (<$10) if you buy an ebook, compared to the ridiculous prices for traditional ebooks): do I say anything?
To the author, directly, in an individual and gently-worded email which he or she can peruse – or not – in PRIVACY.
Should I couch it in ‘best practices’ language?
Should I include a copy of something with some of their particular awkwardnesses minimized (including, but not limited to, a piece of their own work)?
Should I point to an example that I consider ‘correct’ and make a comparison?
Because what I DO do, is to never buy a book from them again.
And never (okay, once so far) recommend their book.
IOW, leave them in their happy ignorance of my elevated standards and practices, happy in their own devices, which probably include… what?
Intelligent authors make unintended or misguided choices
There are basically three explanations:
- they don’t know
- they know and don’t care
- they know – but have no clue how to fix the problems
And may or may not appreciate a busy-body telling them.
But lack of quality affects many things down the chute from just writing the damn thing: read-through, recommendations, reviews, and ultimately the ability to write fiction profitably.
I have kept my mouth shut – so far
Figuring nobody appointed me standard-bearer.
Figuring that as long as I monitor my own work, I’m doing the most that I should.
Except that that niggling perception among many readers that self-published work is crap affects ME. And I have to work very hard to distance myself from the crowd when trying to persuade a reviewer to read MY stuff.
So I’m throwing this out there to see what my readers think:
- Should I try to improve the breed? Or
- Should I try to make sure the readers I want think of me as a good outlier?
And should I ever use my own pretty work as an example when interfering in other writer’s God-given right to make their own choices?