There’s a lot of hype around self publishing at the moment, related at least in part to John Locke (an American author, not to be confused with the father of liberalism or the bald sociopath in Lost) becoming the first self-published author to sell a million e-books for the Kindle.  He’s put 9 titles out, the latest of which is How I Sold 1 million e-books in 5 months.  A cynical man, then…

If the internet is any judge, people have mixed feelings on self publishing.  This is because there’s a perception of it as a vanity project, as you’ve probably heard.  I’m not sure who specifically thinks that, but I’ve read several blog posts assuring me most people do, and explaining why they are wrong.  What a bold premise…

The story goes that unnamed millions believe a publisher would only refuse your manuscript because it’s crap, and not because you’ve pitched it ineffectively / they aren’t taking on new writers just now on account of economic meltdown / your story’s not for them / various other possible reasons.  Except everyone and his dog knows by now there are a bajillion reasons a publisher might reject your book and that it happens to everyone, even JK Rowling (who bounced back and later became mind bogglingly successful, just in case you weren’t sure).

It follows that there are good writers out there who might never accidentally stumble upon a boy wizarding zeitgeist, but whose brains produce books of the sort you or I might like to read.  And with all this hype around ebooks, some of them are bound to give self publishing a go. 

The problem, as Chuck Wendig points out in this post, is that there is no filter.  So whilst the law of averages dictates that there will be some good stuff floating around in self publishing land, it also means there will be some crap.  And there’s no guarantee that Kerry Kindle Owner is going to find the good stuff listed in amongst the bad – there’s a lot to trawl through and the books at the top of the list will not necessarily be categorised by merit, but by how good the author is at marketing and self promotion.  Amanda Hocking blogged about some of the practical aspects of this last year, pointing out that hours spent emailing book bloggers and interacting with readers decimates writing time in a rather counterintuitive manner.

However, if you do put in the time and effort to making the whole internet aware of your book, it seems self publishing can work.  In spite of her gripes Hocking did it, and as a result she got herself a traditional publishing deal complete with actual minions to do the marketing stuff she hated so much.  Imagine having minions!  That’s certainly an aspiration of mine.

Minions aside, I reckon there’s a lot to be said for self publishing, and I have every intention of giving it a go with at least one of the 12 Books – if not several.  Still, I’m conscious it takes a lot of time to do well.  I’ve read a lot of articles on this lately, and it seems to me a lot of the crap is a result of people falling into the trap of thinking self publishing ought to be much faster than traditional just because it can.  You can write a first draft in a month (as this blog proves), publish it, and move on to the next one straight away – none of that pesky pitching or proofing or editing need ever happen.

Except all of that bloody well ought to happen, because it makes a difference to you as a writer, and to your potential readers.  If you don’t care enough to put the work in, why should they?  OK, if you’re only charging 99p or whatever, people may not be expecting liquid perfection.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t try to exceed their expectations.  And it seems that a steady stream of ebook authors do.

Hopefully people don’t feel too short changed by my constant demands to wait til I’ve had time to go back over stuff before they can read a full book.  I guess it might seem like I’m all talk – what real evidence do you have that I’m definitely writing these books if you can’t read them*?  But I wouldn’t be comfortable sticking an un-edited, poorly formatted first draft up on Amazon, or anywhere else for that matter.  We all know the tale of The Greek Seaman, after all.  I don’t want to be that guy.


*written and recorded excerpts, mainly.