Don’t be afraid to self-publish

From Rick:

Before I start this post, I want to give a plug to Branden Johnson’s excellent novel Heaven’s Forgotten. I’ve posted the cover on the right. Click the cover will link you to Amazon.com for more info.

I’ve invited Branden to do a guest blog (or two) here in the near future so he can tell you all about his first publishing experience. Meanwhile, if you want to read an excellent—and different—novel, buy this one. Those of you who know me know that I do not recommend books lightly. Check it out and support this upcoming author.

I also want to give a plug to the third and final book in Graeme Reynold’s highly acclaimed High Moor werewolf trilogy: High Moor 3: Blood Moon. I say “highly acclaimed” because if you look at the number of reviews the first two books have received, you’ll understand. Graeme’s High Moor books are superb and a strong testament to self-publishing.

Branden Johnson and Graeme Reynolds wrote stories from the heart, an important point that Kris Rusch drives home in her two blog posts that I gave links to last time. These were stories that they wanted to write, not stories written to chase a market trend they believed they needed to write to. If didn’t read Kris’s articles, check them out. Her advice is what all authors need to hear.)

In Graeme’s case, much of the current “werewolf” market is pretty much dominated by romance writers. He chose to go back to basics, but with some interesting twists, and his reviewers have commented on how they were pleasantly surprised by High Moor because they assumed there was not much new under the sun (or moon) when it came to writing werewolf novels. Graeme proved that not everything had been done on the subject.

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The key to becoming a successful published author is believing in yourself, having the courage of your convictions, and working hard to get your writing up to snuff.

Graeme and Branden worked hard to get their writing to the point it is now because they believed in themselves and did not give up. Not all good writers believe in themselves.

I can recall at least two other writers whose work I read years back (before the Kindle revolution, when the only viable publication route was through a publisher) and I found these two writers and their work to be excellent. They received rejections and took those to mean that their work was not of acceptable quality. In truth, the works simply didn’t fit the current “markets” as publishers saw them. Rejections that contain no specific information on the reason for rejection should be ignored. Reasons like “it didn’t grab me” or “I don’t think I could sell this” don’t count. As far as I know, neither novel has been published or self-published, which is a shame, because at the time I read them, they were better than many of the self-published novels out today.

However, just because you’ve been rejected by all the agents and publishers you submitted to does not mean you should rush headlong into self-publishing. Having the courage of your convictions is one thing, but you need to validate from independent, reliable sources that the work is good and ready to publish.

Therefore, we have two problems to address: (1) Good writers afraid to risk self-publishing because they’ve been told by “professionals” (publishers and agents) that it isn’t worthy. (2) Writers whose work really is not good enough yet and who need help making it good enough.

Many self-published novels go nowhere, not because they are “unworthy” but because they simply have not yet found their audience. I firmly believe that every good book has an audience somewhere. The trick is finding that audience. Those of you who follow this blog and other blogs about the publishing world know that a number of factors that have nothing to do with the quality of the work also govern a novel’s success, luck and timing not excluded. It took many years before Lord of the Rings became the popular story it is today. It was hardly an overnight success. Nevertheless, you must not let the opinions of so-called literary professionals convince you that your work is unworthy. Time may prove them wrong.

The reason I love self-published books is that they can be innovative and reach into new areas that traditional publishers won’t touch (or dropped because “that genre no longer sells”) because of narrow-minded thinking. Writers need not be afraid. They can put their work out there to let readers judge for themselves, bypassing those whose opinions really do not matter in the grand scheme.

Some of the self-published books I’ve read were not perfect, but I have nevertheless enjoyed them and the author’s imagination in them. I appreciate new voices and new ideas, things traditional publishers won’t take because there’s not enough money in it for them for the expense involved. Some books by their very nature won’t have a large audience. Does that meant they should not be published for the benefit of those few who will appreciate them?

I offer the following advice for writers to follow, in this order:

(1) Get reliable outside opinions on the quality of your work before you seek to have it published.

(2) Don’t take rejection by agents and publishers as the final word on your work.

(3) If you have validated the quality of your work and it’s been rejected by publishers, then self-publish it and don’t doubt yourself.

(4) If your book doesn’t sell (regardless of the publication route), don’t give up. You simply haven’t found the market for it. Work to find that market rather than trying to write or rewrite to an existing market. Or if you discover that it needs to be revised because it’s not up to your standards, do so and re-publish it.

On that note, I’ll leave you with my personal experience with my two vampire novels that had a traditional publisher but did not sell. I know that the writing itself is good, but I also know that the books had some story flaws (and are overpopulated with characters). I found hints of a market for them (not among vampire novel lovers, though, because they are not really “vampire” novels in the classic sense), and I discovered that these books need to be better first. Having discovered their weaknesses based on feedback I did receive, I’m working to revise them for re-release. I’m not rewriting them for the market; I’m rewriting them to make them better and to please myself. Then I will find the right market they belong in.

I’m not giving up on those books, and you should not give up on yours.

In closing, here’s another of Kris Rusch’s valuable articles to read.

INTERNATIONAL MARKETS FOR YOUR BOOKS

–Rick