Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Thing about Self-published Ebooks...

I was on a business trip this past week to the west coast and as everyone knows I’ve been struggling for something to read as I wait for a lot of my favorite authors to release their books in the next few months. It came down to crunch time as I was going to have a five hour flight back and forth to the west coast. (I won’t go into the part about how my boss convinced me to check my carry-on and then they lost it and I was stuck at a Walmart at 12:00am at night struggling to find something business appropriate. Business travel sucks!)

But to my delight as I went on Amazon I found an author whose historicals I really enjoy. I was surprised because I know when her next release date is and this wasn’t it. In this case this was a self-published eBook.

I was like – okay. Let’s give this a shot. I want to self-publish some of my titles why not start reading other’s self-published work and see how it goes. Other than short stories this was my first foray into this world. The price point was less than one of her normal books, but not .99. For a little more than six dollars I got what I felt was a full sized book. One that would suffice for my trip out and back.

It was good. But… every other sentence started with And… First this made me smile – I don’t know if you remember my rant on cleaning up my own work and realizing I start all my sentences with “And” too. Then it got a little in the way of the reading experience.

Overall I couldn’t see why publishers would have passed on this book but they must have. I could feel this was an older work but the author’s voice still came shouting through and really that was enough for me.

But it is a reminder of why it’s going to be worth it to pay a little extra for an “agency” priced book. There is no doubt about it – a professionally published book may not be “better” – but it sure as heck is going to be more polished unless a whole lot of effort is put into the copy-editing. Which let’s face it - costs money - which can result in a decrease in profits. After all the whole point of this is to make money.

So my message to the big “Six” is you all have nothing to fear. While I may seek out new self-published works, I know concretely what professional editors and copy-editors bring to the table and will always continue to want that level of professionalism in the books I read.

10 comments:

Kwana said...

Thanks for this post. I too am guilty of the AND but this shows the value of both and the importance of voice.

Eileen said...

I've been reading a lot of the reader comments on some of the self-pubbed books and I do think readers get it. Lots of complaints about grammar and spelling errors.

I also think, however, that there are going to be a lot of cottage-industry copy-editors, etc. setting up shop soon. The Big 6 might not need to quake in their boots, but they should be looking over their shoulders . . .

Maureen McGowan said...

I agree with all of you guys, which is to say, I suppose, that it's so hard to really know how things are going to work out.

But the Big 6 have to figure out a way to make sure they continue to put out, on balance: a) a higher quality product than authors could do on their own; and b) do a better job of getting it in the hands of readers/consumers than the author could do on her own, given an equal quality product...

Cause I think some really talented writers will fork out the money to get self-pubbed stuff professionally edited and designed and formatted etc... So that the quality will be just as high. But the question to me is, will readers find it... (especially for new or less-known authors)

I read the novella that Courtney Milan self-pubbed, the one that hit the NYT while were were all in NYC this summer. Not only is it an excellent story (really good) but you can tell she spent some money, or at least a lot of her own time and effort, on the packaging of it. Very professional. Better than a lot of earlier kindle books from Big 6 publishers in terms of formatting and look.

Eileen said...

Okay, this is maybe an interesting side note . . .

I heard an interview with cartoonist Kate Beaton on the way to work (well, actually on the way to Alex to school, but it's a long story involving late start Wednesday and his alarm clock). She has both her own website where she publishes her work and she has work in the New Yorker.

She likes being able to put up whatever she wants on her own site, but she also likes publishing in the New Yorker because (and I'm quoting loosely here) it forces her to be good enough.

Having a publisher that isn't herself forces her to keep her work at that higher quality.

Now I'm betting a person who feels that way probably holds themselves to a pretty high standard anyway, but I think there's a definite corollary with self-publishing and traditional publishing.

Kathy Holmes said...

It takes a lot of work to self-publish and it can also take money if you don't have access to cover artists and editors. But a self-pubbed book doesn't mean that everybody passed because of the quality - but that is probably the remaining stigma around self-pubbed books.

But often it just doesn't fit the market. I read a self-pubbed author - now with an MFA and a Big 6 publisher - who self-pubbed her first book and it was a quality read - it just didn't fit the market - was more counter culture.

I think my books are selling because they fill a niche market - and one I hope to grow with more books. Not my first choice but seemingly necessary.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, Eileen

What that cartoonist said really resonated with me. There is a real sense of validation that comes with being chosen by one of the big publishers. At least now.

Maureen McGowan said...

And Kathy, you're right. One cannot generalize about the reasons an author has chosen to self-publish.

Sinead M said...

Great post, Stephanie. I agree, the quality has to be high, especially for an author published by a NY house. The last thing an author wants, I think, are books of a lesser quality available to anyone. It might prevent a reader from picking up another of her books...

Stephanie Doyle said...

Kathy - I agree. In this case I don't really know what NY was thinking. Maybe it was because she was new and the premise was "slightly" unrealistic. Although I thought she pulled it off.

And I for one am looking forward to the wide range of choice we're going to have now.

Historicals in different periods! Yeah!

But I do think authors - especially established ones - will need to be really really careful about this.

I was absolutely okay with overlooking the Ands - even though it did pull me out a little.

A new reader, who picks that book up the first time... maybe won't come back.

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