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Tue, Aug. 10th, 2010, 08:40 am
On the Topic of Self-Publication

As a published writer who is in the process of expanding through other gatekeepers to publish outside of my current publisher (Wizards of the Coast), I find myself in an unusual position on this particular topic.

On the one hand, I know that my work has quality and I have the sort of skill necessary to publish (having done it three times now), but on the other hand, I recognize that having a professional editor work with my stuff improves it, sometimes *dramatically.* It's good as written--it's better as edited.

If I self-published, I might get some of my own fan base to read my stuff, but then I wouldn't have that crucial editing step to refine it and make sure it's exactly what I want it to be. And for a reader, new or old, to read something by me that isn't the best I can make it, it's going to be disappointing and in turn *hurt* my writing career.

I believe there's no such thing as bad writing, only *incomplete* writing, and if you skip the crucible process of editors/agents/rejection/submission/acceptance, then your chances of putting out a complete and perfect piece are significantly diminished.

Now I have to say, there are some people who skip the "gatekeepers" entirely and hit one out of the park with a self-published work. And more power to them--really! But writing a break-out novel is like hitting that history-making home run to win the Cubs the pennant. You *could* just step up to the plate and try your luck, or you could do a lot of batting practice with a lot of coaches (agents and/or editors) who beat you up so as to make you try harder.

Ultimately, I firmly believe that as frustrating and gut-wrenching as the process sometimes is, you *need* to go through it. You need to build up that perseverence and belief in yourself as a writer, and you also need to make sure that whatever you're putting out there, you are really ready to put it out there. Because if you jump the gun, the one you're ultimately hurting is you, not the editors/agents who pass on your stuff.


Tue, Aug. 10th, 2010 11:54 pm (UTC)

As a member (and current President) of Spokane Authors and Self-Publishers, I hear you loud and clear. It can be enticing to work up a first draft, have a print shop produce a few hundred copies, and be a "published author." Truely this does a disservice to the particular writer and those who self-publish for other reasons. Just because one decides to self-publish doesn't mean that he/she can't or shouldn't take the time and effort to ensure the work is as polished and complete as it can be. Even a self-publisher can find others to critique and edit one's work.

BTW, I belong to SASP, not because I intend to self-publish, but because it was the first local writing group I discovered. Hopefully we are not just about self-publishing, but about understanding the different publishing options and finding what is right for each author and his/her particular work.

Wed, Aug. 11th, 2010 12:08 am (UTC)

Well sure, I'm not saying that they don't--I'm saying that the process of going through agents/editors and constantly refining can make a good product even better. For instance, I think some of the stuff I've pitched numerous times, been rejected, modified/tweaked/edited, has been improved considerably by the experience.

You can get this effect with friends/amateur editors, but it's a crapshoot to get the same quality. At least with pros, the odds are slightly higher that you'll get what you need.

And to address that last, important point: yes, you need to do ultimately what your book needs. Every author is different, and every work is different. If self-publication will work for you, go for it--if you find the right situation, you should jump on it.


Thu, Aug. 12th, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC)

I'd say that the quality of a self-published book is totally in the author's hands, more so than it is if he/she pursues the more traditional route. As you mention, getting past the hurdles of agent, editor, publisher all serve to improve the work. A self publishing writer needs to take the quality question on to his/her shoulders, even if it means hiring a professional to help make it the best there is.

Coincidentally, SASP's last speaker was a perfectionist in publishing her book. She readily admitted spending much more than she may have needed to, much more than she can realisticly expect to recoup, in order to have a professional editor go over it, not once but twice.