Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The self-publishing lottery

As I am planning to go down the self-publishing route myself, I read every article I can find about it. It really is lottery, a rags-to-riches dream. The Mail On Sunday's (I only buy it for the word games, honestly!) Live section this week contained an interesting piece by Rob Waugh on self-publishing success stories, the main interviewee being Hugh Howey, who went from stacking shelves to a seven figure salary with Wool and its subsequent sequels.

I subscribe to an interesting daily newsletter called Book to Book ( b2b@booktrade.info ) and this morning it contained a link to an American blog called Salon which carried a feature by would-be bestseller writer John Winters on his attempts to promote and sell his e-book. Its wry, self-deprecating humour made it an enjoyable and empathy-provoking read, so here is a link:


Having read it, I don't think I shall be rushing to make a promotional video! Yet still I wonder about what makes a good e-book and what doesn't.

Since getting my Kindle at Christmas, I have bought, or downloaded for free, quite a few books, several of which were recommended by fellow authors, and although most of them have been carefully edited and checked for typos, one in particular (no, not yours, Eileen; that's in the first class category!) shocked me because of the number of careless and avoidable errors it contained which spoiled a potentially gripping story, because the glaring mistakes - spelling and punctuation errors and phrases left hanging in the air, seemingly unconnected to the sentence that contained them - soon dominated my attention, to the point where I was playing spot the error rather than spot the plot twist.

I know that few writers can afford to pay for a professional proof reader or editor, but surely they know someone whose grasp of the English language is a bit better than their own and who will, for the price of a pint or two, go through their manuscript with a read pen? Yes, you spotted the deliberate mistake. It's a homonym, a word that sounds the same as another but has a different spelling and meaning. In my job, I come across similar errors all the time and I'm sure the good old Spell Checker is to blame a lot of the time. All it takes is two or three such glitches to make the reader doubt the author and lose their trust in the story, on the grounds that if the author can't be bothered to get their spelling right, then perhaps they are incapable of writing a good plot and unworthy of being paid £3.99 for the benefit of the doubt!

My bedtime reading at the moment is Proust. Having avoided In Search of Lost Time (my French isn't up to A La Recherche...) all my life, I put it on my bucket list and am now on pg 47 of Volume 2. This is writing as done by a scientist/surgeon peering at life and emotions through a microscope. No writer would get away with being so long-winded these days and taking three pages to describe the scenery by a river. Neither would they get away with writing paragraphs that are three pages long. Reading it is like watching paint dry very slowly and speculating on the former existence of the paint bristles trapped within. But by God, I'm sleeping well! Throw away the Zopiclone. Proust should be prescribed on the NHS for insomniacs everywhere, but don't, DON'T, whatever you do, try and read it on a Kindle. One paragraph will last for ten small Kindle pages, you'll lose the plot and be found in the morning babbling wildly and trying to spread marmalade on your e-book reader. If that's not Bibliomania, then what is?


Jacula said...

I really enjoyed this post. It was most entertaining.

Perovskia said...

Ha. I enjoyed as well.

I've heard that about Proust...

I don't know much about self-publishing to make an educated/informed opinion, but I can guess it's a lot like opening a restaurant; I don't know how much of it is luck, a crap shoot and knowledge of the industry. Research needs to be done, you have to know your worth (KNOW YOUR WORTH!), you can't give up after 3 months because that's how long it takes for your name to get out and it takes some sort of personal investment (being time, money and of the self). Oh, and they also have passion.

I see these in you. Go get 'em.

hydra said...

Thanks, both of you! I don't use my brain much these days, but I manage to squeeze out a slightly cerebral blog post occasionally! My sense of self-worth is down with the worms at the moment. Still no word from the publisher about the rewrites on that book I worked so hard to finish before Christmas. I feel very bitter. *sighs*

Teresa Ashby said...

I am terrible at editing. And I didn't notice your deliberate mistake just to prove it.

Glad Proust is helping you sleep x

Romance Reader said...

All the best with the route you take. The ultimate goal is to reach the readers, so take the route you believe is best for you!