I have been meaning to post this for quite a while: but kind of got derailed, due to being “out of commission” figuratively, with colitis; Plus, the ever-increasing pressure of Full Armor Magazine.
I considered calling this “what validates you?” but a topic on kindleboards (and elsewhere) encouraged me to shoot straight.
How do we deem ourselves good enough to be published at all?
That tends to still be a question thrown around in the self-publishing world.
The Gatekeeping system has changed. Our new gatekeepers are readers, those who post reviews (whether professional reviewers or our customers on Amazon.com, bn.com, etc.) and of course fellow authors.
HOW (if at all) can we be sure our work is “good enough” to present to these New Gatekeepers in the first place? HOW are we sure that any of us indie authors are “good enough” to have our work released to the general public? Sometimes this question seems absolutely ridiculous to me. As I see it, unless you are still in High School (and even sometimes then), you have a pretty good idea where your writing skill level lies. You’ve had some form of evaluation be it English courses, writing courses, online writing groups…etc. That is, keeping in mind that “everybody and their brother thinks they can write” is a hyperbole rather than fact.
Now, I’m not saying—and have never said—that every single self-published title out there is literary gold. I’ve come across two really bad ones, and had the misfortune of previewing a third recently. Nor am I saying that there aren’t a few out there that think their writing skills are better than they really are. But you’ll have that—and please consider that most of the writers in that category are just teens and twenty-somethings who just haven’t developed their skills yet. There are A LOT of teens out there self-publishing. Don’t just assume that someone with a published ebook is automatically an adult. And, I’m not saying that there are adults out there that can’t write, but do anyways. We all know they are out there. I’m just saying that there’s a lot of good indie authors out there, and I’m fortunate that I seem to come across one every day.
My new favorite book is self-published. Four of my favorite authors are self-published, and one even writes in a genre I don’t usually read. And, I am a very picky reader (I think most authors are). There was a time when I would just read everything I can get my hands on, but I was younger then and worked part time in a library. I have two full-time careers now, and I have to manage both my business and personal budgets. (there’s a whole blog post coming up about this…) So I do get picky about which books I spend time and/or money on.
But back on topic:
I guess people are assuming that since we publish sans the original gatekeepers (agents/acquisition editors/marketing gurus) how do we know we are “good enough” or that our work is ready for publication.
This is another instance where I cannot speak for every writer out there—only for myself. How do I know I am “good enough” of a writer to be published? Years ago I had a few short stories published as well as poetry. Also, I contributed to a humor magazine that went out of business due to a legal faux pas of the editor. I’ve been a long-time participant in online writing groups such as critters.org, OWW, and Elfwood.com where I even served as a moderator. I studied English Literature in college (as my minor), and completed Writer’s Digests short fiction writing course. To me I can say these are things that deem me “good enough.” I don’t have to wear them on my sleeve, though I do include some of these things on back cover blurbs etc…
In addition to that, twice I had received acceptance letters from small presses. The first was for my children’s book The Golden Rose, in which my sister provided the illustrations. Unfortunately, the publisher passed away and her company went out of business.
The second was for a poetry collection entitled Heartsongs. I forget the details of what happened there, but it was pretty much the same. I got close…got my “golden ticket” but then, the chocolate factory shut down. It never got published. That was okay by me. I went and published my poetry online, on my own website and on Elfwood.com. (I was very naive at the time and believed such ventures would lead to “exposure”).
As a certain traditional-turned-indie author recently said, (cannot remember the exact quote) there are sources other than “the Big Six” to deem a book worthy of publication. I completely agree with that.
Sales figures themselves also speak volumes to a books value. I don’t need an editor or agent to tell me whether or not my books are marketable, or worthy of being read by others. The fact that I have made sales based on what little marketing I can afford, and what little time I have to dedicate to promotion speaks volumes.
We’re not talking about F&F. We’re talking about strangers…as the majority of my sales have been via kindle. And I know of not one soul who owns a kindle among my F&F, so that whole “indies only sell to friends and family” thing doesn’t apply here. At all. Somebody I don’t know…buys my books, online. Yes, all three titles. This summer I was selling one book per day, and that was pretty amazing to me. And, this month I’ve had a fairly significant sales boost. That is validation right there that I am “good enough.”
Mind you, they are paying money to read my book. Not one has been refunded. I’ve gotten no bad reviews (yet! hehe). So as to whether or not people would actually pay to read anything I’ve written…? Well, they already are.
The new gatekeepers have approved.
Also to self-publish, you have to be self-confident. It’s not for the insecure, under-confident, meek or self-loathing. If you don’t believe in yourself, then you won’t succeed. You won’t put forth the extra effort due to thinking that it’s all futile. Nor will you be able to market and promote yourself effectively.
Speaking for myself: Yes, I am good enough for publication. My work is good enough.
Speaking for others: I’ve read a lot of really great self-published fiction recently. Many of it even better than some of the stuff corporate publishing houses (aka the spindustry) is pushing on us.
Some of them were originally traditionally published, and then went indie when they saw that the “grass was greener…” as far as Ebooks.
Others had received contracts, agency offers, etc…but then got a bad taste in their mouth over some odd detail and decided to “go indie.”
More than a few (myself included) had publishing offers from small presses, which wound up going out of business before the respective titles made it to press. It happens. Small presses start up and fold all the time.
Some have also had paid writing gigs for a journal, newsletter, etc.
Also, there are more than a few “hybird authors” around, who do both. They have publishing contracts for some titles that appeal to the “mainstream”, but they’ll also release a few ebooks (or even print books) on their own. Peirs Anthony is a good example of that.
Everybody has their own story. I’m sure if you queried 20 self-publishers on why they deem themselves or their books “good enough” to be released to the public, they’ll give you at least 40 reasons. 😉
More on this in part 2…I promise 🙂
Publish with Pride,