Self Pubs and Trad Pubs: Couldn’t You At Least Talk To Each Other?

Venn diagramby Carla Douglas @CarlaJDouglas

Three things:

1. A conversation about self-publishing I had a year ago with a traditionally published author and poet who spoke of a colleague—an accomplished trad pub novelist.

Me: If she has rights to her backlist, she could self-publish.
Author: [Congenial but resolute. This goes without saying. It’s not a possibility. The very idea is absurd.] I don’t think she would ever consider self-publishing.

Takeaway: For some traditionally published authors, the self-pub door is shut tight. They don’t show even a glimmer of curiosity about the self-publishing process, which aspects of it might be worth learning, or what its rewards might be.

2. A second conversation about self-publishing a month ago, with the same author who is now, via a formal writing program, completing a novel under the guidance and mentorship of the same trad pubbed novelist.

Me: Is this work happening online?
Author: [tone is wry] No. I’d describe it more like “doorknob-to-doorknob.”
Me: Really?
Author: Yes. I leave a chapter hanging on her doorknob. She marks it up and comments, and leaves it at my house.
Me: [barely masked disbelief] On paper?
Author: [amused] Yes. A bit unconventional, maybe. But the work is getting done. I’m happy with the progress we’re making.
Me: Do you realize how funny that is?

Takeaway: Digital publishing and self-publishing naturally have a common trajectory. It’s easy sometimes to tie them too closely together, so that indie authors are associated with digital and traditionally published authors with print.

My experience demonstrates why this stereotype might persist. Doorknob-to-doorknob file transfer is maybe only a step or two ahead of carrier pigeon. Or owl. I’m curious about what kinds of digital writing and editing tools traditionally published authors are using, but there’s a dearth of available info on this. At the same time, digital production can’t guarantee quality writing.

3. Jane Friedman and Harry Bingham’s #AuthorSay survey for traditionally published authors. Its goal is “to see how traditionally published authors are feeling about the choices now available.” Some enlightening comments have already been published at The Bookseller in response, among them that just 25 percent are open to the possibility of self-publishing, and that “authors are more committed to their agent than to their publisher.”

Takeaway: Ah. So it’s not just local. Yes, my sample is minuscule, but look! It points to a wider trend. In a Venn diagram of traditional and self-publishing, there’s only a small region of overlap. I thought things might be farther along by now.

Conclusions

I live in a bubble. I’ve assumed all writers are exploring digital tools for writing, editing, collaboration and production. I’ve been wrong about this, but to what extent, I’m not sure. Because it looks like others are living in bubbles, too.

Trad pubs and self-pubs need to talk to each other. If they did, they’d realize they could benefit from knowledge the other side is hanging onto.

Just because you’re traditionally published doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from self-pubs. Marketing and promotion, for example. Social media. Digital tools like Scrivener for organizing a WIP.

Just because you’re digital doesn’t mean you’re efficient. Keying or dictating a book into a smartphone isn’t efficient. Neither is running spellcheck instead of hiring a copyeditor.

Just because you’re indie doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from traditionally published authors. The care they’ll take to produce a meticulous manuscript, for example. This may be because they have more years of writing behind them, or they’ve taken the time to internalize (and observe) the conventions of writing, or that their manuscripts have been through more drafts and are therefore more polished. Probably a combination of all three.

Self-publishing isn’t a dirty word. Just because you’re traditionally published doesn’t mean you can’t learn all there is to know about self-publishing, just in case. Being informed can be its own reward—doesn’t mean you have to do it.

What do you think? Is there any common ground between traditionally published and self-publishing authors? And what might they learn from each other?

Image by daveconrey

What Kind of Self-Pub Are You? A Questionnaire and Tips for Maximizing Your Self-Pub Style

4 of a kindby Carla Douglas and Corina Koch MacLeod
@CarlaJDouglas     @ckmacleodwriter

What’s your self-pub personality type? That’s right—there’s more than one!

Maybe you see yourself as one of a kind, and therefore you won’t be thrilled to be lumped into a category with others. On the other hand, you might see yourself as a member of a tribe. Your common traits and goals help establish your identity, and you won’t like the idea of being placed in a sub-group.

As editors, we’ve had the opportunity to work and interact with a variety of self-pubs. And over time, we’ve identified some distinct self-publishing styles and approaches. Below, we’ve narrowed our findings to four self-pub personality types.

Take our quiz to find out what kind of self-pub you are.

Note: Results may vary! You may discover that you don’t fit neatly into one category. That’s okay. This questionnaire is designed to get you to begin thinking about how you approach self-publishing and where editing fits into the scheme. We’ll summarize the characteristics of your type, and add some tips and resources that will help you get the most from the editing and production process.

Questionnaire

1. What is the most important feature of a published book?

a) The story or message has to be compelling

b) It has to be highly appealing to many potential buyers

c) Impossible to narrow to a single feature—everything is important

d) Depends on why the book was written, but overall it has to be professional looking

 

2. What are you mostly likely to do after you get a story idea?

a) Start writing—the story or structure will emerge on its own

b) Start writing from the beginning and systematically work through to the end

c) Sketch a loose story outline and begin writing at any point in the story, as soon as possible

d) Create a detailed story outline before writing, with most things worked out ahead of time.

 

3. What steps are you most likely to follow to get your book from idea to published?

a) Draft, rewrite (x3), publish

b) Write, proofread, publish

c) Draft, edit, publish

d) Draft, revise, edit, proofread, publish

 

4. How do you handle the editing part of the self-publishing process?

a) I self-edit. I may ask a critique partner or trusted friend to read my book.

b) I self-edit and use beta readers.

c) I use beta readers for the revision stage and an editor to polish the final product.

d) I only use an editor.

 

5. What do you do with the feedback you get from critique partners, beta readers, editors and readers?

a) If I get feedback, and it’s not what I expected, I freak out and stick the book back in my drawer for several months.

b) I only make the changes I agree with.

c) I take some time to think about the changes before I make them. I might even research some of the suggested changes to see if they’ll actually make my writing better.

d) I make nearly all of the changes an editor suggests because I’ve hired an editor to tell me what I don’t know.

 

6. How do you tell if an editor is a good fit for you?

a) I don’t use an editor.

b) I send a chapter to several editors and ask for a sample edit from each of them. If I hire an editor, I base my decision on the sample chapters.

c) I ask fellow self-pubs for recommendations and go with a recommendation.

d) I scour professional editing databases for an editor who’s an expert in my genre.

 

7. What kind of editing are you comfortable with?

a) No editing. My story, my words. You shouldn’t mess with art.

b) I’m open to suggestions about how to make my story better, but please don’t touch my words.

c) I want to know what will make my story better, and I’m fine with suggestions for cleaning up my writing.Tell me what I need to do and I’ll try and fix it.

d) Fix it for me.

 

8. How likely are you to use tech tools to improve your writing?

a) There are tech tools that can help me to improve my writing?

b) I have my favourite writing tech tools. I’m open to learning about new tools, though, especially if they’re free or low-cost, or if they help me to do something more efficiently.

c) If you apply the tech tools to my writing, and teach me what the results mean, I’ll try to make the changes they suggest.

d) Not likely. I prefer that my editor run the tech tools on my writing, and apply the changes they suggest.

 

9. How likely are you to use a style guide to polish your writing?

a) What’s a style guide?

b) I’ve heard about style guides, but I don’t use them.

c) I try to follow the style guide that fellow self-pubs or my editor recommends.

d) I let my editor pick a style guide. My editor will ensure that my book follows that style.

 

10. How much are you willing to pay for an editor to edit a 300-page book?

b) Up to $300 —

a) $0 — You can’t mess with my words—my story will carry itself.

Give me feedback on a chapter, and I can apply your advice to the rest of my book.

c) $750 — Read my whole book and make suggestions for improvement. Do as much as you can for me within my budget. Copyedit a sample chapter so I know how to clean up my writing.

d) $1500+ — I’d like the best possible outcome for my book project.

What type of self-pub are you?

If most of your answers were

a) you’re an Optimist:

  • for you, it’s all about the writing
  • you have a great story to tell, and you’re eager to dive right in
  • you’ll give self-publishing a try, see what happens, and hope for the best
  • you have a long list of books that you can’t wait to get started on
  • you figure you’ll get better with practice—your next book will naturally be better than the last

 

b) you’re a Do-it-Yourselfer:

  • you’re hungry for knowledge and you scour the internet for info because you want to understand every aspect of self-publishing
  • you’re not afraid of the more technical aspects of self-publishing
  • you want control over all stages of the publishing process
  • you like to keep costs down by doing things yourself
  • you might look for low-cost services

 

c) you’re a Collaborator

  • you work to your strengths by doing what you know you can do well
  • you tend to get help for things you don’t know how to do
  • you want to participate in every aspect of the publishing process
  • you can’t think about possible future writing projects until this one is all tied up
  • you don’t necessarily want a career in writing—you want a container for this one important book

 

d) you’re a Project Manager

  • you know there’s a lot to know, and don’t know a lot (yet)
  • you know your limitations
  • you hire experts to help with those things you don’t know how to do, or that aren’t the best use of your time
  • you’re business savvy—efficiency is important to you
  • you have the resources to build a publishing team

 

Types and Tips

So, how did you do? Any light-bulb moments? Remember, this is all in good fun, and as we said, you may straddle more than one category. Our hunch, though, is that you’re probably more one type than another. What follows are a few tips that will help keep you on the straight and narrow while still remaining faithful to your own personal style.

Optimist

You’re confident in your story and your storytelling abilities. You might be a bit intimidated, though, by everything that goes into the self-publishing process. Editing? Yes, you know it’s part of the process, but the story is what matters. And you’re still not sure about allowing others to edit your work. For you, editing might not extend beyond self-editing or revising, but it’s important to know that you could be limiting your options. Revising is the best you can do with your own writing with some or no feedback. Editing is the best that someone else can do with your writing.

The more you know, the more confident you’ll be when making decisions about everything from editing to cover design. Where to begin? Right here, at The Book Designer website, where there are carefully curated posts about editing and self-publishing.

If you prefer an all-in-one package for getting started with editing and self-publishing, we recommend Joanna Penn’s Author 2.0 Blueprint, available free at The Creative Penn. She covers topics like first draft, revisions and editing, and explains the differences between these tasks. The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself, by Susan Bell, offers practical tips for self-editing and case studies of famous writers and their editing practices.

Do-it-Yourselfer

As the name implies, you’re all for doing it yourself! Truthfully, though, it doesn’t always make sense to try to handle the whole process of self-publishing alone. How many of us can say we’re skilled in writing, editing, designing a book interior and creating a great-looking book cover?

The good news is that you can accept help from the pros and still do it yourself. How? Avail yourself of some of the many tools designed for self-pubs: Print and ebook interior and cover templates from The Book Designer will take care of two of the most difficult aspects of book production for self-pubs. There’s also Joel Friedlander’s free resource,10 Things You Need to Know About Self-Publishing.

And, for true DIYers, check out the editing macros you can use to fix common problems in your writing. Also, watch for our forthcoming book, You’ve Got Style: A Self-Publishing Author’s Guide to Ebook Style, which outlines tips and tools for copyediting your book.

Collaborator

You have a clear vision of what you want from your finished book. You know and respect your audience and you’re certain that your message will resonate with them, too. What’s more, you also know your own limitations—you can’t do it all yourself.

When it comes to writing, you don’t necessarily want a career, you want a container for your ideas—they need to be arranged and packaged in the best way possible to meet your readers’ needs. You have an idea of the kind of help you need, but you still have many questions.

Finally, you want to both understand and participate fully in the process, and Corina Koch MacLeod’s Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast is the book that will help you do that. It steps you through the process and clearly defines the revising, editing and proofreading tasks involved along the way.

Project Manager

You understand well that self-publishing your book will involve many hands. You’ll need an editor, book designer, proofreader, cover artist—and perhaps publicists and marketing consultants as well. Whoa. That’s a lot of balls in the air! But you’re business savvy, and you love nothing more than orchestrating this kind of operation.

To stay on course, you need to know what the role of each participant is. Once you know what everyone is doing, you’ll make decisions with more confidence and you’ll also see where there might be bumps in the road.

You’ll find, too, that there are many tasks you can do yourself, and that these are both fun and rewarding. For a comprehensive guide to self-publishing, Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch explains the process clearly. For a discussion on the role of editing in the self-publishing process, consult Sarah Kolb-William’s book, The Indie Author’s Guide to Book Editing: How to Find, Hire, and Work with the Right Editor for Your Manuscript.

That’s it—our first foray into self-pub profiling. Don’t be overwhelmed by the long list of resources. They’re there to guide you, to dip in and out of as needed when questions arise. Also, try stepping outside of your usual pattern. Explore resources and tips from the other profiles and see if doing things a bit differently improves your results. Self-publishing is a process, after all, and it’s likely that you’ll improve over time.

Image by Domiriel