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Self-Publishing Demons

For a little over a decade and a half I was editor of the now defunct, Yellow30 Sci-Fi Review. I had gotten together with several author friends and we put out a small little review magazine geared toward what we called, The New Voice of Science Fiction. These new voices were basically the small presses who had several science fiction and fantasy authors in their bandwagon. We interviewed about a half dozen of these small press authors to be our Featured Authors. Several of these have gone on to be picked up by major publishing houses. In 2007 we even started our own Best Book Awards for the reviews that we’d done over a year’s time frame. This annual event was called the Pluto Award. I might have more information on that in a later post.

In looking through one of my old files I came across an article that I had written for the Review in 2013. The article was basically talking about the route that a good number of authors had taken in order to get into print, namely, self-publishing. I thought the information in the article was worth re-posting again. So here it is in it’s entirety:
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There comes a point in time where enough is enough. The self-published works are now filling up Amazon and the Internet with more volumes than ever before. Yellow30 Sci-Fi Review was started a little over a decade ago (1999) to give voice to authors who have taken this alternate route to see their works in print. Most all of bookdom at one time saw self-publishing as evil, vial, and should be banned entirely from the planet. That was the view for a number of years and still is today in a few circles. However, some of the major trade publishers now see it as an alternate slush pile.

For a long time self publishing has been the road many authors have taken once they’ve decided enough is enough with the rejection letters. Rejection letters really never say much about anything other than the fact that your manuscript didn’t make it by the first reader. An occasional note scribbled across the top of the rejection letter may give some clues as to why, but as a general rule, nothing – NOTHING!! So, the alternate fair has been to self-publish. In all reality, self-publishing has been here for a very long time. Authors who believe in what they’ve penned will do anything to see themselves in print. Self-publishing has started to make a turnaround thanks to the print on demand technology that has been available for a little over a decade now (remember this was written as an article in 2013). This new advent has made it possible for numerous writers to see themselves in print without having to mortgage the farm. It has also seen an explosion of vanity presses out to get your money and needless to say, a profusion of bad writers. But if one focuses on the negative, then this whole new means of publishing will continue to get the bad rap.

Yellow30 Sci-Fi’s original main goal was to focus on those authors who self-published or were fortunate enough to acquire a contract with a small press. We wanted to focus on the positive side of things. Over the past decade we have seen our share of good books and bad books and we’ve made a effort to be as positive, as possible, about the books that come our way.

“The majority of self-published books are pretty bad. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say less than 5 percent are decent and less than 1 percent are really good. A tiny fraction become monster success stories, but every few months, you’ll hear about someone hitting it big (for those who don’t know already the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy was initially self-published).” —David Carnoy- executive editor CNET

This past year (2013) most of the books that have come our way have been from several small indie publishers who do screen their material. For the most part these have been noteworthy books with a few that have been real gems. And we have seen some really bad ones of late.

A few of these “bad” books were past around to several of our reviewers. Comments came back such as these:

“Well, what do you want me to say? It stinks!”

“What’s with that strange prologue?”

“Is this the published form? It needs some heavy editing!”

“The author bio says he’s suppose to be a history major? He must not be paying attention to how history really works.”

Bottom line: If you’re really going to put a book out there then make sure it’s been through the editorial process a number of times before even attempting to self-publish. Make sure you have a good understanding of storyline dynamics as well. Traditional publishing houses see bad manuscripts everyday. A little more than 10,000 authors are rejected every month from those publishing firms. Now most would-be authors are simply skipping the traditional publishing avenues and going straight into the self-publishing market, most, totally clueless as to whether or not their book is ready to be in print. Most of the vanity presses and publishing providers could care less if an author’s book is written well or not. They’ll publish anything as long as the author is paying for it. They have no vested interest in seeing it succeed.

Hence, another major factor most self-published authors fail to take into consideration. The one key focus on self-publishing that no author must forget is marketing. If you don’t promote your own work, no one will. So, if you go the self-publishing route, you must be willing to do the marketing and promotion needed to get your book exposure. It’s even that way in the traditional publishing houses. Most guidelines for submissions at the traditional houses now include questions about how an author will help market his or her book should they be offered a publishing contract. So, regardless of how you publish, marketing is the key. You have to be willing to do whatever necessary to see your book succeed. Bottom line, no promotion, no sales, and your book will vanish from memory. No matter if you sign a contract with a traditional publishing house or you choose to self-pub, marketing is the key. Keep that in mind and in the forefront of any plans you have for the book you’ve written.

For those authors who have submitted book for review here at Yellow30 Sci-Fi and have not seen it posted, please consider the fact that your book is simply not ready for print. Perhaps it’s really bad, but then on the other hand, just a little editing, by a expert, could turn it around and make it ready. The world of publishing right now, especially most online retailers, is filled with really bad books. Don’t be one of them.

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That was the article. The major factors still are in play today. Make sure your book is well edited. A good editor will point out flaws in your storyline and other things that you need to make it work as well as correcting the grammar. I hope this has been helpful. Later on I will post some links to a few self-publishing folks that I feel will help benefit those aspiring to get a book out.

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