Friday, March 25, 2011

Cracks in the Vanity Publishing Mirror

I began the process of migrating the data from Word into the template provided by CreateSpace and it went well the first time around, that is until I found out that the cover artist wouldn't have a template that fit the 6 x 9 size paperback. Drat! Oh, well, I downloaded another template and began all over, discovering that all the italics were missing, as were the little masks between time and location changes, and that some of the pages had lost the formatting and were still the 6 x 9 size instead of the 8.5 x 5.5 size. Well, double drat! I spent the next two hours before work and several hours -- until 11 p.m. -- after work putting it all right, checking, double checking, saving as a PDF file and checking and redoing it until it was perfect. I also found two small errors, and I fixed those. Oh, and I fine tuned a few sentences, not much, just a skoch. My part is done, except for the back cover copy and I'm not read to go there yet. I mean, how many times can I tell the story without telling the story and make it fresh and interesting and not something I've written and rewritten a dozen or more times before? It's a difficult and time consuming job, but the effort will be worth it because my book will not be just some thrown together piece of editorial tripe that should have taken much longer to write.

That's the problem with self-publishing. Too many people refuse to take the time to do it right. I could name names, but I won't. It's not necessary, especially when Mark Deniz of Morrigan Books does such a wonderful job of tearing down vanity publishing. I agree with him, but I also believe in a barrel of mostly rotten apples there is bound to be a few that are still fresh and tasty. I will do my best to make sure my book is among the edible.

Since starting this whole self-publishing odyssey, I have spent a lot of time reading blogs and commentary about well known writers jumping the legacy publishing ships to do it for themselves. They do have the advantage of having been published and on top (most of them) for years and that definitely brings up the tone of the general rush to self-publish. What I found most interesting was Kristine Kathryn Rusch's series of articles on the often arcane workings of Big Publishing and I do agree mostly with her. A behemoth like Big Publishing is not going to be able to change overnight, or even over a decade or two from the looks of it, and embrace the digital revolution. It's like trying to take a tight corner at top speed with a stegosaurus. It can't be done.

I do think there are some things that Big Publishing can do right away and that is lower the price of the digital versions of hardback books. An e-book that costs almost as much as hard cover is ridiculous, as is limiting how many times libraries may loan a digital version before getting a new license -- 26 does seem to be ridiculously low. After all, it's not like a hardback or soft cover book that can be loaned out as long as there are covers to keep the pages in place. Digital books do not wear out. That's just pure and simple blindness and greed. That is part of the reason why so many writers are jumping ship.

There will always be wide-eyed and self-published writers tired of doing it all themselves who just want someone to do everything but the writing for them. They'll still have to market and publicize and do a lot of the heavy lifting, but at least they will have more time to write. Putting a book together and making it good enough for publication is a time-consuming process and you have to juggle a lot of balls at the same time in order to get it all done right so you can move on to the next book, which is why I'm still holding off on finishing Whitechapel Hearts. Yes, it is procrastination, but procrastination for a good reason. Luckily, I'm keen on learning new skills and expanding my horizons and, when it gets to be too much, I'll simply hire someone else to do it. I don't see that happening in the near future. I'm too poor. But a time will come and I will be able to afford it, even though I will still have the last word.

I suspect my journey along the self-publishing road will not be as difficult as it is for some because I have some work and background in the business. I've been an editor at a magazine and a web site designer. I've edited a few books, ghost written a few and dealt with publishers and agents. I am learning how to market and I have to say I'm not all that keen on it, but with the bitter . . . . I have a background in art and know what I want and yet am flexible enough to be able to bend when necessary. I've been through the publishing process a time or twelve, give or take a half dozen, and I'm not averse to hard work, and believe me self-publishing, when it's done correctly, is hard work. I will never say it isn't. But, like with anything worth doing, it is worth doing well, and I, unlike many self-publishing writers, prefer to get it right the first time, and I'm not afraid to take the time to do it right.

There are times when self-publishing is all about vanity, and I freely admit there is a bit of vanity in my decision to journey down the self-publishing road. After all, I believe in my book and my ability to put it all together. In an industry when the final decision is no longer made by editors and publishers but by the advertising and sales departments of Big Publishing, I prefer my judgment to theirs. After all, what do they know about writing a good book? Advertising and sales should be about selling a product to the best of their abilities and not to deciding which product -- or book -- would be easiest to sell. If that were the case, who would have published Dickens or Steinbeck or even Hemingway since they were definitely never the flavor of the month?

It took a visionary to take Harry Potter at face value and see that he had potential. Think of the editors who turned J. K. Rowling down. I'll bet they're kicking themselves for not being able to see the future more accurately and clearly. I'll bet Rowling wouldn't have hesitated to self-publish if she couldn't get Harry to the masses any other way.

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