Honesty in Publishing

You’ve done it! You wrote a book. No longer will you be that person who always meant to write a book- you poured your heart into it for years, you even went through and fixed every typo and your husband/wife/mom/dog read it and LOVED it and they are SO proud of you and they JUST KNOW you’ll make it big. And thanks to KDP, it’s easier than EVER to publish your book and EVERYONE will read it and they will ALL LOVE IT.

Guess what? Probably not.

Chuck Wendig tackles 25 hard truths about publishing in one of the better blog posts you will ever read (and will make you want to quit writing forever). If you’re an ‘indie’ author (and I’ll let you decide exactly where in that very broad camp you reside), it’s doubly hard- as Chuck touches on, there’s not a lot of respect out there for indie authors, and quite frankly, rightly so. There is a lot of really poorly written, designed and edited books out there. So the odds of someone– the right someone- stumbling across your book and turning you into an overnight sensation are very, very low.

The first thing you need to be is honest. Not, like, Lance Armstrong honest, but honest with yourself. Sit back, look at your manuscript and ask yourself, “Would I pay five bucks to read this?” Don’t get me wrong, finishing a book is an accomplishment. But it doesn’t mean you should sell said book. If you don’t believe me, find your absolute favorite author on twitter and ask them how many manuscripts get thrown away or re-worked until they have changed entirely. So be honest with yourself- if you wouldn’t spend five bucks on it, don’t ask other people to.

As I write this, I see a tweet that says “Self-published e-book author: ‘Most of my months are six-figure months'”. I express cynicism as I click the link to a September 2012 article. Somewhat predictably, the author in question is Hugh Howely, who wrote the fantastic and best-selling Wool series.

He didn’t get there overnight, and he didn’t get there by luck. Well, maybe a little bit of luck. He also is not representative. The article points out that a survey of 1,007 self-published authors show that they make an average of $10,000 a year, and half make less than $500. So if you’re expecting to click submit, sit back and watch the money roll in as you top best seller lists, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

That same article also uses the example of Kathryn Stockett, author of the best-selling and not-as-edgy-as-everyone-thinks-it-is novel The Help where she asks “…how many authors did stop after 40 rejections? How many great manuscripts are sitting in a drawer somewhere?” To which I counter, “How many should be?” In the traditional model, there is at least some quality control (somehow her novel slipped through). With self-publishing, that filter is removed.

Does that mean great works that may have been rejected by traditional publishers will now be published? Absolutely.

Does it mean they will be recognized for the fantastic works they are? Not necessarily.

Does this mean that there will be many, many, many manuscripts that should never see the light of day will be published and saturate the market to the point where it is nearly impossible to find those quality works? Absolutely.


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