Why Self Publish? Part Two

This is the second part of my rant on Why Self Publish. Here’s the link for Part One.

Given the issues that are inherent in the publisher/author relationship the obvious question is “What does a publisher do, and how can I do that myself?”

A publisher basically does three things:

    1. Works with the author to get the absolute best content possible;
    2. Assembles a professional looking product with an eye-catching cover and an interior that is conducive to the reading experience; and
    3. Gets the book out to the world. That means distribution and marketing.

This post will concentrate on the first part: getting the absolute best content possible.

My first job is the job of any author of fiction, whether I’m doing the publishing or not: write a book that makes sense and is entertaining.

To be honest, this is the hardest part. It’s making characters who have personalities that you’d care enough about to want to follow them through hundreds of pages. It’s the creation of situations that those characters are put into that are entertaining. It’s describing the world they are in and the things that they do in a manner that makes the reader see it in their mind the way you saw it in yours. And it’s making the whole thing make enough sense so that the readers feel they’ve spent their money well and want to come back for more.

Then there’s the rewriting and the re-rewriting to make sure the book does all those things for you, because I guarantee you won’t get it right the first time. When it works for you, then and only then can you go on to the next step.

The next step is to make sure it works for people who aren’t you. You’ve got to give the book to readers whose job it is to make sure it makes sense to them.

Their job is to look at the book from many viewpoints: the larger overall structure (does the book climax halfway through and slog its way to the end?); it’s internal consistency (does a character do something they wouldn’t do just so the author can move things along?); all the way down to the basic tools of writing – grammar (does the author get so lost in his sentences that the reader would have no hope to understanding what the heck is going on?).

These readers are your editors, and they must be willing to pull up their sleeves and go toe to toe with you on anything that isn’t clear, or doesn’t belong in the book, or belongs in the book and isn’t there. As the author, you have the final say on what your book says, but make no mistake, your editor is your collaborator. Your editor wants to make your book better.

And the trick on your part is not to be so pig-headed that you don’t see that.

Between the two of you, and the proof-readers you have making sure that the right words are there (something that spell-check just doesn’t get) and they’re all spelled correctly, your job is to create the absolute best content possible.

And that’s just the first thing that a publisher does. If you skip out on any of this, don’t bother with it at all. Find another way to make a living. If you do skip the part where you’re working with an editor, and you’re able somehow to get people to read your first book, you’ll be really lucky if they read any more.

So now that you have the words all put together, the next step is putting them in a package that people would want to buy.

And that’s the subject of the next post, all about designing the interior and the cover.