Self-Publishing: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Fountain Pen On Written PagePrior to Amazon and their request for self-published books for Kindle, traditional publishers had most of the power in the book industry. These “gatekeepers” made decisions on who and what to publish based on their own goals, not necessarily the writing, or even the perceived merchantability of the book.

However, once a manuscript was accepted by the publisher, it was subjected to rigorous editing, revisions and proofreading. The art department would create an enticing cover based on the content of the book and the book’s genre. And the marketing department would take steps intended to generate sales as soon as the book was released.

Self-publishing for eReaders, such as the Kindle or Nook, has removed the barrier. If you can string sentences together, you can be a published author at the click of a single “Publish” button.

And that’s where the problems arise.

Every aspect of publishing the book, as well as writing it in the first place, falls squarely on the author. Creating the book cover, editing, formatting and marketing is either done by the author, or paid for by the author. Many new authors starting out don’t have the resources to pay for these services. They get a friend or relative to help out, and make do with that.

Sometimes they get lucky and the person they go to for help is an accomplished graphic artist, or a competent editor/proofreader. More often than not, that isn’t the case, resulting in:

  • A cover that does nothing to entice a reader to click on the thumbnail in the book listings.
  • A poorly formatted book that detracts from the reader’s experience.
  • And the worst offense of all… a book rife with typos, dropped words, extra words, misspelled words, correctly spelled words with the wrong meaning, commas in the wrong place, missing quotation marks, misplaced apostrophes… You get the idea.

While an unprofessional-looking cover won’t interfere with the readers’ pleasure with a well-written story, it can reduce the number of potential readers that bother to look at the details page.

On the other hand, problems with formatting can pull the reader out of the flow of the story. That goes double for writing mistakes such as typos, missing or extra words, and missing or incorrect punctuation.  If the reader has to stop and figure out what the author intended to say too many times, they may stop reading altogether. Or worse, give the book a bad review on Amazon and/or other sites where potential readers hang out. And that bad review will remain up for all the world to see… long after the mistakes have fixed.

Of course, not all self-published ebooks have these problems. The more experience an author has with the process, the more likely they are to address the issues of book cover, formatting and editing before they publish. And aspiring authors who are active in a writing community, like The Writers Chat, have the benefit of their peers’ experience to guide them, making the learning curve to successful self-publishing a lot easier to master.

It’s good self-publishing in the digital era has pulled down the arbitrary barriers that kept many competent writers out of the bookstores. But it’s bad so many books get published without the benefit of professional-quality formatting, editing and cover art, leaving many readers with an ugly impression of all Indie Authors.

About Anita Cross

is the host of The Writers Chat and a newly-minted Indie Author writing under the pen name of Lorraine Adair. Before embarking on her own writer's journey, Anita could be found proofreading and editing manuscripts for other Indie Authors.

Comments

  1. To paraphrase William Shatner; book publishing, the final frontier. To where no author has gone before, unedited. Set you phasers to stun, because that what it feels like to read an unpolished novel. That is what you will be hit with by the reaction of other readers to a book you thought was ready for primetime.
    Have we reached a stacis with indie publishing? If the answer is no, then what will it look like when we arrive?

    • L. Anthony, I love that! I hope you don’t mind, but I noticed a couple of things. (I am an editor, you know. lol)

      “To paraphrase William Shatner;: book publishing, the final frontier. To go where no author has gone before, unedited. Set you phasers to stun, because that that’s what it feels like to read an unpolished novel. That is what you will be hit with by the reaction of other readers to a book you thought was ready for primetime.

      Have we reached a stacis stasis with indie publishing? If the answer is no, then what will it look like when we arrive?”

      All in good fun. And it proves my point: We are too close to our own work.

      If we want to compete with the Big Five, we need to meet or exceed their standards. Every little mistake we don’t catch will be flaunted as to why readers should avoid self-published authors. That’s what happens when the competition is feeling threatened.

  2. Hello Anita

    I feel that the real issue authors face when putting their books on Amazon as an Indie is of course marketing.

    This might seem a great reason to hanker after a traditional publisher, but the truth is, they don’t do much marketing at all for new authors nowadays. So apart from the other services you mentioned, (cover design and editing which can be had from good freelancers) an author might as well do it all themselves anyway and take ALL of the profit yes?

    Jonathan

    • I agree, Jonathan, marketing is a major hurdle for the self-published. I suspect most of us do not have a background in marketing. In spite of that, I think most of us are better off being our own publisher. With eBooks, we don’t have to worry about our books coming down off the shelves after 3 months, so we can afford to learn as we go along.

      But… the quality of our books is still an issue: proper formatting, grammar and spelling, correct use of words, punctuation, table of contents and so on. And, of course, an enticing cover. Marketing may get you first time buyers, but it’s the quality of the content, fiction or non-fiction, that entices them to become fans.

This site uses Amazon Affiliate IDs on all book links to Amazon for tracking purposes. However, if you make a purchase after following one of these links, we may make a small commission.