A word about self-publishing for writers so inclined.

The fact that no one in the legacy publishing industry knows what makes a best seller is indisputable.

That fact does not mean everyone in the legacy publishing industry is an idiot.

Even if J.K. Rowling experienced a dozen rejections before selling Harry Potter, and even if James Redfield self-published and sold more than 80,000 copies of The Celestine Prophecy from the trunk of his car, traditional (sometimes called legacy) publishing remains the surest path to selling large numbers of high–quality books.

Thanks to technology, it is no longer the only path. Today, anyone can easily and affordably publish a book.

I think that’s awesome. I hope you do, too.

However, my passionate advocacy for self-publishing comes with a condition:

You have an obligation to yourself,
and to everyone else in the reading universe,
to produce a book that is indistinguishable from books produced by traditional/legacy publishers.

This applies equally to electronic books, regardless of the platform (Smashwords, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc.).

Technology makes self-publishing easy. If you don’t care too much about line editing or layout, you can go from your completed draft to sale on Kindle in less than an hour, or to print-on-demand in a few days.

Resist the temptation.

Unless your book meets the same standards of production quality as volumes from Random House or Algonquin Books (and, frankly, even if it does), you’re extremely unlikely to achieve the sales necessary to recover the cost of your publishing investment.

Do careful research about your author-funded publishing partner. Many packages offer editing and layout services that entail nothing more than application of a mechanical editing tool, a template for the interior that ignores basic standards of book design in favor of economy, and a choice of, say, ten cover options (which means that, of every one hundred books published through that package, ten will be visually indistinguishable from yours … and about 750,000 books were self-published last year).

Compared to the cost of some of the most expensive packages, you can find independent vendors who will perform individualized work for you for not much more money. You owe it to yourself—and to your readers and all other self-published authors—to engage an independent developmental editor, a professional proofreader, and a graphic designer to help you bring to market a book that you can realistically and proudly compare to the trade paperbacks sitting on the tables and shelves at your local bookstore. I will gladly refer you to multiple vendors from whom you can choose a great partner.

Self-published books that come to market failing to meet the standard of traditional publishing discredit the entire independent publishing movement.

I won’t be part of that.

You shouldn’t, either.

This post was adapted from the introduction to The CT Method of Revision and Editing.
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