We received this awesome comment in regards to one of our blog posts. We felt the questions were so important, we wanted to answer them so everyone could see our response. Thank you, Kris, for your timely questions!
Kris Orkin said:
“Okay, I'll be honest and say what a lot of writers are wondering. I'm just plain scared of self-publishing. I know that authors who self-publish have more control over the entire process of getting their books out. I know it's a faster process, though often costly. Nevertheless, I've considered this route and have spent a great deal of time reading books that have been independently published. And I'm sad to say I've not been happy with 90% of the stories I've read. Overall topic ideas seem wonderful, but the actual writing often has disappointed me--not only grammar and punctuation errors, but also blatant weaknesses in sentence structure, transitions, and basic language. It makes me wonder if editors are involved and if author rewrites are required. Every writer wants his/her story published quickly, including me. Do self-publishing companies take advantage of authors like us by printing things that are not yet ready, for their financial gain and our egos? I worry about my reputation as a skilled writer. I worry about handing over my manuscript to someone who will not care enough to edit it and make me improve it. How qualified are the editors of these publishing companies? Book sale numbers really don't mean much. People don't know a story is going to be a bad read unless they first purchase the book, then read it. Meanwhile, records show a documented book sale (of an unread book). And once read, you can't return something that was ill-written. HELP ME UNDERSTAND MORE about this type of publishing. The costs involved in self-publishing need to assure me of a spotlessly clean end product. What say you? (Sorry people, don't judge my curiosity as negativity. I'm trying to be helpful in highlighting concerns that many of us have but are afraid to ask of a self-publishing company, for fear of sounding disrespectful. Please know that I respect 40DayPublishing and trust they will address my concerns in the spirit they were asked.)”
I’m so glad you asked!!! I understand your fears. And they are legitimate. I think first off we need to differentiate between independently self-published authors and subsidy house published authors. There is a difference. And yes, I too have read some books coming out of subsidy house publishers that are horrendous. My first book was published with one such house (which will remain nameless). When I ended the contract with the subsidy house, I was so embarrassed to be associated with them in any way that I destroyed every bit of promotional material I had with their name on it. So, I get that. I really do.
For those readers who don’t know…I want to explain the difference between a subsidy publisher and self-publishing. Subsidy publishing houses (also commonly called vanity publishers) accept most manuscripts that pass through their doors. It does not matter what the quality is, if you have the money, they will publish you. Not only do you pay them to do all the work for you (and no, I don’t think we should all work for free) but they also take most of your royalty from your book. Often they control the price of your book as well. The author is usually given creative control BUT I have seen many cases where the author is bullied into doing the will of the publisher when it comes to cover design, back matter etc. The independently self-published author either has to learn to format paperback and ebooks…or they have to hire someone to do it for them. They also must have a cover, either designed by themselves or someone else. They must have an editor. Or not. It’s truly up to the author what they want and what they don’t want. You get the idea.
Now, for truly independent self-publishing. If you are willing to learn how to self-publish, you can do it for free. Seriously. Self-publishing does not have to cost thousands of dollars. Knowledge can be costly. You must either spend the time to learn, or pay someone to teach you. This is why so many pay others to do the work for them. They simply do not want to put in the time.
I’m going to say something that may step on a few toes. But, that is okay. Truth is truth. For self-published authors, the responsibility for having a well edited book is the responsibility of the author. If you want your cover to be awesome, it is your responsibility. If you want your interior to look like it just came off the press of a traditional publisher’s press…then it is your responsibility. It really comes down to you.
Do subsidy houses take advantage of authors? You bet they do! They prey on the emotions of authors who dream of publishing. They send a lovely contract that has a gold seal. They make you feel special. Like you survived the cut when so many others didn’t. In fact, most everyone survives the cut. They also provide a service that many authors are looking for. Someone to at least appear as if they believe in them.
I received a letter from an author who was amazed that her manuscript was accepted by a Christian Subsidy Publisher. Now, everyone has the right to publish what he/she wants to publish. But if you say you only accept 5% of submitted manuscripts and you only publish clean Christian work, then why did this company accept a story line that not only has two lesbians raising a child together, but also endorses such activity? Did they really read the manuscript before accepting it? One must wonder.
I cannot speak for editors everywhere. I do know that some editors are trained. Some are good at what they do. Some are terrible (although they are usually nice). I can say that one of the last traditionally published books I read had more errors then then last self-published book I read. It is becoming more and more common (no matter who the publisher is) to see errors in books. And of course, things change. For instance, do you place two spaces after each period or one? Do you use ellipsis, n dashes, m dashes, or nothing? I’m reading a Love Inspired book right now that actually put quotation marks inside the punctuation. That happens to be traditionally published. It just made me smile.
My books are not perfect. I make no claims to such. I never will. No matter how many editors have gone through them because some hard and fast rules have changed and others are up for interpretation. Besides, I have found true typos in my books. Like I find in every other published book. I do love the fact that when I find an error I can have it fixed in a matter of hours on Amazon. Paying big money will not guarantee you a spotlessly clean book. That does not exist.
As for returns…yes, the reader can return e-books to Amazon within a two week window. And they do return books. I rarely have a return. And all my books have excellent reviews. Between the full length novels and the novellas, the lowest ranked book has 4.5 out 5 stars and over 250 reviews. Not too shabby for a self-published author.
It comes down to this. Do you believe in the message you have to share? Are you willing to wait and take the chance to see that message reach people who are desperately waiting for it (if waiting to be accepted by a traditional publisher)? Or do you believe the message/content is important enough to make a difference in lives around the world sooner rather than later? I honestly forget about the “errors” that have been found when I receive an email from a reader across the world telling me how my books helped her find hope in Jesus Christ. I’m more concerned with the reader who found my book and then found the strength to forgive a wandering husband. I know that family is now saved and living for Jesus. Stories like these make a couple of errors seem petty. I refuse to hide my talent in the sand. I want to use them and multiply them for the Lord. He does not expect us to be perfect. He does expect us to be obedient.