BREAKING NEWS: My first interview with Patricia de Hemricourt at ePublishABook.com, just came out and can be viewed here. It’s a good one, and goes into some detail on my process and general thinking, including some insightful questions on Gazillions. John Locke, and my writing and editing times.

NEW BOOK REVIEW: An extremely positive review for The Geronimo Breach at the blog of J. Landon Cocks can be seen here.

FEATURED BOOK: Fatal Exchange is the featured book at The Kindle Book Review. Check it out.

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Many of my Twitter followers are authors, and of those most are self-published. As we’ve all seen and heard, self-publishing can be a thankless and barren road, and money can be tight, or even non-existent.

The ease with which the self-publishing platforms now enable aspiring writers to upload their work is mind-boggling. The only thing standing between you and being on Amazon are a few mouse clicks. Gone is virtually the entire delivery system that defined the traditional publishing business for generations. Trees don’t need to be sawed down, trucks don’t need to go to and from warehouses filled with freshly printed books, stores don’t need to occupy valuable space that could house another Starbucks or fast food joint. It’s a brave new world we’re writing in; the old rules are dead and the sky’s the limit.

But is it really different this time?

Look, I’m no fan of inefficiency. I don’t particularly like a system that is the most usurious model I can imagine, aside from the record business. Authors see pennies on the dollar under that old model, with the retailer and the publisher pocketing the lion’s share of the product’s revenues. The actual creator of the work sees a sliver in that scheme, just as musicians see nominal bucks while the record companies pocket gazillions.

But is it all bad? Is the entire model worth throwing out?

As with most things in life, the answer is maybe.

It really depends upon the discipline of the writer.

What do I mean by that?

In the old model, there was a presumption that the literary agent had culled through thousands of manuscripts to find the most deserving to represent. Deserving generally equated to well-written and interesting, although in many cases deserving actually meant generated by someone whose name would ensure sales, even if they couldn’t spell their book title. Be that as it may (and don’t start me down the Snooki path), presumably the literary agents were gatekeepers of quality, who then passed their clients’ wares to publishers, who further thinned the herd, resulting in a clumsy industry algorithm that spat out books at the opposite end of the sausage machine – and the presumption was those books were competently written, would be of interest to someone, and were executed in a superior fashion; professional cover designers drew up art, professional editors checked grammar and punctuation and spelling, etc.

Now none of that applies. You can have your dim nephew kluge together some sort of botched abortion for a cover, and can generate books as quickly as monkeys can type.

That’s both good and bad. Because it demands that the writer be disciplined, even to the point where he/she must invest in quality control, in addition to investing the time into writing and then marketing.

From my standpoint, two essential elements I won’t sacrifice on are cover art and editing. I recently wrote a guest blog on my thinking about cover art, which can be viewed here, so this exercise is devoted to singing the praises of editing. Professional editing by a qualified, experienced editor, not a friend who substitute-teaches English as a second language and who has no real expertise or germane education.

A good editor can play an accretive part in the writing process, helping to not only catch errors and correct grammar, but also to take a larger role in ensuring the author’s voice is compelling, and that the story being told is done so in as masterful a manner possible given the writer’s skill level. A good editor adds to the quality of the work, and demands more out of the author, perhaps by asking leading questions or introducing commentary, or in some cases more overtly influencing the process: suggesting areas that need to be rewritten; pointing out gaps in story or plot; checking to ensure continuity and coherence; offering counsel on overall flow and pacing.

A good editor has the luxury of picking work he/she can improve, and will drive to create a superior product. A bad one will spell check and ensure punctuation is at least marginally competent. Or worse, will actually hurt the work, introducing more problems than they fix.

I believe that it’s almost as important to find a conscientious editor who shares a similar vision, as it is to sit down and write. I believe this because I’ve been on both sides of the editing table, and it’s a thankless job in the end, and it pays modestly, at best, and demands excruciating attention to detail and a love of the game of writing, as well as use of language. A good editor suggests alternative word choices, and catches echoes, and calls a spade a spade, and shares the writer’s enthusiasm over turning a phrase in a satisfying manner.

As writers, you owe it to yourselves to spend time interviewing editors, learning about their qualifications and the roster of authors they’ve worked with, and in the end, investing in a quality job. You need to pay for a pro to do the work correctly.

I’ve blogged a lot about why I write. I’m not a marketing wiz, nor do I claim some literary high ground. But I do know a bit about starting businesses. I’ve done more than my share of start-ups, and one thing I know is that you have to invest in your business before you can expect to see income, much less profits. So when you’re done writing your masterpiece, sit down and jot out a rough business plan – a budget, if you will, that captures product development (cover, pagination), quality control (editing), and marketing. Note that few if any business plans have zero committed to quality control, and zero for marketing, and zero for product development. None I’ve ever seen that were successful, at any rate. So what are you committing to your business, in terms of time, and money? How much are you planning to invest, and what do you hope to earn, net of those expenses? In what time frame? And what if things don’t go as planned? How long and how much are you willing to commit to seeing your business through until it is successful?

Being a writer requires intellectual discipline and honesty, if your writing is going to be compelling. I’d liken it to being on a never-ending quest. But once you’re done writing, you’re now a publisher. And being a publisher also requires discipline and honesty – at least with yourself. You need to commit resources to your self-publishing business, or it will fail. That seems elemental, and obvious.

Editing isn’t an optional part of this game. It’s a requisite. You need to expect to pay for a quality job, just as you would expect to pay for any other quality job in any other discipline. I’m very fortunate, as I have a gem of an editor who shares similar tastes and literary aesthetic. If you’d like his info, I’ll be happy to give it to you – just e-mail me via the “Contact” button. He’s the right man for my jobs, but may not be ideal for yours. You’ll need to determine that. But I can tell you that my work is the better for his involvement, and that he’s the best I’ve found. And I looked. I’ve been through four now. This is the fourth and final one.

The takeaway on this is that you need to look at your publishing gig as a business, into which you need to put sufficient resources to have a decent shot at success. Most start-ups fail due to flawed research, failed execution, or insufficient funding. All three of these are avoidable if you do the work and go in with your eyes wide open. So do yourself a favor. Get a good book cover to represent your product to the public. Get a good editor to keep you on track and help you polish your work to as exacting a standard as is possible. Plan a marketing approach, commit time and money and energy to it, and modify your approach if it isn’t working. Develop a habit of discipline – commit X hours per week to social media, Y to blogging and interviews, Z to finding reviewers to sample your wares, and A to writing your next work. Invest time in your product descriptions. Listen to what your readers think of your work. Seek out the counsel of those whose opinions you respect, even if their opinions might seem harsh to you on first blush.

And be disciplined in developing your product, which is the sum of the writing, the editing, and the representation (cover, your blog, your persona).

Is this easy? Nope. Will it work if you do all the above? No guarantee, just as there’s no guarantee of any other start-up business succeeding. But your odds increase the more disciplined you are. I’ve seen plenty of undisciplined talent with oodles of money and energy go nowhere due to lack of discipline. And I’ve seen marginal talents with a good work ethic and persistence, and reasonable commitments of resources, do well.

I’ll leave you with this. The harder I work, the luckier I seem to get, in every business I’ve ever started or operated. I bet this one is much the same. So my advice is hire a good editor to work with you, ensuring your product is as good as it can be, and you’ll be far ahead of many of your peers. Again, it’s not an elective or an option. It’s a requirement for success.

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Comments

  1. Thu 29th Sep 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Yay, me first!

    Russell, I’m really glad that you wrote this post. I have been going back and forth with the internal questions that you seem to have answered for yourself, at least a few of them, and it’s encouraging to hear someone else speak from the other side. I jumped into this endeavor in February by simply waking up one day, sitting down at the computer and beginning a story. It was a great story. It remains, unfinished, in the database. A few weeks later, I outlined a solid character, setting, plot, all that good stuff and began another story. It was another great story that made it to the halfway point before succumbing to the dreaded “social media absorption burnout”, or SMAB. Now, in almost October, I am finishing the book on a strict schedule with solid, realistic goals set and a total business plan in place, including editing, of course. My comment is more in response to your overall theme: this is a brave new world for writers, but you still need to have a plan and you still need to pay for quality. It’s what will make self-publishing not just the new normal for books, but better than the old normal.

    Ed

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 29th Sep 2011 at 5:20 pm

      I think that we have to have our writer’s hat on when we write, and then have to take it off and put on our business hats when we self-publish. That’s the only way it will work. You can be an artist but not have done any homework on the product development or marketing side, and your product will likely die on the vine. Alternatively, you can be a great marketer but have left out the quality control on the writing, and not be taken seriously.

      The new new thing is to be able to do it all, and well. Tall order. Better get to work!

      Reply
  2. Thu 29th Sep 2011 at 9:53 pm

    For every self-publishing success story (and I mean creatively successful) there are 500 fails out there. Weak writing, virtually no editing, packages that are sloppy and unappealing. And even if the cover is top-notch, that’s no indication that the book will be worth reading. A writer truly needs to be vetted in some way before publishing. I know that sounds elitist, but since the guards left the gate everyone is getting in, and most of them don’t belong there. Can’t we post just ONE guard? You know, just to check I.D. and stuff.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 29th Sep 2011 at 11:40 pm

      That speaks to the self-discipline part. I may love ice-skating, and may think I’d be pretty good at it, but if I saw a film of myself sucking at it, I’d acknowledge I suck at it. We all have a selective filter that makes our weak points seem minor, and accentuates or even invents our strong ones.

      I think a decent editor can at least ensure that middling work is executed as well as is possible.

      Having said that, one guard would be great, but how many of the big success stories out there would have been shot down by him? I can think of a few. The fact is that not everything that’s popular is good, and not everything that’s good is popular. Life is unfair that way.

      Sigh.

      Reply
      • Laurie Sanders  –  Tue 04th Oct 2011 at 3:58 pm

        The problem seems to be that not all authors who choose to self-publish choose to invest in editors. Of those who choose to invest in editors even fewer elect to follow the advice of the editors they engage.

        As an editor at a small publishing company I’ve seen countless authors whose work I’ve contracted decide to leave their contract and self-publish because it is easier and doesn’t require the time and level of revision that I require.

        The new gatekeeper is I think, the individual reader. Readers in general will decide how important third party vetting (agents and publishers) are in the big scheme of things. It’s early days now…and readers are just coming face to face with both the positives (increased availability of niche content, many more voices, some wonderful books that would have been overlooked by traditional publishers) and the negatives associated with the boon in the ease of self-publishing.

        In the end readers will determine their patience with books which do not deliver on the promises of their genre, or which have plot holes one could drive a truck through.

        For me, I read very few self-published works. I have hundreds of manuscripts of that quality. I don’t need to purchase work of that quality. When I read for pleasure I want to leave editing behind and enjoy a good story that doesn’t require further editing. Very few of the massive number of self-published books out there deliver that. Some do…and I expect the authors with the work ethic to produce well-written, well-edited books will rise to the top with or without publishers.

        Reply
        • Russell Blake  –  Tue 04th Oct 2011 at 4:06 pm

          There is a bell curve in everything. Why would this be any different? Most work will be mediocre. Some will be dreadful. And some will be breathtaking.

          Where you fall on the spectrum is part talent, and part hard work and willingness to invest in professionals and then heed their counsel.

          I am probably different than most, as my polished drafts are pretty close to what will go out. If I can’t spot pacing, plot or execution issues before it goes to edit, that says much about my capabilities, I’d think. I do know that everything I’ve created to date has garnered stellar reviews, some of it from pretty tough crowds, like Lawrence Block, so I believe my approach has merit.

          Craft the best work you can, polish it to the point where you can’t find anything more to polish, and then pay for a pro to go over it and rip it to shreds, or improve it. Makes sense, I think.

          Reply
  3. Thu 29th Sep 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Russell has used a straightforward approach to define the building blocks for succeeding in the world of an author / self-publishing start-up business. For me, it resonates…big time. But, my background is in business. Fifty percent of my brain thinks logically, is process-oriented, sets goals, develops a plan, prioritizes, evaluates…usually in a continuous loop. I do that so the brain’s remaining 50% doesn’t worry about all of the non-creative stuff. For me it works.

    For someone who’s 98% creative — like many are in this Twitter, Blog, Self-publishing world — this orderly approach will give them hives.

    The important lesson is: know who you are, how you get things done, and let it rip. No regrets, no holding back.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 29th Sep 2011 at 11:42 pm

      Maybe I’ll write that as my next blog – approach your self-publishing like a business, and create the plan with realistic budgets, milestones, timelines, etc.

      Or maybe not. I prefer puppies and thrillers.

      Reply
  4. Fri 30th Sep 2011 at 1:01 am

    You made some great points in here about the editing process. I wish there were a way for self-publishing writers to be made aware of the importance of editing BEFORE they post their book on Amazon. I just stopped reading a self-published novel that had a great premise but was bogged down by a multitude of errors that an editor should’ve caught. The grammar was fine and it was free of typos, but the content could’ve been a lot stronger, had the editor just focused on word choice and character development. Unfortunately this book is just another one perpetuating the stereotype that people self-publish because they can’t get a publishing contract.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 30th Sep 2011 at 1:33 am

      It’s a tough one. I’ve read some real junk, and also some nice finds. I too wish there was an easy way to sort the winners from the crap. No easy way I know of…

      Reply
  5. Steve
    Fri 30th Sep 2011 at 5:06 am

    Good post. Well written, and good advice. Keep on the right track. Quality can not be compromised, even in this age where anyone can be a “published” author.

    Reply
  6. Collette
    Sat 01st Oct 2011 at 8:55 pm

    @Ed Martin: Fortunately, writers using Kindle and e-pub can get their work edited and updated. Trust me, there are very few books out there without the odd mistake – but the great thing is that nowadays these can be eradicated after publishing.

    A good (avant garde) editor will build this into his/her after-sales because it saves the authors the expense of 3 sessions by proofreaders (a different game to editing altogether). Readers usually catch the most surreptitious of nits and often inform the authors – so there is mileage in a writer offering a bounty, say a free book, should a reader spot a cursed typo/spelling mistake.

    And as for editing; it’s a broad range – many editors choose to pussyfoot around by making suggestions where they could be providing (disposable) alternatives as examples (which can be massaged). Most useful for rookie writers.
    Now the likes of ms word’s ‘track changes’ is around (and email) the writer and editor have no excuse for not making the best of even a mediocre job.

    @Steve since writing has exploded as a do-able thing, the level of writing of submissions have improved – these brave new authors have raised the game as a whole.

    [apologies for typos in advance]

    Reply
  7. Sun 02nd Oct 2011 at 1:53 am

    I’m a journalist by trade, but write children’s stories in my spare time. While I don’t publish them for sale yet (they’re available free on my blog), I will definitely be using an editor when I am ready to take that step.

    I’ve spent the past year working as a sub-editor for industry publications, and I know that it is really difficult to effectively edit your own work.

    Not only is it harder to pick up mistakes in your own copy, it can also be difficult to see where you could be neater or tighter, or where something is not explained or introduced properly.

    Collaboration with a really good editor can make the difference between a good story and a great one.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 02nd Oct 2011 at 3:52 am

      The problem is one of selective vision. Just as your mind fills in the blanks in a sentence, it also skips over what’s actually written, and instead fills in what should be written. Trying to self edit past the point of a polish draft is a fool’s errand, and the only way I could do it is to put my draft into a drawer, and pull it back out after a year or two, as until then, I’m singing along instead of listening for off notes.

      Look, it’s hard to plot well, write well, edit well, market well. Anyone who thinks they can do it all is delusional or worse. Invent a good story, immerse yourself in spinning it, get good at crafting language to evoke whatever emotions you’re after, polish it as though it is a rare gem, and then steel yourself for a trip through the sausage machine on marketing.

      But hire a damned good editor to keep you honest.

      Sermon over. For now.

      Reply
  8. Sun 02nd Oct 2011 at 2:38 am

    I’m self publishing. I have a great editor and I count myself lucky.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 02nd Oct 2011 at 3:53 am

      Then you are one of the fortunate and few.

      Reply
  9. Sun 02nd Oct 2011 at 5:38 am

    I’m usually one of the first to comment on your blogs. I was busy getting my new one up and running.
    I’ve got a backlog of 13 books I’ve bought and haven’t read. Why? Because so many of the cheap new authors’ books are hardly worth reading. Many start out with great promise, then somehow stutter and fall by the wayside. Not all of those 13 book in my backlog have been ignored. Some have several pages or several chapters read. I have even masochistically finished books that I have not reviewed because I couldn’t give them a reasonable number of stars. Of the ones I’ve completed, not all were badly written. Some were even quite good. Quite good won’t cut it. There’s too many ‘quite good’ books out there competing for readers.

    It gets a bit depressing after a while and I desert my backlog and buy books over the top of them that I know I will enjoy, even though they may be much more expensive.

    So many authors still believe editing means picking up typos and correcting spelling and grammar. If that’s all it was, Aunt Millie could help you out. Professional editing is essential.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 02nd Oct 2011 at 6:57 am

      Indeed. But there are so many “sorts” of editing. My “sort” tends to revolve around determining whether the language in any area is the best it could be, and then next just asking the broad question of, does this need to be there, in terms of subject and such. I understand that each and every sentence we create is special, but I’ve also gotten pretty good at asking myself, “what’s the point?” If there’s a section or paragraph where I think, there’s no point to this, I cut it. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying every sentence has to move the story forward. It could be I’m after setting a tone, or conveying nuance, or establishing a sense of place. But if there’s no damn good reason for the words to inhabit the page, I kill them, ruthlessly as I can.

      Only then, once I’m done doing my personal edit, and polishing the language so I’m pretty sure I can’t say whatever it is any better, does it go to my editor, who I entrust to be equally pragmatic at every turn. Ensuring the grammar and punctuation are correct is a given. But I want more, and mine does more. There’s a sense of collective creation as we go through the chapters, and if he feels something’s off, or rings false, or could be said better, he lets me know. That’s a tough gig, as I’m the customer, but ultimately his job is to help me do better, not feel good, or be cheered to mediocre non-achievement.

      In the end, we have to be our own harshest critics, and demand more, every day, out of ourselves. Some days that doesn’t fly, so we have to constantly be vigilant against backsliding. In the end, writing is a personal pursuit of excellence, where only we can determine whether what we’ve produced is up to snuff. Editors can help, but they can’t make a bad book good, or a mediocre one great. What they can do is make our work as good as it can be, and much of the rest is up to us.

      Sucks, that. Be nice if we could just pay someone to take the body blows. But that isn’t how life works, unfortunately. Pity, really. I’d have a line round the block if I could deliver on that…

      Thanks as always for your comments and ideas. Each time’s a pleasure.

      Reply
  10. Sun 02nd Oct 2011 at 8:15 am

    Thank you for some interesting points. In my view, many authors “fail” because they attach too much importance to their writing output and don’t pay enough attention to some of the points you mentioned like building a strong platform etc.

    With the advent of e-books, competition has gotten that much more fierce and the sooner we realize it, the better it is for us as authors.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 02nd Oct 2011 at 4:52 pm

      The bottom line is that, assuming the same quality in the raw manuscript, and the same diligence in the polish stage, is that the one that received professional, competent editing will be a better book. It’s really that simple.

      Of course authors should strive to create the best work their talents will allow. They should write as though there will only be one example of their work on the planet, and that is the one, so make it as good as possible. Human nature would indicate that there will be a large percentage of those embarking on a career as an author will either be ill-equipped from a skill or talent standpoint, or will decide that the safeguards like editing simply aren’t germane to their unique work.

      I don’t expect the deluge of dross to slow any time soon. All I can do is advocate for a better model, and try to make sure my writing doesn’t add to the crap pile.

      Reply
  11. L
    Sun 02nd Oct 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Self-publishing is like vanity art galleries. The delivery system and support system gets paid whether or not the product sells. Self-published e-books may work well for authors already established through the traditional system and for, ironically (for your point), big names in current events, sports, and entertainment, but for most, the huge investment in editing and design costs will never pay out. If you are writing a memoir for your kids, a local history, a local hiking guide, or other limited-interest book, it might work out for you over the long haul. If you are writing fiction, hey, post it in installments on your blog for free and spend the money you save on a great vacation or a new fuel-efficient car. These “books” are like websites. Most will never be read, much less purchased.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 02nd Oct 2011 at 6:19 pm

      That may well be, and I don’t dispute that the odds say 99.999 percent of all self-published books won’t do squat in the marketplace. In fact, I think that’s my point whenever I discuss self-publishing. Then again, 80% of all traditionally published books by those who supposedly know what will sell, also fail miserably, so it’s an odd business, much like film or music.

      And of course, for every fifty thousand who could have just posted their books to their blog and bought a Honda, there is a John Locke or an Amanda Hocking who, while outliers, would have been extremely foolish to follow that counsel. So it’s good counsel for those with no hope of ever making it. But for those who do hope for something broader than a blog following, they’ll self-publish. And if they do, they’d be well advised to get an editor and spend some time and money on the book cover. Alternatively, they could just scrap it all and be good consumers, creating nothing and merely serving their function in the great scheme of things as product sponges.

      I suppose it depends upon whether you view your spending on self-publishing to be an investment in building and achieving a dream, or a vain bit of masturbatory idiotic financial squandering. Not sure there’s a right or wrong answer to that. Probably both.

      Reply
  12. Sun 02nd Oct 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Exactly! :) editing help is a must. It’s very difficult after a 3rd or 4th pass through, even reading a book out loud to hear or see the errors all by your lonesome.

    Also I keep thinking about word count, and people who sell short unfinished stuff and call it an e-book. In a bookstore we can see if something is a fat book or a thin little book with big type at a glance. So maybe we authors need to list our word count, and give credit to professional editors for the work they do, so potential readers can tell at a glance, what’s what.

    great blog post :) and good discussion going on here too.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 03rd Oct 2011 at 5:03 am

      I don’t know whether word count’s such a great mechanism. Would you rather read 45K words of David Foster Wallace, or 95K of James Patterson?

      I’m hopeful that over the next few years, quality counts, and the gold rush to mine all that easy money from self-publishing slows, leaving a more discerning public. Maybe it won’t happen. Either way, I’ll still be scribbling away.

      Reply
  13. Armineh Helen Ohanian
    Sun 02nd Oct 2011 at 10:11 pm

    For all my four books I’ve had different editors. One was unreasonably expensive and the others three acceptable. I just worked with Dennis De Rose for my creative memoir “The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall.” He is a fabulous, reliable person, and his price is reasonable. What’s more, he goes out of his way to help authors promote themselves. Dennis delivers the work exactly when he promises he will do. Now I have a book on my hand and can’t make up my mind whether to self-publish it, or be patient and try to go the traditional way. My other three books are self-publlished. I must admit that I am not doing much in promoting them. I am sure your advice will help push me toward being more active.

    Reply
  14. Beerhunter
    Sun 02nd Oct 2011 at 10:40 pm

    I suppose vanity is what drives established writers who are on the traditional track as well. But perhaps the burgeoning mass of e-pubbers will swamp and steal a march on the trad-pack; it doesn’t take 2 years to get it out on Kindle, nor are the overheads anything like as high.
    An author I know said last year: ‘ignore e-publishing at your peril’. I think he’s right, because we can still filter out the slush if we wait to see what reviewers have to say when buying from a un-established author – not so with DTBs.

    Reply
    • Beerhunter  –  Sun 02nd Oct 2011 at 10:42 pm

      I meant DTBs when in the book store, of course.

      Reply
  15. Mon 03rd Oct 2011 at 4:30 am

    @reneepawlish – boy you have said it, but unfortunately, too many newbies don’t get it. I personally have been through classes, conferences, and have talked to multiple published authors, and read many books on the craft of writing. The best thing I did was get my books edited (twice, for story, then for grammar, etc). I’ve also taken classes on marketing so that I would know better how to get my book into the hands of readers. It’s too bad many authors don’t take the time that you, I and others have, because we sometimes suffer the bad reputations of others :) And yes, I say that because the reviews of my books reflect that I have done my homework. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 03rd Oct 2011 at 5:05 am

      All you can do is keep producing quality, and try to find ways to differentiate so readers can find you.

      A bell curve distribution means by definition the vast majority will be average. It’s unavoidable. All you can do is write, tell the most compelling stories you can invent in the most evocative and interesting way possible, and then get qualified help for the parts you know require a second set of eyes. Beyond that, we are all worm food eventually.

      Reply
  16. Mon 03rd Oct 2011 at 5:41 am

    Absolutely agree with the post. I hired an editor who didn’t have the vision I had and paid the price. From here on out, I will interview the editors and find someone who will really dig into the work and challenge me. Any fool can find the grammar errors for you.

    Do you have any suggestions for good books to read about marketing? The scariest part for me has to be that. I want to go into things with my eyes wide open, as you say.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 03rd Oct 2011 at 5:51 am

      You know, John Locke’s book isn’t bad as a nuts and bolts effort on social media and crafting a basic marketing plan, but the problem inherent in all of the books out there is that they don’t actually work – or rather, they don’t work for most, as in they aren’t reproducible successes and just contain basic, common sense advice you could largely get by reading free info on social media marketing from some of the better websites. Lawrence Block has some good books out on writing which are worth a look. And once you’re thoroughly embittered, you can read my parody of them all, “How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated) – which has been called hysterically funny by some pretty lofty literary luminaries, and I believe is the single most evil book ever written on writing.

      Reply
  17. Tue 04th Oct 2011 at 6:27 am

    Most people, IF they learn at all, they learn from experience ~ R.A. Heinlein (emp mine)
    A sad but true statement of the human condition. But he goes on (and I paraphrase) that some people can and do learn and can learn from others…otherwise we would still be swinging from trees (that reference was non-intentional, Russell).

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 04th Oct 2011 at 6:54 am

      Although the thinly-veiled monkey reference is creepy, at least you didn’t introduce clowns into the dialog. For that I’m thankful.

      We are all of us cast from imperfect clay. And in the end, most of us won’t be commercially successful as writers. What happens between now, and when we expire, is largely up to chance, but the things we can control, we should. Hiring competent editing help we can control. Not to is inexcusable, IMO. But what do I know…?

      Reply
  18. Tue 04th Oct 2011 at 6:59 am

    Due to the work I did as a government contractor, I had advance notice on the paperless publishing push and knew it would take nearly a generation from that point (1992, before the www and the .com revolution) for it to take hold. Youngsters would have to grab hold of it because adults are too set in their ways (I took my lesson from history). I thought long and hard on what would replace the traditional publishing sausage machine (as you so aptly put). I believe it is of prime importance for all Indie authors to rally together and take command of finding ways to ensure quality across the board or we will be forced to watch our livelihoods devalued to a point of non-sustainability. I believe we need to not only ensure that our personal product is the best possible product we can produce, we also have to find a way to ensure that our entire new industry has some form of standards for all to meet in order to keep Indie-pub profitable. I don’t want the Indie publishing industry to become a joke (which it easily could if overrun by authors with little knowledge and poor quality practices (we are seeing some of that already). Standards ensure consistent industry quality and maintains the industry’s equity value and keeps our personal worth in a livable range. It has worked in many engineering and technology industries. We need a gold standard from which to mark all Indie-publications not based on the merits of the contents but the quality of the work.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 04th Oct 2011 at 7:15 am

      Why don’t you create a standards board for indie authors to submit their work to, for a “good housekeeping” seal of approval of quality? Seriously? Charge a nominal fee to ensure reasonable review, and have a reasonable quality standard that needs to be met? It can be a 501c3, or can be for profit. But the board and the standards would be serious. Not impossible to meet, and not subjective, but books would have to be grammatically correct, and would have to be submitted with the contact info of the editor for verification.

      I’d gladly pay to submit my work to that scrutiny. Then again, I’m fairly confident of the quality. It’s not a terrible idea. The Ralph Nader of literature. Anyone?

      Reply
  19. Tue 04th Oct 2011 at 6:25 pm

    First time here. Nice blog and great post. Well done.

    Reply
  20. Tue 04th Oct 2011 at 8:16 pm

    I reckon I’m about a third of the way through my current WiP, it’s going well but I have editing in the back of my mind all the time.

    I know as a reader, a badly edited book gets on my nerves, so I don’t want my own to fall into that category. I know it needs work, I know I need a good editor.

    Your post has been great and added food for thought, thank you!

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 04th Oct 2011 at 8:20 pm

      I have a good one. Feel free to e-mail me via the site and I will give you his info. Check out The Geronimo Breach or the new Zero Sum trilogy for his editing. Or the about to be released An Angel with Fur. All his fine work.

      Reply
  21. Wed 05th Oct 2011 at 11:14 am

    I am sorry to bring clowns into the conversation but I have to. Clowning, like writing are what is called low entry endeavors. You can also include painting and rock bands here, as well as social media experts.

    Low entry means that anybody with half a mind can start up and call themselves a writer (or a clown – use the terms interchangeably here) and of they go. Indie publishing with POD and eBooks just made that a whole lot easier so even more people can just up and call themselves a writer (sorry clown). But the basic fact is that 99% of them won’t be funny. Yes, there is an 80/20 rule but we are talking about low entry here, the percentage rubbish shifts up.

    And 98% won’t listen if you tell them they will never be funny. They will just plod ahead. Or camp outside your house, plotting your demise and shouting that they also have a place in the sun and a right to express themselves.

    The one percent what will listen might start to learn things and become better. The one percent that are good enough and that should be writers will either give up under the deluge, or they will have to work even harder to stand out.

    Now, everybody clowning about can get somewhat better if you give them some pointers. Bucket on the head is funnier than bucket on the shoulder, for instance. But it is really only going to make a difference for the people who should be writing anyway.

    My point then is, if you are serious about writing (and you have to be deep down honest in answering this) then do the best you can. Believe it or not, it cannot always be editing. I get the best editing I can afford. It is not world class but it has to do for the moment.

    If you are not serious then it doesn’t matter if you edit it or not. You can polish a turd. It is still a turd.

    Sorry I had to bring up the clowns.

    Reply

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