Self Publish and be Damned

The Sunday Salon badge

This is a little off my usual timetable, but the muse was working so no time to delay!

The above headline has been taken from a post written by Rachel Abbot for The Guardian newspaper, where she has celebrated the sale of 2 million books, but will probably not be taken seriously because she self-publishes.

As a book reviewer and blogger, I get to work with a lot of publishers, writers, and other bloggers – some in person, most online. I have writers such as Katharine D’SouzaHeide Goode, Iain Grant and Simon Fairbanks, who I’ve met in person, read their work (and enjoyed them, so reviewed them), and have developed such a relationship that I will work with them again in the future.  All of them have said that Self Publishing works for them, but they wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone else.

I have worked with publishers like Le French Book and Tule Publishing, where I get to read some of their books ahead of publication, and have read several series, some by the same author, some by different authors but contributing to an overall series. All have been new-to-me authors, so I have no problem in reading new authors, and (since they’re galleys) books that are not 100% formatted ready for publication.  My point is, essentially, I don’t have a problem with people who go via the traditional publication route or via self-publication…….however:

I also get “cold callers” from authors and promo people wanting my attention for new writers and/or new works. It’s tough and lonely, I know it, I get it. Let me give you a massive tip from a blogger to a struggling author: I’ve made it clear what my rules are (it’s called a Review Policy). I’ve written posts on how best to pitch your pitch. They’re designed to help you as much as me. I’m telling you I don’t like Christian Fiction, because if you send me your book and I do actually read it, I’m going to write you a really really bad review and I don’t think that’s what you want.

This post is written primarily as a reaction to recent events.

  1. My auto-response to email submissions says “If I don’t get back to you, please assume it’s a no”. Someone has chased me for the FIFTH time, to ask if I’m going to read his book he first pitched in November (errr, no). Fair dues to most people, who get the hint the first time.
  2. My review policy says that I don’t read poetry, and I’m not taking submissions as I have too many books, and not enough time.  So I get an email last week from someone new asking me to consider a number of books he’s representing – including his own, which is his book of poems.  That email went straight in the bin, with no reply.bang_head_against_wall_md_wm
  3. Earlier this week, I published a review of a book written by someone I’ve worked with before. I’ve liked her previous work, so was happy to read and review the new book. The book review goes up, and a few hours later, someone comments on the review, apropos of nothing, asking if I’d read and review their book. First of all, don’t pitch your book on someone else’s review – it’s disrespectful to the other author. Second, it’s clear that you’ve done no research, or even looked at my review policy (which states I’m not taking any new books on, and I don’t accept submissions via comments). Third – there has been no attempt at making a relationship between us – I will read for some authors because we’ve worked together before and have put the effort into trying to make it work – would you go up to a stranger in the street and go “you don’t know me, but here – do some work for free, should only take you a couple of weeks”? No? Then why do it online?
  4. I’ve been at this long enough to spot a blanket email, sent to multiple people, where the author is hoping someone twitches.  If you want me to invest time in reading your book, then promoting it, at least pretend you’ve taken the time to find out what my name is (hint: it’s on every page of my blog, so it takes 20 seconds to find my real name – and my nickname is in the title of the blog itself – I’m fine with being referred to as either one!).

To conclude

There are reasons why Self Published people as a whole can have a bad reputation. So far I have yet to have an author react badly to something I’ve said, but I dread the day when that happens (note: when, not if). Some self-published authors are lovely, which is why I continue working with them – the number of books I have on my bookshelves by traditionally published authors would make it so easy to never work with a self-pubbed again in my life.

The problem of the internet is that once you push the button it’s out there for all to see, and it’s very very difficult to pull it back. People will make mistakes and some will recover from it (often with grace and a smile). However, there will always be the ones who will not recover well from their mistakes, and those who will respond before thinking and then ruin it, not only for themselves.  Unfortunately, it’s these latter people who give the rest of the other wonderful people in Self Publishing a reputation, which brings me back to Rachel Abbot’s piece at the top: No matter how successful she is, she will never be taken seriously – and it’s not her fault!

 

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8 thoughts on “Self Publish and be Damned

  1. I used to respond to all requests from bloggers asking to guest post on my site. However I became fed up to the back teeth with people asking to post on topics with no relevance to my readership, (I actually had one person offering to write a post on beauty products which is, obviously not a great fit for my website)! Given my experience, I completely sympathise with your position as regards not replying to irrelevant emails. Kevin

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    • Sighs. I know there are plenty of sites that suggest guest posting to improve traffic, but there’s a limit! You can write the best post but if it’s one the wrong blog with the wrong audience, then it was just a waste of time!

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  2. I’ve not read as many self published works as you have, maybe no more than half a dozen. Of those only one was worth it, the rest were badly written and poorly plotted. There could well be writers out there who are darn good and just haven’t had the break they deserve but I suspect they are in the minority.

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    • Some have been excellent and most average. I’ve read perhaps a handful that were heading towards dubious but I’ve always tried to find something positive. That’s why I’m expecting a blow up at some point

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  3. As someone who is probably going to pursue the self-publishing route (for a variety of reason), I fully agree with all your points. And I also know that there is a stigma that goes with self-publishing that I will have to accept. However, between now and the time I actually “publish” I hope to hone my writing craft and not lose sight of good manners in the pursuit of obtaining reviews.

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    • Good for you, and I hope that your choices work in your favour. Bloggers give self-pubs an awful lot of leeway – I know I (can) let people get away with more than I would let Trad-published people get away with. All I can suggest is “Work with your reviewers”.. Some will perform the editing/copy editing/proofreading (for free) that you found you couldn’t otherwise pay for…they will do it, if you don’t turn around and bite them in the bum!.

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      • I had about five reviewers look over my first draft – and they pointed out many errors, inconsistencies and large plot holes 🙂 I am very grateful to them for taking the time to help me improve my craft.

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  4. This is yet another thing that has always kind of put me off self-published books, which is totally not fair to the authors who don’t do things like this. Even though I don’t accept review copies or even review ARCs or anything like that (I literally just read books that I would have read anyway, even if I didn’t have a blog) I still get tonnes and tonnes of emails, tweets and even comments on random posts from authors asking me to review their books. It particularly annoys me when they are all like ‘from looking at your blog, my book is right up your street’ when their book is a crime thriller, which is something I’ve never reviewed on my blog, simply because it’s a genre I don’t read.
    It is such a shame though that the minority of self-published authors who do this are giving self-publishing such a bad reputation.
    Great post! 🙂

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