Monday, August 22, 2011

SPJA - different types of self-publishing

If you're following my SPJA (self-publishing journey acronym) series, I need to make one thing clear: My goal is to release a new junior/middle-grade science fiction series which is indistinguishable from similar titles released by major publishers. I'm hiring the same professionals the publishers do, and I'm asking them to do the same job.

If your intention is to publish your writing so you can share copies with family and close friends, you're reading the wrong blog. There's absolutely no point spending hundreds (or thousands) of dollars producing something which is going to sell ten or fifty copies. You can get by with generic cover templates, clipart and the spell check & grammar tools in Word or OpenOffice.

Next: If you want to publish a professional novel but can't write fiction to a professional standard, you need to hone your craft before wasting good money on a fantastic cover and centimetre-perfect proofing. You cannot take lousy writing, polish it up, slap a cover on it and sell heaps of copies. (Yeah, I know .. insert obligatory 'What about Big Name Author X?' gag.) Contrary to popular belief, fairies and angels don't die en masse when a lousy novel is self-published and heavily promoted (aka spammed) across writing forums and Facebook. It's just hard to get other people to buy it, and if they do they'll probably litter the amazon listing with one-star reviews.

How do you judge whether you're writing professionally? Hell, I don't know. I thought I was ready after I sold a few short stories to paying markets, but looking back at my work from 1999/2000 has me backing away with my eyes firmly closed and my hands warding off evil.

Actually, there is a way: manuscript evaluation. For a first novel and an author with no publication credits of any kind, I'd say the evaluation is absolutely essential. Think of it as a driving license.

Like many things in life, you can pay for it or you can butter people up until you get it for nothing. If you pay for it you get a pro job with a guaranteed outcome. If you want to go for free, you need to join a writing forum and participate in the 'submit your work' section, reading and reviewing other peoples fiction before you unleash your efforts on them. (A ratio of five reviews to one submission is acceptable, but check the forum rules.)

The only problem with the free method is that people will sometimes go easy on you, hoping you'll do the same for them. It can become a bit of a ra-ra love-in, where nobody has a bad word for anyone else. If you scan the forum and everyone's on first name terms, awarding each other gold stars for average-looking efforts, move on.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

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