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One Simple Idea to Make Self-Published Books Desirable

09-06-12a Tifotter, flight feathers


Have you heard any of these recently? If you have been following links in the Sunday Wash-up, the following statements will not be new.

‘Self published books are all dire.’

‘Self publish books are just vanity exercises.’

‘If you self publish your book it will be the kiss of death when finding an agent or publisher.’

And the list goes on and on. There are many out there who are pushing the self publishing medium because it appears to be a valuable way in allowing readers to vote with their cash on a book’s worth. Publishing houses that simply can no longer afford to risk investing in marginal titles are now watching the performance of this market and snapping up authors that have built viable platforms.

However one damming criticism of the e-book and self-published works is the vast difference in quality. A lack of copy-editing and editing is allowing books to go out and sink, but worse than that, is the negative effect that these sinkers produce on the authors and perception of all other self-published work. It is a lose-lose situation.

Decent editing takes time and time is money, so decent editing is expensive. Hence many aspiring authors due to lack of cash or knowledge push out raw work that may disappoint the purchaser and certainly will not inspire a vendor to stock it. Even on a no sale, no fee basis, shelf space is at a premium and stores NEED that space for books that will sell.

The thought struck me, ‘What if we could give an editing quill rating to indie books.’ The quantity of quills would stand for “This book has been reviewed by a professional editor and is of this quality”. To do this an organisation would need to be formed that books could be submitted to, for a fee, and receive a subsequent quill rating, say from zero to five quills.

To make it affordable, don’t edit the book, don’t rate the whole book. Instead a random section of a few thousand words from the whole book submission, along with a plot summary could be sent to associated editors (along with a portion of the fee). The work can be checked against a structured check list that forms standardised feedback. So if there are spelling mistakes then zero quill rating, if it’s flawless and well told, five quills. There has to be a clever editor out there who is up to the challenge of structuring such a check list.

So when an author receives less than four quills, he/she knows the work still needs polishing and where. It is then up to the author to seek help in those areas, either by investing in an editor or by seeking focused help from peers. He/she can always resubmit after polishing the work. There are significant benefits to this proposal.

  • Authors do not waste their money on what are otherwise vanity runs.
  • Buyers can tell which book is likely to give them the best experience.
  • The overall perception of indie books would be of higher quality.
  • Indie books do become the spring board for new authors.
  • The query letter, slush pile, rejection, roundabout is broken.
  • Traditional publishers and agents can focus on the five quill authors.

It then becomes a Win-Win-Win-Win situation for all, (author-agent-publisher-buyer).

Plus it opens up a new revenue stream for hard pressed editors, who maybe cannot pull the $1000 contract but could easily earn more in $50 contracts.

If you know of an editor or indie author, send them this, tweet this, dig and stumble it. If there is someone out there who understands the industry and can see the potential of this and not just for lining their own pockets, which is substantial, there just might be the glimmer of a working concept in these words.

Photo; Flight Feathers, cc Tifotter

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6 comments to One Simple Idea to Make Self-Published Books Desirable

  • Margaret W. Jones, PhD

    Interesting idea. My one concern is how the criteria would be established and who the judges would be. I paid a lot more than $1000 to have my book professionally edited. I paid for a content edit and later a copy edit. I also paid for the cover to be professionally designed. It is well written and a compelling read. Despite that IBPA rejected it for their trade program and failed to give any constructive advice. There are a lot of prejudices out there in the publishing world. Today I read in the NY Times that had John Updike been female he would never have won the Pulitzer. His work would have been dismissed as chick lit. "Not of My Making: Bullying, Scapegoating and Misconduct" has been dismissed by some as "victim lit" If I had written it in the third person and pretended I was writing about one of my therapy clients, then my book would be called a case study and would be more acceptable to editors. In fact it is a personal documentary complete with references. Perhaps we should just let readers decide. They are the ones buying the books. Would they really care how many quills a book has?

  • Carolyn

    Very interesting. I think I'd give it a go.

  • April L. Hamilton

    I'm afraid I'm with Dr. Jones on this one. Not only is the question of who gets to determine which books rate how many quills problematic, but in my opinion, the entire notion of this sort of 'quality control' being applied to indie books is misguided. Nobody ever proposes any sort of quality-rating system for indie films or music, so why should authors be subjected to it?
    I appreciate your motivation, to help quality indie authors and their books get the visibility and recognition they deserve, but in my opinion, this is not the right way to go about it.

    I'm taking a different approach in building the Publetariat Vault. The Vault will provide publishers with a searchable database of indie books available for acquisition, but there will be no third-party vetting process. Since Vault listings will provide publishing pros with sales figures, reader reviews, a synopsis, an excerpt, links to author platform pieces and more, those pros will have access to everything they could possibly want or need to know about the book and author(s). When you can look at actual sales figures, reviews, and author promotional activity, you don't need to consult with any third party to determine whether this or that book is worthy of further consideration.

  • Andy Shackcloth

    Margaret, Well said, many good points. To me your point "There are a lot of prejudices out there " is quite telling in the wall new authors are up against.

    Also your point "we should just let readers decide" ties in with April's thoughts.

    I wish the Publetariat vault all the best success. I will watch with interest to see if it is also afflicted with the accusation that Amazon reviews are cursed with, of being self served by authors and not by the reading public in general.

    Yes, yes, any form of rating that allows the public to vote with their own minds will overcome the printing industry prejudices out there.

    Carolyn, I am with you, I would give it a go. Because to me trying to show the established industry that we recognise the critisism and are prepared to meet the challenge is important.

    How we eventually do it, is not important, that we do is.

  • [...] the “stigma” of being self-published — which I’ve read somewhere (several places, in fact) that is “akin to the kiss of death” to “legitimate publishers”. [...]

  • Thank you for the comment, as well as the kind offer for me to do a guest post (I’ll definitely do so!…very soon).

    PS: I shall reply your actual comment soon, also. My brain is a bit zapped at the moment (as it’s been for a while, thanks to writing, what else?), ARGH.