Friday, August 3, 2012

A Call For Excellence in Self-publishing

This week I’ve been slowly making my way toward a full blown blog series regarding the characters and themes in my edgy Christian speculative fiction series, Black Earth. Monday I posted about how prude some Christians can be in regards to the entertainment that non-Christians and Christians enjoy. Wednesday I posted about the bad rap that Christian fiction seems to be getting nowadays and ways that I’d like that to change.

Today, I’d like to dive into the quality of self-published fiction. I am going to discuss this in regards to non-Christians and Christians alike, but one of the points I want to make is if Christians want people to take their fiction more seriously – especially Christian fiction that falls outside the boundaries of industry-controlled genres – we need to get serious about the business.

And that brings me to my main point. For most, self-publishing needs to be treated as a business. Yes, self-publishing originally had some of its beginning’s (at least in this era) as a means for those who wanted to publish smaller or limited quantity books such as family ancestry compilations, poetry books, or children’s books. But nowadays self-publishing is very much a business. If you are self-publishing a family ancestry compilation or a picture book for your adorable cousin, then this ‘business’ perspective probably won’t apply to you. For the rest of us, we need to approach this as seriously as we would if we were starting up a mom and pop cafe down the street.

I’ve taken notice of many self-published books on the market which are really just giant tomes of crap. I won’t feature any here because I don’t think that would be nice to those individuals, but in reality there are many self-published novels I have come across that have repulsive covers, abhorred formatting, and show a complete disregard for the fine art of editing. Yes, a COMPLETE disregard for editing. It’s sad really, and it gives self-publishing a bad name. Regardless if these books have a great story to tell, that story is getting lost in the poor quality of the vessel chosen to relay the story to readers.

Let’s take it a step further, into the realm of Christian fiction. I have noticed that Christian fiction already carries a negative stigma when it comes to certain sub-categories of this genre. Christian romance is really popular and does well in the Christian fiction market. Christian sci-fi or fantasy or horror? Not so much. There is an audience for this type of fiction, but trying to rally together and reach those who want this type of fiction can be a challenge.

So let’s take the crappy quality of the unedited novel with the mish-mashed cover and stick it in the Christian sci-fi genre, and what do we get? Nothing. Nobody is going to pick that up. Nobody is going to read it. And when I say nobody, I mean others aside from friends/family who are ‘reading’ this work simply out of a duty to support those close to them.

So with a genre that already has the odds against it, is it any wonder that the odds become even greater when our work comes out subpar? It doesn’t surprise me, and it shouldn’t surprise you.

There are ways to fix this though. Time and effort.

Now, I completely understand how overwhelming self-publishing can be. It’s a beast. You have to wear many hats if you want to succeed, and those hats include writing, book design, marketing, social networking, sales, public speaking, etc., etc., etc. It can be exhausting, and it can stretch your patience.

Starting in the next week or so, I’m going to devote some posts to the different areas of self-publishing. I am by no means an expert. Each day I am learning something new in regards to one of those hats I mentioned above. I’ll simply share my experiences, drop some tips and tricks to help those of you trying your hand at the biz, and point you in other directions that may be helpful to you in your endeavors.

The first post I’ll feature is the first act that comes before self-publishing, where everything starts: writing. Keep your eyes peeled for it! And Monday I’ll be starting my series which will explore the characters and themes of my Black Earth series, starting with Cynthia Ruin and sexual themes in Christian fiction.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Unknown said...

What I've found strange, from a non-Christian perspective, is the amount of bashing Christian writers get in reviews, and it's not always about the quality of the writing or the formatting. It's the fact that the reviewer feels that either not enough emphasis was placed on their personal view of Christian values, or certain aspects should have been raised higher than others.

I find that pretty sad; I read fiction - Christian or otherwise - because I like a good story, and I'm pretty aware that not everyone else's values and ideals will be the same as mine. I must say most of the Christian fiction I've picked up has been pretty well edited and formatted - in some respects better than traditional publishers, which seem to have gone the "slap it on a kindle and they'll buy it" route.

Looking forwards to the rest of your posts.

Unknown said...

ShadowKatz, I know what you mean about the Christian writers getting bashed in reviews. And I notice that not a lot of the bashing is aimed at formatting or quality of writing, it's always aimed at the Christian values and their degree in the writing.

Personally, I found my own work getting bashed by a particular reviewer because she felt she should have been 'warned' ahead of time that my fiction was Christian. But then she turned around and said the book didn't have enough cursing in it. Neither point made sense because there is cursing in the book - to an appropriate degree - and the book's themes are Christian, but not so blatant or 'religious' as other books I have seen.

As you, I too have seen well-edited, well-formatted books that you can tell the author lovingly spent time putting together. I've also seen others - traditional and non - that do have that "slap it on a Kindle and they'll buy it" process. That's sad to me because it doesn't take as much time as some think to make sure there is quality involved in the book design process, but that seems to be skipped in favor of convenience.

Looking forward to your thoughts on my future posts!