Can Self-Publishing Authors Destroy Literature?

Two events happened June 17 to inspire this article. First, I read Michael Kozlowski’s post “Self-Published Authors Are Destroying Literature.” Second, I talked about publishing to a “Writer’s Free for All” group at my local library.

Mr. Kozlowski’s article implies there are two types of books on the market: large publishing house masterpieces, and self-published garbage. To take it a step farther, the authors of the self-published garbage pollute social media and online bookstores so much, a person can’t even wade through to find the masterpieces. I almost read this article without giving it a second thought. But as an author with a small publisher (Muse It Up), I became upset; not by his attack on self-publishing, but his ignorance of working with a small publisher. Remember, I’m signed to a publishing company (good, according to Mr. Kozlowski), but I have to help promote my book with tools such as social media (bad).

Mr. Kozlowski also complains self-publisher’s devalue the work of “legitimate published authors”:

“One thing indie authors have done is devalue the work of legitimate published authors. You know the type that write for a living, who have an editor and are considered accomplished, or at least well-read. The average indie title is $0.99 to $2.99, and the average publisher price is $7.99 – $12.99. Book buyers have been so conditioned to pay as little as possible that often they will not even consider a more expensive book.”

I could say so much about this one paragraph, but I think I’ll leave it at this: Why should I pay as much for an eBook as I’d pay for a paperback, regardless of the author?

Before I get into my publishing opinions, I’ll start by defining self-publishing and differentiating it from “traditional publishing.” A self-published book is produced by the author. He or she typically pays a company to print books, or produce an eBook. The author either self-edits, or hires an editor. When the book is complete, the author commences promoting the work every way possible. Any author, regardless of talent, who can afford to self-publish, can have his or her own book on the shelf, or eReader.

Traditional publishing differs in many ways. A publishing house, be it large or small, agrees to produce the book for the author. The publisher pays for an editor(s), pays to produce the book, and pays to promote the book. In this case, anyone can publish a book if he or she can find a publisher who thinks the work is good enough to invest the publishing house’s time and money on the project.

There are also hybrid situations where the author and publisher split the expenses, but I’m going to ignore that for simplicity. I’m also going to ignore authors who have always been with a publishing house, who, for their own reasons, decide to self-publish a book.

When I started writing I had not heard of self-publishing. While paging through a writer’s guide, I came across a publisher to whom I thought I could market my book. I ran the idea past an acquaintance of mine, who was a published author. She explained the publisher I had chosen was a self-publishing company. She went on to say I should avoid self-publishing as traditional publishers looked down upon prospective authors if their writing credits were from self-publishing. I don’t know if this was accurate at the time, but a large number of former self-published authors have moved to traditional publishing.

I decided self-publishing was not for me. As much as I wanted to see my book in print, part of my dream was for an editor to read my submission and see enough potential to commit the resources of the publisher to produce my book. Some people just want their book produced and they are willing to pay to have it. Some people have written several books this way, and they have no desire to have a book traditionally published. If this completes their dream they should go for it, but that’s not what I wanted.

Mr. Kozlowski also leads the reader to believe all self-published work is garbage, and all traditionally published work is good. I don’t think I should have to address this, but I will for the sake of completeness. This is asinine. Who hasn’t read a book by at least one established author that was terrible? If you haven’t here’s how to find one. Watch the bestseller rack. If you see an author there more than twice in the same calendar year, start with one of his or her books. It’s not guaranteed to work, but the chances are good. Likewise, if you read enough self-published authors, you’re bound to find a good one. Sorry, I don’t have any tricks for this, but you could start with reviews. If the book has positive reviews, and the reviews themselves are well written, it may be worth a shot. If the reviews appear to have been written by a kindergarten class, you may want to stay away.

I have not read every book; I just haven’t had the time. But I’m willing to bet there are more self-published pieces of garbage than traditionally published garbage. When I hear self-publishers say they got tired of being rejected by publishers so they decided to self-publish, I get very leery about reading their books. Maybe there is a reason, or reasons, the publisher’s wouldn’t accept them.

Having worked with several editors, I’m a firm believer of the power of an outsider’s eye to catch mistakes and see areas where the story can be tightened, expanded, or otherwise improved. And when I say an outsider, I mean a professional editor, not your mom. (Even if your mom is a professional editor, this may be an area to avoid close friends and family).

I do think self-publishing has a place. Books with a limited interest are perfect for self-publishing. Authors of family histories and small town histories would struggle to find a home at a publishing house, unless the family or town were already famous. But even limited interest books don’t necessitate self-publishing. Many states have small publishing house willing to produce a limited run of exactly that sort of book.

What I’m trying to say, and I hope I’m fair to self-publishers, is self-publishing cannot destroy literature. In fact, it could make literature better if an amazing story comes out of the blue–though I have a hard time believing a publishing house wouldn’t pick up a truly amazing story. If you’re a writer, decide what your dream in publishing is, and go for it. But don’t sell yourself short. You’ve already put in the hard work of researching, writing, re-writing, revising, now it’s time to put in more hard work and find the right publisher for it.

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Yara Learns of King Kendrick’s Fate

The following originally appeared on Lorrie Struiff’s blog on Monday, June 10. It is the third in a series character introductions/profiles from my upcoming novel Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud, and the second in a series of teaser scenes that are not excerpts from the novel, but additional scenes that show the thoughts and actions of characters just before they become major players in the book. To read the first teaser scene, click HERE. Enjoy!

Even the crickets seemed to wait in anticipation as the winded woman tried to catch her breath. The crowd around her remained silent anticipating the story. Yara inched closer to make sure she heard every word.

The woman put a hand to her breast as she heaved one last time. “I’m sorry. I ran here as fast as I could. It’s King Kendrick. Something’s happened to him. He’s sick or something. I thought for sure he was dead.”

Yara stiffened, but she didn’t interrupt.

The woman continued. “Owen ran to his side. So did the magician who’s always lurking around the castle, Cedric. I think that’s his name. I couldn’t see what happened for a while. After a bit the king’s body lifted into the air and floated out of the room. Magic I suppose. The magician and Owen followed the king.”

A short man with round spectacles asked the first question. “What did you do then?”

“Well, there wasn’t much I could do, was there? The Sentry showed up and barred the doors. They said we couldn’t leave until a proper investigation was conducted. I don’t know how properly we were investigated. I didn’t see the guards asking anyone questions. We just waited.”

She put her hands on her cheeks and pulled them down, giving her plump face an elongated look. “Just when I had made my mind to confront a guard, Cedric came in and whispered to the King’s Shield. Then he left, just like that.” She snapped her fingers. “He didn’t even stay long enough to talk about the weather. In, whisper, gone.” She snapped her fingers again.

A tall, skinny man spoke up. He wore a bushy, long moustache concealing his lips. He annunciated as if he were trying not to get a mouthful of hair. “How did you get out? Where’s the king now?”

She grabbed a tuft of her graying, wavy hair. She let go leaving a mound of hair. The western breeze blew it back into place.

She shook her head and stared at her audience. “I don’t know how the king is. Not well, I suppose. We stayed in the dining hall a while longer until Queen Andrea came in. She told us not to panic. She said everything would be fine. She would be in charge of Innes Castle, and the Central Domain until King Kendrick recovered. She said Cedric and Owen had to leave to get an herb needed to cure the king.”

More questions followed, but Yara didn’t stay to hear.

Anger made it hard to think. How could he leave without telling me? I would have told him if something happened to one of my parents? And where did he go? As the furry subsided more rational thoughts came to mind. He may need my help. If I leave now, I may be able to catch them.

She sprinted to her hut. The familiar smell of coal cinders greeted her at the door. She grabbed her bow, a canteen, and threw some clothes into a pack. As her fingers wrapped around the door handle she hesitated. Mom and Dad will panic if I’m gone in the morning.

Her parents had to be awake early, so they had already gone to bed. She grabbed a piece of parchment and a quill and scrawled a quick not. She told them what she knew of King Kendrick, she said she had to leave, and she’d probably be gone a few days. They’d still be angry since she left without permission, but the note would help.

She strung her belongings on her back, her bow over her solder, and took one last deep breath. The smell of the blacksmith shop would always be home to her, no matter where her travels took her.

 

Please join me on the YA Guy Blog

Today I magically travel back to Pennsylvania. This time to visit Josh Bellin, host of the YA Guy blog. On his blog, he focuses on promoting young adult literature to men. Please join me to learn more about me, my book, Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud, and to read an excerpt. And don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you feel so inclined. Let’s go!

 

12 Random Facts

If anyone missed my 12 random facts when they appeared on Erin Albert’s Blog Wednesday, June 5, here they are again.

1.       My first name isn’t Eric; it’s Stanley. I’m not sure why my parents decided to call me by my middle name (I don’t know if I’ve ever asked them), but I certainly feel more like an Eric than a Stanley. I’m surprised by the number of people I’ve met who go by there middle names. But it does make for confusing conversations.

2.       Maybe it’s from my own confounded name, but I put great care in picking names. Both for my children and the characters in my stories. I didn’t want week names for my boys, so I named them after rulers. I have an Alexander (after Alexander the Great) and a Marcus (after Marcus Aurelius). I later learned Marcus was derived from Mars, the war god. And with his occasional catastrophic temper tantrums, I wonder if more research could have helped. Their middle names are Richard and David: family names, but also famous kings. We call them by their first names.

3.       I have donated close to four gallons of blood at blood drives, but I’m sure I’m well over ten gallons if you count what mosquitoes have taken from me without asking. For some reason they love me. I can sit around a campfire with ten other people, and I’ll be the only one with bites. My luck is exactly the opposite when it comes to fishing.

4.       This brings me to why I do everything I can to avoid killing spiders, snakes, and cats. They eat things I do not like.

Cover of "Bull Durham"

Cover of Bull Durham

5.       I watch Bull Durham at the start of every baseball season. And I agree with Crash Davis: “I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter.”

6.       I think the World Cup is the most important sporting event. One of my greatest accomplishments came during the 2002 Cup in Japan/South Korea. I adjusted my sleep schedule to watch the games live. To stay awake during the downtime between games, I decided to check out the first four books of this series called Harry Potter everyone was raving about—maybe you’ve heard of it. I enjoyed it and the cup.

7.       I am a recovering comic book addict. Now I satisfy my fix with The Walking Dead and Locke & Key. I get them from the library to avoid buying them, which leads to collecting, which is the true problem of the addiction.

8.       I am also a recovering video game addict. This was easier to get over than the comics. The financial and time commitment required phased it out when I started college. I’ve had occasional relapses, but for the most part I can control it if I limit my play time to Lego Star Wars with my sons, and maybe an occasional hit of The Legend of Zelda.

9.       At the end of my senior year of high school, one of my teacher gave everyone in the class a certificate with a single word on it he felt best described the student. My word was “DREAMER.” To this day I’m not sure if he meant it as an insult or compliment.

10.   If you count summer elective courses, it took me four colleges and six years to get my bachelor’s degree. I don’t have a degree in English, creative writing, or anything else which may be useful to an author. I majored in biology. I would have had enough credits to minor in chemistry, but the college I finally graduated from didn’t offer a chemistry minor.

11.   I’m a self proclaimed technophobe. Eventually society catches up with me, and I’m forced to give in. Although I have found the practical value of things like Facebook, Twitter, and smart phones, a part of me still believes the internet is inherently evil, and social media, games, and apps are time wasters developed as part of a deep, dark conspiracy to retard our sociological advancement. But maybe it’s just me. I have started using an eReader. I thought it appropriate as my book will be released as an eBook. I’ve found it helps me stay focused on what I’m reading, which brings me to my final point.

12.   I have a strange attention problem which makes it difficult for me to complete a book. I struggle reading just one book, so I tend to read eight to ten books at a time. I’m working on the issue. I try to limit myself to one book of fiction, two of nonfiction (a biography/history/etc. and a book about writing), and one of poetry. I don’t completely understand poetry, but I’m learning. Sometimes I’ll slip in a short story or two just to feel like I’ve accomplished something. So far my attempt at “limiting” myself seems to help. I read Katie Carroll’s Elixir Bound last week without stopping to read anything else. Katie is the content editor of my book, Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud, at MuseItUp Publishing. I recommend it to anyone looking for a young adult fantasy not about vampires. Do I hear crickets? Please, don’t let me hear crickets! I don’t have anything against vampires, it’s just YA used to be about so much more, and it will be again. It will. I promise.

And here is the excerpt from Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud included with the original post:

Chapter One
The Festival

The setting sun glared in the young warrior’s eyes. Squinting, he could just make out his opponent’s outline. His ever tightening leg muscles cried for a reprieve with each step; yet he continued to circle, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. After a long day of sword dueling, with little downtime between rounds, Owen’s whole body needed a rest. But he wanted nothing more in the world, at this precise moment, than to win the championship bout.

Owen knew Edward must also be tired. They had each fought four previous matches, and every contestant entered in the tournament presented a worthy challenge. Edward, Shield of the King—the commander of the King’s Sentry, the strongest army in all of Wittatun— received continual praise for his skill with a blade. Owen, already defeating two Sentrymen earlier in the day, hoped to beat one more. But to overcome the King’s Shield would require more skill than besting a Sentryman.

The fighters continued to circle one another. Sunlight gleamed off Edward’s brilliant metal chest plate and helm. Now facing the westering sun, Edward squinted; Owen saw his opportunity and sprung. He feinted a slash attack toward the commander’s shield hand. When Edward raised his shield and braced for impact, Owen redoubled his attack.

He spun and sliced his blade at his opponent’s neck. The loud clang of steel on steel resonated throughout the courtyard as Edward raised his sword to parry. The vibration transmitted up Owen’s arm, but he finished his compound attack by kicking the Sentryman in the chest plate. The judge blew a whistle to signify the landing of the first blow in the best-of-three veney.

Edward wasted no time mounting his counterattack by gaining the measure and reestablishing just distance. He made several quick jabs at Owen’s head and chest, which the defender parried away with ease. Owen countered with a testing jab. Edward sidestepped, moved back in line, and raised his sword to the en garde position. Owen noticed Edward’s shield drop ever so slightly. The tiny gap in defense may have provided the opening needed to finish him.

Owen lunged. But his forward motion could not be stopped when he recognized the move as a mistake. The tip of the sword slid between the hinge where the chest plate met the shoulder guard and dug into the muscle. Sharp pain shot through Owen’s left shoulder, and he barely heard the judge blow the whistle through the anguish. Edward lowered his shield as an invitation for Owen’s attack. When the younger fighter took the offering, the elder’s stop-thrust found the only week point of the armor.

Owen, large for his age, still stood six inches shorter than Edward. The Shield’s muscular forearms resembled Owen’s thighs. The chainmail armor on his forearm, formfitting on most solders, clung tight to Edward. His muscles rippled as he pushed the sword tip a little deeper into the meat. A thin stream of blood trickled down the blade and dripped to the ground.

Edward sneered as red drops splattered the trampled grass. “I wish we fought to first-blood. I hope the king doesn’t put me to death for injuring his son.”

Today I reveal more about my book with Lorrie Struiff

Today I electronically travel to Pennsylvania to visit Lorrie Struiff. Please join me to learn more about my YA fantasy novel coming out in November, Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud. This post includes a new “behind the scenes” segment. In it, Yara (my main female protagonist) learns the king has fallen ill, and Owen has left in search of the cure. How will Yara react to the news? Click here to find out!