You don’t have to spend much time on social media sites frequented by authors, most notably Twitter, before you discover a rift between traditional publishing and self-publishing. A few months ago, I wrote a post called, “Can Self-Publishing Authors Destroy Literature?” It came in response to a blog post I read where the author tried to claim just that. His argument had some serious loopholes, but what really upset me was his accusation that everyone using social media to promote their book has written a piece of garbage (I’m generalizing here). In my retort, I tried not to minimalize the role of self-publishing while still stating that my personal goal, as an author, was to have a publishing company accept my work. Basically, anyone can self-publish a book, but I needed someone else to say my work was good enough they would publish it to achieve my goal of becoming a published book author (I had already published several short stories and articles).
This was the right decision for me, and I’ll never question the route I took. But the other day I came across a video of Alan Moore, an author I hold in the highest regard, addressing unpublished authors. His advice is to self-publish, and he lists sound reasons. He states that being published doesn’t mean anything. To prove his point, he lists some authors who have sold millions of copies of their books, but who, according to Mr. Moore, aren’t talented writers. I could put together my own list of talentless bestselling authors–but I lack the confidence in my own work to make my opinions public.
Knowing what I do about Alan Moore, I would say he has an aversion to most things mainstream. It’s an aversion I don’t share. Although I mentioned my list of bestselling authors lacking in the talent department, one of my favorite authors is about as mainstream as you can get: Stephen King. And he’s certainly no stranger to voicing his opinion of pop-culture he thinks fails to pop. But something Stephen King frequently does, and this practice I have tried to mimic in my young career, is praise his editors for their hard work in making his writing better.
I’m sure this four-minute video of Alan Moore is incomplete, and maybe he goes on to stress the importance of editors. He does tell writers to go over their work and make it better, then go over it again and make it better (I’ve seen some self-published work I suspect is a first draft). I think part of the reason (possibly even the main reason) self-publishing is receiving such a bad reputation is the frequent lack of editors. I’ll read this post three times before I hit the publish button, and I’m certain I will still miss errors. You cannot undervalue the worth of another set of eyes on something you wrote. So this is my public service announcement: If you’re going to self-publish your work, please hire an editor. And I’m not talking about your mom or your favorite uncle, I don’t care if they are high-school grammar teachers. I mean a professional editor, trained in writing styles and grammar, and willing to give you constructive criticism. And then take that criticism. Remember, the editor’s always right.