Thursday, 1 September 2011

Self-publishing. Just because we can . . .

Doesn't mean we should. Self-publish, I mean.

(Yes, I know I leap from one topic to another. I'm back in the self-publishing camp today.) One way or another Over the Hill and Far Away will be a book.  Which has led me to play around on a self-publishing site or ten, and drown in blogs, and to read a couple of how-to books which explain the awkward bits. Maybe it's not so daunting?

This looks almost easy, I thought. Print on Demand - what could be more straightfoward? Typeset, sort a cover - and presto, a book! And putting books onto Kindle, onto Smashwords - yes, it looks fiddly in places, but it costs so little! Anyone can do it! Maybe I should put some of my short stories there -

STOP RIGHT THERE! Yes, it might be not-so-hard. But that doesn't mean my short stories are good enough. Oh, there are one or two that aren't bad; even a couple that might be reasonable if I could only - well - make them more interesting. Make the plot a bit more, sort of plottish. Find characters that I don't want to smack at the end of 2000 words. There is a reason they are sitting in the 'not really good enough' folder on the computer.

In her book Write to be Published Nicola Morgan (find her fab blog here) describes much self-published material as 'eel vomit.'  No, it isn't very nice, is it? But, being honest with myself for just a minute, most of those short stories are eel vomit. They have taught me things about plot, and characterisation, and making settings work (or not). So they have a value for me. But when it comes to literary merit, well, they are rubbish.

In contrast - I am proud of Over the Hill. It is, now, almost the very best book I can make it. (Almost - yes, there is still work to do.) But I must resist the temptation to play with making other books, just because I can. Better to have one book to be proud of than piles of eel vomit.

And you - tell me I'm not the only one with eel vomit hidden in a bottom drawer?


  1. I have so much eel vomit that I think they had a bachelor party in there at some point. t least my bottom drawer is a virtual one these days :-)

  2. I think eel vomit is a necessity of the writer's condition! If self-publishing, it pays to have good beta readers in the first instance.

  3. Phew - so glad it's not me that accumulates eel vomit. Yes, we need good readers, but we also need to be able to recognise our own rubbish. We can learn from it, but shouldn't let it loose.

  4. Sure there's eel vomit. Probably a little bear barf too but I'm positive about the turn around, the potential. At the very least it will remove some of the build-up plaque coming out of my mouth.

    Fellow Platform Campaigner here. Just stopping by to say hi. Hi ;)


  5. Thinking back to some of the short stories I've written makes me go red - eel vomit doesn't even cover it! It's not so much the quality of the stories that makes me cringe, but the fact I thought they were so damned good. I'd be feeling even more embarrassed if I'd self-published them. Imagine - actual evidence of my eel-vomit crawling around the internet.

    I'm quite wary of self- published books for precisely that reason. I have seen a lot of stuff self-pubbed by some very deluded writers, whose work was generally in need of a good edit(at the very least). Of course, I realise I'm probably missing out on some real gems there, but I just don't have the time to go and look for them. I've had a few short stories published through the normal routes, and am working on a novel at the moment. Never say never, but I can't see me self publishing. Call me old-fashioned, but if it's not good enough for an agent or a publisher, then as I see it, it's probably not good enough for the public either.

  6. Stobby, Helen - it's great to have writers putting their heads above the parapet and admit to having to wade through eel vomit to find anything that one might, just, be proud of.

    And, Helen - for so long I've agreed with you about self-publishing. There's a post here somewhere, if you scroll back, where I think about the process of discovering a different point of view about self-publishing. So much self-pub stuff is, I agree, truly dreadful. But mainstream publishing has squeezed, and it's so very difficult to find publishers for anything that doesn't quite fit into a genre-box. It's even more difficult for older, first-time writers.

    But I do think that the opportunity for self-publishing brings with it a responsibility to present work that is truly professional - the best it can possibly be. I'll be blogging my journey - looks like being a roller-coaster!

  7. That must be a really awesome feeling. Knowing you have made it the best you can. :)

  8. There is good and then there is popular. Something might be good enough to publish but isn't going to be published because it just wont make enough of a return. Thats why self pub can be a good thing.

  9. I do a lot of work with indie authors and I have to say the ones I have worked with their books are way better than the majority of books that are being published today. The publishing industry is that "an industry" which needs to make money which means it prints what's "in" at the moment. So even if your book is great but it's not the "it" topic of the moment your chances of being published are almost nil. That's what's great about self publishing. Yes there will be those who publish that shouldn't but there are so many talented writers who work hard to make their work as great as they possibly can and if it weren't for self publishing I would have never been able to enter their amazing new worlds.

    Oh and btw I'm a fellow memoirs campaigner stopping by to say hi!!

  10. Oh it is an essential part of the writing life - the hard part is cleaning up after onself!

  11. Thank you all - for encouragement.

    Wendy - I did say 'almost' as good as it can be. More to come in the next blog on that score.

    Mark - that's interesting - making a distinction between good and popular. It feels far too huge a topic to be reduced to a brief comment to a blog. It needs discussing (and what fun that will be!)

    Dafeenah - I agree that indie books can be wonderful - but there are also many that aren't. And it takes painful self-awareness to spot those pieces that should really be killed off.

    Cat - love the idea of 'cleaning up after oneself. It implies sweeping my eel-vomit efforts under the sofa where no-one but the most persistent child will ever find them!

  12. Jo i like you already!well i am so unskilled and new to writing icouldnt even tell you if i am as good as eel vomit yet! I only discovered this week you could buy abook to help improve writing.

    i am from your memoir writing group. stopping by to say a first hello and let you know i am now following you in google reader. I have been writing for about 10 months (just on my blog) and adore it! i am so surprised to have found an unexpected new hobby. professionally i am a visual artist but have always used text as inspiration. i am so excited to meet all you campaigners and get to know you and your stop by the flight platform as well. janexxxx

  13. Jane - welcome. I've been writing for a while but still have so much to learn. I hope to blog about the learning - and the mistakes. It should be fun!

  14. Hi Jo ~ nice to meet you and looking forward to the 1st Campaign Challenge tomorrow ! From a fellow campaigner in your short stories group !

  15. Hi Mish. Welcome to the blog.

  16. Hi Jo,

    I looked back at your post on self-publishing, and can understand where you are coming from. I suppose in my head I've yet to take the ideological leap you talk about, due largely to some of the stuff people publish that's nowhere near ready or good enough. However, to be fair, I've also read a reasonable amount of dross published via the normal route, so perhaps I could learn to be more open-minded about the whole business ; )

    Look forward to following your progress...

  17. Helen -

    you've no idea how pleased I am you've come back to this. Yes, it's a huge idealogical leap - and I've struggled with it. Having got this far, I'm now determined to make this book as good as it can possibly be.

    I'm not setting out to 'convert' anyone, but open-mindedness is such fun - it brings all sorts of thinking possibilities.

    So, thanks - it could be a rocky ride over the next few months.