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I am a writer, editor and reviewer based in Perth, Western Australia: my first novel, The Dagger of Dresnia (Book 1 of The Talismans) is published by Satalyte and available from their website as well as Amazon.com and other online outlets. As both writer and editor, I specialise in historical and high or epic fantasy. If you have a manuscript in preparation, don't waste money on editing too early. Instead, let me help with a mini-assessment of your work, based on careful reading of your synopsis and first 20 pages. Then, when you've worked on the manuscript in line with our discussions, I will be happy to do a full edit before you send it off into the big wide world. My fees are very reasonable - for more about my editing work, CLICK HERE

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Thursday, 19 January 2012

Real self-publishing

Graham Clements, a colleague on the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre's spec-fic mailing list, recently complained on his blog that he'd just read a book from a well-known publisher and found rather a lot of typos.

I am not surprised by the news. In the current economic climate, I suspect that a lot of shortcuts and cutbacks are being made by publishers. But on the brighter side, I'm pleased to report that more and more self-publishers are engaging freelance editors before uploading their work.

I like to distinguish between self-publishing and what used to be called 'vanity publishing'. A better name for it might be 'desperation publishing' because it seems to pull in people who haven't a clue how to get their work out there and in desperation they pay some dodgy outfit to publish their books.

Bad idea.

Much better to do it yourself.

True self-publishing means that you engage your own editor, designer, layout person and printing firm and buy your own ISBN, which makes you a publisher in your own right and therefore a true 'self-publisher'. Paying some firm, even a relatively reliable one, to do all those tasks for a few hundred dollars — well, you get the book you deserve! Three rounds of editing, which used to be the standard at publishing houses, don't come cheap, and nor do all the other services needed to get a book up to scratch.

With vanity publishing, editing is the first thing to go. If you're lucky you'll get a light copy-edit, and some firms don't even do that much, even though they say they do! If you absolutely must publish through a vanity press, at least get your work edited first by a reliable freelance. Like me. (Ok, a bit of self-promotion there, but I'd be the first to admit that I'm not the only one! Check out the listings on the Society of Editors website for your state.)

But I can’t afford it! I hear you cry.


If you do the sums, it is indeed frightening. Three rounds of editing will take at least 40 hours. Most editors charge at least $40 per hour, and many charge more, so it’s safest to allow a minimum of $2000 for editing. Allow another thousand for your ISBN, art and layout. So an e-book is going to set you back about $3,000, and a print book a good deal more. For a firm to advertise that it can do it for a tenth of that price, you’re just not going to get as good a job, are you? As with all things, you get what you pay for.

But here’s the escape clause. You can cheat a bit by doing away with one round of editing. To do that, you need to have a very high standard of self-editing, friends in your critique group who are already advanced and proficient writers, and half a dozen beta-readers-cum-proofreaders with eagle eyes to pick up typos.

Here’s the sequence:
1.    Thoroughly learn your craft in regard to spelling, grammar, syntax and punctuation.
2.    Join a crit group that contains writers more advanced than you are, people who, perhaps, have already had a few short stories or even novels published by traditional publishing houses. If you can’t find such a group, go to workshops. Lots of workshops. Or enrol in a writing class, online or face to face. Many people do all the above.
3.    Read as widely as you can on the craft of your own genre. (And it goes without saying that you will read other things as well, both fiction and non-fiction!)
4.    Be prepared to write, rewrite and rewrite again. Two full drafts are a minimum and you might find you need to do four or five!
5.    Only when you and your critters feel your book is as good as it can be, engage an editor. Most editors are honest souls who genuinely want to help writers, so ask the one you choose to give you a considered opinion of the story and the way you’ve written it. Editors vary in their procedures, but I like to do what I call a mini-assessment first, based on the first twenty or so pages and a synopsis – and I often find I have to teach the writer how to create a synopsis! So if this is one of your bugbears, read my article on The Specusphere about synopsis-writing.
6.    When you’ve finished working with your editor, find half a dozen new people willing to read your manuscript, making sure at least some of them have really good English skills and can pick up spelling and typographical errors (‘typos’).


This procedure will speed up the editing process enormously, saving you at least half the cost you’d have to pay if you sent your raw first draft to an editor.

Remember that anyone who wants money from you to publish your book is a vanity publisher, even if they claim not to be. Writers are much better advised to set up their own outfits, be their own bosses and have complete control over every stage of the work.

Let's face it, you aren't likely to make a fortune from any self-published book, although with e-publishing there are notable exceptions and anyone prepared to do a bit of marketing and promotion can at least hope to break even eventually. So why be a cheapskate? If you're doing it for love, surely it's better to spend more and be proud of what you've done? As my mother was fond of telling me, if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And a well-written, well-edited and well-presented self-published book can hold its head up in any company!

2 comments:

Karen Tyrrell said...

Hi Satima,
What a coincidence that both of us are blogging about REAL self-publishing on the same day.
I agree with your sequence and tips...
My Blog today updates my recent registering of my Publishing name.
Thanks for calling me an 'entrenpeneur'. I take that as a compliment.

Satima Flavell said...

Indeed it was meant as a compliment, Karen! I think a writer who takes the trouble to do a good job of self-publishing deserves kudos. Best of luck with your new enterprise!

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