Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Self-publishing nightmares

This is perhaps not the best name for this entry. I think it is very obvious why people should not self-publish. First of all, it seems important for new authors to go through the anguish of rejection before they make it big--it adds so much more to the importance of the FIRST BIG STEP that they are receiving. Self-publishing feels like cheating. And self-publishing--well--if you're the only one who thinks your book or story or novel is good enough to be published, what's the point? What will your readership be like? And doesn't that take your book down a few notches?

OK. So, I discovered that I tend to get worked up over this subject. How, you may ask? I found this article on a local newspaper site: a story of a girl who published something because she thought it would be cool and different.

First major issue I have with this? It's not different. Heck, it seemed like a good 30 percent of my graduating class was writing a book before school got out. Me, too. And you know what? I'm still writing it! I'm still revising it! And thank heavens I am, because it was trash. Trash! Do you know how a high schooler writers? Not everyone can drag out Eragon before they hit college. (Not that I've actually read Eragon yet, by the way.)

Now, I'm glad this girl has done something like this. Writing and working on a big project like this totally helps evolve your understanding of language in a way that a grammar class simply can't. But I don't think she should have published this quite yet. And I think she needed another editor. And, I think she should have gotten rejected a few times, too.

Case in point: here is a bit of an excerpt of her book, taken from the Web site she has up for it.


Amid a rising storm, a powerful elf walked towards a great castle. Drops of rain spattered his face as the wind blew his hair across his eyes. He gripped the hilt of the sword in his left hand, tucked securely into his belt. He edged slowly toward the castle, forcing himself to follow through with his decision. When he approached the thick gray gates, a malicious guard stopped him, staring at him with fierce eyes.

“And just where do you think you’re going?” the man spat at him.

“I came to see Soren. He is expecting me,” said the elf, keeping his voice apathetic.

“Does Lord Aleron know of this?” he demanded.

“Yes, he has been informed.”

“Okay. I’ll take you to Aleron.”

The man silently led the way, the elven man smirking at how easy it had been to get in. The elf watched as the man unlocked the large silver castle door, his grip tightening on his sword. As the man finished tattering with the lock, he hastily jerked out his sword. When the human turned, he jumped in alarm. The elf made one quick thrust of his sword, wincing as he watched the guard gasp in pain; his eyes rolled back as fell to the ground. He knew this was the only way his plan would work and trudged through the door, glancing back one last time to see the crimson stained human. He knew that could easily be him next.

He moved slowly, trying to remain quiet and unseen. What would happen if Aleron saw him? He shuddered and pushed the thought from his mind. He studied his surroundings, glad that this part of the castle seemed to be deserted.

Only a little further now and he would encounter Soren. He slowed to a walk and cautiously peered around the corner to see a man guarding Soren’s door; he was far more muscular than the slender elf and had mussed blond hair. A large sword was slung on his back. The elf decided to get him away from the door first. He walked out from behind the corner to where he could easily be seen. The man guarding the door spotted the elf at once and began yelling ‘intruder.’

The elf began running away from Soren’s door and sure enough, Soren’s guard followed. The elf pressed himself against the wall around a corner as the man continued running past him. The elf drew his sword and stabbed the guard from behind and ran back towards the door, briefly looking back to see the guard lying on the ground. His attack had been swift and precise.

He knocked on Soren’s door anxiously; his hands were now shaking violently. He could hear footsteps approaching as more guards were coming. He had just killed two people and was about to kill yet another, but it had to be done. It was the only way.

A lanky human who looked no older than seventeen opened the door. He had a long narrow chin with high, defined cheekbones. His reddish brown hair fell across his forehead. At the very top of his cheeks were faint blue streaks. His mouth was curved into a small frown. He eyed the elf in disgust with his flashing red eyes.

Soren, I have an important message for you,” said the elf in a keen voice.

“A message? From whom?” he asked apathetically.

OK, if you made it this far, you may be thinking one of two things--either that I'm being too critical, or that this was a hard passage to read. Grammatically okay but not great, too much description, some confusing phrasing, bad word choices, first line needs work--

This is my real problem with self-publishing. Writing should be a work of art. It should mean something, if not to anyone else, at least to you. If it's not--what's the point of it? Here is a way I would edit part of this passage: add description, delete senseless words and change many word choices; not describe people so much in terms of how they look, and express fierceness, apathy, fear, whatever. Don't use the term apathetic, especially not twice within a few pages. Let the ideas grow a little. This story could have been so much sharper.

We all start somewhere, and I think it's great that this girl is writing at all...but how can I take it seriously? Published as if it's a real book, yet edited and written by this girl, published by her, and obviously not ready for it.

But that's the beauty of self-publishing.


Amalia T. said...

Rejection and the publishing process also prepares you in advance for those inevitable bad reviews, develops your thick skin so you don't cry when someone on amazon rates it only one star "because I couldn't choose no stars" you know?

There are some good posts out there about who SHOULD self publish-- like the people who are just trying to record a family history that they want to preserve, or a gift for a friend that they want to look professional, or family recipes to share with their relatives, but there's definitely something to be said for the filtering that the system has in place, and it's MUCH less restrictive now than it ever used to be.

Just Another Sarah said...

Oh, absolutely. You are right. There is a time and place for self-publishing...but this one did meet that time or place!