As someone who put out his first eBook (the novella anthology, Panverse One) back in 2009, I suppose I’m something of an old-timer in the field. And even in the eight months since I published my own book, Aegean Dream, the eBook revolution has gathered steam. Though there’s still some stigma–rather too much–attached to self-published eBooks, I see cracks starting to appear, as more self-published books break from the shadows onto bestseller lists, or are snapped up by traditional publishers for big money. One day, who knows, self-published authors may even be able to get reviewed in a mainstream venue.
One thing bothers me though: a lot of strong writers who self-publish simply aren’t prepping and polishing their manuscripts well enough. Without agents and editors involved, too many people are simply throwing books out there that are still in draft condition and definitely haven’t been copyedited or proofed, even if they often have decent (but rarely more!) covers. And the fact that they’re offering the reader a novel for $2.99 instead of $12.95 absolutely does NOT excuse them. Shoddily-produced eBooks hurt us all, but most of all they hurt the writer and their future sales.
Yeah, yeah, I know–you can’t afford to hire a cover artist at $75/hr or a copyeditor at a cent a word or so; fair enough. So get together with other (good) writers and swap critiques and copyedits. Proofread for one another. Because the truth is that any writer is way too close to their own work to see its flaws, and certainly utterly unable to proofread for typos etc.
It’s painful to me as a writer to read an otherwise strong book, especially one written by a friend (and I’ve seen a few now) that really should have had AT LEAST one more revision pass and then been proofread. Plot logic holes, changed character names, radical shifts in tone and diction, awkward paragraphs, typos by the score, this is all stuff that will kill you in the market. Yeah, I know that traditional publishers have cut back on copyediting and proofing too, but agents and editors between them still provide a great screening and polishing process for the traditionally published writer. And that’s who you’re competing with if you choose to self-publish. If nothing else, your own sense of professionalism should spur you to take the extra time and effort to ensure that your manuscript is the best it can be and at least as good as anything else out on the market in terms of presentation and polish. And since the royalty earned from a self-published book at $2.99 is roughly equivalent–often more!–than we’d get from a $12.95 book traditionally published, there is simply no excuse other than laziness. As for the cover art, find a graphic designer, even a student, who wants to beef up their portfolio, and give them cover credits and a mention in the acknowledgments.
In short, behave like a publisher. Only better.