Any author who decides to self-publish should take as professional an approach to the process and the finished book as a traditional publisher. That means your book should be vetted by both an editor and a copy editor, should have a professionally designed cover and be formatted by someone who knows what they are doing. That should be the gold standard for a self-published book. Why? Because that means you’ve done everything you can to deliver a quality product to your readers. They are more likely to enjoy your book, recommend it to others and buy your next book.
I know that not everyone agrees with me on this. A lot of very successful self-published writers believe they are good enough self-editors that they don’t need to make these investments. They argue that they’ve been doing this long enough to know how and if they miss something, their readers will let them know and serve as their surrogate editors. Joe Konrath has been very successful taking this approach on at least some of his books and I’m not one to quibble with success, particularly when Joe has done so much to help push the indie revolution forward. He’s taught me a lot about the self-publishing business.
But I think new writers, particularly those who’ve never been published by a traditional publisher, run a great risk of not learning the craft if they don’t get professional input before clicking “upload” on Amazon. I like to tell people that I’m a ten-year overnight success as a writer. I wrote my first book in 1992 and it wasn’t published until 2002. I wrote a couple of other books during those years that have never been and never should be published. I spent those years learning my craft.
And I’m still learning. My first book, Motion To Kill, was released in 2002 by Kensington Publishing as a Pinnacle Paperback. Before releasing it as self-published ebook in June of this year, I edited it again and was surprised how much I had changed as a writer. The learning never stops.
Writers can learn a lot from their editors, particularly the stuff that we don’t want to learn – that not everything we write is perfect. One of the hardest lessons I learned as a writer was how difficult it is to be a critical self-editor. We’re fooling ourselves if we think that we can do it alone. And relying on friends, relatives and significant others to serve as your editor is also a risky proposition. They may have a hard time being objective and they may lack the experience and perspective of a professional.
The indie revolution is a wonderful thing. It has given hope and opportunity to many writers who’ve been shut out of the traditional publishing world and that’s a good thing. If you want to be the best writer you can be, if you want to maximize your chances of success, don’t cut corners. Learn from professionals. Learn your craft.
About Joel Goldman:
Joel Goldman is the Edgar and Shamus nominated author of the Lou Mason Thriller Series, featuring trial lawyer Lou Mason and the Jack Davis Thriller Series, featuring former FBI Special Agent Jack Davis. His stories have been optioned for film and television. He has happily taken the self-publishing plunge with the release of the ebook versions of the first four books in the Lou Mason Thriller series, Motion To Kill, The Last Witness, Cold Truth and Deadlocked. He’s looking forward to self-publishing his next book, Stone Cold, the first installment in a series featuring public defender Alex Stone. He lives with his wife and two dogs in Leawood, KS.