Friday, February 28, 2014

Is my book good enough?

This is one of the biggest questions facing authors when they think of publishing their work. No author in his or her right mind will send anything for publication if they themselves aren't satisfied with what they have done. Yet, is it sufficient for the author to be happy? How exactly does one decide that their work is good for publication?

This is a very tough question to answer because it deals with measurement, and any measurement needs a yardstick for comparison. You won't know how much a centimeter is without knowing how much a millimeter is and each one builds on the previous so to speak.

So what is the yardstick for measuring if your work is good enough?

Is it acceptance by publishing companies? Does this mean that authors who have been refused by publishers aren't good enough? If that is the case, what of John Grisham whose first book was refused by publishers who then changed their mind when he self published and met with roaring success?

There are many such examples of authors who have met with success after being declined by publishers. So obviously this isn't the yardstick that we should use.

Is it feedback by friends and family? If so, is there any chance that your family will actually tell you the truth as it is? They may push you to self publish even if they feel that the book isn't what it should be, just to spare your feelings. Of course, each family is different, but I'm just averaging here. Getting honest, constructive feedback from family and close friends isn't that easy.

So what exactly do you use as a yardstick to measure your work against?

There's no right or wrong answer to this and if you read posts by published authors, each one has a different take on this. My personal feeling is that publishing your work is a risk – like how marriage is a risk. You will never know till you give it a try.

How are you going to know if your book is good or not. Simply by publishing it and then finding out for sure. Till that time, you will never know, and whatever you feel is just that – your feeling.

The only thing that anyone can expect is that they have the right attitude when they enter into the self publishing world. And the right attitude means that you don't give up, and you keep learning constantly. You don't give up at the first sign of failure, and you constantly learn because only then will you evolve, both as a person and as an author. And only if you evolve, will you be able to improve your writing.

Writing takes more than just skill. A computer has skill and it can probably spit out better language and grammar than you can. But a computer cannot write a book, and the difference is that an author's writing is colored not only by his or her experiences, but by their learning from it. What differentiates a great author from an average one is in the amount of insight that they have into the common everyday lives of people.

And please remember two things.

You cannot please everybody. Even a best seller like J.K. Rowling has her detractors.

Know your target market. If you are writing for teenagers, don't expect middle aged people to like it. If they do, then good for you, but you should know who you need to like your work.

Beyond this, there is simply no advice that anyone can give you apart from “Take the leap”. There have been too many cases of people belittling someone's work and then finding that it is a roaring success for me to give you any tips or yardsticks for you to measure your work against.

The only word of advice that I will give you will be this;

Be prepared. Do your homework. Know what you are getting into and find out as much as you can so that you don't leave any page unturned when it comes to your book, such as not marketing it properly for example.

Success or failure is not in your hand. So don't try to predict or control it. Control what you do have in your hand which is getting out a great product and doing everything that you possibly can.

Success is just a by-product of hard work, not an expectation of it.

Good news for self publishers

Although skepticism for self publishing is at its highest, the number of self published books are also at their highest. The news is very upbeat and this week there is a lot of interesting information for self publishers.

A few important steps that are overlooked by self publishers. This article may not be comprehensive, but it definitely gives you those overlooked points that it is well worth considering. And go through the comments too. There's some interesting information there too.

Amazon CreateSpace or Ingram. This is not an easy question to answer, but if you want to know an author's view point, then this article makes a great read. Jana Riess tells you like it is when it comes you you trying to self publish your work through either platform.

A great way to get printed hard covers even if you self-publish. Usually, when you self publish, you make do with the simple printed copies that popular platforms offer you. But now all that is going to change, with a company offering to foil stamp the cover for your book!

Interview with Jon P Fine - Director of Author & Publishing Relations, Amazon. A good perspective on self publishing from a person in the industry.

Should I write an ebook?

Whenever we say self publishing, we are thinking of a book. Nobody feels that publishing a post on a blog or writing an article is publishing, although the button that you press (or at least the one that I press because I use wordpress) is “Publish”.

So let's talk about publishing an ebook? Should you publish an ebook?

That's a very interesting question. Nowadays, with self publishing becoming very easy, many, many authors are going the self publishing route. They write an ebook and either publish online or publish traditionally with a limited run of copies which they pay for, themselves.

Either way, they are self publishing. The only difference is in the money spent and the route taken.
Does this mean that we should all self-publish an ebook?

I don't want to get into a fire-fight here, and I too am currently in the process of writing an ebook that I will be self-publishing in the near future, but the answer to this is that you need to think long and hard about it.


Let me put it this way. Would you do something just because it is easy to do or because it doesn't cost too much to do? No, right? It's the same thing with writing an ebook. You don't write one just because it is easy to publish or because it doesn't cost you a dime. You write it because you really really want to.

Why is this important? Because, your writing is a reflection of your soul. Can anybody write when their heart is not in what they are doing? How good will such writing be, and would you want to read stuff by another person whose motivation for writing is suspect?

However corny it may sound, when you write something when your heart isn't in it, it just doesn't come out right. You may be able to get the language right, and get all of the facts down, but something will be lacking in it and this is very apparent to the reader. Yet, write something that you are really interested in, and even if your language and grammar is poor, you'll find that a number of people actually like reading what you write.

It's hard to define this because it's just a feeling that people have when they read your work. Every person leaves their stamp on their work, and this isn't the tone of voice that they take or the style that they use. It's what differentiates one writer from another, and you can never get this in your work unless you are really passionate about what you're doing.

Passion for writing doesn't ensure success, but it ensures that you will constantly want to improve on your work. You will never be willing to accept anything less than your best, and only this will ensure that what you get out there has a reasonably good chance of succeeding.

So if you have an idea to write an ebook, look within yourself first. Why do you want to write? What do you want to write about? Why do you want to write about whatever it is that you want to write about?

Think long and hard!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

How successful will I be if I self publish?

There are many reasons why a person can self publish. Research seems to indicate that most self publishers are more than aware that they may not hit the jackpot with their book, but do it anyway because it brings them satisfaction. What's more, they would do it again too.

Yet, there's that small part within us that wants our book to do well. It's all very good to say that we aren't bothered about the numbers, but it still has a pleasant ring to it when we say, “I just sold a hundred thousand copies”. Who wouldn't want to be in that position?

So just how successful will you be if you go the self publishing route?

There's no easy answer to this question because there's a lot of “depends” in it. For example, how many copies you sell “depends” on how many people hear about you. It also “depends” on the number of years that you put your book out there. And of course it “depends” on how good your book is.

Granted, these may be obvious, but there are a number of factors that aren't. For example, if you are exploring the self publishing route, then you'd definitely have heard of the book “50 shades of grey” by Erika Leonard. She has sold more than 70 million copies of the 50 shades trilogy and is hailed as the most successful self published author in our times. Yet, there are a few things that were factors in her success that most of us don't know.

Erika Leonard did not start off by writing a book. She started off by writing a blog where she published short fiction stories. She wrote the book only after her blog had attracted a number of loyal readers who commented favorably about her writing. And when she published her book, she had a ready lot of people who were willing to buy her book and give it that initial boost that all of us want. The rest, as they say, is history.

Most of us, including me for that matter, concentrate so much on writing the book, that we don't realize that the only way a book is going to be successful is if the people out there know that we have a book for sale. We concentrate so much on making the book available, that we don't stop for a moment to think that this is not enough. We have to make people aware of it.

This is where traditional publishers have the upper hand. They have the financial clout to ensure that they smother the market. And if the book is any good, this alone will ensure its success.

What we, as self publishers have to do is to spend a bit of time in building up to our book. Just having friends and family buy our book is not enough. How many of us can count on at least 20 people who will purchase our books? We need more people to buy our book and leave a good remark or rating so that others will buy it too. And the only way to do this is to create a “fan following”.

Doing this serves two purposes;

1. It gives that initial push that all of us need.

2. It gives us an idea of how good our writing is. If we get people who return to our blogs because they like our writing, then we know for a fact that we are, in the least, better than average. No hits means that there's still a lot of work ahead of us before we can think of bringing forth that book from our head into the screen.

Of course 70 million is a huge number and is a tough number to break. I'm not saying that this kind of success awaits all of us. Definitely not. What I am saying is that this will ensure that we get at least a few hundred copies sold in the initial few months which will hopefully translate to a few thousand copies.

This will give you the confidence as well as the experience to write another one which will hopefully do much better than the first one, and that's how you get started on the ladder which leads to success.