Wednesday, April 3, 2013

IWSG - Self-publishing, Pride & One Writer's Confessions

This is my Insecure Writers Support Group post for April.  

IWSG is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. It's a monthly bloghop that offers a safe haven for writers to express their feelings and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It's also a venue for offering support, both in the form of comments and positive posts. Writers of all kinds are welcome. 

We 'meet' the first Wednesday of every month. If you're interested in learning more, click on the link above. And don't be intimidated by the size of the group. We're not expected to visit everyone on the list. 




I make blank place-holder posts for IWSG, and this one sat empty for a long time. I kept waiting for a flash of inspiration about what to write. In light of my impending blog hiatus, I decided to address the semi-scathing article I posted last week.

In it, I took a strong stand against careless self-publishing. The post generated many cries of support from people who praised my boldness and said they felt the same way, but it no doubt ruffled some feathers. Today I’m going to try to soften the blow.


Two and a half years ago, I got a wild hair to write a novel. I wasn’t 'a writer.'  I wasn't even an avid reader. Oh, I’d always liked writing and I had mad language arts skills, but I was absolutely clueless about fiction. Still, I dove in and wrote.

Lucky for me, I had access to a published author. She read my first five pages and told me the honest truth: your characters are too old; your opening isn’t compelling enough; you don’t understand POV. (That isn’t the whole list, but you get the idea.)

She went on to explain that a new writer’s first novel is like their freshman year in college—a first novel isn’t any more ready to be published than a freshman is to graduate. In fact, she said I’d need to write about six novels before I’d be ready to go back and revise / submit the first.

Looking back, I think six is a bit much—according to my critters, I’m apparently a faster study than that—but I understand now what she meant. I needed to practice; I needed to cut my fiction writer’s teeth.

Why am I telling you all this? Because it sets the stage for my next confession, which explains why I feel the way I do.

There was a point, when I had revised my first book and completed the first draft of my second, that I entertained the idea of self-publishing. I had learned many things about fiction, my writing had improved, and I thought my manuscript was ready to be seen by the world.

It wasn’t.

The problem wasn’t the gatekeepers, it was my perception. I knew just enough about writing to be dangerous.

I’m eternally thankful I didn’t indulge that impatient urge. I would be telling you of a huge regret if I had.

I know IWSG posts should inspire confidence, and I don’t want to send you into a tailspin of doubt, making you question yourself to the point you never take the plunge. I’m simply cautioning you about one pitfall of the journey. Just because you think you’re ready doesn’t mean you are. 

Whether you plan to query or publish your book yourself, take time to practice and learn the subtleties of the craft. Wait until you’re consistently getting the kinds of reviews from *honest* betas and critters that you’d want to see posted on Amazon. That’s the time to make your leap.




I'm officially on blog hiatus now, but let me leave you with some 
reminders before I go...

Lynn Rush's Violet Dawn released Monday, 
Carol Kilgore's Solomon's Compass released yesterday, 
and Mandy Baggot's Security is set to release tomorrow. 
Check 'em out!

38 comments:

  1. Lol! I fell on my nose with my first MS. A painful, but needed lesson. I totally agree with you on this post :)

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  2. You have many valid points, Melissa. The only thing I'd add is before taking the plunge, invest in a professional editor. They do way more than catch typos.

    Happy Hiatus.

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    1. Oh, of course! (That, along with a few others, was in the original article. LOL)

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  3. Melissa, my first and only attempt at an MS is hidden in a drawer. I did every newbie mistake with it including sending it to agents.. makes me laugh now. It was BAD. But no regrets, it was also a huge learning experience. Enjoy your blogging break-- hope you get a lot done.

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    1. We all have our cringe-worthy moments. Trust me. Don't let it stop you from writing. :)

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  4. Thanks for sharing your story and fr the tips!

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  5. I don't think it would undermine someone's self confidence to point out that there are still things one needs to learn before putting out a story for readers. As a fussy reader and writer, I know I'm still not ready, but I can see that I'm getting there. The fact that I'm learning gives me more confidence than ever!
    On the other hand, it is painful for me when I can see someone is clearly not ready for the 'show', but I lack the guts to point it out. Be grateful to your author friend for sparing you the embarrassment of publishing before you were ready!
    BTW, I just started my seventh novel. :) I'm a very patient person ...

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    1. She warned me that when she put her critique hat on, she was brutal. I thanked her for the warning and donned my rhino skin as I awaited her reply. I survived it and I'm glad for her candor. It saved me a lot of embarrassment and a lot of time. ;)

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  6. I know exactly what you mean.

    I've started reading self-published books, but a lot of times, I can't help thinking that the author should have waited.

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  7. You make great points with this, thanks for sharing! Enjoy your hiatus, Melissa. :)

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  8. Great points there. I started a SciFi as my second book but set it aside to edit the first, which I'd written just to see if I could write a full-length novel. My SciFi needs to be a trilogy and I've learned to enough to know I wasn't ready to write it. I still love the premise and hope that when I get back to it, I'll be able to do it justice.

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  9. You make great points. I found all of my support online. I never knew anyone that was professionally published until after I started my blog. But I wish that I had. Then I could have gotten some advice.

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  10. There are lots of wonderful writers who self-publish, and the newbies who self-publish hurt the business for those great ones. It's hard to know what you'll get when you read a self-published book.
    The reason I won't self-publish is because I don't trust my knowledge yet! I need a 'gatekeeper' to tell me it's okay. ;)

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  11. Yes, yes, yes! Melissa, you are so spot on. And you convey this topic perfectly. It's a process... and regardless of what our goals are, we've got to put in the time and learn the craft. And it does take TIME... :-)

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  12. Just when I'm feeling up to visiting again, you go on hiatus. You must check in with me on these things. :)

    I'll have to go check out that post, because I'm in total agreement. I'll be catching up on a lot of your posts (and, btw, I still don't get you through my email).

    Funny story about diving prematurely into the self-publishing world:

    After NaNo, I was on another participant's blog (he's a very talented one)...and he had a commenter who said, "I'll critique yours and you mine. In a few days I'll send it, and should be ready to publish by early January."

    What? I've taken craps that lasted longer than his revision process.

    He self-published and luckily there was a weekend that it was free, so I got it (e-book format only). Sure enough, it was a floater that didn't go down with the rest of the crap I took.

    And I see this happen all the time. So anxious to publish, it floods the market with logorrhea.

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    1. Hahaha - This is why I love you, Mike.
      I'm glad you're back. :)

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  13. Just because you think you’re ready doesn’t mean you are.


    So true, and some things can't be undone.

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  14. I found myself nodding my head as I read your post. You're right...it takes time and we have to realize that, if we're to succeed later.

    Great post and enjoy your hiatus! :)

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  15. Hey,

    You nailed it... I worked on the memoir for about four years and *now* I feel like it was akin to being an intern... I have learnt so much that when the book is ready, soon, so will I :)

    Have a relaxing hiatus :)

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  16. Great follow-up to your previous post and I agree. We all need time to learn the craft. And that's one of the reasons it's so important to surround yourself with talented writers and to really listen to what they say.

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  17. I am thinking writing is like cooking. If you don't allow the time, the dish will taste bad, it doesn't matter if the ingredients were high quality. It will be garbage. A writer should as well allow the time to learn the craft, even if he's a gifted writer. After April, I'll reorganize my schedules so I can take time to study.

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  18. Great follow up post. Writing craft books, workshops are all helps we need on our journey. And we need to take all these.

    Nas

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  19. I love this! So when you compare a writer's first novel like a college student in their freshman year, do they gain the "freshman 15" too. O_O Must be all the chocolate! LOL. Melissa, enjoy your time off from blogging. I'm slowing down myself, as you read on my blog. Maybe April should be "shower the writer with love" month. ;) See ya soon!

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    1. Believe it or not, I actually LOST weight when I wrote the first one. I got so caught up in my characters' emotions - my heroine falling in love - that I barely ate. LOL ...Too bad that's not true for second and third novels. :P

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  20. Hi, Melissa,

    Well said! I waited too and I Am SO glad I did... We do have so much to learn AND the industry keeps evolving, so just keeping up is a full time job! So we as writers need to understand this before jumping into publication!

    Enjoy your hiatus ... We will miss you.

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  21. No, you're being honest and truthful! It's not something any of us should rush into. We need to learn the ropes and how it all works first. I say, well said!

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  22. I think IWSG is just as much about expressing our doubts, fears, and annoyances, M. It doesn't have to encourage a soul in my opinion. (Some of my favorites are the ones that are brutally honest about things, in fact.)

    I think doing ANYTHING because of compulsion or need is a bad idea. We all want to be published. Fact. The biggest challenge is fighting the urge to see it done before we're ready. In years gone by, that might've meant sending out query letters, etc. before a project was truly ready. (Some folks can write a kick ass query, but the stories just aren't there yet--that translates to some blown chances with agents, etc.) Nowadays, you can actually publish the thing and put out there for the world to see. Which is probably an even more egregious mistake if it isn't ready.

    If you want writing to be a career, you can't have too many missteps along the way. And you'll be much happier post-publication if you're confident in what you're doing.

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  23. I think that's as honest as anyone can be. We all get the impulse to take the plunge but there's much more to be said in preparing ourselves for the plunge than the plunge itself. Enjoy your hiatus :)

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  24. I agree she's wrong about writing six. That's a bit much. I'm all for critique groups where a new writer can get plenty of feedback. There's a ton of excellent books on the subject. I highly recommend Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel. It goes a step beyond the usual how-to-write books. He emphasizes making a good book outstanding so it's a head above the rest. Another suggestion I live by, when I'm sure the book's as good as it'll ever be, I take 2 weeks to a month to let it sit somewhere. In the old days I would then query agents/publishers. Today I jump right into the next ms.

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  25. So very well said. We never *want* to hear that our work needs more work, but if we're wise and really want to learn and improve then we accept that feedback and act on it. I actually see this post as encouraging even though it's discouraging premature publication. hmmm I think there's a joke in that comment somewhere. ;-)

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  26. I decided to put several through publishing houses prior to branching out into self-publishing. Also, I wrote a few books prior to sending queries. I waited until a large publisher wanted a series, and that's when I self-published.

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  27. I love how you said this, and it needs said; I'm so wary of self-published books because while a lot of them are close, you can tell they could have used more time and polish and experience. They just weren't ready! And such a shame too because they have so much potential.

    The analogy with the freshman year of college is perfect.

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  28. You're right. It takes a long time to learn the skills. Everytime I think I'm getting closer to knowing what I'm doing, I go back and look at my manuscript and realize I still have a long way to go.

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  29. I'm just now getting time to pop over here. The first novel I published was the fifth novel I wrote.

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  30. Couldn't agree more, Melissa! When I look back at some of my oldest stuff (stuff that I thought were my absolute best at the time), I cringe and thank the stars that nobody has seen it. For the same reason, I won't even go back and read stories I've sold after they've been published, unless I'm considering revising them for a reprint. Otherwise I could drive myself crazy seeing the old flaws and knowing that it's already in the wild.

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  31. Melissa, I've heard experts in the industry say that very same thing about how our first-time manuscripts are just training ground and should not be published. It's just a practice run. Now, in hindsight, when I look at my first MS, I totally agree it was a practice run.

    I totally agree we should not be too quick to jump off the ledge into self-publishing, but we should also not overstay our time on that ledge either. At some point we must take a leap of faith. Knowing when to leap is the key.

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  32. As a literary agent I enter this conversation with an obvious bias, but self-publishing does carry a stigma because of its lack of quality control. If you're shopping a project around and it's getting no response at all, the solution probably isn't to self-publish: it's to improve the project.

    I've thought often how relieved I am that I never had a blog in high school or my early years of college. I would have made a perfect fool of myself.

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