Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Writing Predators

by Darke Conteur

I recently joined what I thought would be a forum where I could connect with other writers. It looked promising—nice name and everything, and my first request for friendship came later that day from a small press. I thought, "Wow, great! Making friends already!" A small press publishing house wanted to be friends, so I checked them out.

Now I understand the desire to become a published author, and how easy it would be to jump at the first good offer, but please, fellow writers, take care and research any small press if they come knocking. With the swell of self-publishing, small press publishers are popping up all over the web, and while many are earnest, there are those who will ask for several hundred dollars to do the same thing you can do or pay someone to do for you. Here are a few of the hurdles new writers fear:

1. Formatting for eBooks.
Believe it or not, (and despite what I've blogged about in the past) this is relatively simple. Smashwords has a wonderful Style Guide that helps a novice put out an eBook that is comparable to any press. I'm noticing some places will try to fancy up the wording and call it 'Custom Interior Formatting'. Honestly, what the heck does that mean? If you don't want to do it yourself, fine, there are people out there who would gladly do it for you. Look around as their prices per word vary.

2. Getting your book into Major Markets.
Some places will offer to get your book listing On Kindle Direct or Barnes and Noble. I can do that myself. Wanna know how? Upload to Kindle direct and to Barnes and Noble. Done. They will make it sound like they can get you a premium spot where your book will be on display to the entire world. Be very careful. They're playing into a new writer's fear of their book becoming lost in a sea of new books.

3. Marketing. Press Releases. I'm sorry, what now? Every time I hear this phrase, I think of teletype machines going off in newsrooms all over the world, announcing the latest celebrity scandal. Unless you're a big time author, this will do nothing to help you sell your book. Don't buy into it.

4. Cover art. Again, like formatting, this is something that you can do yourself if you choose, but there are wonderful people out there who do excellent jobs at cover art. I'm not an artist and I have no problem paying someone to create a spectacular cover for me. I mean, have you seen the cover art for my book THE WATCHTOWER? *pokes Calista Taylor*

5. Content and proof editing. I can't stress enough how incredibly important this is for self-published authors. This is the key to keep you from looking like an amateur. Normally, a good beta will do the trick, but you may want to invest in a copyeditor.

When in doubt and things sound too good to be true, follow one of their authors. Check them out online. What does their cover art look like? Can you read a sample of their work? How does the editing stand up? Better yet, check out if they have a Goodreads profile or if the book has been reviewed there. I checked out two authors of the small press that contacted me, and I was not impressed. For the amount of work and publicity they offered, both authors should have had incredible feedback on their Amazon book sites, and you know what, neither did.


JeffO said...

Great advice, Darke. There's such a rush to try to get published, it's easy for people to get sucked in and taken advantage of. Research, research, research, just like you would with agents.

Jemi Fraser said...

I agree too. Research is definitely the key. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement & make choices you'll regret. Great post :)

Richard said...

Self-publishing is quite easy, child's play really; writing a book worth publishing is a different matter altogether.

Christopher Hudson said...

Well, one of the benefits of being broke is that I never have to worry about falling prey to a scam artist.

Leslie Rose said...

This is a bookmark-worthy post. That desire to be published can sure cloud the mind.

Marcia said...

THanks for these tips.

Darke Conteur said...

Thank you to everyone who left a comment. The digital age may have made things easier for writers, but it's also made things easier for those who would prey on the trusting.