Saturday, 6 August 2016

Even More (No Good) Advice by Debbie Bennett

Carrying on my sporadic and probably utterly useless advice column from previous posts, because I'm sure you all are just desperate to know what pearls of wisdom I can dispense, aren't you? I'm a published writer, for God's sake. I must know what I am talking about...

Dear Aunty Debbie: I want to be published. I don't care who with, but I don't want to do it myself, because that just means I'm rubbish, doesn't it? An Impatient Writer.

Dear Impatient Writer: Not really. I mean you may be rubbish, yes. I can't possibly comment on that. But what's wrong with doing it yourself? Seriously, these days, independent publishing has lost a lot of the stigma it once had. It's not vanity publishing - you're not paying to be published; you are just buying in the services that you need. Think about it - what is small press Joe Bloggs Publishing going to do for you that you can't do yourself? If they edit for you, who will be doing the work? Are they any more qualified than you (or the freelance editor you employ)? Will they give you a better cover than you can arrange yourself? Will they market your book? Get a paperback into bookstores? Think carefully - unless they can give you something that you can't do (or buy-in) yourself, why do you want to give them a percentage of your money? And - and this is a big AND - why do you want to give your rights away? Yes - YOUR RIGHTS. If you are not careful, you will lose control of your work FOR EVER. Or at least until you die. Plus 70 years. RTFM - or at least the small print.

Dear Aunty Debbie: Why are some of the best-selling books so awful? I mean, they break all the rules, don't they? A Frustrated Author.

Dear Frustrated Author: Because they have something that you don't. Something undefinable - the X-Factor of writing, maybe. Take Matthew Reilly, for example. Originally self-published, then picked up by the big boys. Lad-lit. Guns, improbable fights, implausible plots, car chases, more guns. Most of it is utterly ridiculous and totally unbelievable. But that man can write! He can hook you in with a scene or a character and make you believe the impossible and be on the edge of your seat with anticipation. Sorry, but life ain't fair that way. When you know the rules you can - just possibly - think about breaking them. Until then, stick to the manual.

Dear Aunty Debbie: But some of them are full of typos!

Dear Frustrated Author: Not Matthew Reilly. Dubious punctuation, yes, but that's more of a style issue. Other books - maybe. I've certainly come across books (both indie and trad) with horrific issues with typos. And yes, sometimes it matters. If the blurb is average and the cover is so-so, then it's probably a waste of several hours of your life to continue, but if  everything seems OK, then the typo-ridden first-page may not put you off. It's just possible that there is a bloody good story buried in there. Does that mean you can get away with not proof-reading? Absolutely not. Like I said - life ain't fair. Get over it.

Dear Aunty Debbie: But how do I get my novel so damn perfect? I enjoy writing, but I'm not very good at all the other stuff. An Overwhelmed Scribbler.

Dear Overwhelmed Scribbler. OK. Let's slow down, shall we? This is where a bit of social-media savvy comes in. Networking is the key - and I don't mean going to conferences, although that can help in different ways. Join the right Facebook groups, lurk in internet forums and absorb information. KBoards is a good start. Get to know people and eventually you will find editors and cover designers whose work you admire and who you get on with. Barter - trade your ability to do accounts with somebody else's talent for spotting spelling errors. Save up your money. You wouldn't start up a small business with no capital, would you? This is no different. Invest in yourself.

Aunty Debbie is currently reading the latest Matthew Reilly book The Great Zoo of China because she just loves the way this guy writes. Honestly, he could write instruction manuals and she'd read them... She's also just finished Joe Hill's latest The Fireman - and for the first time, it's easy to guess who this guy's father is! Lovely bloke and a regular on the UK convention circuit.



12 comments:

Reb MacRath said...

Great post, Aunty!

julia jones said...

Thanks Debbie. I was thinking just the other day how essential you are to this group and how unfailingly generous with your advice and good sense and this post proves my point. I'd never heard of KBoards, for instance

Jan Needle said...

good on yer, auntie. sock it to em!

Wendy Jones said...

Excellent advice as always

Chris Longmuir said...

Dear Aunt Debbie, can you tell me where I can apply for a 48 hour day? Great post, loved it.

Bill Kirton said...

You may live to regret the Aunty tag, Debbie, but it's the perfect vehicle for some oh so necessary common sense. Thanks for a very enjoyable post. I'd never heard of KBoards either.

Debbie Bennett said...

Never heard of KBoards? Best place to find out anything and everything to with indie writing and publishing. There are yellow pages of editors and designers etc, discussions of the latest scams and tips, debates on what Amazon is or isn't doing. Everybody should be dipping in from time to time ... :-)

Kathleen Jones said...

Brilliant Debbie!

Umberto Tosi said...

Seldom has such sound advice been given in so entertaining a fashion. Thank you Debbie. I'm forwarding this to all those who ask me similar questions.

Enid Richemont said...

I get Kboards regularly in my mail, and I routinely delete it as it seems to be nothing but publicity for best-selling ebooks. No advice, contacts etc etc. Just checked out a single undeleted one after reading your post - the same. Puzzled. Great post, though.

Debbie Bennett said...

Don't understand that, Enid. Post your link? I suspect it's a promo subgroup. The main Writers Cafe is the most useful site on the web for indie writers IMO.

Katherine Roberts said...

Kboards is a US forum, and in the early days it was THE place to get advice - it's worth trawling back through some of the older threads. There's also Kuforum.co.uk here in the UK, a smaller and more British version of kboards. (Enid, it's possible you signed up to some kind of newsletter? Go to kboards.com and sign up there as an author instead.)

Great post Debbie! Love the montage of your books.