Saturday, July 12, 2014
Last night I heard an author with a NYT bestseller discuss her book. She spent a good deal of time talking about her experience with the traditional publishing and editing process: lots of material deleted and major re-writes to satisfy the editors, having to accept a cover she wasn't thrilled with, and the two-plus year time span between acquisition and published book. None of this was news to me, and I found myself wanting to say, "Sista, next time consider going indie."
I would have, too, except that she went on to say something with which I took umbrage. She mentioned that, at one point in her story, one of her 1950s characters quotes the Bible, ending with "so said the Lord." She'd copied the quote from her own Bible. Her editors pounced on it, informing her that a character in the 50s would have been using the King James version, and the quote would have ended, "so sayeth the Lord." Her concluding comment was that self-published authors would "never" get that kind of in-depth editing.
I beg your pardon.
We all know that while that may be true for many, perhaps even most self-pubs, there are lots of us who go to every extreme we can conceive of (and afford) to make sure our work is thoroughly and competently edited. I've mulled over this problem before, and last night it occurred to me that something someone said to me years ago in another context fits this scenario. This friend was a fabulous seamstress. She made her wedding dress from lace taken from her mother's and grandmother's gowns, and it was a work of art. She told me that in needlecraft there is a world of difference between "home-made" and "hand-made." Many of us might recall attempts at knitting or sewing and immediately understand how far those efforts landed from the work of people who know their craft. I think the same is true for authors.
Yes, anyone can self-publish a book for under fifty bucks, and if it's just for friends and family, that's fine. But for someone who is planning to venture into the bigger world of serious writing, multiple edits for content and copy are essential. Essential, too, is hiring a high-caliber formatter to keep the widows, orphans, and dingbats under control and a professional graphic designer because a book is, indeed, judged by its cover. As with needlecraft, there is also a world of difference between do-it-yourself publishing and independent publishing with a quality team. To quote my wise and wonderful agent, April Eberhardt, "We can and must educate authors, and the publishing world at large, that 'indie' and 'self-published' mean many different things."
The image at the top of this post is a medallion from indieBRAG awarded to my novel, THE WORLD UNDONE. This award goes only to independently published books that have achieved a high level of quality. I'm grateful to indieBRAG for acknowledging the work I put into my book, and bravo to them for being on the forefront of this educational process.