1. Philliggi

    Philliggi Member

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    Self publishing your book just to test the water

    Discussion in 'Self-Publishing' started by Philliggi, Jul 31, 2018.

    Has anyone ever self published a book they don't really believe is their best work just to get it out there?

    I'm on the verge of finishing my first full length fiction, but don't really believe it's got what it takes to sell by The thousands.

    It's written well, but there are some plot holes, and it hasn't really got the guts to stand up.

    Yet it seems such a waste to just leave it sat on a shelf.

    What sort of costs are involved in self publishing? I've seen amazon publish and takes 30% cut. Is it worth doing that justbto tedtbthe water?

    To rewrite it would be like rewriting a completely new book, which I'm going to do anyway having learned so many lessons, but I'm tempted to publish under a false name.

    Thoughts please
     
  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I've never done it, but I think you're on the right track to think that if you DO do it you should use a pseudonym.

    A lot of publishing is essentially sales: building a brand, etc. You don't want to weaken your brand with a less-than-stellar effort.

    You can self-publish for free, if you're willing to do it all yourself. But, again... you'll want to be sure you're doing it under a pseudonym. There are a lot of authors who think they can make good covers themselves, but I think I've seen maybe two or three (out of hundreds I've looked at) that didn't look home-made and unprofessional. There are a lot of authors who think they can edit themselves, but I'm not sure I've ever looked at one of those books without finding pretty obvious errors in the first few pages.

    It comes down to a sort of "you don't know what you don't know" problem. A lot of authors playing around with self-publishing don't know enough to know what they don't know.

    So, sure, if you're absolutely positive there's no chance you're going to want to come back and rework what you've written, self-publish it for fun. But don't dilute your brand with an amateurish effort, not if you some day want to be a professional.
     
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  3. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Personally, I would never self-publish anything I wasn't totally happy with. It would bother me every time I looked at it, and I would cringe if anybody connected the dots and figured out it was me who wrote it. What's the point?

    Why not go back and polish the work instead? Fix the plot holes? Rewrite large portions, if necessary. Get it up to scratch and THEN self-publish—with pride. Rewriting and polishing is never 'wasted' time. It's learning the craft.

    I think the biggest mistake ANY author can make is either submitting or self-publishing their work too soon—in the first flush of 'omigod, it's done.' This is what gives self publishing a bad name, and why so many authors seeking traditional publishing never get past the query stage.

    The world of self-publishing is changing so fast, that whatever you might 'learn' by self publishing something today might well not apply a couple of years from now, anyway. So why not wait till you've got something that's worthy of yourself, rather than knowingly publishing something that's not?
     
  4. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I can sympathize with the desire to publish something, even if it's imperfect.

    For me, there's a weird restlessness that comes with having stories sitting on my hard drive, unpublished. I don't want to pay attention to them anymore--I'm a storyteller, not a wordsmith, and once I've told the story I lose interest in the work--but while they're still sitting there I feel like I should be doing something with them, so I fuss and I fidget and I make pointless changes that don't actually improve anything and... I don't know. It's not productive, for me.

    Getting things published, for me, is a way to dismiss them from my creative mind. I don't need to waste any more energy on them because they're beyond my control. Closure, I guess?
     
  5. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    First, I want to congratulate you on actually finishing your first draft of your first novel. A lot of wannabe writers never get that far. You have accomplished a major milestone and should be very proud of that. What you have is an almost-completed first draft, and first drafts are incomplete, imperfect, with all the warts you mentioned yours has. That is what The Eagle and the Dragon was in October 2015, when I finished the last word of the last sentence of the last chapter, a good start but a long way from prime time.

    I and @K McIntyre have self-published four books, two each. Absolutely do NOT put less than your best out there. It's not a waste of money but it is a waste of time. Amazon has a look-inside feature that allows a potential buyer to pre-read the first few pages, and if those first few pages aren't done professionally, that is about as far as they will go. If you're afraid to put your name on your book for fear of tainting your brand, you're not ready. Both I and Karen publish under our own names. @BayView publishes under a variety of pseudonyms, I am not sure why, but I know it is not lack of quality, she is one of our most prolific and successful writers here. I think her variety of pseudonyms is in fact some sort of brand in its own right.

    Set your baby aside for a week or so when you finish it, after you put it in a nice three-ring binder to keep it warm. It is, after all, your new baby. Then go back and read it all the way through, as if you had bought it rather than written it. Just admire it, at this point. After you have enjoyed your new-baby moment, then you have to start raising your baby. This is the hard part, because you have to be critical of your child. Read it again, this time with a red pen and sticky notes, finding all the warts and problems, misspelled words, run-on sentences, the plot holes, mis-tagged dialogue. I had them, you will too. I had one of my characters change his name midway through the last third of book from Demosthenes to Diogenes, the name of a ship captain from the first half. Believe it or not, that survived until the spring of this year, more than a year after publication. Someone reading it for the MWA awards politely pointed that out to me, and I did an immediate emergency change to the text. Got a good award from MWA anyway, and sharp-eyed Emily, who had caught what @jannert and 30-40 beta readers, my wife, 7 major revisions, and one expensive editor had missed, became my wife's editor. My friend David Poyer, who has written about 40 naval fiction novels (professionally published) and sits on the Naval Academy's literature board, says you must edit your book until you can't stand to look at it again, then edit it some more. Then get someone else to edit it for you. That is truly the most painful, but necessary, part of writing.

    I do recommend you get some serious editing done (not by you) before you attempt to publish. Beta readers on this and other sites, or at the local community college or university (student or faculty): these are all potential free or very inexpensive editors. If you think you have a good enough story, engage a paid one, but they are not cheap. Get referrals, sign a contract, and hold them to a deadline. There are many people out there who will take a pile of money from you, and do no more than a Word spell-checker would have done.

    When your manuscript is in its final revision, or close to it, time to think about the cover. I used to be of the "You can't judge a book by the cover" school, but in fact the cover is the first thing that attracts (or repels) the potential reader. Professionally done covers don't have to be outrageously expensive, and I and many others will be happy to recommend cover designers. What @BayView said... an amateurishly done cover is a turn off, and most of us can't do a good one, though we can put in a lot of work to make a bad one.

    As for self-publishing, that part is free. I recommend CreateSpace, which has all the templates necessary to go from your manuscript to type-set in the size layout you chose, ready to upload, in hours to days. After you complete the paperback, CS generates Kindle-ready cover and Word documents to upload into KDP for the Kindle. The whole process takes just a few hours, plus about a 24 hour review time before CS gives you the green light to complete publication. The KDP Kindle generation is minutes to hours.

    Anyway, @Philliggi, congratulations on a job well-done. Take a break, then do the hard part to make this novel the best it can be, and I promise you will sell at least one to me if you do. BTW, the lag between finishing the E&D (Oct 2015) and publishing it (Feb 17) was about 18 months, so take your time! Your baby will grow up!
     
  6. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

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    Realistically, if it's bad, it won't sell, and no-one will ever care except the few people who bought it and didn't like it. And nothing then stops you from pulling it from sale and releasing a different version of the novel later.

    However, I would never publish a story that I wouldn't want to read. So if there really are major plot holes, I'd leave it on my hard drive rather than inflicting it on readers.

    As for costs, I published my first ebook for $0. I realized a while later that a completely self-made cover wasn't helping sales, so I pulled it and republished it with a few tweaks to the prose and a $0.50 stock image for the cover (and sold about 600 copies).

    So that's about the cheapest you can do. From there, you can spend as much as you want.
     
  7. Philliggi

    Philliggi Member

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    There's no major plot holes in it, like I've not killed a character only to have him re appear 10 chapters later. Nothing that obvious.

    It's more a case of I'm not quite sure if what I've written would stand up to realism tests.

    Basically I've a character who is mentally ill, a liar and a manipulator and really rains in the rest of the characters parade. It's like he has a split personality, but I've not done the ground worm to see if his mental state is even feasible.

    If it isn't it completely undermines the whole book. There is literally no way to rewrite it, except going right the way back to around half way and taking the book in a completely different direction, discarding the mental issue completely.

    The other issue I'm having is I've withheld part if the story until the end of the book. This has added slot to the mystery of the book as you read through from 30,000 words to maybe 50,000, but when I eventually reveal what happened ( I've written it in a flask back format) it takes too much emphasis away from the current up to date story line.

    So do I go for the mystery that throws you off course, or take that away and let the story flow, but it reads a lot less intreaguing. Basically it's a major structuring issue.

    On a side note, i drive for a living, and hand write on my tacho break,maybe writing for 20 mins at a time maximum. I only put the story down in a word document on my phone when I get 5 or ten minutes here and there.

    I know this isn't the right formula for producing a successful book but with 2 young children and a full time job I fear I will never get chance to give it the editorial it deserves.
     
  8. Philliggi

    Philliggi Member

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    I apologise for any typos as well. If I'm to go anywhere with this I really need to progress to a laptop rather than typing on my phone
     
  9. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    So—do your research. Find out if what you've written about your character's mental state IS realistic. You say you don't know. So find out.

    If it turns out that particular mental illness would not have produced this kind of character, you have several options. You can tweak his mental illness label so it is. I'm sure there are instances where this kind of mentally disturbed personality IS realistic. Maybe you've just labeled it wrong? It could be something quite easy to fix. Just do research. Find a mental state that would allow your character to do what he's done in your story. Just change the label?

    Of course you can also take the story in a completely different direction as well. Again, is that a bad thing? If your story goes from silly and unbelievable to a cracking good story?

    Here's the good news. You might actually find that your character IS realistic, just as you wrote him. That's the good thing about research. It can back up what you've done, as well as derail the train. So find out. You really have nothing to lose either way. If you were right the first time, there is no problem. If you were wrong, the problem is fixable.

    After you've sorted the plausibility issue, you can get to work on tweaking your structure so the story flows better. Believe me, you will be glad you did. If you think your mystery is detracting from the core story, find a way to link it more closely. You don't have to get rid of it. Lots of ways to address this. Introduce it earlier? Even foreshadow it?

    First of all, you need to decide what your central plot actually is. A mystery, making the other parts of the story subplots? Or is the mystery itself a subplot? Tweak the structure so this is reflected.

    If the mystery is a subplot, it should be introduced shortly AFTER the main plot dilemma is introduced, and it will be solved just before the main plot's dilemma is also solved.

    If the mystery is the central plot, however, it should be the first thing you introduce and the last thing you solve. The subplots fall in between those two ends, although you can certainly (and should) have a coda at the end, where all the plot resolutions get summed up in a scene or two.

    I can't think of a bigger waste of writing time than leaving a story half-baked. That means you've either written something nobody will ever see, or if folks do see it, they probably won't ever read your work again.

    Don't be so reluctant to take the next steps to getting it right. If you had the time to write it, you certainly have the time to edit it properly. What's the rush? Getting a story 'ready' for publication is part of the writing process—unless you're just writing for yourself.

    You may be making the classic beginner's mistake of thinking that when you write 'The End," that means it's the end of the process. Oh no it's not. That's where the real work of writing actually begins, and I think most authors would agree with you.

    It's a rarity to find somebody who writes so well they never need to make changes—and these writers are usually very experienced and have learned their skills through a long process of trial and error. Show me a successful author whose very first book or story was perfect after the first draft, and I'll show you an extreme exception. Unless you are that kind of writing genius (which would mean you wouldn't be having a problem just now) you must accept the need to look at your story critically. Figure out what's not right. Figure out how to make it better. Then do the work.

    There is no short cut. Publishing second-rate work—just because you 'can' in this era of self-publishing—is not going to make you happy in the long run. If you're ashamed of what you've written, you'll be reluctant to tell anybody about the book. And if that's the case, what's the point?
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2018
  10. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    I just wanted to add my experience here.

    I published my first book before I was ready. It wasn’t, IMO, my best work. It was the first book I ever wrote; it lacked tension; and it lacked marketability. I loved the book and I put a ton of effort into it, but I was a younger writer and the book lacked skill and focus.

    I get $25 in the mail every few months. That’s it.

    And I have zero regrets. It taught me one extremely important lesson, which is that just getting published isn’t enough. I learned a ton from the experience— about the publishing process, about my market, and about myself.

    I say go for it. Use a pen name you intend to discard. Get your feet wet. Fail. Learn some things, then move on.

    Anything you learn now will help you later.

    I second everything @BayView said. Especially the thing about branding.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2018
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  11. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributor Contributor

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    If you're going to do it to test the waters, the most legitimate test would be to put out the best product you can. If you know there are 'plot holes' even if they're not glaringly large, then it is likely the readers will note them as well, and possibly some you have not caught.

    While no manuscript will be perfect, striving to make it as solid of a story as possible is the best test. Writers continue to improve their skills as they continue to write, so your tales written ten years from now will probably be better--maybe not the ideas but the execution of those ideas.

    Find a writing partner, have them look it over, make suggestions. You could offer to do the same in return. Another set of eyes, or two, before publication can make a world of difference.
     
  12. Philliggi

    Philliggi Member

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    Thanks for all your replies. I think I'm going to ask a few close friends to read it first - unedited - just to see if the story itself makes sense.

    If the feedback is positive I'll probably throw myself into the editing process. Something I have zero experience or confidence in doing.
     
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  13. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    ^these things are true.
     
  14. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I 100% disagree with this approach.

    Well, no. I agree that it's probably the best approach for some people, so I just 100% disagree with the part where it's presented as the best approach for everyone.

    Most authors have a trunked novel or two or ten. It's very rare to successfully publish the first book you write. I don't think there's anything wrong with deciding that you're done with a story and moving on, and, if you decide to do that, I don't think there's anything wrong with self-publishing it (again, under a disposable pseudonym) just to get it off your hard drive and give you a sense of closure.

    This may come down to a difference between wordsmiths and storytellers. A false dichotomy, of course (wordsmiths care about stories and storytellers care about words) but in terms of main focus, I think some people really focus on the words on the page, and these people will spend a LONG time on a single story, getting every word perfect. For storytellers, like me, the focus is just on telling a story and the words are the often-aggravating tools that allow this to be done. Once I've told a story once, I lose interest in it and am ready to move on to the next story. It would definitely kill my enthusiasm if I were to go back and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite, especially if this were being done on my first project, which probably has a LOT of rewriting to do.

    OP - it's your call, obviously. If you're done with this story, you're done with it and it's just fine to move on. If you're not done with it, absolutely keep tinkering and see what you come up with. There's no "right" way for everyone.
     
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  15. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with you about dumping work you're not happy with. Of course you can. And if you don't want to tinker with it, that's fine too.

    However, I do struggle with the idea of deliberately publishing work you know you're not happy with—just so you won't have 'wasted' your time writing it. Especially if it's your first? I reckon you're making a stick to beat your back with, if you take that tack. It will either follow you around and colour people's perception of your work. Or nobody will know you've written it at all. What's the point?

    I suppose you could publish anything (as @Laurin Kelly suggested—a few soup recipes) if you just want to find out how to design a cover, upload and get into the publishing circuit. But why publish something you know isn't very good? You could use a pseudonym from the very start, so later on when you do produce something you're proud of, nobody will be the wiser. But why bother? Ach well....

    I still maintain it's much more productive to improve what you wrote before publishing it. Or ditch it altogether, and write something else.
     
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  16. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    As I said above, I have trouble letting go of something, mentally, when it's still unpublished. I feel like I'm not "done". So I can see publishing as giving a sense of closure?

    I mean, you're right that this is part of the problem with self-publishing... it's how we end up with so much crap that readers have to sort through in order to find anything good. But... that's the state of the world. That's how it's being done. I don't see any way to prevent it, so, given that this is the state of self-publishing, I don't see anything wrong with using it as it as others are using it.
     
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  17. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Fair enough. I don't see anything 'wrong' with it. I just think it's a bummer of an idea, from the standpoint of an author who wants to be taken seriously.

    Just a personal question here: Do you publish stuff you know isn't any good, just so you can get rid of it? If so, has that hurt your career in any way? Are you happy to acknowledge yourself as the author? You are very prolific, so maybe a bad apple or two won't spoil the barrel. But did you do that with the first thing you wrote? Just curious.
     
  18. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    The first thing I wrote was published and is still my best seller and the story I'm most "known" for in my sub-genre.

    It's not my best writing, by far, at least by "writerly" standards (wordsmith standards, I guess) but it had a lot of heart that apparently caught people's interest.

    And because I'm pleased with the story, I'm pleased with pretty much everything I've ever written, when I'm done with it. I don't go back and re-read very often, and I absolutely can't listen to my work when it's turned into an audiobook. I'm not pleased with my writing, ever, but that's not why I write, if that makes sense? I like my characters. I like their growth and their interactions and the resolution of their conflicts. I've never published anything that I wasn't satisfied with from that perspective. But the writing itself? Yuck.

    And who the hell knows what's hurt or helped my career? Honestly, I'm inclined to say that trying to write well and trying to tell the stories I want to tell is what's hurt my career. Most successful authors in my genre and sub-genre are writing different kinds of characters and writing WAY steamier than I write, and I don't know if I could write that way if I tried, but I haven't tried because I don't like it. So... that's probably hurt my career? Except maybe not, because maybe I wouldn't have the energy to keep writing if I were forcing myself to write things I don't like?
     
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  19. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think you've answered my question. You haven't deliberately published stuff you know is substandard, just to get it off your chest. That's the issue I was addressing. Not whether you love everything you've written afterwards, but whether or not you would publish stuff you know isn't any good right at the start. I think you've said 'no, you wouldn't.' Or more accurately, 'no you haven't.' That's probably why you're a successful author.

    I do also believe that the more you write and perfect your work, the easier it is to write mistake-light stuff in future. All those beginner's mistakes are things you won't do again, once you learn what was wrong and how to avoid it.

    If, for example, your first story's plot was full of holes, and you learned how to fix them—or you realized the story wasn't salvageable because of the plot holes and ditched it altogether—the less likely you are to create another story that contains plot holes. Ditto any other writing bugbear. Too many adjectives make writing look silly? Once you see that, you won't use so many adjectives in future. And etc. Eventually you probably reach a writing groove that stuff is pretty much good to go after a few passes just to pick up proofreading errors, etc. That's where a prolific author really has the jump on others.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2018
  20. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I've published everything I've written. (Well, everything I've finished). So it's kind of hard to draw any conclusions from that one way or another...

    I've definitely self-published things that I knew weren't going to sell well. Wrong genre, wrong conventions, etc. And I did it to get the story off my hard drive so I could mentally move on from it instead of going back and poking at a story that I knew had fundamental issues with being sellable.

    And I've never spent more than... I don't know, maybe three or four months, solid writing time, on a single project? I've had projects I've worked on over the course of a year or two because I kept leaving them and coming back to them, but I can't stand the idea of working steadily on a single project for year after year. That would kill my enthusiasm for sure.

    Different strokes.
     
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  21. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You've probably hit on what makes a prolific author ...well ...prolific! You have the ability to move on quickly after finishing a project (to an acceptable standard.) I think I struggle to do that. I've spent so much time in company with my characters, that I want to see them later on as well. So I deal in sequels. Different storyline, but same people. I don't know what it would feel like to just abandon them and move on to something else. I've considered doing so, however. Maybe even trying my hand at short stories. Yikes ...big jump for me.
     
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  22. rincewind31

    rincewind31 Active Member

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    If you were an artist you wouldn't stick something in a gallery if you didn't think it was very good.
    Same goes I reckon.
     
  23. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I sometimes write little post-story shorts to check in on the characters. Often at Xmas, strangely. Maybe it's a sentimental time of year for me, or maybe it's just when my characters would realistically all be in the same place at the same time.

    But I like doing them. Just hop into the world, see that everyone's still okay, and hop back out. Then I put them on my website as promo.
     
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  24. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Galleries are space-limited. The internet is vast.
     
  25. rincewind31

    rincewind31 Active Member

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    You're still displaying your work in the hope the people who see it, will like and appreciate it. If not, then what's the point.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2018

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