Hey, Writers, Guess What? No More Excuses!

So, as most of you know, I’ve been pretty vocal on the whole self-pub/indie publishing wave that is occurring right now. See! There goes another twelve thousand digital books!

I have also made sure I’m not picking sides while the war between the “traditional” publishers and “indie” publishers wages on. It’s not my war and I have zero stake in it. Think of me as Switzerland, but without the Nazi gold.

That’s not to say I won’t take a stand where I think I need to. Now, I’m just as clueless as everyone else when it comes to where publishing is heading. What I’m not clueless about is where writing is heading if folks keep tossing their should-be-rejected-by-God-and-all-that-is-holy digital novels into the marketplace.  That’s a no-brainer.

Which brings me to my point: the no-brainers. The novels written and published without a thought. I’m not going to site specific examples, because I find that tacky. I don’t need to call people out to make my point. I have class. Well, I have the illusion of class, at least.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that if you’re going to publish your novel yourself then, as a writer, you have a duty to make sure it is professionally edited, has a professional looking cover and that you handle yourself in a professional manner. Writers, just like teachers, journalists, lawyers, doctors, architects, etc are professionals. If you want to be a writer, then you must want to be a professional also. No separation between the two exists.

Let me put it this way: would you continue to see a doctor that walks into his office with a lit Pall Mall dangling from her lips? Would you use a lawyer that has nothing but file folders stacked on his desk and not a computer in sight? Would you continue to read a journalist’s work that sites Perez Hilton as a reliable source? No, you wouldn’t. So why, as a writer, would you expect readers to tolerate your typos, your bad photoshopped cover and your author bio that was obviously written by your mother?

There’s no excuse for any of those things!

“But, Jake, I can’t afford to have all those things done professionally!”

That’s not an excuse, that’s a delay. Understand? Wait until you can afford those things. Or figure out how to beg, borrow or steal (don’t steal because that’s wrong) the services you need. There are ways to get what you need done at the price you can afford. You are not ready to be a professional if you aren’t ready to hire professional services.

“But, Jake, I see lot’s of writers publishing novels that have bad covers, tons of typos and their website looks like they developed it on 1997!”

Really? Monkey see, monkey do is your argument? There are some lemmings heading for the cliff over there. Get in line and leave me alone.

“But, Jake, if I don’t get my work out there now while ebook publishing is still new then I’ll be lost in the glut that’s about to happen?”

You do realize there have been MILLIONS of print books released before you were even born, right? Are you whining about getting lost in the glut of all of those? Please, ebooks are a format, that’s all. You were never going to be a single star in the sky before, don’t think you will now.

“But, Jake, I learn better by doing. I’ll fix the mistakes later.”

Uh-huh, right… That’s a good argument actually. After all, Doctors call their businesses “practices” because they must keep learning their entire careers. Of course, they have to go to eight years of college, years of residency, deal with state boards and licenses, keep up their CEUs for re-certification/licensure and literally have their patients lives in their hands. Once again, they are professionals. Teachers have to go through all of this too, as well as lawyers. Sure, you learn as you progress in your career, but you certainly don’t just hang out a shingle stating: “I am a Writer because I say so!” You put the time in to hone your craft to a point where someone says, “Hey, I liked that. You should publish this.” Trust me, your own word is not good enough.

“But, Jake, I’ll lose thousands of dollars if I don’t publish NOW!”

No, you won’t. That’s just stupid. There’s no gold rush, people. The vein isn’t going to disappear. There have been writers since the dawn of written language and there will be writers until society destroys itself in a massive microwaved Peep apocalypse! You aren’t going to miss the ebook train, so calm the hell down!

“But, Jake, some ebook authors have sold hundreds of thousands of books and they did it all themselves!”

Yep, you are right. That’s called The Lottery. Let me spell that L-O-T-T-E-R-Y. Not the Shirley Jackson short story masterpiece, although I’ll gladly stone your excuse-laden ass. No, this is where you have a 1 in 1 quadrillion chance of hitting those kind of numbers out of the gate. Could it happen? Sure, because it has and possibilities are infinite. Will it happen? Well, you tell me. Has your piece of crap, typo-ridden, crayon-drawn covered novel sold a hundred thousand copies yet? Didn’t think so. And neither have the majority of perfectly professional novels released, whether print or digital. Success in publishing is dictated by one thing: luck. Right story, right place, right time. Get used to it.

“But, Jake, what about-?”

Oh, shut up! No more excuses! There are no excuses to do something wrong!

Will you make mistakes? Yes, everyone does. I have books on my shelf  put out by small presses that are like pieces of art and I have books put out by billion dollar companies that have more typos than my eight year old’s book report! Shit happens, folks. But, just because shit happens doesn’t mean you should step in it if you can avoid it! That’s just crazy talk. Why purposely step in a steaming pile of shit? Who does that?

So to sum up: No excuses will be tolerated. You don’t have to be perfect, no one is, but you do have to be professional. Do it right the first time. Don’t fling your poo out there like the other monkey-sees.


Posted on April 7, 2011, in What's Up.... and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Couldn’t agree more. In fact, a major reason I offer a large array of art and music services is that I couldn’t get anyone to do that stuff for me. I tried to get friends to help. I tried to trade people. It didn’t work. Now I know how to do all that stuff because I FELT LIKE IT WAS A BAD IDEA TO PUBLISH WITHOUT A DECENT BRAND.

    Our works are our messages to the world. Hopefully, that message is, “I’m the next big thing!” More typically, that message is, “I’m in denial!”

  2. Dude, I agree.
    And, may I ask what prompted this article?

    • I was reading some of the posts and comments on some of the Kindle forums and had just had enough. The level of whining and excuse making was disgusting. Just had to get it off my chest.

      • Some of the people I see at those boards crank out five or six books a year. They have 12 or 13 offerings on Amazon. And they’ve been at this just over a year.

        I’m amazed that they have that much time to write. Whether it’s good or bad, it still takes time to sit down and actually do it.

        But it’s also a sign to me that they are subscribing to a flood the market theory that they more they have out the better it is for them. I understand it and I’m going to flood the market too, at least that’s the plan. But I’m going to do it with a dripping faucet instead of a busted dam. But when you flood the market like they are it’s a sign to me that they aren’t taking the care they need to to make sure that what they are putting out is professional quality.

      • Now, don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of writers that are cranking out quality product. Most of them, however, have been sitting on manuscripts for years.
        I do agree, though, that getting everything to market as fast as possible may not be the best idea. Timing is key to proper publishing. Now, some authors have put out a book and it sold so well, so fast they HAD to get more content out there. They would have been missing an opportunity if they haven’t.
        As long as writers are being professional and putting professional work into the market place then they are free to do it however they want. I have my way, you have your way, and everyone else has their way. Just keep those “ways” as professional s can be!

  3. Amen, Brother Bible.

    I started a novel the other night by an indie author. My wife asked how it was and I said, “Actually, it’s really good.” This one stood out in the quality of writing and the quality of editing. It’s a tightly paced story that I can tell the author took a lot of time in honing and editing. And, knowing this guy, I’m sure it was professionally edited as well. But this was a rare example. Too many times I’ve read stuff by other indies and it’s just not good enough to be published yet. It’s not bad, necessarily, but it’s not ready. It still needs work. The bones are good, but the everything else is lacking.

  4. I have to agree with you Jake. No excuses. No prisoners. Write or don’t, but don’t write about not writing (too often anyway) cause no one wants to read that!

  5. On some of this I agree. It is necessary to put your best foot forward and start as you mean to go on. I do disagree that you have to pay anyone to do something you can, in this day and age, learn to do yourself with some skill.

    As The Gearheart said, I’ve learned an awful lot on my own or with a little tutoring from those who already know. I feel no need to pay someone money that I don’t have in order to get a ‘feeling’ of accomplishment that I have somehow put my ducks in a row.

    The fact is, if you can do any of this on your own you should. If you can get a group of beta readers who are themselves good writers, why pay for an editor who adds only 1 extra set of eyes?

    There is a difference between editing and paying an editor and too often that distinction is blurred by people who think ‘paying someone else’ is the only path to follow.

    So to say that doing it on your own is an excuse…well I just disagree. Maybe there are a lot out there that think they can ship a rough draft and put a Flickr pic on the cover. To them I say, get a grip.

    To everyone else who has taken the initiative and learned how to turn out a polished product without forking over dollars, I say ‘awesome’.

    Product is more important than method.

    • Oh, you have misunderstood me. To do it POORLY on your own is inexcusable. I know plenty of writers that have the chops to do all the work themselves, with some good beta readers, and put out excellent product. I’m talking about the excuse makers. The ones that put out crap because they can’t do it right by themselves and refuse to pay someone, or find someone, to do it right for them.

      I do say in the post that people can beg, barter or steal for services. They don’t have to pay. I didn’t pay for my first podcast graphic. I just asked for someone to do it for free for the exposure. I have since used the same artist for all my graphics (now paying him because I’m not scum) and have referred him to other authors for more work.

      It’s not about whether you do it yourself or not, but whether you do it professionally. If you gots the chops then use them!

  6. Publishing your first draft? Bad idea. Though if you consider podcasting to be publishing, and I do, it’s a bad idea that more than one of us has taken a big bite out of.

    I agree with Allison (shocker! ;-)) that you need to put your best foot forward. Take that thing you worked on, make it as good as you can make it, have a good, clear reason to not send it around to the bigs before you decide to put it out yourself, and then put it out there. But again, make it as good as you can make it.

    The problem I have with this rant (and it’s a beautiful rant) is you use the word professional a number of times and with apparently different meanings. What does it mean to have it “professionally edited”? If you’re not paying someone (beg or borrow) who themselves is a pro (paid for editing ordinarily as part of their day job) then what you’re getting is an amateur edit, right?

    My self pubs are edited by amateurs (some writer friends and me) and in a number of cases I found some beautiful pics on flickr that got me exactly the cover I wanted. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Making a good product and selling it yourself without the advent of some big corporate (or even small corporate) entity behind you is the ‘merican way. If people don’t buy what you’re selling you work harder to make the next thing better.

    So let’s talk about what you mean by “professional”.

    • Held to professional standards. Professional quality. Not reading like amateur hour. I don’t mean you have to pay for it. Not at all. If you have friends (which you do) that can help you edit your manuscript so it reads as “professional” then great! I use the word professional so that everyone knows what standard I am holding writers accountable to. Professional gives a certain impression that winnows out the folks that say “But, my mom likes it!”. Professional can be interpreted many ways, and I think all ways are valid. I use the word over an over to drive a point, that if you want to be a professional you have to act like one and put out professional quality work. There are endless ways a writer can accomplish that, but all that matters is the end work be held to a “Professional” standard and read like a “Professional” wrote it. It’s all about the end work.

      • So, I’m thinking I need to clarify the point of this post.
        The entire point, as stated in the post heading, is that there are no excuses for releasing POORLY released work. This wasn’t a post about the definition of professional, just that when trying to pass yourself off as a professional (which is what you are doing if you are independently releasing your work) then you are being held to a professional standard.
        Think of it this way. Big publishing companies are chain restaurants: Chili’s, Applebee’s, TGIFridays, etc. You, as an indie writer/publisher, are a local cafe. A single shop serving your own menu. Now, think of the food suppliers as the editors, cover artists, proofreaders, etc. Chains have their own suppliers many times, but also use outside suppliers (freelancers). Local cafes have their own local suppliers, but also use major suppliers too. Whatever works for them. Now, if a cafe makes everything from scratch, has their own farm to draw from and even makes their own furniture, does that mean they aren’t professional? Of course not! For the customer (reader) it’s about quality, not how the cafe achieves that quality.

        To keep going with this metaphor, whether big or local, restaurants have to adhere to basic safety and health codes. That is a professional requirement to do business. Can chain restaurants fail health inspections? Sure, some do. But, the violations are addressed and fixed (usually). Do some local cafes fail health inspection? Sure, and many will fix those violations.
        But, let’s say you are a local cafe, and active in the local restaurant business community, and there are other cafes that repeatedly ignore their health inspections? Well, when people come to visit your area do you want their impression of the local restaurant scene to be one of dirty establishments with roaches running around? That will hurt your business and reputation as well, won’t it? So you speak out and hope that a basic standard of professionalism can be established and adhered to so the local restaurant community can thrive and be taken seriously.

        Apply that to publishing. Basic standards of professionalism if you want to do business and no excuses for shoddy, sub-par work. If you as a writer can do all the work yourself and put out a professional product, then that is awesome! But, if you can’t do it all yourself, then you have to find help, whether you pay for it or not. You can’t hide behind excuses and still think you’ll be taken seriously as a professional.

        All I’m asking is that indie writers/publishers adhere to the health code and stop serving food with roaches in it. And don’t tell me the roaches are part of the process. They aren’t. They’re just unprofessional and gross.

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