Authors Helping Authors – Gerard de Marigny Talks Quality Standards

A few weeks ago, you might remember my writer friend, Gerard de Marigny visiting. 🙂 He shared with us an excerpt from his novel, The Watchman of Ephraim. Today he’s here to share his thoughts on publishing.

Why Self-Publishing Needs Quality Standards

Gerard de Marigny

EXAMPLE #1: Here’s a review of a work published not too long ago on Smashwords …

“Sorry, this may or may not be a great story but there are too many spelling, grammatical & punctuation errors to find out.

“I really dislike giving up on a book but in this case the many very simple spelling errors (fealt instead of felt for example) are simply too distracting so whilst the plot description intrigued me I gave up pretty early on. A simple spell check would have picked up most of the spelling mistakes; if the author can’t be bothered to do that how can he expect us to read his work?[Emphasis mine]

EXAMPLE #2: Here’s the short and long descriptions one author gave for his work:

Ebook Short Description

Children’s fantasy…

Extended Description

Children’s fantasy…”

… And here’s the one and only review that author’s work was given:

“I would find it much easier to decide to download if it actually had a proper description and tags to tell me whether it is worth it!! So in conclusion I have not downloaded it because of the reasons above!!”

EXAMPLE #3: Here’s one more piece of a review – keep in mind that all of these reviews were taken recently from Smashwords.com:

“It is difficult to review when I can’t tell what is a typo and what is supposed to be slang.”

I think I speak on behalf of ALL self-published authors (as those examples above were obviously all self-published) when I say that I’m embarrassed … embarrassed and frustrated at being included in the same light with those lazy, unprofessional writers above!

Anyone who has ever been the victim of bias can relate to the frustration experienced by professional self-published authors because of the poor perception most readers have about self-publishing in general. Growing up half Spanish-half Italian in a tough area of Brooklyn, NY where the Italians and Latinos pretty much hated each other, I can tell you from experience that perceptions can be a POWERFUL force. Negative perceptions can prove to be a profound disadvantage for anyone affected by them.

It’s difficult enough for a self-published author to learn the crafts of writing and publishing. You spend the money, time and effort on creating written works that are polished and professional, only to be dismissed by a growing mass of people simply because you are self-published. They haven’t read your works or even looked at your cover or summary – many won’t even do those things if the work was self-published. They’ve just dismissed all self-published works from the onset.

Here’s the really bad thing … I don’t even blame those people – because I’m almost one of them! Being a SelfPubber, that really pains me, yet, I cannot say that I don’t have a certain bias against self-published works. Now, I don’t dismiss them – of course I don’t – but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I do wonder about the QUALITY of a work when I know it’s self-published. That’s not something I concern myself with, when it comes to a traditionally-published work … and that’s the real point of this article.

With a TRADPUB work, I concern myself with the normal, subjective things like genre, topic, and author but with a SELPUB work, my primary concern is about an objective thing … QUALITY!

I’ve heard that self-published authors contend that some of them are too poor to be able to afford professional editors to edit their work … to which I say, “If you can’t afford an editor, find another way!” By the way … spell checking is free! Bottom line: those people would still be able to publish (if my proposed quality standards process went into effect), they just wouldn’t be able to receive the “Quality Approved” seal. Would that potentially hurt their ability to sell their work? I’d say, “Yes!” At least I hope it does, for the folks sake, that it is!

I was raised in a relatively poor family – a family that did not give quarter to laziness and a family that did not accept excuses! My Dad was a U.S. Marine. He taught my brother and me the same things he learned in the Marine Corps. When you face a problem and you can’t solve it easily … improvise and adapt so that you can overcome!

In order for the bias against self-published works to ebb, there is a need for quality standards to be established and maintained, and then for some sort of ‘Quality Seal” to appear on works that meet the established benchmarks.

What would this do? Well first, it WOULDN’T prevent any lazy fool from self-publishing … and you know something … I don’t want to prevent people from having the freedom to self-publish. I’m all for liberty and the freedom to do things like publish your own written works, even if they are garbage. I believe in the capitalist system of allowing the consumers to decide on what they will and will not consume.

HOWEVER … we must address the concept of “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware), when it comes to self-published literary works. That’s correct – we need to protect the folks first – NOT OURSELVES (read: self-publishers). People should have a quick and easy way to see that a self-published work meets certain quality standards with respect to the objective craft portion of the work – namely, proper grammar and spelling. A Quality Seal that represents that a work has met the criteria set out in established quality standards would be just the thing.

Now, I’m NOT talking censorship here. I do not believe that any subjective portion of the work should be considered in a quality standard. Subjective aspects of writing are things like storyline, characters, settings, etc. Dialog would also be included as a subjective aspect – so, writing dialog that utilizes vernacular or slang would not be subject to review by the quality standard review process.

Self-publishing needs quality standards so that readers can easily determine whether a self-published work meets a certain level of professionalism. Currently, when a reader purchases a book published by a legacy publisher, the very fact that the book was published traditionally serves as a quality-approved seal. Until readers can make that quick of a determination of whether a self-published work is of acceptable quality, ALL self-published works will be circumspect.

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About the Gerard de Marigny

Gerard de Marigny is the author of the geopolitical thriller, _The Watchman of Ephraim_, Book 1 of THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM series. The sequel, _Signs of War_ is scheduled for release in September 2011.

Gerard de Marigny resides in the beautiful foothills of Las Vegas, NV with his wife Lisa and his four sons. When not bending an arm with friends at the local pub, he’s putting to paper the stories and characters that are alive in his mind.

Connect with Gerard de Marigny online: Website, SelfPubber’s Pub, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and MySpace

Find The Watchman of Ephraim by Gerard de Marigny at:

Barnes & Nobles

The Book Depository

Smashwords

Amazon

Signed Hardcovers and Paperbacks

Guest Post: Selena Blake on Being Willing to Change

A few weeks ago, Selena Blake offered to do a guest post on the Authors Helping Authors series. With everything going on with Shadow Cat, I fell in love with her rule #7. Yay! for me when she offered to expand on it. And Yay! for you too. haha So here we have it:

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Rule #7 of my Ten Commandments of Indie Publishing is be willing to change.

I think that just like in life, those who are willing to change and adapt in the publishing industry are those who will flourish. Admittedly, change can be scary and sometimes even hard. But it’s worth it.

For me, change came when I got the rights back to five books from a previous publisher. I turned around and began publishing those backlist books myself and I’ve done really well, I think.

I’m certainly not the only one embracing change in the publishing industry. Readers are embracing digital books as well.

According to Yahoo News (January 2011), Amazon stated “since January 1, U.S. customers have bought 115 Kindle editions for every 100 paperbacks sold.”

How’s that for change?

I’ve watched the ebook industry pretty much since inception. I’ve waited for it to grow. And I’ve seen how large traditionally print publishers have reacted to this new wave of technology.

The key here is traditional publishers are reactionary. I’ll admit it’s pretty hard to turn an ocean liner (otherwise the Titanic might not be lying on the bottom of the ocean after half a voyage.) But the people who are thriving these days are those who are willing to take risks.

With the digital wave, it’s time to swim or sink.

While big publishers resist change, we indie authors can use change to our advantage. We can shift faster than big companies can. We can take risks that their board of directors would scream at. We can move between digital releases and print when it makes sense for our business. We can adapt to changes in the market, within our genre or distribution method.

Becoming an indie author is a lot like being tossed into a pool for the first time — without your water wings. Honestly, it can be a little scary with no one there to cover your back. Everything falls to you: cover art, blurbs, promotion, revisions and editing, book keeping.

But that’s also the beauty of indie publishing. With you at the helm, you can steer your ship. You can change course. You can even keep on your water wings if you want.

You have the benefit of being able to tweak your blurb/description over the course of the book’s (very long) life. And if you discover your cover isn’t selling, you can change that. You can surround yourself with a team of your choice to edit, design, layout, and promote your books.

Over the course of my career, I’ve changed publishers. I’ve embraced ebooks as the media of choice for my career and all my personal reading. I’ve changed titles; I’ve tweaked blurbs. I’ve revised how I construct descriptions. I have all new covers for my indie releases. I’ve expanded previously released books. And I’ve changed and expanded my focus as an author. I’m targeting new publishers and writing longer, more complex books. I think it’s going pretty well.

In short, I’m embracing change. I’m embracing diversity.

A few final thoughts:

1.       Take advantage of your flexibility as an indie author.

2.       Be willing to change and adapt your writing. This doesn’t mean stifle your voice, but embrace a different path.

3.       Try a new genre.

4.       Write a short story or a novella if you traditionally write novels.

5.       Get a new cover if you think it would improve sales.

6.       Update your blurb. I’ve done this several times, even as a book is on sale.

7.       Be willing to change your title.

8.       Don’t be married to your words. You may have to cut them.

9.       Try a new type of promotion. Join an author co-op. Try advertising. Experiment with a soft launch.1

10.   Try new methods of distribution. You don’t have to stick with them forever. Try things until you find something that works.

How are you embracing change within your writing life?

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About Selena Blake

An action movie buff with a penchant for all things supernatural and sexy, Selena Blake combines her love for adventure, travel and romance into steamy paranormal romance. Selena’s books have been called “a steamy escape” and  have appeared on bestseller lists,  been nominated for awards, and won contests.  When she’s not writing you can find her by the pool soaking up some sun, day dreaming about new characters, and watching the cabana boy (aka her muse), Derek. Fan mail keeps her going when the diet soda wears off so write to her at selenablake@gmail.com.

Want to know more about Selena Blake? Check out her website!

Guest Post: Terrance Foxxe ~ To Heck with It All: Part IV

We’ve reached the final piece of Terrance Foxxe’s four part series. Missed the first three? That’s fine. You can catch them here (Part I, Part II, and Part III). Then head to Mr. Foxxe’s website to see what he’s up to. 🙂

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You want me to pretend I’m in front of an audience, and read it aloud? You’ve got to be kidding!

Nope. Believe it or not your ears will pick up on mistakes in grammar and pacing and sentences that don’t work, faster than your eye will. Reading may be done with the eyes, but the brain actually hears the words.

Silently, as you read any book or magazine, your brain hears it as if you are reading it out loud. Try to skim over the words of a favorite author, and see if you remember half of what was said five minutes later. Now relax, and read for the pleasure of it, imitating the voice the author has set down for you with sentence construction and punctuation. How much do you remember after five minutes?

I resisted doing this for the longest time, simply because I felt stupid doing it. Now I feel exceptionally stupid for not doing it.

I live in a house with very little privacy, and my wife and sons are not interested in what I do. Not really. Plus, well, as I said, I felt stupid.

There are writer’s groups, and you may be asked to read for them.

I don’t know. Me, I don’t do writer’s groups. I tried a writer’s group once, but I found a bad one. I arrived at the first meeting with high expectations, only to find most there were talking about writing, and not doing any writing. Okay, I thought, I’ll see about reading something I’m working on. Not to lead the group, but to get something productive done. I craved feedback.

I read, and then I was raked across the coals so hard . . . For forty-five minutes, I timed it, this little guy ranted about how my Horror should have humor, and basically, be just like his stuff. I told him it was my sandbox, and I’ll play in it any way I want. I left so angry I couldn’t see straight. I tried again, another meeting, and was sucker punched. I was told I was uncooperative. That sandbox remark came back to haunt me.

I never went back, and didn’t bother to look for another writer’s group. I tried to start one of my own.

The first question I was asked? “Are you published?” The answer then was no, and my small group never showed up for a second meeting. The all wanted me to give them the secret. The Magic Formula.

I was on my own, no computer, no feedback other than my many rejection slips. Hell, I would have killed for “The Magic Formula!”

Online writer’s groups can be a bad or good thing. Ghost the posts for a while, see what’s what, then decide for yourself. A good group doesn’t meddle with content, understanding that this is your sandbox, and you’ll play in it however you want. They should concentrate on the mechanics of good writing. Style, not content. Style is grammar, punctuation or logical progression. Too much detail? Not enough detail? The mechanics of writing.

I’m very happy with my content, but want to know if I missed something.

“I can’t see where you’re going with this.” Of course you can’t, and you should know that yourself. Hell, if someone out there can tell where a novel is going in just three fucking chapters, I want to meet them and kiss their ass.

I try to limit my own comments on how they can make their own writing better. If the writing is great, but they misspelled a word, I let them know about the typo and tell them it’s great. So . . .

What is The Magic Formula?

To be truthful, there is no such thing.

The magic to all this is a matter of knowing just what the hell it is you’re doing, and why the hell you’re doing it. Knowledge is power. That’s the magic.

I hope you enjoyed my series. Now, go buy my books! Find out for yourself if I’m full of shit. I might surprise you with a great, provocative novel.

 

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Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

 

 

Guest Post: Terrance Foxxe ~ To Heck with It All: Part III

Welcome to another episode of To Heck with it All, featuring Terrance Foxxe. If you missed Part I or Part II, feel free to check out the links.

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Proofreading is tedious. Editing is hard.

Yes it is.

I used to write a story and be done with it. Well, doing it that way makes for a bad story.

Before I edit a story for the first time I let it rot in a drawer for as many months as I need to forget my story. When I pull my story out for the first time, I’m looking at it with new and fresh eyes.

The miracle that is new and fresh eyes! You have no idea how formidable on your ego it is to look at your own hard work with new and fresh eyes. Words that work jump out at you and inflates your pride. Linguistic bombs detonating in your face inflates your sense of stupidity.

I may repeat this process as often or as little as needed. Only I know when I’m done, and I’m done when each novel reads as good if not better than what you find coming out of the big six, mainstream publishing houses. 150% effort to be the best, 99.8% mistake free. A professional read.

You ever labor over a paper, getting everything perfect, set it down, come back to it, look down and see a typo you swear to God was not there an hour ago? It took a while, but I finally figured out what does that. Your brain. My brain, too.

How? Your eye takes in thousands of bits of information each and every second. Your brain processes the information into your reality, but there are always gaps in the information you receive. Your brain automatically fills in those gaps. It gives you continuity.

A wonderful gift, continuity. It keeps you sane. Unless you happen to be a writer. Then what your brain has been doing all of your life seems to work against you. Insidious, isn’t it?

Here’s a tip I’ll pass along to you, dear reader. You can break up the continuity your brain uses to give you that annoying typo when you least expect it. Yes, you too can learn to outsmart nature.

EDIT IN REVERSE!

Start with the last paragraph first. It works amazingly well. I find I can concentrate on individual sentences, every mark of punctuation, catch every typo and grammar gaffe. It takes practice.

Editing in reverse also gives you a very good idea when to kill them babies you suffered through. What I mean by this are sentences that read good when you were constructing the story, but now read poorly when you edit in reverse. Sentences or words that are stuck into your story like a pencil stuck into your eye. Delete them. In fact, if you have a three thousand word story, pretend your job is to cut three hundred words out of it. That’s story, minus ten percent. You’ll have a better story in your hands when you’re done. Even if all you managed to cut were a hundred words, you will have a better story.

When you proofread, you want every sentence constructed to say what you mean. Every comma and period in place. Every single word spelled right. The right word used (affect or effect) for the meaning you intend. That takes practice.

Knowledge and practice, that is. That again is where reading for fun and self-education comes in handy. Let other writer’s published works teach you writing that works.

Again, a good book on editing is: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Illustrations by George Booth. Subtitled: How To Edit Yourself Into Print. Harper Perennial.

 

 

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Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/
He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/