When Is a Book Ready to be Self Published?

I need your help. I’m confused. Bemused. Befuddled.

I. Just. Don’t. Under. Stand.

(Note to Mark: Not a typo; I separated the single word, “understand,” for effect.)

First, some background info:

I’ve done a lot of work in preparation for self publishing Power of the Mages. I’ve:

• Set a goal of what I want the book to accomplish – Not as much in terms of what the book will bring me as far as money goes but what I want the writing to achieve. I want to immerse my reader and evoke an emotional response.
• Studied writing – I think I know, from a theoretical standpoint at least, what it takes to achieve my goal.
• Taken steps to make sure I’m achieving my goal – I’ve sought feedback from sources that I trust.

Most of all, I continually re-evaluate if the book is ready.

I have an aggressive timeline ahead of me. I’m going to read the 3rd draft in early May, jot down notes, collect beta reader comments, and incorporate all relevant suggestions. By May 8, I want my 4th draft to be in the hands of my editor.

Once I get his analysis, my schedule stays tight — six weeks to get to the finished stage in order to release on August 1.

If I can’t meet that goal or the editor tells me the book needs a lot more work, I’ll push my deadline.

I feel two competing interests warring inside me:

1. The book will never be perfect. I could spend the rest of my life working on it, and, on my deathbed, I’d find something that could be tweaked. At some point, I just have to send it out there and accept that my next book will be better because my skill will be better.
2. If the book isn’t good enough, it does nothing for me. My marketing plan relies on the book compelling readers to recommend it to others. If it’s not at that level, publishing it is pointless.

There are tough decisions to make in my future, and thoughts of that process have me thinking a lot about when and why a book should be self published.

Here’s what I do understand:

Situation 1

An author studies the craft, creates an incredible book, and self publishes it. This situation is the one I want for me. I also want to find these books so that I can recommend them to others.

Situation 2

The author is delusional. Let’s face it, there are many people out there who just don’t get it. They think their book has merit simply because they put in the hard work of writing it. You can usually tell in the first couple of paragraphs that they don’t understand how to construct a simple declarative sentence, much less convey a story. Telling them what they did wrong is pointless; they lack too much basic understanding. While I don’t desire to encounter these books, I, at least, understand what drives the publishing of them. My response is to roll my eyes and move on.

Situation 3

Though the technique and writing may be spotty and editing close to non-existent, there’s something about the story that appeals to the audience. A reader of romance may not care much about story and style as long as the emotional punch is delivered. An action fan might not care about the plot plausibility as long as their pulse is kept pounding. A writer of this type of work has discovered that it’s more profitable to produce the next book than it is to tweak the first one to death. I respect and understand that decision.

Here’s what completely baffles me:

I’m reading a book right now that fits into a fourth situation, and I just don’t understand the concept. If it were an isolated case, I’d simply shrug my shoulders. However, I’ve encountered it many times.

Situation 4

An author is talented enough to create compelling story elements but the work — both from a storytelling and technique standpoint — is unpolished.

The book doesn’t fit Situation 1. It’s not good enough that I can recommend it to others. It feels like a decent second draft.

The book doesn’t fit Situation 2. The author has some skill. He’s not so delusional that he obviously has no idea what makes a book good.

The book doesn’t fit Situation 3. There’s no strong core to the book that’s going to produce an audience.

Simply put, it feels like the author put in a lot of work; got tired before getting to the finish line; said, “Screw it, good enough;” and hit “Publish.”

Don’t let that be you. If you’re that close, please take it the rest of the way. I know it’s a hard road, but making it to the end will be so much more rewarding than collapsing onto the curb.

Push on, writer. Push on.


4 thoughts on “When Is a Book Ready to be Self Published?

  1. Oh, okay, I get it. I prob ably wouldn’t have under stood with out that explan ation. It’s not like it was obvious or any thing….


  2. PS. I have a book like the last one you describe. I won’t say what it is, or even admit that I wrote it, but I ate half my leg doing it. I’ve learned enough from that mistake to think twice about jumping the gun again. I just hope I don’t go to the grave with as many unfinished works as I have now. Three fewer would be excellent.

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