Publish or Peril

Publish before you’re ready and you put your entire career in peril.

From time to time, my mother will tell me, “Oh! Did you know So-and-so wrote a book?” and I’ll do a double-take because last I knew, So-and-so was a mechanic or undertaker or hairdresser. Not that these professions aren’t authors, but because the ability and drive to write a book doesn’t often come like a bolt out of the blue. Generally, people self-identify as writers for a long time. Other people are aware of someone’s drive to be published, their journey, upward progress, attempts to increase their skill level, to find mentors and training, maybe even put a degree under their belt. There are short story sales or the announcement of an agent, even the heartbreak of rejection letters.

There are road markers.

So a sudden announcement that “So-and-so wrote a book” is the equivalent of saying I popped out a baby without even bothering to get pregnant first.

Are you following me here? Okay…

Let’s go back to the role of big publishing. 

Traditionally, the big publishers have acted as gatekeepers. They’ve been the quality control keeping books that aren’t ready for publication out of the general pool for consumption.

Yes, the big publishers also acted as censors and tastemakers and a whole variety of other things including money-making machines that are incredibly biased in more ways than I can say here.

But the one thing they did do was hold the quality of final manuscripts to a certain standard. You know when you buy a book from Tor or Penguin that it will be well-written, edited, spell-checked, and at the end of the day, readable.

Self-publishing democratized our ability to put our words in front of the masses.

But if you’ve been in my courses for any length of time, you’ve heard me say over and over that I receive, read, and reject tens of thousands of stories.

Why do I reject them?

Is it because I don’t believe the author has value? That he doesn’t have anything valuable to say?

No. Not at all.

Quite often, it’s because the story is NOT READY FOR PUBLICATION.

The story suffers from fatal flaws. The plot is unresolved. I don’t care about the main characters. It’s poorly written. The grammar is atrocious. The sentences are so convoluted my eyes bleed.

These are stories that are rejected because they are not ready for publication.

Instead of being flash fiction, make these stories into novels.

I’ve even said in other courses that you should never ask friends and family members to be alpha-readers because they will tell you that all of your stories, even the terrible ones, are amazing. Splendid. Wonderful. I can’t even tell you how many emails I get saying, “my friends say this story was so good it made them cry.”

If you could see the look I’m giving you… honestly, that’s not why your friend complained. They probably cried because your story was that BAD. I know. I’ve been there. I’ve subjected friends and family to stories so BAD it makes me weep in hindsight to know I made them read it.

And they told me it was wonderful.

Now have the author say, “Anna doesn’t see my vision. My friends say this story is amazing. I will simply self-publish. I will sell a million copies.”

That is their right. But, the author is missing the point. I rejected their story because the QUALITY is not there. They CAN self-publish their story on Amazon. They might be able to convince a few friends to download the story. And their friends will, out of courtesy, download. But the general public will not.

Because the story itself isn’t good. It isn’t ready for publication. There is a reason that I, a professional publisher and editor, turned down the story. There is a reason that you, as an author, can’t spot the flaws in your story. And there’s a reason your friends and family members only tell you what you WANT to hear.

So I’m telling you what you don’t want to hear.

DO. NOT. PUBLISH. YOUR. BOOK. UNTIL. IT. IS. READY.

Until it is of equal or better quality to a book which would SELL to a big publisher or small indie press.

Because someday you will look back and you will regret releasing that manuscript into the wild. You will never be able to pull it back. To erase it from the internet. You might someday be a professionally selling author, and that mistake-ridden dreadful manuscript will come back to haunt you.

Don’t believe me?

Head over to Amazon and download ten free KDP books at random.

You might get a Frankenstein book — a computer generated mash-up of words with a semi-coherent opening page or two, just enough to trick the reader into purchasing it, but the rest is nothing but a scam. You might get a completely pirated work stolen from another author. Or you might get a book so poorly written that it sets your teeth on edge and you’re embarrassed for the author.

This isn’t to say they’re all dire. Most are mediocre. Some are fair. But almost 100% have an entire host of the problems I talk about in my courses.

There are entire INDUSTRIES that prey on authors so desperate to see their words in print that they don’t take the time to learn their craft, but instead, think they can jump over or around quality.

Don’t get me wrong. I love and support self-publishers.

I am a small press publisher.

But first, you must be a writer. You must hone your skill and your technique. Publishing is the last step in a long and arduous process.

Do not push PUBLISH until you are positive this is the book you want your name on for all time.

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