Sunday, 13 May 2012

From vanity to pride

This post first appeared on the Have Your Say section of (a great site for competitions and writing resources).

George Orwell said All writers are vain, selfish and lazy. The ebook revolution panders to these vices. Anyone can call themselves an author, throw a bit of a story together as an ebook and plaster their name, title and homemade cover across the internet within a day or two.

Want your pulp fiction made available in the old fashioned way? Run that manuscript through one of the many print-on-demand (POD) platforms and your paperback will be sitting on Amazonian virtual shelves before you can properly pronounce the name of a Welsh 19th century publicity stunt (Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch).

It's the ebook revolution, haven't you heard? Blog posts have swarmed globally about the predicted demise of traditional publishing due to the epublishing revolution but spare a moment to pity some poor souls who are really down in the dumps; vanity publishers. They who used to graciously take a few thousand quid from the hands of frustrated writers (vain, selfish and lazy Orwellians) who couldn't get past mainstream publishing's gatekeepers. Said unfortunate writers then carting piles of books around in the boot of an Austin Maxi and foisting those dubious creations upon members of the over-eighties walking club and other captive audiences at a tenner a throw. That time has gone. POD and ebook digital technologies now satisfy the vain, selfish and lazy without filling their dining room with fifty cardboard boxes of vanity. RIP vanity publishers. And good for the environment.

Just a minute. Are you an independent author and proud of it? If so, your hackles are probably raised by now. Independent authors are vanity fodder? No, these sweeping accusations of poorly presented, terribly titled and hopelessly unedited work don't apply to you. That's because you have a cover designed to rival the top 100 ebooks on the 'Zon. It shouts out to browsing readers and visually summarises the premise of your novel. Your product description blurb is the ultimate précis, memorable and relevant to its genre, converting passersby into readers. As for the manuscript itself, there's hardly a hint of word echo, your narrative voice is clear, dialogue resonates through the air and the whole thing is wrapped up in a well-paced plot so tight that, were it an arse, you would just have to smack it. Your digital manuscript appears on all reading devices exactly how you intended. You know that because you've checked (and avoided words like the famous Welsh train station). Grammar and spelling are impeccable. You're just one of several people that have proofread the thing before moving your fastidious document control to final. This novel of yours is as good as it can get. Or is it?

Did you put on the blinkers when some of your peers groaned as they trudged through your porridge of a blurb? Were you able to extract genuine opinion from test readers about your cover or did you take their damning faint praise as something more? Have you dressed your pride and joy in beige? Has your editing discipline been the best or have you really settled for good enough and can't face reading the thing through again for the umpteenth time?

According to the marketing crowd an independent author should be self-assured and assertive, fearless even. A kind of literary warrior. Before you climb up on your war horse to engage with the market, let your natural humility have rein for a few moments and consider this; your independent novel might not be as shiny as it could. Cover, blurb, content. Best efforts, please. You've invested a chunk of your life in writing this thing and you owe it to yourself not to eat the cow and choke on the tail. Stand above the noise of opportunistic amateurs and turn vanity into pride.

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1 comment:

  1. Vain? Possibly as a component of the requisite confidence. Selfish? Probably. Lazy? Not on your life! Lazy writers don't sell books whether they have a publishing contract or not!