Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Self-Publishing and Quality

27 January 2014

Chuck Wendig has a great post out: Self-Publishing Is Not the Minor Leagues

I have to admit something: I’ve only ever submitted fiction to a semi-pro market once.

The letter I got wasn’t a rejection, it was more “You misread the guidelines, but if you do A, B, and C, I’ll publish it.” Though I don’t think the publisher figured out that I’d misread the guidelines. I wrote a near miss story despite that.

I withdrew the story, because what they wanted wasn’t the kind of story I wanted to write.

It’s a good thing I did withdraw, because the story happened to have an unfortunate trope in it, and now I can cringe at the Bad Trope in the drawer and not be embarrassed every time someone calls me out on it. Some day, I may pull the stuff I like out of that story and evict the Bad Trope.

In all other cases, I held my stories until I thought they could go to a pro market, and basically wasn’t going to go to semi-pro markets until I was selling more consistently to pro markets.

It really only was for the reason of wanting to avoid the obvious stupid mistakes. I figured I’d probably learn something by then, and there might be more pro markets–or at least some different editors at the same pro markets. I’ve avoided having a lot of stupid stuff published because I haven’t bothered digging down to the “Bazooka Cannibals in Space” tier of possibilities.

I’m at the stage of personal rejection letters, which is a nice place to be, but it hasn’t been translating into sales. That is likely more a function of my paucity of submissions.

On the other hand, because I am really selective about submissions, I can say that “A Sword Called Rhonda” sold both the first and second time I submitted it anywhere.

So you can imagine how I felt, given that I’ve just confessed to basically being an obsessive perfectionist, when I was at a NaNoWriMo meeting and someone said they wanted to self-publish their book because they “didn’t want to do all that extra work readying it for market.”

You’ll be very proud of me: I did not leap over the table at the pizza place with an editorial pen of my own devising.

Meanwhile, for a book I’m planning to come out with later in the year that’ll be both in paper and e-book form, I realized that Pages wasn’t going to cut it, and it was driving me crazy anyways. Pages does allow you to save to EPUB, but the book templates are really only designed for PDF books, and no one’s making ones for common trade sizes.

Which leaves InDesign, and I have forgotten so much about using production aspects of PageMaker/InDesign it’s not even funny. Back in the day when I worked at agencies in between contract programming gigs, I would frequently wind up at a specific ad agency doing page layout. I’ve always enjoyed it.

I’ve continued doing it over the years, but some of the advances in book publishing in InDesign were features I’d never learned. I’m not going to argue that it’s brain surgery, but it takes a non-zero amount of time to pick up.

There’s also a lot of frustration to it. Like, say you want a PDF version of your book. Your main book design has spreads so you can have odd/even pages (because odd/even headers are A Thing). By default, that means you can’t make an interactive PDF (with live links) that doesn’t have spreads.

Honestly, if you think editing your book is all that complicated, you shouldn’t be self-publishing. There’s a lot to it, and it’ll show if you don’t respect that–and I’m not just talking typos or grammar.

For the same reasons, I’m delaying production of a couple of other titles by a bit until I can finish up the conversion to InDesign. In one case, I got pretty close to final draft before realizing I was barking up the wrong toolchain.

So that will be fun.

On the other hand, I’ll have lots more experience with current multi-document production in InDesign, and that could come in handy.

One never knows.

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