So most of us DIYers out here are trying to brand ourselves. We spend our time on Twitter and Facebook and message boards and whatnot trying to build an audience and a fanbase.

Then the midlist authors come along and digitize their backlists, and everybody’s happy because they already have a brand and they’re simply supplying a product that people want. Yay.

And then there are the midlist and higher-up authors who self-publish new stuff. That’s kind of an interesting experiment. I like watching it all play out even though, well, their brand trumps my brand and I have to work harder at establishing my brand.

Thus, it should make me happy when a very well-established author self-publishes something new and it’s crap. But it doesn’t make me happy. It makes me sad.

See, one big slip, and the reader suddenly suspects that you’re not a very good writer and that your editors made you who you are, and…you’re going to throw away years of investment in your brand and your work product  just because you want to cash in on a 99c romance novella heatwave or make money off your under-the-bed manuscripts?

You insult your readers. You insult your former editors. You make a mockery of your previous publishers. And you embarrass the hell out of yourself. Do you really not know how bad you look, or do you not care?

If your intent is to destroy the brand you worked for all these years because you just have to put up that novella right now because can’t wait because you’ll miss the self-publishing train if you don’t, then you are succeeding.

And you deserve it.

P.S. If you insist on going without an editor, learn how to fucking write. If you can’t do it after all these years and titles, you’re a fraud.

28 Comments

  1. I did have a reader email me once and said that she could have asked for a return but she won’t because she wants to keep the novella as a reminder to never buy the author again.

  2. Putting out shitty product tells me how little an author cares about his/her readers (and by product, I am referring to editing and formatting). I don’t give a crap if you are a luddite, you should know better. Do not engage with media and technology that you are ignorant of. Do some research or get some help. Pleading ignorance about the product you are selling just makes you look like an ass.

    It also says that their ego is such that they think they are a fabulous writer. Jeez,and how quickly we forget the example of Anne Rice.

    Everyone needs an editor. Everyone. Period. I need an editor. You need an editor. We are incapable of proofreading our own work because we are 1) too close to it and 2) our brain has an autocorrect and homophones can be tricky sons of bitches.

  3. I must admit it makes me resentful because it lets me know that all these years, the writer couldn’t write. Couldn’t then, can’t now. They should be on their knees kissing their editors’ toes and paying for their pedicures.

    If enough of these things happen, this trend will die out flaming because all the new work traditionally published authors put out on their own will be assumed to be crap. I should be happy about that, too, but I’m not.

    It’s the midlisters with a backlist who’ll survive and thrive.

  4. It’s like how my sister felt when the truth about Milli Vanilli was released.

  5. ROFLMAO! Milli Vanilli ROFLMAO!!!

  6. Girl, you know it’s true, oh, oh oh

  7. I’m pretty sad about some of these authors. I don’t want to think of them as arrogant and money grabbing but when the product they put out is really crappy, I’m not sure what I am to think.

    Wait, I do know what I think. I feel sorry for those trad published editors who have had to slog through all this to put out a somewhat polished product.

  8. I’m not sure if it says too much about their opinion of themselves, or how little they think of their readers.

  9. Wait, I do know what I think. I feel sorry for those trad published editors who have had to slog through all this to put out a somewhat polished product.

    Too bad those editors’ names weren’t in the book. Another case for editors to brand themselves.

  10. If your intent is to destroy the brand you worked for all these years because you just have to put up that novella right now because can’t wait because you’ll miss the self-publishing train if you don’t, then you are succeeding.

    Sorry, just wanted to copy that again. Because it should be read twice.

    Or a hundred times. Or a thousand.

    Take a deep breath, guys. The ebooks aren’t going anywhere. But the readers will be, if they can’t get through the typos and formatting errors to hate a story on its own merit. Cashing in by violating the trust people put in an author’s name just never ends well. Also? Not sustainable.

  11. I will not EVER understand the rush to throw up self-published work that’s poorly edited and formatted just because you CAN. There’s an awful lot of room for disagreement on what makes a “good” book when it comes to content and storytelling, but there’s none when it comes to typos, grammatical errors, and formatting.

    Sad, just sad.

  12. Sort of nonsequitor. My vintage Milli Vanilli t-shirt is one of my prized possessions.

  13. This does just make me sad. Really sad.

    I don’t want to go so far as to call people frauds–I know there are some authors who are dyslexic and I don’t want to be judgmental. I think that you can still be a fantastic writer even if you can’t spell for shit. But if you are dyslexic you probably know it by now, and that means if you’re going to self-publish you need to take double care to make sure things come out clean.

    I have this blog post stewing that’s labeled, in my head, as “Production is Promotion.” As in, readers are smart, and if you reward them on the production end of things, you’ll get promotion, and if you stiff them, you’ll get…antipromotion.

  14. “Too bad those editors’ names weren’t in the book. Another case for editors to brand themselves.”

    The problem with that is most editors work for a house, and the brand is the house, not the editor. I’ve been an in-house editor, and you don’t get credit for anything. It’s expected that you turn crap to gold;* if you didn’t you’d be out looking for another low-paying editorial job. An editor who takes credit for anything she did will be a former editor very quickly.

    Whoa, sorry. Let me brush off that chip. Anyway, editors are the least appreciated yet probably most vital player in the industry. I wish it were possible for a great editor to brand herself, but that’s not possible until she leaves a house and strikes out on her own as a freelancer.

    *Yes, I was actually told that it was my job to make the book work, even if I had to rewrite it myself. It was for nonfiction, but the same principle applies.

  15. Courtney, I totally get that. I have an aunt who was an English teacher for years and she couldn’t spell for shit and didn’t think it was important. She also couldn’t diagram (and I ended up in a 400-level diagramming course in college as part of my major).

    Anyhoo. MY point isn’t actually about the grammar or typos or formatting errors. MY point is actually about the architecture of the book, which was apparently flawed from beginning to end. And IMO, if you can’t get your own architecture right, you’re…a fraud.

  16. Whoa, sorry. Let me brush off that chip.

    LOL

    editors are the least appreciated yet probably most vital player in the industry

    After having tried to find one blind (I lucked out) and finding my current one quite by happenstance (another lucky break), I so agree.

    I wish it were possible for a great editor to brand herself, but that’s not possible until she leaves a house and strikes out on her own as a freelancer.

    So, question: Can you keep a list of books you edited for when you DO strike out on your own and then list them like…I dunno…resume items? (I don’t know, which is why I’m asking.)

  17. Harper Lee worked with a New York editor for two years on To Kill A Mockingbird. These days, that would get the editor co-author status. (Or should.)

    I’ve had concerns about the risk of writers self-publishing before they’ve learned how to write, but then I realize that some published writers got (or get) published before they learn how to write. Genre-du-jour, hooky opening, contest results, influential friends — I don’t know what goes into the mix when a book is rushed to the market before it should be. There’s one author I won’t buy for a long time because I believed the hype only to find the book riddled with the sorts of errors I’d just paid a writing coach to beat out of me.

    I can’t get too worked up about the formerly good author who now writes crap and self-publishes it. As with the debut author whose crap got published, burn me once and I’ll know to avoid your hot mess in the future.

  18. @MoJo: I created a list of previous projects for my own freelance editing website, http://www.belletrinsic.com (I promise I didn’t originally comment for self-promotion). I’m not sure how other editors handle it; that’s just what I decided to do and what seemed the most beneficial for me.

    Come to think of it, I believe some editors will send a list of previous clients/projects to people interested in their services. It’d be foolish not to mention previous work, since it’s the best way to show a potential customer what you can do, and it especially helps if they’ve read—and liked—those books.

  19. .

    The risk I’m noticing with becoming a branded editor within the realm of selfpublishing is I can charge someone a thousand dollars and do a bangup job only to have them ignore the bulk of my edits. Do I really want my name on that?

  20. I sample everything first no matter the price differential because poor writing and editing and poor formatting can be found everywhere.

  21. Th–charge them triple if tthey choose not to use your edits.

  22. “Th–charge them triple if tthey choose not to use your edits.”

    I would never agree to that, because I don’t know if someone’s any good as an editor. I’ve gotten sample edits from people that would make me run screaming.

    If you’re good, I suspect in the coming years you’ll have more than enough work to do. Authors share information. I have had SO many queries over the last three weeks about who I used to edit my work. I suspect that the people who I worked with who are good are going to get a ton of work–so much so that I almost selfishly want to not refer anyone to them.

    I think it’s more simple–if you’re good, eventually, you will get great (and repeat) clients, and you can pick and choose who you want to work with.

  23. “I’ve had concerns about the risk of writers self-publishing before they’ve learned how to write, but then I realize that some published writers got (or get) published before they learn how to write.”

    So true, Magdalen. I think this was especially true in the 60s, 70s and 80s because I find so many authors who got their break during those decades who say they simply sent their first manuscript off to an editor and the editor wanted it. I can’t believe it’s because these people were all extremely good writers–I believe it was because the competition to get published wasn’t as fierce back then. Of course, these same writers seem to think it should be just as easy for new writers to do what they did. And, if you’re not published, then it’s just because you didn’t work hard enough or write well enough. They don’t even know how condescending that sentiment is.

    Great post, Moriah!

  24. Thanks, Heidi.

    Question: How is it that after years of being heavily edited do you not learn how to write better than you did when you first started?

    My editor (Th. above) teaches me stuff all the time, even if he doesn’t know it. (Of course, this is aversion training because I don’t like getting smacked for the same thing twice.)

  25. So in thinking about the idea of not wanting your name on something you were paid to edit, but the edits weren’t taken:

    I think there should be some kind of mechanism where you can just say, “I reserve the right to have you take my name off it if you don’t follow my recommendations. You’re paying me to lend my name to this work, but if you won’t take my suggestions, then it’s not my work.” Or something less clunky.

  26. .

    Yeah, because obviously if I put my name on everything it touches, and half that stuff is crap, that hurts you as well.

  27. I’m all for editors branding themselves. I find editors often a very good clue or guide to what to expect from a book.

  28. Editors could have writers sign an NDA which requires them to get your permission before using your name to help them sell their book.

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