Thursday, 7 March 2013

Don't publish crap

All publicity is good publicity, right?
Wrong.
Some publicity is bad publicity. And, what's worse, some authors bring it on themselves.

In the last couple of weeks I have seen several serioulsy ill-judged bits of self-promotion or exposure that must surely do more harm than good. I'm not going to name names, obviously, but here are things that really are best - and are very easily - avoided.

1. Don't put up badly written blog posts full of grammatical errors, spelling errors, and with no coherent thread. Especially don't put up posts about how you don't have any commissions, your career is failing, you have fallen out with your publisher (then dissing said publisher), you have no ideas or all your ideas are crap. A blog post is a public statement. Your publishers, potential future publishers, agent, readers, potential future readers and any enemies you have might all read it. There are several people whose books I will never buy because their blog posts are so badly written. No doubt there are publishers who won't work with authors because of what they have written on their blogs. *waves to the MD of a major publishing house who said to me "I'm not working with anyone who calls themselves Stroppy Author"*

2. Don't assume that every publisher has turned down your latest book because they can't afford to take a risk/don't have room in their list/can't see its brilliance. It might just not be very good. On the other hand, it might be good. But don't just shove it out on Kindle anyway, with a poorly designed cover, no editing or proofreading and no confirmation from anyone else that it is actually any good. There are people whose next book I won't consider buying because the book they self-published on Kindle is rubbish. No doubt there are publishers who won't consider their next book for the same reason, because you can be pretty sure that if you submit to a new publisher they will look on Amazon to see what you've self-published.

3. Don't put up a hideously amateur, home-made book trailer. You know the type. The author talks straight to camera, having apparently barely given a thought to what they are going to say (unless they scripted in all those ums and ers), their dog wanders across part way through, their phone rings, there is the buzz of a TV and children in the background, they hold up their book, talk about their 'writing journey' and maybe wave a plastic or furry prop or two. They don't edit out the mistakes. They don't even edit out the bit where they lean forwards, looming scarily out of the screen, to turn off the camera. There are books I will never buy because the trailer is so desperately off-putting. No doubt there are publishers... etc

Now, for the people who perversely like to read selectively and misinterpret everything to be provocative: I am not against blogging (dur). I am not against self-publishing good books as long as it's done properly. I am not against people making their own video trailers as long as they do it properly. And of course there is an element of taste. But I'm not talking about taste, I'm talking about quality. It's not a matter of taste if a blog post is full of grammatical errors or your trailer is all blurry (where it shouldn't be).

A bad blog post is worse than no blog post. Self-publishing a book that's bad or not ready is damaging to your career. A bad book trailer is worse than no book trailer. 
Act like a professional.

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13 comments:

  1. Self publishing has been suggested to me on a number of occasions - and the idea terrifies me. (It is bad enough 'publishing' the blog and I have probably written some bad blog posts. Nobody tells you these things. You surely have to try and do the best you can with a blog.) It seems to me though if you have genuine pride in your extended work then it is essential to do the job properly and that is surely expensive. I don't know much about it but I imagine good editing services etc do not come cheaply.

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  2. I agree with your post - I sometimes think I am the only person that punctuates and spell checks texts, but quality is at least in part a subjective judgement. I have in the past sent the same piece of writing to three different reviewers, all apparently reputable and none of them cheap. They all say different things, ranging from "it should be published" onwards. It is possible to spend a small fortune and still end up with what some people will call "crap".
    You have only to read book reviews to know that titles published by reputablehouses can elicit widely varied responses from writers who make their living in the trade.
    An alternative view, not one I entirely support, is that everything should be out there and the market can decide.
    To some extent the literary world is currently engaged in a vast experiment to find out which model works best. On the one hand you have Smashwords, Kindle and the like, promoting the free market approach, and on the other the traditional publishers promoting the "we know best" model. There is a third group, those who think authors are suckers and we can make a pile from them, who offer all sorts of inneffective help and vanity publishing. The third group are not really interested in selling books, or promoting reading, but they do muddy the water that the rest of us are trying to swim in.

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    1. From the moment I read - "I sometimes think I am the only person that punctuates and spell checks..." I knew I'd find a typo.

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  3. I have to confess there is at least one video out there of me leaning forward to turn off the recording, ;-) though how to avoid that bit I don't know. I was only reading from the book and didn't speak of my "writing journey" or whatever. My only book trailer was put together by one of my students and yes, it's amateur, but I was touched that she loved the book and wanted to promote it. It was created for a student book trailer competition my publishers ran each year, anyway. Looking at the winner from the previous year made me wonder if it had been made by a teenager at all. It was a mini film! And those in it weren't kids.

    You are right to say we need to be careful with what we put out there. It's like going for any other job, really - potential employers will not be impressed with Facebook pictures of you throwing up!

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    1. Sue, if you film yourself and don't have a remote control or delayed timer, you can't avoid recording the bit where you turn the camera off, but you have to edit it out! It's essential to use video-editing software to tidy up :-)

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  4. Terrific good sense! Hurray!

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  5. Quite right! I've skipped a few weeks on my blog this year because other writing commitments would have meant I would have done it grudgingly and half-heartedly - ie, not very well. I think it's bad publicity for authors to publish anything less than their best, and also quite insulting for their readers.

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  6. I am only a fledgling blogger and writer and I expect to make mistakes along the way, but tips like these, help to put things into perspective. Thank you

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  7. Everyone will forgive little mistakes, Ida. No publisher will turn you down because of a typo. But if someone consistently leaves mistakes in their work, or puts poor quality material out, that will damage their reputation.

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    1. I was probably a little hasty to criticise the typo...Ernest Hemingway is considered a brilliant writer and he shot himself in the head... we all make mistakes. I am doing the A-z blogging challenge to force myself to hone my craft, I can't afford any other type of education, it's not even available to me in the country I live in... I edit and re-read every post until I have practically memorised it, I have read badly written stories that are still good stories...and well written stories that are absolute crap.... There are millions of illiterate people that have a a story to tell... I agree with you and appreciate your tips - it was the arrogant "I think I am the only person that uses spell check" - that made me think the story is more important than the spelling, I knew I would find a typo for the same reason you responded to my comment -

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    2. That "I think..." was in one of the comments, wasn't it (rodgriff)? I think it's a point worth making that you are *still* writing in public when commenting on someone else's blog, but it's less likely to reflect on you as fewer people you know/work with and fewer of your readers will see it - especially if you are not using your full/real name.

      You're absolutely right that there can be awful stories well written and wonderful stories badly written. The second is easier to fix! Which country are you in, Ida, that there is nothing available to you? You can do a lot of development of your writing skills from books and online materials (but check the quality of the latter). You are very wise to check everything very carefully :-)

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  8. I am a new writer and try to write some books. in this time I've seen your book promote writing concept. I hope this writing concept and best friend essay helps me more to get more success in my writing career.

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