We're better than this June 15, 2011 3:10 PM   Subscribe

I clicked an ad on Metafilter, and I got this.

I don't know that this particular offer is sleaze, but i do know that most offers to self-publish are rip-offs, preying on the naive and hopeful. And I don't want my comments (self-publishable gems or not) acting as a conduit to suck people into this.

I've never understood why otherwise reputable cable channels accept obviously sleazy ads for penis-size-increasers or those outfits that will "help you patent your invention".

If Matt's in dire financial straits, I'll be happy to contribute cash, but selling Mefi's readers to companies that will almost certainly take advantage of them is too high a price, no matter what the return. And to whatever small extent my comments help bring in readers, it feels personally shameful.
posted by orthogonality to Etiquette/Policy at 3:10 PM (62 comments total)

I'm guessing from the url that this was a google adsense ad link in a thread, not something in rotation on the Deck thing in the upper right. The latter is a lot easier to control for since it's a curated list; with the Adsense stuff it's a totally who-knows situation where ads are placed automatically based on context, not something we go out and say "yeah, let's run with this and this and this".

If you see a skeezy ad and can let us know the details, I believe Matt or pb can put it on a blacklist so that it won't run on the site anymore, but unfortunately we're stuck dealing with the weird shit like that on a reactive basis because of the nature of Adsense.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:16 PM on June 15, 2011


Ick. I just told a friend that since he self-published a book, no lit agent will go near it. He had no idea.
posted by angrycat at 3:17 PM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Depends on the book, angrycat. Sure, for novels, but not the case across all genres... (and I say this as someone who has a. a very good agent at a fairly prestigious agency and b. self-publishing and small publishing experience).

All of the above said, yeah, banninate AuthorHouse. Oy.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:19 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's also very, very hard to convince book review editors to even look at a self-published book.

That said, you're not sure if this particular offer is sleaze, but you are sure it's personally shameful to you because it could be sleaze?

That framing doesn't strike you as a bit... weird?
posted by zarq at 3:20 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean, I get what you're trying to say, and I agree with it. It just seems as if by explaining you've managed to contradict yourself.
posted by zarq at 3:22 PM on June 15, 2011


I know nothing about AuthorHouse. What puts it in the sleaze category apart from other self-publishing services such as Lulu or MagCloud? The copy on the site doesn't seem particularly deceptive. We definitely blacklist ads that are scams or in horribly poor taste. It's not immediately clear to me that's the case here.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:24 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


That said, you're not sure if this particular offer is sleaze, but you are sure it's personally shameful to you because it could be sleaze?

It quacks like a duck. It's kinda like how I'm technically an agnostic, because there's always, technically, a chance.

There's always a chance that drinking piss might cure cancer, but I hope we don't advertise the piss-cure here. (Note: I'm not slagging the recent FPP about the piss-cure, just any hypothetical ads for it.)
posted by orthogonality at 3:25 PM on June 15, 2011


Anyone who's got "writing for fame" as a drop-down menu choice re: one's publishing goals which doesn't immediately shoot a giant fist through the screen the second you hit "submit" is just asking for it, if you ask me...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:27 PM on June 15, 2011


pb, you might want to read the Wikipedia entry for the parent company, Author Solutions: "In December 2009, writing in an article for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association of America, Harpercollins fantasy novelist Victoria Strauss criticized Author Solutions as a dishonest vanity press service, parading as a 'self publishing service' to distance itself from the social stigma of being an oldstyle vanity publisher and attempting to blur the definition between independent publisher and vanity press."
posted by orthogonality at 3:28 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got a rock :(
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:31 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


And they have an Affiliate Program?

Yeah, just like Knopf, only the other day the bag-boy at my grocery was telling me I should sign with Knopf so he'd get 10% as an "affiliate".

Totally legit, guys!
posted by orthogonality at 3:31 PM on June 15, 2011


Victoria Strauss is a legit source re: the bad guys. She pops up on writerbeware all the time.

(bittergirl, thanks for the info -- I'll be sure to tell my guy that I could be really wrong 'cause he's horror genre)
posted by angrycat at 3:35 PM on June 15, 2011


Matt has been pretty assertive about deleting ads from the MeFi rotation if they're sketchy. Provide some good documentation of sketchiness, and send email.

What about the self-publishing on ebooks? It seems to be working for a few people?
posted by theora55 at 3:37 PM on June 15, 2011


pb, in the old days, people who wanted to publish a limited "vanity" run of books could do so by going to a physical publishing house and getting a quote for a run of 1000 or more. It cost money, but the publishers were always upfront about what an author could expect. To wit, nothing. They publishing house wouldn't support the book with advertising or publicity. They *might* include it in their catalog.

However: self-published books don't make authors famous and they don't generally sell, because they haven't been vetted by an agent, a copy editor (or any other kind of editor to ensure the work is suitable for public consumption) and their release hasn't been structured around a campaign which promotes the book in any way to book stores or book review editors. These are all elements which are necessary if a book is going to succeed.

Fast forward to the last few years. A mythos has built up around "discovered" authors like J.K. Rowling. MagCloud and Lulu are the most popular online self-publishing houses. They've lowered the traditional barriers to self-publishing. You no longer have to do a limited run with a minimum of 500, 1000 or 2000 books. You can put up pdfs for sale through amazon. You can bind single copies at cost, to send to editors. You no longer have to pay big bucks to a publisher, or convince them of the worthiness of your book. Which is great. If you are fully aware that your book isn't going to ever become a mainstream success. Major book reviewers do not touch self-published books. Bloggers usually don't either. Getting them to even consider looking at one is a lot of work.

To the best of my knowledge, Lulu and MagCloud don't promise any sort of success to the author. They simply give the author the tools he or she needs to get a book out there, and try to sell it on their own.

The smaller online self-publishing houses don't usually work that way. They dangle the promise of fame and popularity in front of an author and tell them that if they can only get their book bound, they'll have the recognition they deserve. They may require minimum runs. They don't have the built-in infrastructure of a Lulu or Magcloud, which gives the author a little more control over how many books they print (so they're not going to waste) and whether their work will be distributed through a larger retailer, like Amazon.

With a publicist and/or an advertising budget, it is possible to use a service like Lulu to achieve some moderate success. But it's in no way guaranteed, because you, the author, are not going through the usual, accepted channels.
posted by zarq at 3:38 PM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Errr... this sentence:

They don't have the built-in infrastructure of a Lulu or Magcloud, which gives the author a little more control over how many books they print (so they're not going to waste) and whether their work will be distributed through a larger retailer, like Amazon.

Should read:

They don't have the built-in infrastructure of a Lulu or Magcloud, who give the author a little more control over how many books they print (so they're not going to waste) and whether their work will be distributed through a larger retailer, like Amazon.

Sorry.
posted by zarq at 3:39 PM on June 15, 2011


Totally legit, guys!

You understand that pb is asking because he doesn't know the specifics of this one random company on the internet or the context of the self-publishing tarpit, not because he's taking a stand for Our Awesome Randomly Selected Advertisers, right? I appreciate the sentiment behind this post and I don't think we're in any kind of disagreement about whether sketchy ads suck, but it is not clear to me whether you understand that we didn't go out and say "hey, these guys look legit, let's run ads by them". That's not how Adsense works.

Thank you and the other folks in here for doing some footwork on this specific case; it may indeed be something worth blocking if the feeling here is that it's an outright sketchy (vs. just sort of lame-o) entity. Like I said, if people let us know about a weird sketchy ad running on the site we can do something about it. We've done it before, I'm sure we'll need to do it again some time. It's the nature of Google's ad model that weird stuff pops up sometimes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:40 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


orthogonality: " It quacks like a duck. It's kinda like how I'm technically an agnostic, because there's always, technically, a chance."

OK. It just read very oddly to me. Again, totally not trying to rain on your parade -- we agree about the ad. :)
posted by zarq at 3:41 PM on June 15, 2011


Whatever. I just finished God's Perfect Scar and I loved it! LOVED it!

---

Maybe I shouldn't make fun of random self-pubd books. I do quite like the title "God's Perfect Scar" though.
posted by Think_Long at 3:42 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's always struck me as weird that self-publishing is cool for music and 'zines (and a lot of comic books), but not regular books.

Especially since many independent publishers are essentially set up so that whatever author is at the head of them can publish their own work without the hassle of big publishers. It's kinda like setting up a record label so that you can put out your own albums.

Is it because authors don't gig?
posted by klangklangston at 3:43 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've received tons of self published books from (financial service industry type) people I work with. I don't really see the problem? Sometimes books only appeal to >1,000 people and the company views it as highly targeted marketing. Am I missing something? All these places claim to do is proofread, copyedit, format for printing, and print limited runs.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:43 PM on June 15, 2011


that is kind of a cool title
posted by angrycat at 3:44 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


klang, the gospel I've received is thus: if you're a new writer, self-pubbing a novel gives you a permanent stink of loserdom.

I think that's quite lame-ass, by the by; also, since publishing is some chaos maybe this is changing since the last time I went agent-shopping, about a year ago.
posted by angrycat at 3:45 PM on June 15, 2011


2bucksplus: "I've received tons of self published books from (financial service industry type) people I work with. I don't really see the problem? Sometimes books only appeal to >1,000 people and the company views it as highly targeted marketing. Am I missing something? All these places claim to do is proofread, copyedit, format for printing, and print limited runs."

Self-publishing to a small, pre-determined, carefully targeted audience ≠ self-publishing for mass consumption. And most authors who self-publish fall into the latter, not the former category.
posted by zarq at 3:50 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


fwiw if i see the words "creative common license" i immediately think "irrelevant amateur garbage"
posted by nathancaswell at 3:50 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


because they haven't been vetted by an agent, a copy editor (or any other kind of editor to ensure the work is suitable for public consumption) --- this sentence sounds a lot like something the RIAA would say for their segment of their industry.
posted by crunchland at 3:52 PM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's always struck me as weird that self-publishing is cool for music and 'zines (and a lot of comic books), but not regular books.

I think the difference is that someone who self-publishes a 'zine or pressed 500 copies of their band's CD knows what they're getting into and they have some idea about distribution (sell CDs at gigs/ give out zines at coffeehouses).

Vanity presses, on the other hand, make it appear that the author is getting the full support of a real publishing house, which includes publicity and distribution, when in fact vanity presses do very little publicity or distribution, in part because everyone assumes self-published books are crap books.

Uncle Jack signs up for an over $5000 AuthorHouse package for his inspirational war stories, Uncle Jack assumes he's going to see his book in his local bookstore.
posted by orthogonality at 3:56 PM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


In Foucault's Pendulum, the self-publishing house worked like this:
(going from memory)
Author submits manuscript to actual honest-to-god publisher. The agent there will read the manuscript, or pretend to, realize it's trash, and give the author a call to set up a meeting -- "we're very excited about your book, we think it's just perfect, it's really radical!"

Once at the meeting, the author is buttered up some more. Then: "Again, we do love your book, but we think it may actually do better in our other publishing house, Blank Press. It's a bit more prestigious, a bit more intellectual, you understand, right?"

The rube author is then shuttled out the back door, up the stairs, to the office of Blank Press. Note that Blank Press is another branch of the same publishing company.

The author sits down with the agent from Blank Press and is again lauded. and then there's the but: " We would love to put it into production right away, but with the way our inventory is and the budgetary cycle, etc. etc., I'm afraid we will have to put it on hold for now. Unless .. ."

By this point the author has already told all of his friends and family that he had a meeting with a big publisher and a large book deal is in sight. He quickly offers to front the money for a small run of the books, with the agreement that the publishing company will pay him back and print a much larger run once the first set is sold out. Of course, the first set never sells, and usually doesn't even get sent to a bookshop.

By this point all the author cares about is getting his name on the cover of a bound book, not much else.
posted by Think_Long at 3:57 PM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I had a lady come into the library today and ask if we had a self-published book called Church-Folk Some Messed-Up-Folk: One Man's Journey from Faith to Faith.

We didn't.
posted by box at 4:02 PM on June 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


crunchland: "because they haven't been vetted by an agent, a copy editor (or any other kind of editor to ensure the work is suitable for public consumption) --- this sentence sounds a lot like something the RIAA would say for their segment of their industry."

It's similar to what any industry that produces consumer products does: they check with folks who have experience determining if a product is worth producing.

I have a cousin who reads author-submitted manuscripts for an agent. At least 3/4 of it is terrible, no-good, horribly-written garbage from people who should be banned from putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

Book reviewers who work for newspapers, magazines and larger blogs know the difference between a book that hasn't been properly edited and vetted and one that has. One is typically a waste of their time, the other isn't.
posted by zarq at 4:05 PM on June 15, 2011


I don't know... The guy in the ad looks pretty happy.
posted by Trurl at 4:08 PM on June 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's always struck me as weird that self-publishing is cool for music and 'zines (and a lot of comic books), but not regular books.

Doesn't make any sense, does it? There's also no concept of 'selling out' in fiction writing (AFAIK, maybe in some obscure poetry scenes you'd be shunned for making the Faber poetry list?).

Presumably the were different, historically, so you got Sniffin' Glue printed for a few quid, and the Desperate Bicycles printing "It Was Easy, It Was Cheap... Go and Do It!" on 7" sleeves, but no one could afford a vanity pressing of their groundbreaking punk novel.
posted by jack_mo at 4:09 PM on June 15, 2011


a self-published book called Church-Folk Some Messed-Up-Folk

Written by a guy wh consistently gives his name as "Dr. Louis Timm's", apostrophe included.
posted by orthogonality at 4:11 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Trurl: "I don't know... The guy in the ad looks pretty happy."

I believe you want the post down the hall, on your right. ;)
posted by zarq at 4:11 PM on June 15, 2011


Is there some way to specifically request ads for song-poem companies only?
posted by snofoam at 4:21 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's always struck me as weird that self-publishing is cool for music and 'zines (and a lot of comic books), but not regular books.

The first thing to understand -- and klang may very well understand it, but it's clear that some people here do not -- is that self-publishing is not the same thing as publishing through a vanity press. Publishing through a vanity press is a scam and must be avoided. Self-publishing is when you just get a printer to print some copies of your book. What you do with them once they're printed is up to you. That is not a scam; that is a business transaction. What you see is what you get. The printer prints what you give them, good or bad, and the rest is up to you.

How is this different from a band producing its own CD, or comics people publishing their own comics, or someone having the church-bell-sized balls to -- without anyone else's permission at all -- start their own blog? Well, it's not different. It's the same thing. Clearly.

However:

If I'm in a band, and I fucking suck, that's just, like, your opinion, man. I am, however horribly, playing this bass, and you are not. There's no denying it. If you want to back up how bad I suck, you have to pick up a bass of your own and show me. And if you think my comic sucks, you have to draw one of your own that's better. These things aren't impossible, but they aren't things most of us think we can just, like, do. Playing the bass doesn't automatically make you Geddy Lee, drawing a comic doesn't make you George Perez, but there's no question that the act of doing these things is its own proof that you can be defined as a person who does them...which is to say, as distinct from a person who does not do them. Bass-playing and comic book creation are relatively uncommon talents. Are you a totally shitty bass player? Sure. Not the question. Are you a bass player? Yes. Incontrovertibly. Yes.

Writers, as a rule, have a metric fuckton of insecurities...but one insecurity writers have that is almost unique amongst purveyors of the arts is the need for outside validation that one is the thing one claims to be at all. Because writing really is something anyone can do -- or at least it's something that most people think they can do. Most of us can doodle a stick figure or tap out a 4/4 beat with a spoon and a handy tabletop, but we don't think that means we're artists or drummers. We don't think we can even drum as well as Meg White. We probably can't! I couldn't. But most everybody thinks they could write some shit. Don't they do it every day? Shopping lists, emails, texts...are you seriously trying to tell me that my texts are less worthy of literary attention than Dan the fuck Brown? That one asshole got a book and a TV show from his goddamned twitter! And so on.

So: The need for validation. The ugly thing that makes a person say: You write things, but I am a writer, bitch. It's petty and stupid, but it's there only because -- other than have an outsider consent to pay you money to publish your work -- there's really nothing separating you from the great unwashed...scribblers of Twilight fanfic and timecube ranting and worse things yet. Wouldn't you want to separate yourself from that? I mean, you could just fearlessly decide that you were separate from that. But don't you feel like you need some proof? So there you have it. Insecurity. The end.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:29 PM on June 15, 2011 [26 favorites]


Major book reviewers do not touch self-published books.

Not even minor ones, in my experience. This is my job, so you can just about believe me.

I'm not "major" at all, but the organisation I work for certainly is.
posted by Wolof at 4:48 PM on June 15, 2011


Ick. I just told a friend that since he self-published a book, no lit agent will go near it. He had no idea.

Tell that to this guy. Vince Flynn self-published his first book after her was rejected too many times. He's also a master of self-promotion and a nice guy, but he's gone on to the big houses (publishers, not jail).
posted by cjorgensen at 4:51 PM on June 15, 2011


Self publishing is tame compared to this ad that I ran across today on the mobile site.
posted by Drama Penguin at 4:57 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is this adchoices stuff I see popping up on the mobile site? that little blue button (top of page is annoying when you are scrolling.
posted by Drama Penguin at 5:02 PM on June 15, 2011


My dad has put out two thrillers and one superspecialized how-to book through a print-on-demand publisher. His writers' group pals have done the same for whatever they're into. They all buy each other's books and write about them favorably on their blogs, and occasionally one of them will trigger the attention of another writers' group, whose members have published their own books, and then they all buy each other's books ... and so on.

He's quite happy to have this minimal level of fame and awareness as well as the aura of "published author."

I know two other people who have self-published their memoirs just for the warm glow of doing it. The local history angle (read about life on xxx Street in the 1940s!) pulls in a few extra readers; one of them even got a write-up in the local paper, which helped him get his book into a few branch libraries in the city.
posted by vickyverky at 5:06 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've received tons of self published books from (financial service industry type) people I work with. I don't really see the problem? Sometimes books only appeal to >1,000 people and the company views it as highly targeted marketing. Am I missing something? All these places claim to do is proofread, copyedit, format for printing, and print limited runs.

There's a significant distinction to be made here between self-publishing houses that are essentially print shops and those that are claiming to be real publishers that charge up-front fees to their authors. The former is a service provider, while the latter is a vanity press. Real self-publishing services don't claim to have literary editors, a review process in which they accept your work, worthless marketing services (we'll fax a cut-and-paste press release to the janitor of your local alt newspaper, who will use it to line his birdcage), have your book stocked in many local bookstores, etc... If you take your writing to Kinko's–er, FedEx Office–and ask them to print up some books for you, you have absolutely no reason to think that the copy shop knows who you are, cares about you, has read your book, intends to promote your book, or will do anything to sell your book. That's what self-publishing is, except services like Lulu will handle the sales and transaction legwork for you too if you want. Vanity presses are downright fraudulent because they profess to have an actual interest in your success and charge a lot for their services, while they don't actually give a darn about you or provide very much at all.

Yes, some folks make it with self-publishing and even using vanity presses. They tend to either be folks who self-published a small run of high-quality material sold at a high price to a super specialized crowd or people selling mass-market material who are wizards at promotion and marketing and/or get extremely lucky. The vast majority do not, and they lose a considerable amount of money if they pay large up-front fees to a vanity press.
posted by zachlipton at 5:19 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shit. I've totally been doing it wrong. I've been self-publishing to MetaFilter for years. SOMEBODY GET THIS PERMANENT STINK OF LOSERDOM OFF OF ME!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:25 PM on June 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've been thinking of self publishing for some time now.

I run a website where I write people or companies letters and post my letter with their replies. Since the letter from me would be exactly as sent and the reply would be a transcript I'm not really sure of the value of an editor. Since I am thinking of doing it myself I don't need an agent. I can do my own promotions (I'm friends with a few influential bloggers and some business folk). In fact I can't think of one thing I'd get from a traditional publishing house. Credibility I guess, but if you look at some of the crap they put out....

I've spent the last three months teaching myself the ins and outs of ePub, and I've done all the legwork/paperwork to become an Apple Content Provider. I'm going to start with a few smaller projects, and I think I have reasonable expectations, so I don't see a downside of going it alone.

I'm also in a fairly unique position. I work with editors and graphic designers and have a decade's experience in printing/publishing. So what seems pretty straight forward and fairly easy to me probably isn't. I am also probably being extremely naive.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:25 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shit. I've totally been doing it wrong. I've been self-publishing to MetaFilter for years. SOMEBODY GET THIS PERMANENT STINK OF LOSERDOM OFF OF ME!!!

Hi, how you doin'? *scootches closer*
posted by loquacious at 6:42 PM on June 15, 2011


I accept that sites I go to need advertising, and those ads aren't chosen by the site. This is on the very low end of dodgy ads.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:08 PM on June 15, 2011


I added "authorhouse.com" to our banned sites list. We had no idea it was being advertised or that they were kind of a lame company with a horrible past. Any time you spot an objectionable ad, just email us the link and we can add it to the filter.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:31 PM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks, Matt!
posted by orthogonality at 8:32 PM on June 15, 2011


I added "authorhouse.com" to our banned sites list. We had no idea it was being advertised or that they were kind of a lame company with a horrible past. Any time you spot an objectionable ad, just email us the link and we can add it to the filter.

Potential problem solved, but I guess I'll add what I was coming in here to say, in case other people find it useful in future -- if you have an Adsense account, it's pretty easy (at least in the new UI, I can't remember seeing it in the old one) to ban specific ads, advertisers, or ad networks in the admin backend. Just a matter of a few clicks, basically.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:54 PM on June 15, 2011






Damn do I love that Mefi people get a say in what's being advertised here. Honestly very very cool. Cheers Matt!
posted by litleozy at 2:09 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Disproportionate early GRAR not withstanding, this has been an incredibly educational thread, and a great reminder of what a solid place this is.
posted by SpiffyRob at 6:31 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The comparison with indie-produced music is very instructive. Here are a few points to consider:

1. If you're in an indie band, you already have collaborators who are going to help you refine and focus your work. They are the other musicians in the band. They are your editors.
2. Your band can practice their songs for hundreds of hours before cutting a demo or playing a gig. In writing, the "practice" part is all there is. As Klang says, there's no gig or session – just more "practice."
3. If an indie band/musician sucks, or just isn't your cup of tea, you can determine that pretty quickly - often within seconds. If a 120,000-word novel sucks, it may take you hours to realize it.

Professional editors are artists. A good editor is an irreplaceable part of producing good books.
posted by Mister_A at 9:33 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree SpiffyRob. Thanks everyone, especially zarq and orthogonality for taking the time to explain the context more. I had no idea there was a difference between these companies. Like cortex mentioned I wasn't trying to defend sleaze, I just didn't want to jump to blacklisting without more info.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:40 AM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


If a 120,000-word novel sucks, it may take you hours to realize it.

Really? I have a 30 page rule. If the first 30 pages suck I don't bother with the rest. Where this falls apart is with books like "Snow Crash" where the first 30 pages are all that are worth reading.

I think editors are needed, but I think people have a weird image of an editor where they are a gatekeeper. They cut stuff and ask for stuff to be rewritten before it's found acceptable enough to print. They correct grammar and spelling and suggest for ways to make things stronger. Is that fairly accurate to what people think?

In my mind with self-publishing you don't need someone to be the arbiter of acceptability. You've decided you're doing it. Like a garage band you don't care what other people think. You know it's good and don't need someone telling you it's not. So what about grammar and spelling? I'm going to maintain this isn't an editor's job. If you don't have this part of your craft down then you really should be packing it in. What's that leave? Incidental things like typos and inadvertent mistakes and that pesky cutting and rewriting. There's the value of an editor in my mind.

So you still need an editor. Crap. Now what do you do? You hire one. This way the final decisions are yours.

I think it's fairly easy to get sucked into scams though.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:01 AM on June 16, 2011


cjorgensen, just remember that your 30-page rule is likely being applied to works that have already been lovingly, painstakingly crafted by an author and an editor. Most published books are crap, but they are generally much better crap, at least from a technical and readability standpoint, than self-published books, which are the kind of crap that crap wipes off its feet, if you know what I mean.
posted by Mister_A at 10:19 AM on June 16, 2011


But in that case I doubt it'd take me more than minutes to realize it blows.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:57 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"In my mind with self-publishing you don't need someone to be the arbiter of acceptability. You've decided you're doing it. Like a garage band you don't care what other people think. You know it's good and don't need someone telling you it's not. So what about grammar and spelling? I'm going to maintain this isn't an editor's job. If you don't have this part of your craft down then you really should be packing it in. What's that leave? Incidental things like typos and inadvertent mistakes and that pesky cutting and rewriting. There's the value of an editor in my mind."

There are really two different kinds of editors, at least in magazines: There are copy editors who do the grunt work of making sure that clauses are consistent and that there aren't spelling or transposition errors. And then there are the broader editors who work with writers to craft the story.

Because editors are often striving to be relatively invisible, from the outside that second part often gets ignored and people think that editing is only catching typos. But from working with strong editors and weak editors, I can definitely tell you that a good editor makes a huge, huge difference in the end piece — they're the ones who tell you that your metaphors are weak, that your point is confused, that the outcomes you think you've shown aren't the only possible ones. They challenge you and refine your work in a way that you simply can't do yourself. The band metaphor is pretty apt — the writer is the frontman, but a good editor is like a strong bassist (or whole rhythm section), where they help craft the structure. But they very much have to be in sync and able to communicate to each other.

Certainly, there are some writers who don't need much editing. They can be a lot of fun to work with, especially because you can usually push them harder as an editor, even by just asking questions and giving feedback as a professionally articulate audience member. But from working at magazines, I've often been surprised at just how much actually gets changed while still retaining the byline for the author, and I think a lot of people don't realize how horrid some writers are at actually writing (they tend to be good at other things, like pithy phrases or world building or any number of other discrete skills).

If I were self-publishing, I'd very much want the best editor I could afford, because I know there's a lot of value in there, just speaking as a writer. But if I had a band, I'd want the best band members I could get too, y'know?

I can also understand how they're not as necessary for some projects — I'd probably want to consult with one if I were publishing your open letters stuff, but it probably wouldn't need more than a few hours worth of work. The advantage of a publishing house there would be purely in distribution.
posted by klangklangston at 11:17 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


My dad has put out two thrillers and one superspecialized how-to book through a print-on-demand publisher. His writers' group pals have done the same for whatever they're into. They all buy each other's books and write about them favorably on their blogs, and occasionally one of them will trigger the attention of another writers' group, whose members have published their own books, and then they all buy each other's books ... and so on.

Yeah, this. I know a lawyer who writes regionally-placed legal thrillers. He cranks out like 1-2 per year, and everybody who lives around here buys them, because they heard of him and they recognize the landmarks. He might could sell more if he hired an english major to proofread them at least, but actually he's doing about as well as he wants to do. He's that guy, who does legal aid and writes the cool books.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:57 PM on June 16, 2011


I just saw an AOL ad, should I start a MeTa?
posted by nathancaswell at 8:48 AM on June 17, 2011


The Deck runs ads for AOL HR.

Having known editors over there who were recently fired during the HuffPost merger, all I can say to anyone thinking of a career with them is, "DON'T GO INTO THE LIGHT."
posted by zarq at 8:50 AM on June 17, 2011


I just saw an AOL ad, should I start a MeTa?

Generally speaking, in case anyone's still reading, if this isn't something that needs community consensus, feel free to drop us an email if you see an ad that you think is offensive. It's quicker and easier for us to deal with, though I think this discussion was useful for looking at vanity vs self publishing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:22 AM on June 17, 2011


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