The Honorable Miss J. Grace Pennington, the Self-Publishing Ambassador

(And yes, I had to Google the proper way to address an ambassador. I’m not as cultured as I like to think.)

We are all ambassadors. Every single one of us. At the most basic level, we represent ourselves. How we dress, act, speak, and carry ourselves tells other people what to think of us. Right now, somebody reading this is thinking “Don’t judge by outward appearances,” or some such thing. But notice that I didn’t say it tells them what they should think of us. It’s just all they have to go on when they see us, so it automatically informs them as to what they will think. That’s just how it works.

Beyond that, we are ambassadors for our families. Again, whether they should or not, people look at us and make judgments about how we were raised. We are ambassadors for our country, telling people what to think about where we live. You’re an ambassador for your religion, the college you went to, the company you work for, the neighborhood you live in, the brands you wear, the car you drive, your interests, likes, hobbies, favorite TV shows, mental and emotional disorders, even your favorite dessert. People will look at you and think, “Ah, that’s what people who do/are/drive/eat/wear XYZ are like.”

That’s just how the world works.

Don’t think about it too hard, or your head will explode.

The past several days, I’ve been contacting various book review bloggers and websites in a quest for reviewers for my latest book, Implant (yes, this is relevant). The first thing I look at is whether there are any posts from within the past six months or so. If so, I track down their review policy. If that information is readily available, I scan it to see whether it’s a good fit.

Most of the time it’s not. Because at least 85% of them do not accept self-published or indie books.

Being a self-published author, this is extremely frustrating. But the sad thing is, I honestly can’t really blame them.

As someone who has their finger on the pulse of the self-publishing community, I see more than my share of such books advertised, and I don’t want to touch the vast majority of them with a ten-foot pole. The cover design is usually terrible. The writing is unpolished at best. The plots are, quite frankly, boring and have more cliches than a bad motivational speech.

In short, most self-published authors are very bad ambassadors. And what does it say about a group when most of its representatives aren’t favorable?

Yeah. If I were a book blogger, I probably wouldn’t accept self-published works, either.

As someone who is working to help remove the stigma against self-publishing, this is very discouraging. And as an official ambassador of this community, I plead with you, writers–stop publishing bad books. I don’t really know how to say it more gently. I’m not asking for perfect or even exceptional books (that would be hypocritical of me since my own writing still has far to go!) but ask yourself these questions before you take advantage of modern technology to release your magnum opus into the world:

Is this as good as it could be?

Have I gotten honest, constructive feedback from readers? And have I listened to and carefully weighed their advice?

Is this something I would want to read?

Have I and/or others gone over it with a fine-toothed comb to eliminate most or all of the mistakes?

Are the interior and exterior designs professional enough that they would hold their own in a bookstore against an array of traditionally-published books?

If the answer to any of these is “no”–maybe you should postpone your release date. Take some extra time. Maybe spend some money. Be willing to do the extra work. And be willing to say, painful as it is, “This is just not good enough to be published” if that’s the honest truth.

I’m not trying to kill anybody’s dream. But putting out books that just reinforce the popular idea of lousy self-published stories isn’t helping any of us. It doesn’t just hurt you–it hurts all self-published authors. As much as we may wish it so, we don’t only represent ourselves.

Be professional. Work hard. Do your very best. Represent the movement well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *