Welcome to Book Blogging 101, a weekly feature on Parajunkee’s View that answers your questions and strives to share great book blogging tips and some helpful hints to help you on your way. This week we are starting a new added bonus to the book blogging 101 feature. This is going to be an ASK AUTHOR EDITION. Today we are talking with author, Sherry Soule about Indie / Self-Published authors.

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Based on last week’s BB101 post, a few things have come up that I would like to open a discussion about. Most of it involving self-published authors and that stereotype that hangs over their heads. I explained my reasoning for at a point not accepting self-published novels, but now in my career I have a lot of good friends and clients that have self-published, so I feel like a bit judgmental for doing that.

So, to combat that, I’ve invited the fabulous Sherry Soule, to the blog to answer some questions for us. You might know Sherry, or at least heard of her young adult series. I think she might explain a bit about how self-published authors feel about a particular stereotype that is the elephant in the room.

Sherry Soule: When Rachel (a book blogger that I consider as someone who sincerely loves to help and promote authors) approached me about participating in this discussion, I was glad to do it. Why? Because I support Indie authors. I love helping them promote their work. I wish most of them every success.

Self-publishing has become such a negative term over the last five years or so. Poorly written, published novels evoked stereotypes of amateur writers, whose novels were distributed at the cost of shoddy production value. While this is true in some cases, it is NOT true in all. Challenging the stereotype that all books published by Indie authors are crap and unprofessional, albeit the varying quality of work that is being self-published, some authors are producing high-quality stories.

PJ: How does it make you feel that some book bloggers stereotype self-published authors?

Beautifully Broken by Sherry Soule, Young Adult Paranormal Romance
SS: Well, some Indie authors won’t like my answer; nevertheless I think self-published authors gave themselves a bad rap.

Now please allow me to explain, obviously some, not all, didn’t have their work professionally edited, or used critique partners, or even beta readers before publishing their work. If the novel is riddled with grammar, punctuation, and structure issues, it pulls the reader out of the story and then the focus remains on those obvious errors. Hence, the bad rap.

And I get it—some writers can’t afford to hire an editor, which doesn’t mean the book doesn’t have potential. Nor do they bother to create, or hire an artist to design a professional looking book cover, or a text formatter. One of the biggest mistakes some writers make is to take the appearance of their books for granted. Self-published authors often design the covers themselves, lacking the knowledge for creating an attractive, professional looking cover and/or interior layout that produces a high quality product for the potential reader.

In fact, these issues have done other self-publishing writers a disservice. They have helped perpetuate the myth that indie writing is shoddy.

PJ: Do you think the self-publishing stereotypes are founded in reality?

SS: Yes and no. Self-published authors have long tolerated the stigma of contempt from the world of book reviewers, because of the things I mentioned above. Although this stereotype has somewhat eroded in recent years, with people starting to sit up and take notice of the superiority of work produced by many self-published authors, these preconceptions unfortunately still abound within the book blogging community.

However, there have also been some great writers discovered by book bloggers, authors that normally might have been overlooked by the public.

Before John Grisham became a famous novelist whose works have been read by millions, he struggled to get publishers interested in a book called “A Time to Kill” which he initially self-published, and the initial “Chicken Soup for the Soul” novels were self-published. Even the infamous Indie author, Amanda Hocking started out as a self-published writer. The paranormal romance author wrote 17 novels in her spare time, and began self-publishing them in April 2010. By early 2011, Ms. Hocking had sold over a million copies of nine of her books.

So, remember there “are” many well-written books to be found and cherished in the Indie publishing world, if you are willing to weed through the muck. I also feel there are a lot of shoddy books published by the traditional publishing industry too.

PJ: If you do think there is truth behind some stereotypes, how have you tried to overcome them in your own work?

SS: There is some basis of truth to the label. As I stated in my answer to the first question, a number of self-published authors gave bloggers the rope in which to hang themselves by not publishing a quality product.

However, as a former book reviewer, I also think some bloggers are unduly harsh even to traditionally published authors in their reviews—what some consider author bashing. I think there are a lot of inexperienced or amateurish bloggers that don’t understand what an ARC is either.

Just in case you are unfamiliar with what the term ARC, it refers to an Advance Uncorrected Proof of a novel. As a marketing tool, publishers and Indie authors provide free copies of a book to bloggers and book reviewers. These are often referred to as an advance copy, an advance reading copy, or ARC. It’s a form of the book privately released before the manuscript is printed for mass distribution. Usually, before a novel is published, review copies are given to reviewers in a very limited distribution so that any overlooked errors, typos, redundancy, and grammar goofs can be caught and corrected “before” further publication proceeds.

I made the mistake of sending out ARCs too early. I sent out review copies prior to the book’s release date, the novel hadn’t been thoroughly edited yet, and I received a scolding review. (I will not make that mistake again.) HOWEVER, I did not respond in an unprofessional manner. I still thanked the reviewer for their time. Were my feelings hurt? You betcha. But if you’re going to put yourself “out there” you’d better develop tough skin.

Now.

I personally do not abide author bashing OR reviewer bashing. Be professional—people!
Wait—what was the question? Oh yes, how did I overcome it? By publishing the best novel I could. 😉

PJ: Do you believe the view of self-publishing has changed in the last year?

SS: YES. But overcoming the stereotype some bloggers still have about self-published books is one of the biggest challenges for Indie authors. Even with the success of self-published authors like Amanda Hocking and L. J. Sellers, the stereotype is tough to dispute, but…guess what, folks: That is slowly changing.

PJ: What advice can you give to other self-published authors that might also be trying to break through the stereotypical mold?

SS:

  • Produce quality work
  • Have your novel professionally edited
  • Read your work aloud. This means the ENTIRE novel.
  • Have it reviewed by unbiased readers and get a critique partner or two.
  • Hire a professional cover designer and text formatter

For someone going the self-publishing route all of these things are important when presenting your work to the public. The few writers that don’t bother or care about appearing professional hurt the chances of other Indie authors, which do care enough to produce professional, quality novels. Smart writers read books on improving the craft, take writing courses, speak to published authors, and go to conferences and talk to agents and editors, and learn how to improve as a writer. Until self-published author take his or her time to create a professional book that is formatted and edited well, then the stereotype is gonna stick.

Does this mean that your work will be perfect? No. Although you’ll be a hell of a lot closer to perfection than others, thus avoiding a bad review and gaining a wider audience for your book. I had my novel edited by three different editors and it still needed some tweaks, but the finished product was in great shape. (But the scolding review did help me to make some necessary changes to the storyline, which improved the narrative before publication.)
My point is this, if you “do” decide to self-publish, please make sure your novel is in the best shape possible—don’t give reviewers or readers a reason to stereotype us!

PJ: How do you approach potential reviewers to consider your work?

SS: I always check a book reviewer’s policy first, and then I send a polite, professional email request. I did have one reviewer tell me that normally they do not accept Indie authors for review, but after reading the excerpt and the synopsis, they offered to read my novel. And to my delight, the reviewer loved it!

And it doesn’t bother me if a reviewer doesn’t accept indie novels for review—because they are the ones that might be missing out on reading some terrific books.

PJ: How has the self-published journey been for you? Is there anything you would do differently?

SS: It has been a vast learning experience. Sure, I made some mistakes starting out. I learned from them and moved on. There isn’t really anything I would do differently—I knew that I needed to make sure that my book was in the best shape possible before publishing it. I sincerely didn’t want to publish something that was considered lousy and add to the stereotype that Indie authors are slapdash and not worth considering. Because we’re not!

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No, I don’t think that Indie or Self-Published authors are all slapdash (I like that word!) or not worth considering, just I guess with the easy of self-publishing lately there have seemed to be a flood of poor quality books out on the market, which if a blogger wades through a few of them will give Indies a bad name. But, based on authors like Sherry Soule, and Amanda Hockings, should we rethink our policies? No one likes to be the victim of a stereotype. Are we being just downright snobby by putting that we don’t accept self-published authors? What is your take on this whole situation.

XO – Happy Thursday, Talk Less, Read More.

For more information on Sherry Soule:

SS BIO:Indie author, Sherry Soule is a writer blessed with a vivid imagination and lives in San Francisco, California. She writes supernatural tales of romance, magick, and demon slaying. Her debut novel, Beautifully Broken was published August 2011 and is nominated for best paranormal romance (Wizard and Witch 2011) by The Romance Reviews (TRR).Where you can find Sherry Soule online:
Official website: http://sherrysoule.com/
Blog: http://sherrysoule.blogspot.com/

Ask Author Feature:

For authors interested in participating, please email me at parajunkee at gmail.com, please only seriously interested authors that wish to drop some knowledge, not just promote their book.

Bloggers, if you want to submit a question for an author that will be on the feature, just use the form below, preface it with #ASKAUTHOR: Then your question

I can’t get to all the questions, but please ask your BB101 Questions here…bring it on.