The Problem with POD

Writing is something most of us can do and many of us want to. The problem is that just knowing how to put words on paper (or on screen) isn't the same as knowing how to write in a literary or narrative sense. The advent of Print on Demand (POD) publishing, made possible by the digital revolution for economical printing and online book selling via the Internet has made publishing one's work (the reason we write, after all) easy and cheap to do. That has a very positive effect by freeing us from the tyranny of others (editors, agents, publishers). But it's also negative in this sense: It makes publishing too easy.

Most of us need help in the form of editorial support, manuscript preparation, layout and design and book packaging. All but the first are easy to obtain with the support of the POD companies for a price. And even editing can be had this way though most of us who write fancy we are good at it, good enough to edit ourselves or at least to know better about what we are trying to say than some third party or an editor (whether hired by us or provided by a commercial publisher). The issue though is that without the independent vetting which agents and publishers provide under the old system many of us may delude ourselves and publish work that's not ready for prime time.

Personally, I have always felt I could write better than most (though not as well as the best I suppose) and have, consequently, dismissed any need for editors . . . or for anyone else for that matter to judge or correct my work. I once thought I was a pretty good proofer, too, and maybe I am but, of late, I've discovered that I'm not as good as I thought. Maybe it's my age because I'm not as sharp as I was. But whatever the cause, I have discovered belatedly how important proofing by others can be (though for my new book I have found no one to do it and so have had to agonize through multiple proofs to get my new one right). As with proofing, editing and writing help in general can also be important and many of us should not dismiss the idea lightly.

I recently saw someone's proposed written material and was taken aback by its near incoherence. Good writing is absolutely essential to success (though literary merit need not be defined in terms of the greatest authors or the classics, of course, because successful writers come in many stripes) but I fear that POD, despite its having come into its own in recent years (when I started it was still looked down on as mere vanity publishing), remains at risk just because it makes self-publishing so easy. Every writer who self-publishes without adequate help to get his or her material right causes harm to the rest of us who have chosen to use POD to make our dreams of "being a writer" come true by sullying the reputation of the method.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to set up a forum here for would-be self-published writers to vet their material through their colleagues at Lulu, if only to help keep the reputation of POD publishing itself on a higher level?

     
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Comments

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    I would only take issue with your dismissal of editors. An author can have no better friend than the professional editors provided by traditional publishers.  This is the reason you see so many successful authors thanking their editors. They have good reason to. 

    Contrary to what you will often hear in these forums, editors neither impose their opinions on an author nor do they ever rewrite so much as a single word. Their goal is the same as the author’s: to make the book the best it can possibly be. They will suggest changes but it is up to the author to implement them. And the author can make a change exactly as the editor suggests, may find an entirely different way to achieve the same end or the author may choose to ignore the suggestion entirely. But no intelligent author chooses the latter course lightly. In any case, the editor works with the author, they do not give an author orders. If the author and editor do not agree on something, it is discussed and some way found around the difficulty or some way to compromise. The thing the author has to always keep in mind is that their editor is a professional with many years of experience doing what they do, which is making books as good as they can be and making them saleable. Two goals hard to argue with.

    it is my strongly held belief that no author, however experienced, can effectively edit their own work. No one can be that objective.

    Bear in mind that I am talking about the job of editing, not copy editing. The former concerns itself with the content and form of a book, the latter with spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. And just as in the case with changes suggested by an editor, errors found by a copy editor are only indicated, it is the author’s job to make the fixes. No one, at least at a professional traditional publisher, ever touches so much as word in an author’s work.

    I have had more than 40 books published traditionally and have worked with many editors, and have had nothing but the best possible experiences and nothing but the greatest respect for the contribution they made.
  • Interesting. I just responded to you Ron Miller but for some reason the connection to this discussion was lost when I went in to do another edit. Not sure why there is this strange glitch here on Lulu's website but it's not the first one I've encountered. I will try to post this comment now and see what happens.
  • Okay, now it's working so I will repost the comment that was lost (since this time I thought ahead enough to copy it):

    I actually agree with your assessment of the value of editors. I was not, apparently, as clear as I should have been in what I wrote above. Good editors are very valuable to an author. But in the POD world the author must commission the editor him or herself and pay from his or her own pocket. Moreover, there is a lot of difference in quality between people who work as editors. For instance in my current book, the philosophical book I mentioned nearby, it wouldn't do for just any run of the mill editor to do the job (and I'm speaking of real editing here, not copy editing as well). A philosophical work demands a philosophical reader with a good sense and feel for what the author is saying because so much depends on the right word usage (especially in the Anglo-American analytic tradition but not exclusively to that). More, most editors who have no familiarity with philosophy would be unsure where to make changes and where to leave things as they are, what to call to the author's attention and what doesn't warrant that.

    One of the problems I've been having with my new one, Value and Representation, is that I have done several proofs and haven't been happy with any, not just because of layout problems or typos or cover design but because, while looking the proofs over for these, I keep finding text where I could have said what I wanted to say better and in fixing that I find I must fix other things. Needless to say, given its subject matter, I want the book to be right! I am now awaiting my third Lulu proof after having done about eight proofs through Amazon. I feel like I'm getting there but so far, no cigar, as they say!

    I also had a pretty bad experience back around the early 2000s with an historical novel I had self-published using Xlibris. The book actually found an audience (sold about 1300 copies, mostly through amazon, and earned back more than four times what I'd paid Xlibris to produce it so I was happy with that). A small start-up publisher trying to parlay the digital revolution of POD contacted me and offered to publish it under his imprint with the proviso that I pull the Xlibris edition. I accepted but when the owner/editor began preparing the manuscript for publication he informed me he wanted to make certain changes to make the book more accessible to modern readers. I demurred because the point of it was to evoke the old 19th century English translations of the Norse sagas and so, of course, it was written in that kind  of voice, with that diction and those conventions. Nevertheless he prevailed upon me to let him do the changes which he would then show me. But after roughly the first fifty pages he informed me that he was getting into the book and no longer felt a need to modernize the language. But he asked me to let stand the first fifty pages with his changes as a means of enabling readers to get into the book.

    I was still so flattered that they wanted my book that I agreed. But when I saw the final result and started reading it I was appalled. Not only was there a sharp break in tone and style between what he had worked on and what he had left alone but I felt what he had done was just wrong for the book itself. I cancelled my arrangement with him and decided to let the original Xlibris edition stand and it has been available on amazon ever since although it doesn't sell much anymore -- probably because I don't promote it anymore but also because some time around 2003 it began to collect some hostile reviews and who's going to read an unknown author when the first reviews they see on the amazon page are negative. Although until that point the reviews had been nearly overwhelmingly positive, the worst being three stars that still basically indicated a liking for the book, the new two and one star reviews that began appearing effectively killed off sales from then on.

    Anyway, my experience with that editor was NOT a good one although I think it was more because he didn't really have true editing experience, being a start-up publisher hoping to use POD to enter the business!

    But yes, good editors are valuable. We just don't have the access to them in the POD world that we would in commercial publishing.
  • Whew, that was a lot of work to respond here!
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Writing is something most of us can do and many of us want to.

    Both of those are not really true. Many people can write, badly, and have never really needed to since leaving school, so have not bothered. There are also those who say they would like to write a novel, or their memoirs, or whatever, but are unfortunately not capable of doing so in a marketable way. (Not that that always stops them!)

     The problem is that just knowing how to put words on paper (or on screen) isn't the same as knowing how to write in a literary or narrative sense.

    That is true.

     The advent of Print on Demand (POD) publishing, made possible by the digital revolution for economical printing

    It's only competitively economical when put against the cost of having 10,000 printed in a batch, otherwise, POD books are very expensive to have made, so expensive at retail.

     and online book selling via the Internet has made publishing one's work (the reason we write, after all)

    No, that's the reason we publish, not write. There's a difference.

    easy and cheap to do.

    I would not call it easy. Being a one-man-band is far from easy.

     That has a very positive effect by freeing us from the tyranny of others (editors, agents, publishers).

    I think you mean by that, publishing houses and their marketing managers and accountants, knowing exactly what the market wants, and going for the biggest.

    But it's also negative in this sense: It makes publishing too easy.

    I fully agree with that. Sort of. Doing a book as it should be done, including 'correct' content, is not easy. People just think it is, and that they can churn out any rubbish.

    Most of us need help in the form of editorial support, manuscript preparation, layout and design and book packaging.

    Indeed many do. Although it can be learned, or people would not learn it :)

     All but the first are easy to obtain with the support of the POD companies for a price. And even editing can be had this way though most of us who write fancy we are good at it, good enough to edit ourselves or at least to know better about what we are trying to say than some third party or an editor (whether hired by us or provided by a commercial publisher). The issue though is that without the independent vetting which agents and publishers provide under the old system many of us may delude ourselves and publish work that's not ready for prime time.

    Indeed. But getting them to realise that is a hard and often very very thankless task.

    Personally, I have always felt I could write better than most (though not as well as the best I suppose)

    One of the reasons so much dross is published via self-publishing is arrogance such as that. Even worse if advice is given, and for free, that is not taken, or even slagged-off.

     and have, consequently, dismissed any need for editors . . . or for anyone else for that matter to judge or correct my work. I once thought I was a pretty good proofer, too, and maybe I am but, of late, I've discovered that I'm not as good as I thought. Maybe it's my age because I'm not as sharp as I was.

    At my age, I will not comment on that :)

     But whatever the cause, I have discovered belatedly how important proofing by others can be (though for my new book I have found no one to do it and so have had to agonize through multiple proofs to get my new one right).

    English is English, why can no one proofread it?

     As with proofing, editing and writing help in general can also be important and many of us should not dismiss the idea lightly.

    Indeed. As long as it's not just a pure matter of opinion being offered, and those offering it do not realise that.

    I recently saw someone's proposed written material and was taken aback by its near incoherence. Good writing is absolutely essential to success (though literary merit need not be defined in terms of the greatest authors or the classics, of course, because successful writers come in many stripes)

    Yes they do, and what is considered to be 'correct' English changes over time.

     but I fear that POD, despite its having come into its own in recent years (when I started it was still looked down on as mere vanity publishing), remains at risk just because it makes self-publishing so easy. Every writer who self-publishes without adequate help to get his or her material right causes harm to the rest of us who have chosen to use POD to make our dreams of "being a writer" come true by sullying the reputation of the method.

    Well, I will admit I do it all myself, but I have had decades of practice at it, and professionally. But even so, I know that careful attention to detail, over and over again, is more important than rushing my latest work out. It can take far longer to edit and proofread a work than it takes to write. In fact I also do it backwards and forwards, as I write. One has to have pride in one's work.

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to set up a forum here for would-be self-published writers to vet their material through their colleagues at Lulu, if only to help keep the reputation of POD publishing itself on a higher level?

    There did used to be a few specific help threads, (including people trying to sell their services) but now there's at least Author Workshop. But editing and proofreading is very time consuming, and far from cheap, are you suggesting that people paste in entire books to be gone over?! For free?!

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    When I used to edit (nonfiction) magazines (and well-pre POD) I often had to totally rewrite contributions to make them understandable! I only did so because they had a sound idea. The contributors never moaned about it, I often think they just wanted to see their name in print, and get the dosh for it.

    In some novels one often sees Thanks, thanking so many people, Editors and other professionals too, it often makes me wonder how much actual final input the name on the cover had.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    swmirsky said:

    But yes, good editors are valuable. We just don't have the access to them in the POD world that we would in commercial publishing.
    I was glad to read your clarification. You don’t want to dismiss editors based on, in the first case, your inability to afford one with the necessary qualifications and, in the second place, your experience with an amateur publisher.

    You are absolutely correct in saying that one of the most serious problems holding back POD self-publishing is the inability of most authors to afford professional assistance. But when one chooses to be a publisher one also must be willing to take on the responsibilities of a publisher. 
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited August 4

    When I used to edit (nonfiction) magazines (and well-pre POD) I often had to totally rewrite contributions to make them understandable! I only did so because they had a sound idea. The contributors never moaned about it, I often think they just wanted to see their name in print, and get the dosh for it.

    In some novels one often sees Thanks, thanking so many people, Editors and other professionals too, it often makes me wonder how much actual final input the name on the cover had.

    I have written for both national magazines and traditional book publishers and have found that there are some fundamental differences in how their editorial processes work. The primary one is the matter of time. Magazines are published (for the most part) on monthly or weekly schedules. Given the large number of contributors providing articles to any given issue, and the usually limited number of editors, it simply is not practical to send every individual story back to the author for revision. (The same thing necessarily holds true for newspapers.) The only exceptions might be for pieces that were specially commissioned or for which a long lead time is allowed.

    In the case of a book, on the other hand, it will likely have a dedicated editor and many months of time allotted for its development (a recent book I worked on was a year between the word “go” and publication). The author themselves can take care of any corrections or revisions, which is the preferred state of affairs for at least a couple of good reasons. One is the desire to have the book in the author's voice and another is that editors have other things to do than spend time rewriting other people's books.

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    Writing is something most of us can do and many of us want to.

    Both of those are not really true. Many people can write, badly, and have never really needed to since leaving school, so have not bothered. There are also those who say they would like to write a novel, or their memoirs, or whatever, but are unfortunately not capable of doing so in a marketable way. (Not that that always stops them!)

    Truer words have rarely been spoken!

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    Writing is something most of us can do and many of us want to.

    Both of those are not really true. Many people can write, badly, and have never really needed to since leaving school, so have not bothered. There are also those who say they would like to write a novel, or their memoirs, or whatever, but are unfortunately not capable of doing so in a marketable way. (Not that that always stops them!)

     The problem is that just knowing how to put words on paper (or on screen) isn't the same as knowing how to write in a literary or narrative sense.

    That is true.

     The advent of Print on Demand (POD) publishing, made possible by the digital revolution for economical printing

    It's only competitively economical when put against the cost of having 10,000 printed in a batch, otherwise, POD books are very expensive to have made, so expensive at retail.

     and online book selling via the Internet has made publishing one's work (the reason we write, after all)

    No, that's the reason we publish, not write. There's a difference.

    easy and cheap to do.

    I would not call it easy. Being a one-man-band is far from easy.

     That has a very positive effect by freeing us from the tyranny of others (editors, agents, publishers).

    I think you mean by that, publishing houses and their marketing managers and accountants, knowing exactly what the market wants, and going for the biggest.

    But it's also negative in this sense: It makes publishing too easy.

    I fully agree with that. Sort of. Doing a book as it should be done, including 'correct' content, is not easy. People just think it is, and that they can churn out any rubbish.

    Most of us need help in the form of editorial support, manuscript preparation, layout and design and book packaging.

    Indeed many do. Although it can be learned, or people would not learn it :)

     All but the first are easy to obtain with the support of the POD companies for a price. And even editing can be had this way though most of us who write fancy we are good at it, good enough to edit ourselves or at least to know better about what we are trying to say than some third party or an editor (whether hired by us or provided by a commercial publisher). The issue though is that without the independent vetting which agents and publishers provide under the old system many of us may delude ourselves and publish work that's not ready for prime time.

    Indeed. But getting them to realise that is a hard and often very very thankless task.

    Personally, I have always felt I could write better than most (though not as well as the best I suppose)

    One of the reasons so much dross is published via self-publishing is arrogance such as that. Even worse if advice is given, and for free, that is not taken, or even slagged-off.

     and have, consequently, dismissed any need for editors . . . or for anyone else for that matter to judge or correct my work. I once thought I was a pretty good proofer, too, and maybe I am but, of late, I've discovered that I'm not as good as I thought. Maybe it's my age because I'm not as sharp as I was.

    At my age, I will not comment on that :)

     But whatever the cause, I have discovered belatedly how important proofing by others can be (though for my new book I have found no one to do it and so have had to agonize through multiple proofs to get my new one right).

    English is English, why can no one proofread it?

     As with proofing, editing and writing help in general can also be important and many of us should not dismiss the idea lightly.

    Indeed. As long as it's not just a pure matter of opinion being offered, and those offering it do not realise that.

    I recently saw someone's proposed written material and was taken aback by its near incoherence. Good writing is absolutely essential to success (though literary merit need not be defined in terms of the greatest authors or the classics, of course, because successful writers come in many stripes)

    Yes they do, and what is considered to be 'correct' English changes over time.

     but I fear that POD, despite its having come into its own in recent years (when I started it was still looked down on as mere vanity publishing), remains at risk just because it makes self-publishing so easy. Every writer who self-publishes without adequate help to get his or her material right causes harm to the rest of us who have chosen to use POD to make our dreams of "being a writer" come true by sullying the reputation of the method.

    Well, I will admit I do it all myself, but I have had decades of practice at it, and professionally. But even so, I know that careful attention to detail, over and over again, is more important than rushing my latest work out. It can take far longer to edit and proofread a work than it takes to write. In fact I also do it backwards and forwards, as I write. One has to have pride in one's work.

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to set up a forum here for would-be self-published writers to vet their material through their colleagues at Lulu, if only to help keep the reputation of POD publishing itself on a higher level?

    There did used to be a few specific help threads, (including people trying to sell their services) but now there's at least Author Workshop. But editing and proofreading is very time consuming, and far from cheap, are you suggesting that people paste in entire books to be gone over?! For free?!

    It's not that often I entirely agree with Kevin, but I have to give a thumbs up to pretty much everything he has said here!
  • oncewasoncewas Librarian

    One thing you need to understand is that nothing, but nothing, will reduce the amount of self-published work.

    The best thing to do, for writers with some talent and skill, is ignore all this material. It is not going away any time soon and will continue to be produced at the rate of knots. Concentrate on making your work the best that it can be. It is not true that sales are hampered by all the dross being available. Talent will out. It is as simple as that.

    And, as for the rest of us benthic feeders, the only way is up. With regards to editing, I have studied editing, I enjoy editing my own work and no one else is going to edit my work, not until I earn enough to justify it.


  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited August 4
    Well, you had me until that last sentence.

    1. Affording the cost doesn't justify independent, objective editing (and please note those italicized words), the necessity does. 2. Enjoying self-editing is not a good reason for doing it.
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    edited August 4
    Oh, the editorial can of worms....

    Well, Swmirsky, going to the OP, I agree in principle. Your premises are absolutely correct, specifically, that far too many people who want to write lack the basic skills, and that everyone needs an editor, but that editors must understand the work they edit.

    I would propose a general solution to the first problem: We need to improve the educational methods used in this country. Some here will recognize this as one of my favorite hobby-horses, so I'll laissez-passer and not belabor the point. In summary, we need schools to require that students write well.

    As to the need for an editor that understands the works, well, the best choice is to find a friend in the field, and to impose upon said friend to read and to be brutally honest about the work. Not simply honest, but brutally honest. You need someone who will boldly tell you that chapter three reads like you were drunk when you wrote it, and chapter four could have been written by a monkey undergoing a brain aneurysm.

    Most friends will not serve for this purpose, as they will not be brutal. They will wish to enjoy the work, they will wish to preserve their rapport with you, and they will wish to be polite. You need a friend who is on the verge of sociopathy, and yet is an expert in your field. The wounds of a friend can be trusted, so the ancient wisdom goes. Someone close to you who is willing to tell you that you have spinach stuck to your tooth is better by far than the so-called friends who will ignore it, or worse, ask you to pose for photos.

    With that said, even an editor not competent in the field can bring to light points needing clarification, typographical errors, and similar editorial necessities. My suggested path for any work would be:

    1. Write the original.
    2. Give it at minimum a week, and up to three months, for the work to cool off.
    3. Read the work aloud. Pay attention to spelling, grammar, and typography.
    4. Having corrected errors, place the work into your sock drawer for three weeks.
    5. Retrieve the work, and type it anew -- yes, re-enter every word from the printed ms. into the word processor anew, not relying on the prior digital ms. This provides an "air-gap" to stop errors carried forward.
    6. Repeat steps 2 and 3.
    7. Having corrected errors, submit the work to an editor, preferably a friend recently retired from teaching English Literature, who is afflicted by OCD and possesses a remarkable collection of red pens and pencils. Tourette's syndrome and mild sociopathy are valuable attributes, as well.
    8. Make changes as appropriate, based on the editor's comments.
    9. Read the work again, possibly aloud, pretending that you did not write it, trying your best to see it as it would be seen by the general readership. Make such changes as are appropriate.
    10. Offer the work to be read by others in your field, and extract comments from them by brutal questioning. Pay particular attention to the comments made by the editor. Try to validate those statements if possible.
    11. Read it again yourself. Make final changes.
    12. Submit the work and obtain a proof.
    13. Proofread. Repeat steps 11-13 as needed.
    14. Release your work to this dark world and wide.

    ________________
    "Dark world and wide" is stolen shamelessly from John Milton's On His Blindness
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    It's not that often I entirely agree with Kevin, but I have to give a thumbs up to pretty much everything he has said here!

    See. that was painless, but I have not said anything I have not said before.  :)

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Well, Swmirsky, going to the OP, I agree in principle. Your premises are absolutely correct, specifically, that far too many people who want to write lack the basic skills, and that everyone needs an editor, but that editors must understand the work they edit.

    Very true, and there are editors for every discipline. Sort of the same, a friend of mine used to work for a central body in the medical field. Medical establishments would scan things written by doctors, then email them to the central body, who would then, very very fast, try to 'decipher' them as a typed email reply, which was then sent back. She was not a doctor or nurse, etc., she just knew the relevant words.

    I would propose a general solution to the first problem: We need to improve the educational methods used in this country. Some here will recognize this as one of my favorite hobby-horses, so I'll laissez-passer and not belabor the point. In summary, we need schools to require that students write well.

    And I still say that people are not born with an equal IQ, so no matter how you 'hammer' knowledge in to them, it does not always stick. There's another side of that too. Learning parrot fashion. Some can recall every bit of knowledge given to them, but have no idea how to use it. Unfortunately industry seems full of such people, because they are often good at passing exams.

    As to the need for an editor that understands the works, well, the best choice is to find a friend in the field, and to impose upon said friend to read and to be brutally honest about the work. Not simply honest, but brutally honest. You need someone who will boldly tell you that chapter three reads like you were drunk when you wrote it, and chapter four could have been written by a monkey undergoing a brain aneurysm.

    Very true, but it surely must be hard to edit philosophy, because it's all about ideas and opinions, not just structure. I assume it would be hard to find an editor who does not suggest changes just because they disagree with the contents of the manuscript.

    Most friends will not serve for this purpose, as they will not be brutal. They will wish to enjoy the work, they will wish to preserve their rapport with you, and they will wish to be polite. You need a friend who is on the verge of sociopathy, and yet is an expert in your field.

    Well, some say they are philosophers, but "Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?" but surely it must be hard to claim to be an expert in opinions (apart from statisticians, perhaps) because how many agree with each other? Who does one pick?

     The wounds of a friend can be trusted, so the ancient wisdom goes.

    What does that mean?

     Someone close to you who is willing to tell you that you have spinach stuck to your tooth is better by far than the so-called friends who will ignore it, or worse, ask you to pose for photos.

    With that said, even an editor not competent in the field can bring to light points needing clarification, typographical errors, and similar editorial necessities. My suggested path for any work would be:

    1. Write the original.

    Hrmm. Some may be able to write 100s of pages from start to finish, and even without mistakes, but I cannot. (I never plan, for a start. I do have an end in mind, but I don't plan how to get to it. (And that's often how a short story can become 100,000 words!) So I write a chapter or two, then read them, editing if required, which it often is. I will write another one, then go over it all again. And so on and so on. Between actual writing, I am going over what I have written, and what I may write next, in my head. By the time I think I have finished, I may have read it over and fiddled with it a 100 times, at least!


    2. Give it at minimum a week, and up to three months, for the work to cool off.

    Or even longer. Read one of your works a few years later, and often think > "that bit would have been better, if ..." But I write fiction. Then again the facts in non-fiction can change very fast.


    3. Read the work aloud. Pay attention to spelling, grammar, and typography.

    No comment. But. Are you also supposed to read out the punctuation?


    4. Having corrected errors, place the work into your sock drawer for three weeks.
    5. Retrieve the work, and type it anew -- yes, re-enter every word from the printed ms. into the word processor anew, not relying on the prior digital ms. This provides an "air-gap" to stop errors carried forward.

    Why not just read the original, again? That's the beauty of word processors. If one cannot spot things in the original, then it's time to give up.


    6. Repeat steps 2 and 3.

    Or just do it as one writes, also.


    7. Having corrected errors, submit the work to an editor, preferably a friend recently retired from teaching English Literature,

    Why not English in general? I just wonder how many famous writers actually had training in how to write a book?

     who is afflicted by OCD and possesses a remarkable collection of red pens and pencils.

    Gosh, you will be recommending the use of a typewriter next.

    Tourette's syndrome and mild sociopathy are valuable attributes, as well.

    They are?!


    8. Make changes as appropriate, based on the editor's comments.

    Or not, if you don't agree with them.


    9. Read the work again, possibly aloud, pretending that you did not write it, trying your best to see it as it would be seen by the general readership. Make such changes as are appropriate.

    So you need to be bipolar? (as it seems to be called nowadays.)


    10. Offer the work to be read by others in your field, and extract comments from them by brutal questioning. Pay particular attention to the comments made by the editor. Try to validate those statements if possible.

    With such a subject, I would submit sections to publications dealing with such things. I am sure the readers will make their thoughts known.


    11. Read it again yourself. Make final changes.

    I will point out here, that self-publishing, and solo at that, can be incredibly boring.


    12. Submit the work and obtain a proof.
    13. Proofread. Repeat steps 11-13 as needed.

    It would be shocking to get that far, and still find problems not related to the printing.


    14. Release your work to this dark world and wide.

    And good luck.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • By "Writing is something most of us can do and many of us want to" I merely meant that many of us think that, because we can write respectable sentences we can write narratives, stories, novels and so forth. We want our name up in lights! But writing well is about more than writing respectable sentences

    The advent of POD self-publishing made possible the publication of some books that would not have made it into the marketplace if they had had to be vetted by commercial publishers and their professional editors (whose interests lie in producing works that meet certain standards which vary depending on the objectives -- some want certain genres, some best sellers, some works with literary cachet, etc.).

    POD self-publishing is tarred by the vanity press image though less so today than it used to be. When I started out I took great pains to conceal the self-published nature of my first book but in time that came to seem less important and it became possible to build one's writers' creds on one's own efforts. But to do that you have to achieve standards commensurate with the average commercially published book at least.

    Those self-published authors who don't bother to seek to attain that level or don't understand how to do it undermine the status of all POD books. So my suggestion is that we all try to pay closer attention to this and perhaps even find ways to work together, maybe even in teams, to help one another get to the level needed to make it in the marketplace. We owe it to our fellow POD authors as well as to ourselves.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited August 5
    "But to do that you have to achieve standards commensurate with the average commercially published book at least."

    Absolutely. I have said too many times in these forums that an author is producing a commercial product. If they are expecting their readers to pay as much for the author's book as they would for one traditionally published they have an obligation to provide a product of equal quality. The fact that they may not have either the experience or the wherewithal to accomplish this is not a valid excuse. If an author cannot offer a well-made product they should not be selling it. It is neither fair nor entirely honest for them to expect their readers to make special allowances for their deficiencies. "I know that my book hasn't been edited and that my spelling, grammar and punctuation are bad, and that the typography is awful and the formatting is clumsy and the design and cover are dreadful, but please buy it anyway," is something I hear too often.

    "Those self-published authors who don't bother to seek to attain that level or don't understand how to do it undermine the status of all POD books."

    No kidding.


  • We all know editorial support is costly even though Lulu apparently offers some of that here (although at what level of quality it's hard to say). My suggestion is that some of us get together, using these forums or other venues to help one another. We can do it by critiquing and giving other sorts of feedback on a case by case basis to our colleagues here and Lulu can help by getting involved, too, and both supporting such impromptu groups and making clearer the services they have to offer by wading in in response to some of the give and take such groups may occasion.

    Someone here asked if I am suggesting that some of us offer such services to our colleagues for free. Well yes, I am, because just giving feedback should not be a commodity we sell to one another. Doing the actual work of editing (either through Lulu's support services or those among us interested enough to engage at that level) is, of course, not cheap for the person who does it as it takes his or her time and energy and detracts from their own projects. Still if it helps make all POD books a little better, we would all benefit.

    Serious flaws should be flagged, discussed and fixed by those whose work shows them. I know that many of us believe we know best but, as others here have pointed out, that is highly unlikely in most cases. So we should all be glad of the chance to garner feedback and fix stuff before we go public! If individuals in these self-organizing groups want to offer their services to other members for a fee, after the material has been critiqued and been shown to warrant it, that is between the parties. But at the least, and at a preliminary level, wouldn't we all benefit from the feedback of our colleagues here? If we want to be taken for professionals we should act the part.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    Asking people to edit a book for free may be imposing on community generosity a little too much. As you say, editing an entire book is a laborious process that can take a lot of time and effort and I don't think anyone should either be asked or expected to do this for free "for the general good of all."

    The kind of team effort you are suggesting where the cumulative effect of the input from a large number of people will certainly result in a better book. It certainly cannot hurt, so long as the author is willing to listen to and take the advice offered. Of course therein lies the rub. Over the course of the past many years, innumerable authors have solicited critiques of their work here---some have graciously accepted the advice offered, even when it has sometimes obviously been pretty brutal, but a disappointingly large number stormed off in a huff when they didn't receive the praise they'd expected.

    The only potential danger in having a large number of people commenting is that there is no continuity. There may be as many different takes on how something could be done as there are people making them...and each may be as valid as the other. In the real world, an editor sits down with an author and tries to learn just what the author is trying to say and how---then they work with the author one-on-one in helping them to accomplish this. It's hard to do this as a committee.

    But still, presenting work here is still better than no advice at all. There are some very knowledgeable people contributing to the forums and it would certainly be in an author's best interests to listen to what they have to say.

    I think that so long as the author eventually has their book vetted by a single, objective eye I think however he or she got to that stage is worthwhile having done. If this entailed running their MS through the gauntlet of their peers in these forums, that's fine. 
  • swmirskyswmirsky Reader
    edited August 5
    Yes a gauntlet it would certainly tend to be. It's not only those who write that think their writing is beyond reproach but those who want to critique and maybe edit another's work. I'm not saying this would be easy. If it would have been it would have already been tried and going strong. I'm not even sure if it's doable, given human frailty. Egos almost always get in the way as does the inflated opinion of ourselves we often seem to have. (I am not immune to that, I hasten to add, as you can see from some of my earlier comments.) The problem is we have different abilities, different skills, different talents, different capacities but we don't always recognize our own weaknesses. So for all these reasons this may be a hard thing to get off the ground.

    But I am very much concerned for the quality self-published POD books are perceived to have in the general marketplace. As I've mentioned, it seems to me that POD self-publishing -- Just Kevin made a good point that nowadays POD is not limited to the self-publishing world (though it was back when I started using it and digital printing and online book selling were new) -- has become much more accepted. When I started, my wife argued that I shouldn't do it, that if I did I would lose any credibility as a serious writer but after two years writing the darned book (and ten plus years gestating it!) and two more years of trying to hawk it to an agent or a publisher I was kind of unwilling to just stuff it in a drawer and forget it. Besides, I really liked what I had turned out. So I bit the bullet with Xlibris (one of the first full service POD self-publishing services) and the book found an audience. Not huge and I had to work hard to get people to become aware of it and in those days its subject (the Norse world of the vikings) was pretty rare in mainstream literature.

    But because it did it made me more than a vanity writer. I got some good notices, found an agent, got several other jobs under contract to others seeking to write or publish their own book, ran a viking ship festival and two literary arts festivals, wrote a bi-weekly column for our local paper and made many contacts in the writing world (other writers, agents, editors). So if I hadn't decided to take a flyer on POD, back when the approach was associated with rank amateur wannabes (as I no doubt was), none of that would have happened. Since then, many commercially published authors have also dipped their toes into the POD pool. And people who wanted to be publishers but lacked the resources to compete with established publishers (like Superiorbooks.com, which briefly picked up my initial novel until we had a parting of the ways, and Paul Mould Publishing) have also jumped in.

    POD publishing is much easier and cheaper to do than old fashioned vanity presses so it has resulted in an inundation of such books. Yet even so POD has lost some of its negative cachet but unless we find a means to help our fellow authors to do a better job, it will always retain that stain of self-indulgent amateurism, even if diminished these days. So I'm not saying this is easy to figure out, only that I'd like to see us get it right and am prepared to work with others to help, even if I haven't the time or inclination to set myself up as a real editor of others' work. But maybe a few of us can do something on a more superficial scale and then, for writers who need the extra assist, Lulu can provide more heavy hitting editorial guidance.  
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    I see that "superiorbooks.com" doesn't appear to exist any longer. One of the problems with POD publishing companies, it seems, is their lasting power. And sometimes even their legitimacy. Just as it is dead easy for an author to self-publish whatever they want, it is easy for someone to hang out a shingle and declare themselves a publisher, regardless of their experience or ability. Or honesty, for that matter. Authors need to be scrupulous in doing the homework when approaching publishers (and agents as well). To that end, I always steer people to Writer's Market, whose publications can be confidently relied on to give reliably accurate information regarding publishers, agents, etc.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    By "Writing is something most of us can do and many of us want to" I merely meant that many of us think that,

    I still say you are wrong. Most people don't even bother to read anything they don't need to do, so they would hardly bother to write. And not even emails nowadays.

     because we can write respectable sentences we can write narratives, stories, novels and so forth.

    It may be true of us, but this is a self-publishing forum, but otherwise I still say you are generalising.

    We want our name up in lights!

    We do? It's a rare thing when that happens to any writer, so I don't hold my breath. It would be nice to be appreciated, though.

     But writing well is about more than writing respectable sentences

    Writing isn't. It does not have to involve self-publishing, or being published at all.

    The advent of POD self-publishing made possible the publication of some books that would not have made it into the marketplace if they had had to be vetted by commercial publishers and their professional editors (whose interests lie in producing works that meet certain standards which vary depending on the objectives -- some want certain genres, some best sellers, some works with literary cachet, etc.).

    That's party true. There are many worthy publications that went through hundreds of rejections before being taken on. How many just as worthy writers just gave up after the 50th rejection or sooner? One problem with self-publishing is that many use it before they have taken the chance of being rejected. They do not have any idea why they may be rejected, and always rejected.

    POD self-publishing is tarred by the vanity press image though less so today than it used to be.

    Well, perhaps by the few who know that it's now possible to self-publish, and with an ISBN, for next to nothing. They can no longer say, "you paid HOW MUCH to get that *%£$%^&* published?!! You must be nuts!!" But very often old-school vanity press companies rarely included an ISBN, so they were not actually 'published.'

     When I started out I took great pains to conceal the self-published nature of my first book but in time that came to seem less important and it became possible to build one's writers' creds on one's own efforts.

    If you were actually marketing the book, including an ISBN, and selling them, then it does not really matter that you were self-published.

     But to do that you have to achieve standards commensurate with the average commercially published book at least.

    Indeed. We say that a lot on here. One has to wonder if some who self-publish have ever actually seen other books.

    Those self-published authors who don't bother to seek to attain that level or don't understand how to do it undermine the status of all POD books.

    I cannot disagree. But there too many who say "but my story is amazing! What does it matter if the layout and English is appalling?" It's even worse when the story is not amazing.

     So my suggestion is that we all try to pay closer attention to this

    I am not sure who this "we" is, because I know I pay close attention to my own stuff, and give advice to others in here, but I and others here have been doing it for years, but what seems to be happening now is, no one asks!

     and perhaps even find ways to work together,

    Some in the forums already do.

    maybe even in teams,

    I am not really a team player. I like to work solo, but I am also use to often being in charge of teams, because they always have a leader. I can be cooperative though, if others can be.

     to help one another get to the level needed to make it in the marketplace.

    "We" already do our best.

     We owe it to our fellow POD authors as well as to ourselves.

    I really do not think we do owe it to them. In one way we are actually competing with all other writers.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    We all know editorial support is costly even though Lulu apparently offers some of that here (although at what level of quality it's hard to say).

    Well very few moan about it in the forums, so it's possibly okay. But the cost is on a par with most others who offer the same service. Not cheap in other words. (I am still of the opinion that the Newly Published and Featured books in Shop are there because they have used a paid for Lulu Service.)

     My suggestion is that some of us get together, using these forums or other venues to help one another. We can do it by critiquing and giving other sorts of feedback on a case by case basis to our colleagues here and Lulu can help by getting involved, too, and both supporting such impromptu groups and making clearer the services they have to offer by wading in in response to some of the give and take such groups may occasion.

    Someone here asked if I am suggesting that some of us offer such services to our colleagues for free. Well yes, I am, because just giving feedback should not be a commodity we sell to one another. Doing the actual work of editing (either through Lulu's support services or those among us interested enough to engage at that level) is, of course, not cheap for the person who does it as it takes his or her time and energy and detracts from their own projects. Still if it helps make all POD books a little better, we would all benefit.

    Serious flaws should be flagged, discussed and fixed by those whose work shows them. I know that many of us believe we know best but, as others here have pointed out, that is highly unlikely in most cases. So we should all be glad of the chance to garner feedback and fix stuff before we go public! If individuals in these self-organizing groups want to offer their services to other members for a fee, after the material has been critiqued and been shown to warrant it, that is between the parties. But at the least, and at a preliminary level, wouldn't we all benefit from the feedback of our colleagues here? If we want to be taken for professionals we should act the part.

    Well I have read all of that. You are kidding? Right? And I don't think I need say any more about you idea. All I will say is, such aid already exists for those who wish to take it up, and in the UK often for free, too.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Asking people to edit a book for free may be imposing on community generosity a little too much. As you say, editing an entire book is a laborious process that can take a lot of time and effort and I don't think anyone should either be asked or expected to do this for free "for the general good of all."

    Indeed, and that's me, a Socialist, even saying that!

    The kind of team effort you are suggesting where the cumulative effect of the input from a large number of people will certainly result in a better book.

    Quite so, but it could be like that old saying, a camel is a horse designed by a committee.

     It certainly cannot hurt, so long as the author is willing to listen to and take the advice offered. Of course therein lies the rub. Over the course of the past many years, innumerable authors have solicited critiques of their work here---some have graciously accepted the advice offered, even when it has sometimes obviously been pretty brutal, but a disappointingly large number stormed off in a huff when they didn't receive the praise they'd expected.

    Or in fact became very aggressive. And there's also the ones who post asking for guidance, and when given, don't even bother to reply. One has to assume they are one of the many who Viewed the replies.

    The only potential danger in having a large number of people commenting is that there is no continuity. There may be as many different takes on how something could be done as there are people making them...and each may be as valid as the other.

    A bit like philosophy. But one problem I see in all the How To Write (fill in here) help and courses, etc., is that everyone ends up writing in the exact same style. In a way they kill individual creativity.

     In the real world, an editor sits down with an author and tries to learn just what the author is trying to say and how---then they work with the author one-on-one in helping them to accomplish this. It's hard to do this as a committee.

    Committees are well-known for causing conclusions to take far far longer than a single executive.

    But still, presenting work here is still better than no advice at all.

    Indeed. But it sounds as if swmirsky  wishes to set up a type of publishing house, as a charity, mostly away from the forums, and perhaps even away from all of Lulu's Knowledge Base.

     There are some very knowledgeable people contributing to the forums and it would certainly be in an author's best interests to listen to what they have to say.

    I am glad you think so  :)

    I think that so long as the author eventually has their book vetted by a single, objective eye I think however he or she got to that stage is worthwhile having done. If this entailed running their MS through the gauntlet of their peers in these forums, that's fine.

    And convenient, because if like myself, all of the regular contributors  are too busy writing and publishing their own stuff, and also having a life to lead.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    One thing I must point out is, far too many Vanity Publishing Houses, and even some Self-Publishing places, who say they 'do all the work,' never actually edit or proofread what they process for people, often at vast cost. Many only pretend to. They too will POD any rubbish. So paying a lot of money to be 'published' does not always result in a good product. Or even Product at all, if even just an ISBN is not included.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited August 6
    One thing I must point out is, far too many Vanity Publishing Houses, and even some Self-Publishing places, who say they 'do all the work,' never actually edit or proofread what they process for people, often at vast cost. Many only pretend to. They too will POD any rubbish. So paying a lot of money to be 'published' does not always result in a good product. Or even Product at all, if even just an ISBN is not included.
    There used to be a marvelous website called “Predators and Editors” that listed publishing scams. The site is currently down while it is being reorganized. I hope it will be reinstated soon!

    In the meantime, I might state that paying to be published is the very definition of vanity publishing.

    Added later: just saw an ad on TV for Page Publishing https://www.pagepublishing.com/  I would avoid them like the plague.
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    9. Read the work again, possibly aloud, pretending that you did not write it, trying your best to see it as it would be seen by the general readership. Make such changes as are appropriate.

    So you need to be bipolar? (as it seems to be called nowadays.)

    You may wish to review your Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

    If you actually believe that you are a different person from the one who wrote the ms., the DSM-V would likely describe your affliction as multiple personality disorder, a form of schitzophrenia.

    Bipolar Disorder is (simplified) a tendency to swing rapid rapidly between manic excitement and deep depression. Short-cycling Bipolar conditions may result in severe mood swings over a few minutes; other persons with BPD take days, weeks, or months to cycle. Some only (or mostly only) cycle when confronted with a trigger.

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher

    Ron Said: "Asking people to edit a book for free may be imposing on community generosity a little too much. As you say, editing an entire book is a laborious process that can take a lot of time and effort and I don't think anyone should either be asked or expected to do this for free "for the general good of all." "

    I don't think of it as a requirement or an obligation, certainly. When I offer advice on an excerpt, it is in the spirit of Pro Bono Publico. I believe that we do the world in general a service when we constructively offer our advices.

    The issue that I see with a mutual editing service is that not all opinions are created equal -- Or, if you prefer, all opinions are equal, but some are more equal than others (Orwell, Animal Farm). I value the opinions of some people more than others in any endeavor in life, from fashion and style to whether the new restaurant is worth trying. I know one man who is extremely knowledgeable in Civil Engineering, and an absolute blowhard in any other field.

    By the same token, not all opinions about a submitted excerpt are necessarily equal. Ultimately, it falls to the author to weed out the opinions of shills (who love everything six stars of five) from shorts (who sell short on everything they did not personally write). The author must know when to take an opinion seriously, and when to cast it over his left shoulder with a grain of salt.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    You may wish to review your Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

    If you actually believe that you are a different person from the one who wrote the ms., the DSM-V would likely describe your affliction as multiple personality disorder, a form of schitzophrenia.

    Bipolar Disorder is (simplified) a tendency to swing rapid rapidly between manic excitement and deep depression. Short-cycling Bipolar conditions may result in severe mood swings over a few minutes; other persons with BPD take days, weeks, or months to cycle. Some only (or mostly only) cycle when confronted with a trigger.

    Indeed, but people do tend to use Bi-Polar to describe a person with two personalities, because that's what it sounds like. I am not sure when the term bipolar even replaced Manic Depressive, or why, perhaps it sounds better. A bit like the term Special Needs replaced retarded.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    It recently occurred to me that swmirsky is suggesting such an idea because he needs the help himself?

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

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