how published / published how?

I’m cross posting this to FaceBook because I’m hoping to get some real feedback.

All in all I think the huge jump in self publishing is a good thing, but at the moment it’s a little bit like the wild west: lawless and unpredictable. There are self published books that are very good and that deserve to have found a traditional publisher, but there are also many, many pretty awful self published novels.

Now here’s the problem: It’s my sense (and correct me if I’m wrong) that self-published people don’t make a point of that in their bios or blurbs. So when I come across a blurb about another author that reads: author of x novels, or published x novels, I now have to stop to wonder about the how.  Are we talking Norton or Penguin or Tor, or is this Amazon self-publishing? Further complicating the matter, there are some trends I’ve noticed about self publishing on Amazon  that I don’t know how to interpret. If a novel  out for less than a year (especially a romance novel) has 5,000+ comments and 96 percent of them are 5 stars, that novel is very likely to be self published, as far as I’ve been able to determine. I’m not sure what this means; I could make some guesses, but only guesses.

At this point when I come across a new novel, again, especially on Amazon, there’s no way to know if this novel is self published unless i go look at the details and dig deeper.  Of course, I’m free to do that or not; it’s my loss if I pass up a good novel.

So now, I find myself worrying about my own blurbs. If somebody reads a bio or blurb about one of my novels or me, will they think, oh, probably self published? Which is why I’ve changed the blurb (when I’m asked for one). I now put down something like: nine novels in print with major publishers.
That may solve one problem, but it creates another one. It sounds snooty.

So what do you think is there a way to do this without (1) sounding stuck up and (2) adding a lot of details about the exact publishing houses?  Or should I just stop worrying about it? I admit there’s a bit of pride at work here. It’s not easy getting published, and I would like to be acknowledged for the fact that I have. But at the same time, I don’t want to dismiss all self published work on general principles.



9 Replies to “how published / published how?”

  1. So, who’s the audience? If it’s readers on Amazon, I doubt they’d care about the different publishers. Whereas, maybe the number of books you’ve written and the number of your books sold would be meaningful. Then there’s the Wilderness series for those of us who like series.

    Personally, when I’m browsing the liberry shelves, if I spot a writer I haven’t read, and there are a bunch of books there by the same writer, I’m more liable to pick one out that by a stand alone writer. If I like the book, I know there will be more to read.

    OTOH, I can’t tell if a new name n Amazon is self-published or not. Certainly all 5 stars is a clue. But there also are established writers who are now self-publishing, particularly their backlist. And why not! I think maybe Stabenow is doing that. And there are others whose names don’t come to mind just now.

    In stead, if your blurb is being read by editors, publishing people, maybe the different publishers makes sense. Still, the # of books written, # sold, and the series would probably be important info for them.

    1. asdfg– I forgot about back-lists, and of course you’re right about that. It is primarily an issue of intended audience. It’s just that sometimes audiences are a combination of those unfamiliar with the way publishing works and those who are pretty savvy. Sooner or later this kind of issue will shake itself out. I hope.

  2. Can it be phrased along the lines of “author of novels X, Y and Z available from [publisher] and A and B, available from [publisher]”?

    I do find that with ebooks especially, I am instinctively drawn towards those published under known brands such as Penguin and Random House. I associate known publishers with initial quality control about the selected product. I have bought my fair share of self-published books covering all sorts of genres but usually only when they’ve been recommended by solid source.

    And it’s *hard* to be published. That’s why there’s that association with quality. You should acknowledge it!

    1. Meredith — you hit it on the head, the issue of first-pass quality control. It is true that a self published book on Amazon might be just as good as one published by Knopf, but there’s no way to know that going in, because you can’t depend on the customer reviews — and I do wish they’d find a better way to handle that end of things. I suppose going through Goodreads helps, because you can follow reviews of people whose taste is like your own. But somehow it’s so big and bloated over there, I find it hard to navigate.

  3. I agree with Meredith. I think naming the publishers is a good idea. And I don’t see it as being snooty at all. As a reader, knowing an author has been published by major publishers is enticing. Means that it’s quality writing. Just my opinion.

  4. Rachel — It was your opinion I was looking for, so thanks for chiming in. I think you’re right, the only way to do it is to be specific about publishers.

  5. Other factors should be included in this conversation, such as how hard it is to get an agent. I wrote a book, historical romance, “Life As A Lie,” 134,000 words. I was asked on three different occasions if I could make it into two books, (impossible). I started submitting my work directly to publishing houses that would accept new work. I had a house tell me how much they liked my voice, and would I consider writing them something with a word count of not more than 80,000 words. I had a great deal of feedback, but it all came down to the fact my book was too large for a first time author. It’s been published as an e-book and will be in print next month.
    I don’t know why you don’t think you can depend on customer reviews. I have all 5 stars. If a reader didn’t like my book they would list the reasons why they didn’t. Looking at all the reviews people should be able to judge for themselves.if they want to take the risk or not. There really is no difference in the reviews on Amazon and the reviews on Goodreads.

    1. Rebecca — The first thing is, you are getting positive feedback from industry people, and that’s good. An agent who says to you: I think I might be able to find a publisher for this, but it will be tough at 134K — and then asks if you can split it in two — is not letting you in on his or her thinking.

      Currently publishers like novels of about 90K words (and there are always exceptions), while 70k is just a little too short. Publishers also like two book deals. Two solid books, one published as a sequel to the other, is a formula that has often worked. The publication of the second novel gives a new bump to the first one (at least, in theory).

      The agent is thinking ONLY about what s/he can sell. If I were an agent, I would have asked you this question: Could you add 20K words to the novel, and THEN split it in two so you have two roughly equivalent sized novels?

      This is at least something you should consider, because the professionals are telling you that it would greatly improve your chances.

      As far as Amazon/Goodreads reviews go, on Goodreads I have friends whose opinions I respect and whose tastes I’m familiar with. A review from a friend is far more trust-worthy than a review from somebody who signs herself ILurveBooks on Amazon.

      Beyond that, Amazon has a serious credibility problem with its review system. There are articles about this in the New York Times, Forbes, and half a dozen other places — I may post on the issue separately. In the meantime here’s an article about an extreme example of review manipulation. This kind of thing happens, and often: Michael Jackson bio reviews.

  6. Thank you for replying. You gave me a lot to think about. It would have been so nice if things were explained to me as easy as you did.
    Thanks again,

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