Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

सेल्फ-पब्लिशिंग इस बाद, and how to send me stuff

I won't tell you the name of the book or the name of the author or anything like that, because I actually do wish them well, even considering the circumstances.

However, I recieved a self-published book-like-object in the mail from someone I don't know. It was self-published from LuLu, which is better than some other choices that could have been made. However, there were some real big problems with this book-like-object.

First, the internal layout of the text was immediately, noticably bad. It looked like a bunch of Microsoft Word pages printed up in bound form. It didn't look like a book inside. It looked like a bound manuscript. Of course, when you're talking about a debut self-published book, they all are bound manuscripts because they did not go through the vetting and polishing process that is what we call "publishing".

Second, and more importantly, the prose was bad. To describe the prose as wooden would be an offense to trees and cabinets and furniture everywhere. This writing was truly amateurish, and someone really needs to find a decent writing group or writing partner to help them master the basics of prose.

I don't really know why someone sent me this book out of the blue. I don't know what they expect me to do with it. I opened the mail, and pulled out some book-like-object with no explanation of what it was for.

First off, let me say that I have yet to encounter the self-published book that proves the publishing world wrong for looking askew with a grimace at the books that are self-published. If there's a truly great self-published book out there, I have not seen it, smelled it, or even heard a whisper of its existance. One or two out of the hundreds might cross over into a real publishing house, but that occurance is far, far rarer than a debut novelist landing a decent book deal at a major publishing house. (*Cough* like me! *cough*)

Second, I won't pre-judge your book by its publisher anymore than I would look down on Paranormal Romance books for having racy covers of half-naked men. I will take a look at the book, and give your book a chance, regardless of the cover.

Look, if you're going to send me a book - people of the world - at least tell me what the heck you want me to do with it. Include a press release or a dedication or something. Lack of something like that means I will go, "Cool! Free book!" and I will put it on a shelf and do nothing with it but read it when I get around to it, if it doesn't suck. I have sent books out with just that expectation, wherein I hope the recipient said, "Cool! Free Book!" and felt no obligation to do anything but that. That's what a lack of other information means to me, too.

If I want you to do something with the book, I'll tell you what I'm sending it to you for, or e-mail you about it coming to you - at the very least...

A good example of how to do things the right way: author Patrice Sarath.

Patrice sent me a copy of her first novel "Gordath Wood" last week.

I know Patrice. I've had a lot of fun hanging out with her at conventions. Also, her book looks pretty neat. Though I haven't gotten a chance to sit down and read it, yet, I did do the cursory does-this-book-not-suck check wherein I read the first few paragraphs and flip through to read random stuff in the middle to see if the book is consistently interesting and well-written and does not suck. And, it totally passed.

When Patrice sent me the book - a book I *would have* bought as soon as I had the scratch for it, anyway - she also included with the book a letter that said why she was sending it to me, instead of expecting me to go to the convention dealer's room and buy it. As a matter of fact, yes, I am on the Nebula Novels Jury, and I would be happy to consider Patrice Serath's book, "Gordath Wood". I have, in fact, been disappointed in the paranormal romance books we've gotten so far, and I had hoped to find some better examples of the genre than what I had seen. I am very happy to do as Patrice asks and consider her book for the Nebula Awards.

Did this self-published writer just want to send me a book for no reason? I don't know. I suspect this writer wanted me to consider his book for a Nebula. But, I'm not sure, because I just got this object in the mail without explanation. I don't know what I'm supposed to do with it. I figured, given no other option, I'd use it as an example of what not to do.

What not to do: 1) Don't self-publish. 2) Don't expect people to do anything with your book if you send them one and fail to include some explanation of what to do with the thing.

What to do: 1) Be like Patrice Sarath, who didn't give in to self-publishing, 2) is very cool at conventions - cooler than me, and I'm cool as ice! - and 3) definitely knows how to send things out the right way.

If you know me, and you send me a book and I don't know why, I'll probably e-mail you or call you and be like, "Hey, why did you send me this? What do you want me to do with this?" Please include a letter, or a dedication, or something explaining why you sent me the book. Press releases count, because they totally explain what you want from me. If I don't know you, and I get a book with nothing else, I will say, "Cool, free book!" and that is all I will do.

If you don't know me, please include some kind of letter or missive explaining why you sent me this book (like a press release...). I won't immediately throw a self-published book across the room like some kind of cursed potato, but I'd appreciate being told what you're trying to accomplish by sending this book to me.

And, everyone check out Patrice Serath's "Gordath Wood". It looks pretty neat, to me. I haven't even gotten to "Lord Tophet", nor "Alchemy of Stone" though, yet! Agh! I'm so behind in the reading of the books that I want to read!


Anonymous said...

Oh man, Joe. I have to come clean. Although I didn't self-publish Gordath Wood (all hail Ace Books, part of publishing giant Penguin) I did, er, actually self-publish a book. Through Lulu. It's a collection of short stories from the writer's group cryptopolis, and it puts the "vanity" in vanity press.

It's this one:
Tales from the Secret City

Otherwise, the accuracy of your post is impeccable.

J m mcdermott said...

I'm very disappointed in you, patrice.

Go to your room. You are grounded.

Anonymous said...

*trudges off to room, proceeds to im all friends about unfairness of it all.*

J m mcdermott said...

No worries, Mr. E. I don't think you're an idiot. I just think you've been looking in the wrong place for your information.

The Novels Jury is not in daily communication about what we recieved and what we like.

I'm going to delete your comment now, not out of anger or horror or anything. I just want to be sure you can put your mistakes behind you. Stick around AW, and learn the right way. Patrice and I are both good examples of first-time novelists who got published at major houses without any sort of secret handshake or voodoo.