When a publisher recently had my book on the table, I discovered something that intrigued me in all of that. Penguin Classics. Haha. Yep. I went through and looked at all of them and wished that I had an extra few thousand bucks to buy the entire collection. Thus I don’t read too many contemporary novels anymore or even POD. I’ve read some very good self-published works, but I’m revisiting all the old classics that I'd missed out on, like Lady Chatterley’s Lover and The Lady with The Little Dog. Hey, anything with a 'lady' is good in my books.
I'm all for grass roots campaigns, POD and all that. Anyone that knows me, knows that. I think the only real problem I have is when folks don't spend enough time thinking through (step by step) what it is that they're doing. Anyone seriously considering doing this should:
1. Do everything they can with the editing and having numerous people offer criticism on the work and never think "It's edited already." Trust me, a few more passes wouldn't hurt.
2. Do everything they can to make the book 'appear' to have the finish of a real book from the layout, the formatting and the artwork on the cover. Nothing turns off a reader quicker or will make them marginalize your book faster than how much time you didn't spend working on the layout and art. If it looks unprofessional, they'll think it's trash without ever cracking the cover.
3. Spend the money to actually distribute hard copies of the work and not PDF's or Word documents. I have a million of these to read and I have almost zero interest in reading any of them. With fiction, people will read a book faster than a document. Just the way it is.
4. Don't be upset if the reviews are unflattering. Don't argue with people that post their opinions of your work. And be appreciative of anyone that bothered or spent the time to read your stuff. That's the only real goal when it's all said and done. Did they read it? Yes.
5. If you wish to be taken seriously as a POD author, you NEED to have a strong web presence. You need to have a professional website that looks good and has information about contacting you offline or through email accessible. Agents will. Other established authors will. Publishers will. If your book is good – things will happen. If your book is mediocre – things will happen, but in slow motion.
6. You must self-distribute copies to people that will actually make a difference if they read and review or even just read your book. Amazon reviewers are good, but they can only do so much for you. You have to circulate yourself on other channels like Librarything, Goodreads and submit to blogs that are open to reading your work. It will cost you money, but the author already chose this route themselves when they decided to go POD.
7. You must take what you’re doing seriously and realize that the idea of the insulated out-of-touch writer is a thing of the past and should be avoided at all costs. You have to get out there and be your own agent for awhile and definitely your own office manager.
8. Editor before Agent and not the other way around. None of those silly writing magazines will tell you this, but it’s a fact of life and probably obvious. The bulk of those silly writing magazines should actually be avoided. Many will disagree on this, but eventually everyone comes around.
9. Other established authors will actually be helpful and will reach out to you and offer up advice. Learn to be gracious. Lots of other people will be unsupportive and unprofessional and the best thing you can do is not bury yourself in cynicism and doubt. Some of the closest people to you may fall into this latter category, but it is what it is. Just work through it and focus.
10. When, and if you do get a book deal. Remember that ‘you are not your book deal’ and these things will not change you, the world or the quality of the atmosphere. Be humble with those who are near you, discover you or appreciate you. No one likes a braggart.