So I've been madly scouring the various groups that I belong to on LinkedIn.com (by the way, you can find and connect with me there at http://www.linkedin.com/in/darrenkirby) and there appears to be a recurring theme that I've encountered time and time again. It seems that there has always been a stigma attached to self-publishing, but recently with the introduction and mass acceptance of multiple ereaders (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, etc.) and with the ease of being able to self-publish nearly anything now, this stigma is coming to a head in many circles.
I think that those who are complaining and pointing out how many of these types of books that they have read that were subpar when it comes to editing, grammar, cover, etc. are correct. There are plenty of these to go around. However, it should be pointed out that there are also plenty of books that were published by traditional publishing houses, even the Big 6, that have editing errors, grammar incorrect, sometimes and awful cover, etc. My point being is that this is not just a problem unique to self-published works, but is a common problem faced by all books, both fiction and non-fiction alike.
As I noted earlier, I'm getting the impression that with the increase in self-published books being available in ebook format on the Kindle, Nook, and others that there is the increase in this stigma that they are "all subpar" or somehow not up to our standards. I don't think that this necessarily has anything to do with the fact that there are more self-published authors, I just think that their works are now more easily found and looked at/scrutinized, though I'm sure a few more are coming out to dip their toes in the water, but I don't expect it to last. So, what is a self-published (or soon to be in my case) author to do? How can you make a difference and change people's minds?
The answer is to treat your writing like a business and make sure that you cover all aspects of it like a traditional publishing house would. You as the author now have to wear multiple hats instead of one. You need to find someone to do your editing, and not just grammar. You may need to find multiple people to rely on for grammar editing, story editing, general proof reading, etc. If you don't know anyone like this, start asking around. Go to your local university or tech school, as you may be able to find an English or Literature major who would jump at the chance to put their knowledge to good use for a much smaller fee than an established editor. Along with an editor, you will also need to find a graphic designer. This person will need to create a book cover image for just a front cover if you are simply ebook publishing, or else they will need to design the front and back covers and spine if you intend to also have a print version. Along with the book cover, you may also want them to do interior design work.
Nope, you're not done yet. Do you have a website or blog site yet? If not, you'll need to establish one, and this again might be better done by someone with more expertise than you have. It is becoming much easier to build a website, but creatively this might be better handed off to another person. Okay, this is all done before you even have your book, but what about when it's done? Do you have a marketing plan? No, sorry, just because you print it, doesn't mean that they will come. Here again you may want to find someone to help you lay out a plan to tell as many people as possible about your new book. There are so many options here: interviews with radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, etc.; book blog tours; bookstore tours; press releases to newspapers, radio, TV, magazines, websites, etc.; book signings; author appearances; and on and on it goes.
Now, do you need to outsource all of these? Definitely not! But make sure that you know your own strengths and weaknesses, and where needed bring in talented help to polish your book and make it the best it can be. Some of the above I'm doing myself, and some I'm connecting with talented people that I have made connections with to help me make it happen. By taking the time to plan out your approach in these areas, you will ensure that you help to break the stereotype that self-published books are substandard and only done for vanity. The more that we can take pride in our work, the more that we'll do well as a self-published author and have a following of readers that would make Jodi Picoult jealous!