Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Friday 1 June 2012

Self-Publishing Part the second

It’s like 3 little pigs all over again... I’m gonna huff... puff... blow your house down!
Publishing is that house, and books need to be made of ‘win’ or, in this metaphor ‘bricks’, not straw or sticks... There are no shortcuts!
I love a good book. I read them. This metaphor does not extend to their physical forms, though. I read books, I bend pages and break spines, and I annotate if I feel like it. I read books in situations that are not conducive to their newly bought pristine condition being maintained for very long. I read hard back books and paperbacks, and, once read, I put them in the drop box for redistribution, usually to my local Oxfam book shop. I buy new books and I buy old books, and I buy books to read on my laptop. I also buy audiobooks so that I can listen to them while I sit on my exercise bike.
There is a lot of talk about digital versus print and all of that, but this blog isn’t about that, either. Any book, in any form, is fine by me; yes, I have my favourites, but I can adapt, if I need to.
What I’m talking about is content. I want all of my books to be made of bricks. I want them all to be good, well-written stories. I want the prose to be elegant, I want the voice to be real, I want the ideas to be fully formed and realised in the writing, and then I want the whole thing to be polished by people who understand spelling and grammar, syntax and rhythm, tone and cadence, and all the other things that make a book wonderful. Funnily enough, I want comedies to be funny, and tragedies to be sad, and I want other people to want to read a book on the strength of the experience they see me having while reading it myself. 
Tell me you don’t want those things too.
As it stands, right here, right now, there is only one way to get all of these things, to have your brick and read it... This method doesn’t guarantee that you will get all of these things in every book, or reading experience, but it is the only method that will get you all of these things some of the time. 
To get all of these things you need a team of very able people making books. At the centre of it all is the writer, without whom, nothing is possible; let us not pretend that it is ever a good idea to polish a turd. If the writer doesn’t deliver, we’re all screwed. 
We’ve all read books that didn’t satisfy our appetites. We probably picked them up on the strength of the cover art and typography, and, when we read the first few paragraphs, the spelling and grammar were probably about right. There’s a good chance that pretty well everyone on the team did his or her job to your satisfaction, otherwise you wouldn’t have chosen that book in the first place. At this point, it only remains to be seen whether the writer was any good
The team, in short, is more reliable than the star player: the writer.
Self-publishing takes the team out of the equation. Self-publishing takes the people who know how to make books, out of the book-making business.
I stated quite clearly earlier in this blog, just up there, that, at the centre of it all is the writer, and I value him or her as much as anyone does; I am married to one, I do my best to be one myself, and my favourite writers are my heroes. 
Here’s the thing: You cannot build a brick house on your own! You really, really can’t build a brick house on your own if it’s the first house you ever built. If you wanna build a shed, a gazebo, a hut, good for you, but don’t pretend it’s a house, and don’t offer it for sale, because... You know what?  
There’s a big bad wolf right around the corner.


  1. totally agreed.

    although, I have read a couple of stories (one was a book, the other one of a couple in a book) in the last year or so and was left wondering if something went wrong, because I didn't quite feel like it held up the whole way through, either in the last few pages or last few chapters. given that they came from fantastic authors who've released fantastic stories (in nearly ever instance otherwise) in the past, I'm inclined for now to assume it was me. but I've been wrong before ...

    on the flipside, when I read a great story, such as anything I've read by your wonderful husband, and more recently "The Serpent Beneath" by Rob Sanders (wow, just wow ... imho of course) it really shows!

    1. I think starting out as an editor makes me even more difficult to please, and even more sure that self-publishing isn't a good idea.