Maybe It’s All About Prestige

Blog 21 applause 2Here’s another post in my blog series about a first-time fiction writer choosing between traditional publishing and self-publishing. I’m in the middle of discussing some non-financial considerations that might go into that choice. This post is about whether an author will acquire more prestige by publishing her manuscript with a traditional publisher or by self-publishing.

I’m going to take a wild guess and say most people will instinctively decide that traditional publishing offers an author more prestige. However, I want to analyse this more closely.

My friend, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, defines “prestige” as “widespread respect and admiration attracted through a perception of high achievements or quality”. (As an interesting aside, the word “prestige” has its origins in ideas of illusion and conjuring a trick.)

So, an author can acquire prestige through a perception of high achievements or quality.

Considering achievements first, an author achieves something considerable just by completing a book. I get this validation all the time when I tell people about The Case for Killing and False Guilt. And, if readers really like the book or it sells well, the author will be perceived as having accomplished something significant. This creates at least some prestige, which exists whether the book is traditionally published or self-published.

But what about prestige from “a perception of … quality”? Here I think there is a difference.

Many people view a book that is traditionally published as meeting a basic quality level. This is because the publisher, together with the author’s agent if she has one, acts as a gatekeeper. And this perceived quality level is whether or not the book finds any readers.

However, while perhaps less and less the case, many people don’t perceive the same guarantee of quality in a self-published book. And, in fact, the quality of self-published books varies significantly.

From the perspective of quality, therefore, a self-pub author is less likely to acquire prestige when her manuscript is published than a traditionally published author. She may acquire prestige based on the quality of her book if enough readers endorse it. But for this, readers must discover the book, which may or may not occur and certainly will take time.

Next week, I’m going to take a break from blogging because it’s Labour Day and I need to plan my promotion of False Guilt. Next post: September 7.

Thanks to my good friend, Peter Fischer, for his artwork.

Copyright © 2014 Peter Fritze

Buy The Case for Killing here (Canada) or here (U.S.).

Working with an Editor

Blog 20 1I’m continuing my posts on how to self-publish with some thoughts about how an author should work with an editor.

My last blog in this series discussed the categories of editing: structural, stylistic, copy editing and proofreading.

When I wrote The Case for Killing, I always knew I would hire an editor. However, I imagined the editor would have a few broad comments and, otherwise, fix grammatical and typographical errors. Because of my ignorance about the scope of an editor’s role and because the editor liked the structure and style of the book, that, in fact, is what occurred.

Learning as I try to, for False Guilt, I received detailed structural and style comments and then turned another draft (it’s in for copy editing now). The result has been tighter character psychology.

All this has gotten me thinking about how best to work with an editor. Here are my general thoughts, though I’m still a long way from implementing them perfectly.

Give your editor a quality manuscript. Work hard on the structure, style and language of your manuscript before asking for your editor’s input. Avoid saying, “I’ll let my editor fix that”. The manuscript won’t be close to perfect, but giving your editor a high quality draft will lead to a better final product and keep editorial costs down.

Ask for a report. For False Guilt, I received an eight-page reader’s report. This added cost, but it assured me my editor had really gotten to know my manuscript. Also, it was an excellent reference for the next draft.

Insist on a deadline. My experience is that some editors stick to deadlines and others don’t. If deadlines are important to you, make that known to the editor.

Expect changes. Handing over your manuscript to an editor is a little like asking a stranger how good-looking your baby is: it takes courage. But that doesn’t mean you should be defensive about changes. A good editor likely has worked with far more writing than you and most of her changes are bound to raise the book’s quality. Also, in the end, it’s your book and you don’t need to accept every change.

Communicate, collaborate and trust. Discuss your editor’s structural and stylistic edits with her. Hopefully it becomes a collaboration and not a contest about scoring points. A good editor expects to associate her name with your project, and for that reason, you should trust her.

There will be editorial relationships that fall apart under the strain of diverging visions. Generally, though, if you follow the thoughts above, I think you’ll get a much improved manuscript.

Copyright ©2014 Peter Fritze

Buy The Case for Killing here (Canada) or here (U.S.).

Canadian Book Awards for Self-Pub Thrillers

Gold StarThe Case for Killing’s readership is growing – slowly. I’m getting positive reviews by email, or in a few cases, online. In a world where it’s so hard for an author to get discovered, these are wonderful baby steps.

Dreams create goals and you need goals (and a lot of luck) to succeed. This week I started dreaming about entering The Case for Killing in book award competitions – just to say I tried. So I started researching what awards exist for self-published thrillers.

This post is about Canadian awards. In three weeks, I’ll blog about international awards where I’ll choose from the great list of awards at Crime Fiction Awards.

The Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing are the obvious awards to participate in. They’re offered annually by the Crime Writers of Canada. For published works, two categories that interest me and that accept self-published works are Best Crime Novel and Best First Crime Novel. I’ll go for the latter.

After that, while there are many other Canadian book awards, the pickings for self-published thrillers are slim. Many awards don’t accept self-published entries. Don’t laugh, but I checked the Scotiabank Giller Prize on this. Others, even if they are open to self-published works, are specific to literary works or regions of Canada.

My book may qualify for the Toronto Book Awards. They were established by Toronto City Council in 1974 and honour authors of books of literary or artistic merit that are evocative of Toronto. The Case for Killing certainly is evocative of Toronto and I’d like to think it has artistic merit. Their eligibility rules do not specifically exclude self-pubs.

I was unclear if a self-published thriller qualifies for the First Novel Award. I couldn’t find eligibility guidelines, and based on the award’s history, I’m guessing not.

If I missed a Canadian book award for which a self-published thriller is eligible, please let me know.

Copyright © Peter Fritze 2014

Do Publishers Help Create a Better Book?

Good BetterIn my last blog on a writer’s choice between traditional publishing and self-publishing, I wrote that I would address several non-financial considerations a writer might take into account.

This post considers if a writer can expect to improve her manuscript more if she works with a traditional publisher than if she purchases services as an indie author.

Since I haven’t worked with a traditional publisher, I corresponded on this topic with Melodie Campbell (published with two houses) and Michael J. McCann (a well-known self-pub). I also spoke with several freelance editors/cover designers.

Recognizing that people can have different views, here are my conclusions.

If you assess a book by the quality of its copy editing, proofreading and cover design, I’m sure a self-published writer who has hired a very good editor and designer can generate a book every bit as good as one created with a traditional publisher. The key for most indie writers, however, is to hire the right people (a topic I’ll blog about soon).

However, if you judge a book by the quality of its structure and style, I think it’s possible, but not guaranteed, that a writer published by a strong house or working with a senior editor will end up with a better product than if she self-publishes. I don’t think this will be the case, though, for very skilled writers or writers prepared to pay the fees for the best freelance structural/style editors.

Finally, if you assess a book according to whether it’s likely to gain a readership, then working with a traditional publisher is probably an advantage. Of course, a book more likely to be accepted by readers isn’t necessarily a “better” book. However, sales are important for a writer and publishing houses will have the best feel for how to adjust a manuscript to meet readers’ current interests.

It also bears mentioning that a writer working with a traditional publisher cedes control over her manuscript, at least to some degree. So there’s a risk that the writer will be disappointed by the publisher’s choices in creating the final book for market.

Copyright © 2014 Peter Fritze