GalleyCatreleased this mini-report about author Brian S. Pratt, who has used the Smashwords self-publishing platform to generate $18,000 in the last quarter for his series of fantasy novels. The original interview, for Smashwords' blog, can be found here.
Essentially, this a great lesson for wannabe authors: you can get published, if you want to. Traditional publishing (the act of submitting to literary agents, being published by a major publisher) is getting harder and harder to do, and well, the rewards also aren't what they used to be. Self-publishing an e-book, like publishing e-book content online through programs like Smashwords, might be a good way to go. Self-publishing never longer bares the stigma of bad writing that it used to.
I mean, most authors would jump the moon at having earned $18,000 in a quarter. But I don't really think this guy's success is really all that amazing. He seems like he does a good job of self-promotion and works really hard at getting attention for his writing. Those are pluses in his category.
Negatives are basically that Smashwords actually thinks this guy will rake in $100,000 next year, based on current projections. As a someone who ghostwrote a business blog for a time, I know a little bit about projections and pricing and all that jazz. (Not a lot, but enough here to get out my bullshit meter.) Profits, without additional influx of a major bestseller or something new in his marketing strategy, won't continue to rise forever. And I have a feeling this was his peak. This guy won't make $100,000 next year, especially because it seems like, well, his books suck.
That was harsh. But I went to his website and read the examples. As someone who teaches grammar and style, I wanted to cry. As an editor, I too would have rejected his work. Why, you ask?
Because it's not ready to be published.
I am not saying he doesn't have the capability or talent. I am also not saying that his stories might not be fun reads. But if you can't master the use of quotation marks, well, you probably shouldn't be submitting your work for public consumption. Pratt got people's attention by paying for his own marketing (even though he was apparently below the poverty line - unclear on how that works) and by giving away his first book for free. I'm sorry, but I'll be damned if I give away something I've worked on for several years for free.
Sadly, this is what self-published authors have to ask themselves: Are they really ready to published and they are only getting rejected because they don't fit in commercially, or are they getting rejected because their books aren't very good? (And no, good is not subjective here. Good means you understand style and literary history. The author admits to writing his first book in the present tense. Think about it - what's the last book you read in the present tense? There's a reason for that.)
If you're sure your books are ready, then self-publish. You can make money and you can get the attention of people who will help you get your book out there to a wider audience and even possibly in print. People will be able to read your work, which is, in my opinion, one of the bigger reasons we write.
If you're not ready, go back to writing. And then write every day until you are ready.