I don’t have a lot of interest in self-published books, but before you start yelling at me that traditional publishing is a scam and you self-pubbing gives you full control, cool your jets and let me further explain.
As a writer, I understand the perks of self-publishing. You get full control of your novel, and ultimately you take home the majority of profits. You can go in and do the edits you need, pick your cover art, and even though you have to do all of the foot-work yourself to gain a fanbase, you kind of have to do that anyways with traditional publishing unless you make it big and they start doing it for you.
Sure, there’s a lot soiling the market of self-publishing – anyone can release a book and I know many a person who scoffs when they hear someone is self-published (because obviously if a big house doesn’t say you’ve got something, you don’t “got something” except for a big ego). It’s unfortunate that even those who are truly aspiring often release sloppy work, poorly edited with tacky covers.
But coming from a purely reader perspective, it’s really hard for me to invest in a self-published work because I fell in love with an indie series, and it keeps disappointing me.
The work in question is a series called Children of Men, by Elizabeth C. Mock. I found the series by chance when I first got my Kindle, and purchased it just to have something to read.
I was surprised to find how engrossed I became, and even more surprised when I realized it was self-published – I had not read a self-published book before.
And guys, this book was wonderous – the magic system was unique and vivid, making me wish I had the skills to develop such specific a system, and the characters (of which there are many) seemed to come alive, springing from the page, wrapping their arms around my neck, and dragging me back into the world they lived.
I powered through the first two installments, and then through a short-story released in the same world.
And then I waited.
For three years I waited.
I had given up, honestly – the author hadn’t posted on her page in a while, so I assumed she abandoned the project or died (I’m morbid and anxious; you do the math).
But today, I went to check her site, googling away to find it again, and I realized she had posted an update that stated FORGE: The final installment, Summer 2016!
Never mind checking the date or Amazon – I flipped out. Thrilled as I was, I immediately went to my writing group to gush about how excited I was and tell everyone to flock to Amazon to purchase it.
Until I checked Amazon. And saw nothing new.
And checked the website again – she hadn’t posted anything since August of 2015.
Radio silence for yet another year, with no updates. Looking at the comments, I saw the disappointment of other fans, as well.
Now, you could argue that even traditionally published authors do this to fans (I’m looking at you, G.R.R.M.), but most of the time even if we’re waiting for eons, we’re at least told we’ll be waiting. We have communications from the author, or the houses, that lets us know of delays and showing us that they care that we care.
And I feel like the author of this amazing world doesn’t care about the readers.
Of course, that’s me speaking as a reader – as a writer, I know things come up (I mean, I can’t even keep a pesky BLOG alive for more than a month) but I’d like to think if I had a published work and a fanbase showing clear interest, I would work harder to at least communicate that there was a delay or I was stumped or that something had come up.
The ordeal, singular as it is, has made me wary of self-published works – after all, if there isn’t a big house breathing down your neck dangling that advance over your head and threatening to sue you for anything you will ever be worth, who else will hold us accountable?
I was surprised to see she had been picked up by a literary agency, as well, not because I doubted her ability (she’s good, I love her stories) but because you would think at least they would try to ensure she was remaining consistent with the fanbase she already has.
And I know not all self-published writers struggle with this (and hey, who am I to judge? She can have a million things going on.), but seeing that only further frustrates me.
Take for example my friend R.R. Virdi. He’s self-published (and doing fantastic, might I add) and works hard every single day to post things for his fans – most of it is inspiration for other writers – “Keep going, you can do it!” he says. “Don’t give up, I know it’s hard, but keep going!” he cheers. But he also talks about everything else going on, from reviewing other books, supporting fellow writers, and working on his next book(s).
He has expressed, before, that he realized he published too hastily his first go around, and then he worked diligently to correct it, perfect it, and then release new material.
The bottom line being, he showed he cared about his readers.
Of course, I’m not saying Elizabeth C. Mock doesn’t care about her fans – I’m sure she does, actually I’m positive she does. I mean, as someone who has been editing the same book for over two years now, I get it – writing isn’t like riding a bike. But, seeing the shared disappointed from other fans, it’s plain to see that her readers don’t feel that she does does (my reader-self included).
So, a word to the wise for any self-published writers: Show your readers you care about them just as much as they care about your book.
I myself need to take this advice – I don’t deny that. Even though I don’t have a fanbase yet, on the chance that I do one day, I want them to be able to look and see that I put down a foundation of consistency for them to peruse through one day, and have the assurance that I will likely continue to consistently keep the communication waves open to them.
In the meantime, though, I’m going to go ahead and cry about the disappointment I have for Forge because I really want to know what happened to those characters. So, Elizabeth C. Mock, if you happen to be reading this: JUST TELL ME WHAT’S HAPPENING. ARE YOU EDITING?! ARE YOU OKAY?! DO YOU NEED A BETA READER?! WHAT DO YOU NEED FROM US?!