The first and most important aspect of self-publishing is this: when you make the decision to self-publish, however you do it, you’re taking on 100% of the responsibility. This sounds like an obvious statement, but I really think it’s impossible to overstate the necessity for careful consideration of the fact. When you self-publish, you own it. Some authors know what this means, and they act like it, while others seem to want all the perks of ownership without acknowledging the responsibilities.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make all the decisions. Self-publishing allows authors the freedom to work within their own parameters and on their own terms. The challenge that every self-published author faces is to maintain a certain level of quality. Why is this challenging? Because with self-publishing, no one has the right to tell the author what to do–the author must learn to distinguish between what they can do and what they should do.
When you get right down to it, there are hardly any solid rules for self-publishing that are enforced by the industry. I’m not talking about size requirements for cover images or particular file formats that are accepted. Authors are free to write what they please (as it should be), but they’re also free to publish their work with little or no editorial input from an outside source. If you’ve read a number of self-published titles, then you know why this is a problem. For every independent author whose books are well-polished and show a commitment to quality, there are at least two others that are filled with typos and show a lack of effort on the part of the author.
I would argue that self-published authors need to enforce some rules upon themselves, if they’re serious about producing high-quality work. Since the writing is ultimately what matters, this starts with editing. I believe all self-published authors should have their work edited by someone else. I do think there are problems with the traditional model of publishing, but the practice of editing is not one of them. There’s a reason publishers dedicate time and resources to editing the products that they release: they’re conscious of their audience. (Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of traditionally published books I’ve read that were marred by errors. But that’s a different blog post…)
Self-published authors should be conscious of their audience, too. Again, it seems like such a basic idea, but the implications are huge. If an author thinks their story is good enough to be published without any revisions, then that’s technically an option. Good authors should be honest enough to know that it’s a poor option, because it says one very important thing about the author–they don’t care about their readers enough to present them with the best product that they can.
Self-published authors need to own their work, and admit that not every part of the process is something that should be done solo. The difference between an author that owns her work and one that doesn’t is obvious to any discerning reader.
For me it’s a simple choice. I see the value of editing. I want my readers to respect the work I publish, even if they don’t like the stories I tell. And that starts with me showing respect for them.