Stupid questions to ask self-published authors

“Did you use a real publisher?”

“Is it a real book?”

I’ve heard these questions and other similar queries many times, and not just from those dissociated with the writing and publishing industries. What kinds of people ask these questions? Traditionally published authors. Struggling writers. Non-writers. Friends and family. The guy at the bus stop. Basically anyone.

This is rude and thoughtless. It’s akin to walking up to a set of new parents, gurgling baby in arms and asking, “Can you trade it for a real one?” “Will it get any cuter?” Inherent in those questions and especially in the particular phrasing which uses the word real is the assertion that a self-published book isn’t valid. Dead wrong.

Self-publishing is a perfectly acceptable way to get your book into print. It’s quick and inexpensive. What it isn’t, however, is easy. It still requires the same hard work. You still need to write on your lunch hour and burn the midnight oil. You still need to write, write, and thump on that manuscript until it doesn’t make you want to choke with embarrassment. Then, you need to find a trusted cadre of readers brave enough to give you true and harsh feedback. Rewrite again. Find an editor. Rewrite again. Proof that sucker multiple times.

The process of writing hasn’t changed a bit.  It’s still really hard to do it well and terribly difficult to find success. The good writing will hopefully get noticed and the bad writing will sink to the bottom. Note that this  is just a general rule and isn’t necessary true in all cases – see  The Cuckoo’s Calling and 50 Shades of Grey.

You finally drag your tired carcass across the finish line with this raggedy-ass manuscript in hand and guess what? More work and lots of it. You either need to hire someone to design your cover or get very familiar with GIMP or Photoshop. You need to navigate the idiosyncrasies of .mobi files versus .epub. You must slay the dreaded auto-indent that lives in KDP-land.

I’m not saying that every self-published book out there is a sparkling, beautiful gem, just waiting to be discovered. Sub-standard work exists and the fact that anyone can publish pretty much anything they want means that the publishing world has drastically changed. We need to change with it. We need to accept and understand the new paradigm and begin to strengthen it.

What I’m saying is a self-published book doesn’t suck simply by virtue of being self-published. It very well might be poorly written and ill-imagined, but you must read it before you make that determination.

Self-publishing isn’t new, it’s e-publishing that’s new. Proust paid his own bill in order to get Swann’s Way published . Many familiar authors such as Walt Whitman, Edgar Allen Poe, Benjamin Franklin,  and Edgar Rice Burroughs (among countless others) utilized some form of self-publishing.

So your manuscript is finally ready. You go through the steps required to turn it into an ebook and then a physical book. Are you finished?

HELL, NO. You are not even close to being done.

Now you must market this thing. You must network and promote. And lest I be misunderstood, let me clarify something here – when I speak of marketing and promoting, I mean you will spend months, maybe years, building a platform and maintaining it.

This process is not for cowards. It isn’t going to work for those who lack initiative, follow-through, or tenacity.

So – have some respect, please. The next time you speak with someone who just self-published a book, think about the tremendous amount of perseverance, hard work, and sheer heart that it took. Congratulate them on their huge accomplishment. Give that author a big old bear hug from me!

If you wish to have an opinion on the book, you will need to do one of two things:

1.) Go buy the book and read it.

2.) If you don’t want to buy the book, ask the author if you may receive a free copy in exchange for an honest review. I guarantee every single author will agree immediately. Now go home and read that book.

Finally, go to AmazonGoodreads, and B&N and review the book. Be kind but give them your honest opinion. These reviews are invaluable for several reasons. Remember I said anyone can publish and they do? This means that the market is glutted and one of the important ways that authors differentiate themselves is using reviews.

Yikes! I can hear everyone out there clamoring and shouting questions about the current state of book reviews.

 Are they trustworthy? Can one pay to get a review?

Answers:  I don’t know. Yes, I suspect so.

This is a topic for another post and I will table it for now and come back to it at a later time.

Let’s just focus on HONEST REVIEWS. If you can deliver them with clarity, honesty, and specificity, they can serve to help the writer better understand her readers. That is worth it’s weight in gold. If you have something to say that might seem a little harsh to just toss out there into the cyberworld, limber up your fingers and send that author a kind but honest review of his book. This is a kind and generous, and something that most people don’t take the time to do for writers.

Criticizing or diminishing the efforts of self-published writers weakens the industry. Instead, let’s take a positive approach. Encourage and applaud self-published authors. Review. Refuse to give anything but an honest review.

By the way, most of these principles also apply to indie artists who are trying to make their way. Let’s lend support and love to all creative people brave enough to put their work out there.

P.S. If you choose not to read the book, you only have one option. Kindly shut up about it until you have something informed and useful to say.

These gorgeous collage pieces were brought to you by one of Ink & Alchemy’s Featured Artists, the talented Emilia Elfe. Clicking any artwork will take you to her website.

As always, thanks for spending time with me. If you wanna hang out some more, visit my platform.

Please stop doing this.

You keep hearing that you need to establish an online presence in order to promote yourself, right? This is absolutely true, and while it might seem that there are no rules and that anything goes out there in the insanity that is the cyber world, I think there are some things that you should avoid.


This post is about what not to do while you’re out there trying to pimp yourself on the internet. Don’t…


  • Take things personally.  Understand that when you post things online, your potential audience is enormous. It’s unlikely that everyone will agree with you all the time. Sure, you can engage in intelligent conversation and debate, and in fact this is strongly encouraged, but be aware that there is very a fine line between enthusiastically disagreeing and becoming angry or antagonistic.The latter is unprofessional.

  • Announce your numbers. No offense, but I really don’t give a rat’s ass how many fans or followers you have and neither does anyone else. Yes, yes, I know that oftentimes FB giveaways and the like are predicated on your fan page making it to the big 500, etc. I also know that in the desperate scramble for something to post, this seems easy and it’s so tempting. Stop doing it. I can think of a thousand better reasons to give something away. It’s Tuesday. The sun is shining. Just because you want to. All of these are better reasons than making promotions or giveaways hinge on your numbers. In fact, I will go so far as to suggest that all of us should be focusing much less on our numbers and far more on engaging with our existing fans and producing useful content.

  • Assume some contacts are better than others. Networking is a fabulous and mysterious creature. Don’t make the mistake of judging any interaction as “good” or “bad” based on stereotypes or incorrect assumptions. I deem all interactions on my page (and in real life as well) as super freaking fantastic and so should you. Anytime a person takes the time to visit your sites, you should be flattered right out of your boots, and if they go really crazy and like, share, or comment on your posts, you should be doing a happy dance. Don’t worry about if you sold anything to them. Don’t worry about if you will ever sell anything to them. Understand that people have no shortage of things vying for their attention, and just getting people to your site is a tremendous accomplishment. Revel in it and then nurture those contacts. Every single one of them is a real person and is valuable. They may change your life by encouraging you or causing you to think outside of the box. They may lurk and never do anything terrific on your page. They may share your page and eventually lead to a sale or a new connection. They may actually buy your book (settle down over there, crazier things have happened). The point is you don’t know, so you should treat every single contact as a VIP.

  • Steal content. This is just bad form and in some situations, it’s illegal. Of course it’s fine to re-post and share the work of others. That’s a huge part of this whole networking thing. But be very careful to give credit where credit is due and ask for permission if you are at all uncertain.

  • Constantly toot your own horn. Yes, I know it’s your platform and it should be centered around you, you, you, but take my word for it – if you constantly post sales links and rarely interact with others, you’re whistling into the wind. Chances are, no one is even listening any more. I know you want to sell your stuff, but this is the tough part. This is where so many people fail. You need to cultivate relationships, not become the cyber equivalent of a door-to-door salesman at dinnertime.

  • Publish poorly edited work.  This is self-explanatory. It reflects poorly on you and your business when you publish things with errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Typos slip by even the best of us, and if you’re producing a lot of work, the odds of missing a mistake increase, but do try.

  • Be negative. Nobody likes complaining or whining. Life is hard enough. Try to be the bright spot in someone’s day. Aim for uplifting and encouraging.

  • Try to promote a business using a personal profile. This applies to all venues, but especially Facebook. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. FB pages are free and are so much better suited for a business. If you’re using your personal profile, you are requiring people to send you a friend request in order to interact with you. If you are doing this, stop immediately. I guarantee that you lose many potential fans because of this. It also becomes problematic if you decide to participate in Adsense or other promotion and affiliate programs because the whole process gets convoluted. More on this in a later post, but suffice it to say – it is prohibited for your friends and family to click your ad links. Adsense has bots which can detect term violations, and if you have customers/clients on your personal profile, it can appear as if you are in violation. Take my word for it – if you don’t have a FB page, stop reading right this second and go create one.

  • Expect immediate results.  This is a big one. I should have placed this one first, or maybe just written about this one all by itself. Promoting your work using networking via social media is not fast and it’s not easy. Why? It requires a constant, consistent push. On top of that, everything is constantly changing, and so must your approach if you want to to keep up. Finally, if you don’t offer genuine, useful content, you’re dead in the water. It takes time and  intention to build a strong platform.

A quick reminder that I’ll be leading a workshop at Southwest Writers in August. It’s called The Basics of Building a Social Media Platform and it will be jam packed with good, practical information to help you get up and running in the cyber world. I’m working on the syllabus and will post it to my website soon.

The art in this post was brought to you by Angela Petsis, one of Ink & Alchemy’s Featured Artists. Click here to visit her website, or here to check out her Etsy shop.

We’re also writing and reading up a storm over at More Ink. I’d love for you to join us!