Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How to Know When You're Ready to Publish

"Am I ready to indie publish?"

I've gotten that question from a number of newbie writers in both of my guises. Lots of folks are skipping the trad submission merry-go-round. Good for them! But that doesn't mean craft goes out the window.

Frankly, my answer for each person would be "It depends." So here's some thoughts on the matter:

1) Is your story coherent?

Seriously, does it have a beginning, a middle, and an end? Does the narrative flow seamlessly from section to the next? Unless you're writing some experimental, existential bullshit, your story needs to make sense to the average reader.

2) Are your details consistent?

Does the hero's name change from John Doe to Steve Smith for no apparent reason? Do the heroine's eyes change from hazel to blue without contacts? If it's Tuesday and the hero and heroine make a date to meet in three days, why are they meeting on Sunday? Those little logic traps can jerk a reader out of a story. Readers don't like being jerked.

3) Is your grammar, punctuation and spelling solid?

See what I did in this question? I left out the fucking Oxford comma. I hate the fucking Oxford comma. That's a matter of style preference. But if you think "punctuation" should be spelled p-u-n-k-c-h-u-a-s-h-u-n, then you might want to got through your manuscript again.

4) This is a marathon; not a sprint.

Don't let yourself get into a rush. Don't skip steps unless you are consciously doing it for a particular reason. The rush thing is U.S. corporate mentality which was hammered into us in public schools or through assimilation in cubicles. No one's going to take indie publishing away from you. Put out the best product you can.

5) Don't let fear slow you down.

This is the opposite of #4 above. If you are obsessing over the first three to the point you WON'T publish your work, perfectionism has taken over your brain. It's a form of fear. Fear of being judged. (You will be anyway.) Fear of being ridiculed (Yeah, that will probably happen, too.) Fear of putting a little piece of your soul out into the world. But guess what? There's going to be more people who like your story and encourage you, and that's much more important.


  1. Another good way to get an outside opinion is to sub shorts to markets that pay pro rates. I know, tradpub.... But the short markets aren't screwing writers over the way novel markets are. And when you get to the point where you're regularly (not 100% of the time, but say 50% or more) getting the GOOD rejections -- the "Great story, well written, not buying it, enjoyed reading it, looking forward to seeing more from you," then even if you never sell anything to one of those markets, you can probably take those editors' words for it that you're ready to publish. After all, even if your story didn't fit their magazine, or if it wasn't quite the right tone for the way their anthology was shaping up, if a professional editor liked your story, enjoyed reading it, and thought it was well written.... Well, there you go. :)

    And if you DO sell a story or three and make a few hundred bucks (each), then that's a bonus. You can indie pub it too, after the exclusivity period runs out.


    1. The point of the post was these folks aren't bothering with any of the trad markets. Their choice. Just like it's yours to do trad only, my dear.

    2. I know, but you don't have to actually accept any offers you might get -- it's just a sanity check for people who seem to need one desperately. I've heard/read a LOT of newer writers, when pondering indie publishing, do the, "But how do I know if I'm GOOD enough???" dance. If you don't trust yourself, or your mother, or your friends (all of whom are probably biased one way or another, so not trusting those sources is probably a good idea so far as it goes) then pro editors who don't know you and give no damns about your feelings are probably the best indicators you're going to get.

      It's something that works, when the near-panic I've seen in some of these folks seems to indicate that pretty much nothing else will. [shrug]


    3. Which I covered in Item #4 and #5, I believe. Each person needs to understand what type of validation motivates them. That takes some internal reflection which I highly encourage. And the subject of self-examination would require a whole different, existential, incredibly long blog post. :-D