For those of you unfamiliar with the above quote, it’s the last line to a film I remember enjoying very much, The Devil’s Advocate. Al Pacino plays John Milton, a physical manifestation of Satan, and the line refers specifically to vanity’s inherent potential for exploitation. Unfortunately, this applies not just to lawyers (as was the case in the film), but to writers alike, or more to the point, vanity authors. Er, wait, I meant enterprise authors. OK, which one is it?
Let’s face it, the term vanity, or the “V” word, as Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, prefers to call it, packs a lot of negativity, but is it warranted? You bet it is, but only insofar as it’s applicable. This is tricky terrain, I’ll admit. But as with all surfaces, it can be navigated with the right tools, and in this case the tool is honesty. Brutal, unapologetic, and objective honesty.
So you’ve written a book, and now you want to get it published.
Writing a book is no small task. For some it can take months, for others, years. Hundreds, if not thousands of hours are spent agonizing over which words to commit to the page, all in the hope that someone will want to read the finished product, or better yet, pay to read what you’ve written. It is a noteworthy accomplishment, but what sets it apart from other achievements is the degree of entitlement that often comes with it. We’ve climbed this hill that most people only talk about attempting, and suddenly we deserve their praise? Well guess what? Writing a book is not the biggest hill there is to climb. And if you think it is, that somehow the worse is behind you, well, maybe vain really is the right word to describe you.
But there’s more at stake here than just name calling. Like Mr. Pacino’s character suggests, this kind of naiveté makes you dangerously susceptible to exploitation, the likes of which can be found all over the internet. The label of published author is literally just a few clicks away, the promise of hard earned recognition at your fingertips. Temptation, as they say, really is everywhere. Ask the majority of people who self-publish.
What makes enterprise authors so different?
For enterprise authors, it isn’t about the hill, it’s about the entire mountain range. Content is just one ingredient to the magic formula. Formatting, cover design, editing, and marketing make up much of the rest. Treat any of these aspects as an afterthought, and you will fail. Enterprise publishing is hard.
Marlayne Giron, in the article Important Questions to Ask Before You Self Publish (and sign on the dotted line) writes:
“Publishing your book is only 1/3 the battle. The next thing you have to think about is how you are going to market your book. How are you going to get the word out? Did you know that 5,000+ new books are released every month? How are you going to let the reading public know about yours?”
I recently came across an upstart book cover design company. Naturally intrigued, I perused their gallery, only to be wildly disappointed and more than a little bit concerned about the state of self-publishing. It wasn’t that the artwork was bad – it simply wasn’t at the level that it needs to be draw an audience. So I had to ask myself, if people are cutting corners on a book cover, what about the other stuff? I mean, it took me eight months to edit my book. How much time are you spending on yours?
Enterprise authorship is a business. Don’t sell yourself short.