I read a lot of inde- and self-published novels. Not as many as I would like, but that’s true of reading in general. Still, though, a lot.
Some of them are exceptional. Some of them, I can tell the author invested a lot in honing his or her craft, hiring an editor and cover designer, and marketing.
However, many, many, many of them are… less thoroughly polished.
As an indie author myself, this saddens me. It adds to the stereotype about self-publishing. It adds to the stigma of being “just” an indie author. It adds to the preconceptions about quality and value. And, especially in the Christian market, it adds to the notion that Christian media is a cheap, preaching-to-the-choir imitation of the “real thing,” and people only watch, read, and listen to Christian things because they want to support each other and not “the world.”
This is the opposite of how it should be.
Christian authors should be so far above the norm, quality wise, that people are clamoring to read more. We should be so far beyond what is acceptable in the marketplace that readers can’t get enough of what we produce. We should be exceptional.
In various writers groups I’m part of, I hear often things like, “I’m writing for the Lord,” and “I want to serve God with this gift He has given me.” Good! That’s exactly as it should be! So why, then, do so many books come across as half-heared efforts to crank something out?
I’m not saying this is the case–I know very well how hard it is to complete a novel. I know how hard it is to be rejected by agents and editors. I know how hard it is to receive criticism. Believe me, I’m not saying I think any self-published work was easy. I know first hand it’s not.
But I also know how easy it is to get lazy. I know how exhausting it is to go through seemingly endless revisions and how appealing it is to just “get it out there.” I know how expensive editing and cover design are.
But I beg you, don’t give up!
Anything worth doing is worth doing well. All our writing should be as to the Lord, and not unto men, but that doesn’t mean offering up something that just came to us. King David said he would not offer the Lord something which cost him nothing. In the Old Testament, God required the first fruits, the perfect and spotless lambs, for His sacrifices. How much more should we, who are saved by grace, be willing to sacrifice to bring glory to Him?
I often see posts about prices for editing. On any given thread, there are those who say “That’s way too much! I would never pay that for an edit! It’s not worth the return on investment to pay more than this amount!” and then there are those who say, “Wow, that’s a really cheap price–make sure your editor knows what he’s doing.”
I talk more about the value in a good editor in this post, but let me reiterate that the amount of time an editor invests in your manuscript matters. I have read so many books with such potential, if only…
If only they understood “show vs. tell” and how to apply that to these scenes of endless exposition.
If only they understood what it means to follow through with the style and expectations set up at the beginning of the novel.
If only they had a decent proofreader to catch all the typos.
I could go on and on about stories I’ve read which had fantastic world building, but that jumped around in the plot or the POV so much it was really hard to engage, or stories that had really fascinating characters but had so much backstory I couldn’t find the actual story, or endless other things that should’ve been addressed in a good edit. I’m not trying to devalue the benefit of beta readers or others who may have helped with your story, but there are some things that a professional editor has trained to look for that takes time and expertise to see and address.
Here’s the thing: Excellence isn’t cheap or easy.
We should strive to be excellent. As Christians who are seeking to glorify God with our writing, that means investing time in learning our craft and investing money in making sure our stories are the very best they can be.
As a reader, I really want to love your story. I want to get lost in your world and care about your characters. I want to tell my friends about your book and how they simply must purchase it. I want to leave glowing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
I want you to be successful. And I want you to love your story enough to invest in it. I appeal to you, as a fellow writer and as a reader, don’t take the easy or cheap way out. Don’t produce something that isn’t the very best quality.
Give your readers every opportunity to love your book, and glorify God by giving Him your very best.