Writing Wednesday: The Power of Perception
I wrote my first draft of this post about three weeks ago. That came after a Blogger I follow wrote a post questioning whether it’s better to self-publish or small publish. Then on Facebook someone I know from an online writing group wondered if she should self-publish.
One of the Facebook people answered this question pretty well. (I’ve left the typos intact!)
“NO. NEVER. Imagine i was a filmmaker. Imagine i was selling my HOMEVIDOES of my CATS becuase i felt they were great. Would you PAY to see them?”
See, that sums up the kind of prejudice you face when you self-publish. The perception is that if you self-publish then your book is probably terrible. It’s probably riddled with typos and terrible prose. Why else would no real publisher publish it?
And truth be told there are a good number of those out there. The stereotype isn’t just something made up by the publishing industry to protect its profits. Some people do just toss out some piece of garbage without looking at it. Or they just aren’t capable of correcting their mistakes.
Now more than ever we live in a world where perception is reality. That’s why all this “Birther” crap won’t go away, even though Obama’s been president for over two years now. With all the social networking, you can spread conspiracy theories and lies far and wide. Enough people buy into it and it becomes a “fact” even if it’s not.
So is it better to try a small publisher than self-publish? Absolutely. Sure the small publisher can’t really pay you and they aren’t likely to get your book on the shelf at B&N or Borders (for those who still have those) and their marketing budget isn’t much better than what you can do with your own money, but they give you credibility. The idea that someone else thought your book was good is the best benefit of even a small publisher. That gives you the perception of quality and perception is what matters.
For part two of this entry I got to thinking that if I can’t find a small publisher, maybe I should just start my own. How hard can that really be? Well for just me by myself it might be tricky. But maybe if I pool resources with some other people it would work better.
For my hypothetical example, imagine that me and three of my semi-regular readers—Briane Pagel, Michael Ouffett, and Ethan Cooper—decide we’re tired of getting kicked in the pants by The Man and so agree to form our own company. Since there are four of us we decide to call ourselves Four Aces Publishing. (And it doesn’t matter that none of us have ever met in person or that we live in different states. It’s hypothetical!)
We divide the labor up like this: Briane’s a lawyer so he handles the legal stuff like contracts, I’m an accountant so I handle the money and taxes, Coop lives in New York so he can meet with any agents/clients there, and Michael can handle our technical stuff. (If any of you are reading this, maybe you want to do more or less or something different, but again it’s hypothetical, OK?)
The real hitch other than a lack of money would be if we want to print books. But maybe we can outsource the actual process of that to a third party and just get our company logo on the spine. That would be something to research. Let’s just say we can do that. All we have to do is create a website and start spreading the word. Four Aces Publishing is in business!
Our first couple books would probably be from our own stuff. I mean, that was kind of the point, right? Eventually we could take on other clients to expand the business. The real problem would be getting the books listed on Amazon, B&N, etc. That would be something else to research. Maybe it’s not that hard.
Anyway, assume that all works out and now my book hits the virtual shelves saying “Four Aces Publishing” instead of “CreateSpace” or “Lulu.” Does that make it better? In reality probably not, but it’s the perception that’s the key. In the buyer’s mind even though we’re actually just four people who probably don’t know what we’re doing we’re a legitimate business. And that’s worth a lot.
(Incidentally, if you buy a paper copy of either Where You Belong or my short story collection The Carnival Papers I have on there the logo for my fictitious company D.e-Press. I actually came up with that for an accounting class back in college where we had to create financial statements for a fake business. If that appeared as the publisher on Amazon, do you think I’d have better sales? Probably. I’d probably also be on P&E and Writer Beware as a vanity publisher to avoid!)
Friday is an entry inspired by a movie–and a movie review…