Going it Mostly Alone: the Publishing Path of A Perfect Blindness

Committed—Self-publishing Part 5: onto the alternate Publishing Path—first comments from the Editorial Evaluation

In the editorial evaluation, the merits of the manuscript’s writing are examined for commercial potential with the standard being would a traditional publishing house consider publishing it? To my knowledge, no other self-publishing company offers a cover-to-cover reading and evaluation like this.

Someone, ostensibly person with industry experience, reads the book cover to cover, evaluating its potential for commercial release. I took this as a weeding out process cum analysis of actual possibility: thus, for books so poorly written there is no reasonable hope for commercial success even with an extensive editing, a report will come back as a polite no, with indications of general issues.

The author of a no manuscript has a variety of choices of how to proceed after getting a negative evaluation: He or she can move on with the publication of the book, more or less as is or try to rewrite based on these comments, either by doing the work him- or herself, or by hiring editors to do the work. The latter takes the author’s initiative: iUniverse won’t recommend their own services, as they understand that no one can spin gold from straw, nor are they in the business of ghost writing someone’s great idea for a book, and that getting the reputation of selling useless services to hapless writers is a major problem. Not only as a source of bad press and negative feedback online, which drives clients away, but for the always-possible lawsuit from a disgruntled author, whole series of which they’ve won. Yet even in winning, they still lose time and money, and worse, the concomitant negative press about getting sued at all—whether or not the suit had merit or that they won—mars their reputation as well as that of the whole industry.

Once the author has either rewritten his or herself or hired editorial help, the manuscript can either be resubmitted for evaluation (incurring a second reading fee), or simply published in this new form without that second evaluation, which would remove the manuscript for possible consideration by the Special Recognitions Board: all at the author’s will.

But if the book shows reasonable possibility for commercial success, even if it needs work, a positive evaluation comes back.

Once an evaluating editor indicates a book does have commercial potential, the book becomes a candidate for the Special Recognitions Program. Only then does iUniverse talk to the author about what it takes to get a book accepted into the program. Here, a cynic cries out gleefully, “See, they are trying to milk the author for every penny they can. Every self-publisher will tell most any author, except maybe those with the most hopeless manuscripts, that their book ‘might’ be able to make it. Pay us and we’ll make it all it can be—no guarantees of course.”

But the cynic has forgotten that iUniverse wants to publish good books: not only does that burnish their own reputation, but adds to the bona fides of the self publishing industry in general, and most importantly, iUniverse makes money on every copy of a book sold. A good book that sells well will keep making them money long after any services are sold, month after month, perhaps year after year. A good book might also get translated, be made into an audiobook, or as has happened, a film. All this is additional revenue from a single

In the end, best business practices dictate giving authors a realistic appraisal of their manuscripts, and then letting the author precede as he or she wishes, encouraging editorial help only for books that have actual potential to become future money earners.

To be clear, encourage does not mean require. iUniverse never requires an author to buy any extra services. An author can take the notes from the editorial review and do any additional work on his or her own, or hire independent editors to help, or do nothing at all and simply barrel straight ahead into print. Hiring an independent editor is not difficult; there are many sites offering all kinds of freelance editing services. The implied advantage of using iUniverse services is that their editors are explicitly from the industry, and they know the specific outcomes demanded by the iUniverse Special Recognitions Board, whereas anyone else may, or may not, provide appropriate guidance or services, and thus iUniverse suggests it’s better to go with their people. A reasonable argument, even if tainted by self interest.

The wait for the Editorial Evaluation lasted three weeks, leaving me to stew in skepticism, suspicion and anticipation.

Then, I got a humbling summary evaluation of my manuscript:

You have a very promising novel. But publishers and editors are always on the lookout for ways to trim a book down to a marketable size. The plot needs some trimming and tightening: the intervals are too long between interesting action. Dialogue outweighs action, and some of the dialogue is speechifying. There are too many minor characters; although all of them are interesting, the large cast adds more bulk to a novel that is too long–149,000 words. There are not too many surface errors, although the format of thoughts not spoken aloud is inconsistent and some sentences are convoluted.

Ouch. Hardly what I’d expected: It’s good, nebulously, and has potential, but here’s a list of general problems that need fixing, including removing whole characters and chopping out hunks of text I’d spent innumerable hours on over many years.

            So, what I am to do now?

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