Saturday, March 26, 2011

Testing Lulu & Reading Other People's Self-Published Books

Thursday's New York Times & L.A. Times articles about Amanda Hocking, the Minnesota phenom who sold 900,000 copies of her self-published Y.A. series and stands to net $1 million from publishers of her new series, roused my curiosity about the world of internet self-publishing. Who is publishing at Lulu and Smashwords, free self-publishing sites?  Alternative writers seeking an outlet?  Creative writing teachers who write a little too well for mainstream publishing?   People who write for fun?

I read 60 pages of Keller's lyrical self-published novel.
Before I sampled some self-published e-books, I decided to test the capacities of Lulu.  Is it indeed three simple steps?  

It might help to write a book, but I breezily uploaded a blog entry.   "Create a keepsake just for yourself, full of favorite photos or your own stories. You'll end up with a professional-looking finished product that's a match for anything you'll find on the shelf at your local bookstore....No set-up fees. Ever. We make the book publishing process simple."

At first it wouldn't accept my iWorks document. I am all about the Mac and was annoyed.  I tried the program at Smashwords, and it was the same anti-Mac quandary.  Then my husband showed me how to save an iWorks document as Word.  Magic!   Lulu uploaded my "book."  Not actually a book, because I didn't bother to fine-tune the format, but I can certainly "Lulu" if I want to.

So, yes, run to Lulu and self-publish that novel.

READING self-published e-books is, of course, simpler. They're everywhere.  Self-publish on the internet and you're ready to sell or give away your e-book at Amazon, B&N, and other sites.  But after a recent backsliding into the world of REAL books (I ordered ten over spring break; the Nook is SOOOO over at our house), I can't justify buying a (possibly bad) self-published book. So I downloaded a few e-books from Obooko, a free site where authors can upload their work and we can download it for free. nough criticisms of  well-reviewed books from major publishers.

Here's the thing.  The self-published books are not actually bad.  Some of these people can write.  The problem is in the editing.

Take R. J. Keller's novel, Waiting for Spring. I read 60 pages. It seems at first like the kind of well-written issue novel Katrina Kittle writes. The narrator of Keller's novel, Tess Dyer, has just gotten divorced from Jason after eleven and a half years of marriage.  He didn't even bother to show up at the courthouse.  Sound Kittleish?  Yes.

It starts out strangely, with a prologue about a nun's retelling of the parable about the perils of sowing on hard ground on the path.  Then suddenly we're into Tess's divorce. 

Keller's writing about Maine winter is lyrical. The leafless trees.  The snow.   The stone steps of the courthouse were "solid, slick with ice in spots, crunchy with salt in others.  I focused on that sound, my books crushing the salt, because it was better than hearing the judge's gavel echoing in my brain."  

Then it gets weird.  Tess reads in the newspaper about the murder of a cleaning lady in a nearby town, and decides to move there and take over this woman's jobs because she needs a fresh start.  GOOD GOD.  She moves into a new apartment, is sexually aroused by the construction worker neighbor, has lunch with his friends, she drinks too much, and he comes onto her...and Keller needs to scratch some of these chapters and include a little drama because we're not going anywhere.  The plot is GONE after a couple of chapters.  And Tess honestly seems kind of trashy.

So Keller is a good writer in search of an editor. She can't seem to make anything HAPPEN in the novel.  We're always in Tess's head.   I can't finish the book because I keep itching to edit it.   

Then I looked at a couple of books that are unreadable.

And I just downloaded something (historical fantasy?  I'm not quite sure where I was on Obooko) called When Women Were Warriors.  It looks vaguely Marion Zimmer Bradley-ish.

I'm quite sure there are some good books up there.  But where to find them?  Not all of these writers are Amanda Hockings, though her books aren't my kind of thing at all...


Catherine M. Wilson said...

I hope you enjoy When Women Were Warriors. I believe you will find it quite well written.

Catherine M. Wilson
author, When Women Were Warriors Books I, II, and III

Frisbee said...

It looks good and I hope to get to it soon!