I’m a big fan of DIY culture. I applaud people who take the time and effort to learn how to do their own plumbing, electrical, furniture refinishing, tiling, whatever. I come from a family of handy people, so it’s one of those things that just brings me much joy.
But as I recently learned, some people use the mantra of Do-it-yourself as a license to Do-it-half-assed. After my divorce I bought a new-to-me, 40-year-old home. Now, I knew going in that it was a 40 year old house–it’s going to have some problems. So the major electrical problem last summer? *sigh* Okay. The messed up driveway that needs to be torn out and replaced? Knew about that going in.
What I hadn’t anticipated was the re-wiring of electrical stuff inside that I still haven’t been able to figure out. (Once I do, I’ll actually have working lights on my garage.) Or the half-assed plumbing repair (plastic fittings on copper pipes? Really?). Or the strange paper-patch-job on the ceiling where the plumbing problem had leaked. (Yes, paper–they didn’t bother re-putting drywall in that spot.)
Now, maybe they didn’t know how to do it right. Or maybe they were just cheap or lazy. I don’t know. I kind of don’t care. Because as the new owner, it’s all my problem to deal with. That is what I care about.
So, let’s talk about that book you’re self-pubbing. You know, the one with the cover you half-assed because cover artists are expensive, yo. And you had your BFF edit it because she reads a lot. And you didn’t bother having anyone else even read over your final galley looking for issues because reasons.
We’ve all seen these books for sale. We read the sample pages and say things like, “These are the books that give indie authors a bad name.”
But the problem is, a lot of us are DIYers. We’ve been in the industry and we’ve gone through edits on a dozen books. blah blah blah. So, we aren’t those people. We have actually honed the skills, and we can probably get away with a level of DIY that those who haven’t run through the industry can’t.
But unless we also utilize every single one of those skills to the highest level we can, we’re also not going to pull off having a product that looks quite as shiny as if it had gone through all the professional channels. Think about the bakers you know and lets talk cupcakes. Can they make a tasty product (story)? Can they make it look nice packaging (Cover art)? Can they insert that extra layer of depth to the taste with homemade fillings (editing)? Can they make it look great with all the frosting and the sprinkles and whatnot (proofing)? The professionals can. Now count up how many of your DIY bakers can create a product at the same level as the professionals all on their own?
It’s the same thing with books. Authors make a tasty product. Some of us have the expertise to make great packaging. Then things get dicier. We can all self-edit, but can we do it well enough to not have an outside party look at it with fresh eyes? And proofing…by the time a book reaches that stage, how many times has an author read it? How much do our eyes just gloss over? So if we skip the outside editing and proofing… we’re basically a school bake sale cupcake.
Tasty enough, but was it really worth it for the person who does the buying? Or are they going to eat it thinking “Should have gone to the Cupcake Station.”