The Verdict on Self-Publishing and The Thief Maker

Earlier this month The Thief Maker was reviewed by Floyd M. Orr, an author of several non-fiction titles who reviews exclusively books published by iUniverse on his blog under the penname, Tabitha.  Orr’s reviews are of special note for authors who have used iUniverse’s self-publishing services as he thoughtfully critiques not only the content and quality of the writing, but also the quality of the physical book–i.e. the cover design, interior layout, and how well the book was edited and/or proofread.  In bold fashion, Orr passes judgment on both the author and the publisher.  Currently iUniverse is the largest and most well known provider of POD (print-on-demand) self-publishing services in the U.S.

Ultimately the positive review Orr provided for my novel The Thief Maker was yet another vindication that I have not been wasting my time.  Orr’s review deserves special notice, however, as he explored two aspects that other reviewers have not particularly focused on and warrant some discussion:

1.  The genre of The Thief Maker is hard to define–it’s part mystery, part thriller, part whodunit, part psychological melodrama, but follows none of the rules of any one genre.  As other reviews have pointed out, the plot is extremely complex.  The novel is difficult to categorize and impossible to sum up in a quick sound bite for marketing.  Suffice it to say, the marketing of the novel has been an uphill battle, and this is why I have relied so heavily on my grassroots, word-of-mouth campaign.  Sales have been slow but very steady, and I attribute this partly to the averaging of one positive to rave review per month since January of 2007.  Because I am relying almost entirely on this type of word-of-mouth, I have fallen short of my sales goals up to this point.  This ends up being a case of “seeing is believing.”  The only way to understand what the book is about is to read it…and thankfully, so far, most people (critics, peers, friends, and family) who have read it have had nothing but wonderful things to say about it.  Still, I need more support to get the word out to meet my sales goals.

2.  Despite the fact I paid extra for editorial and proofreading services from iUniverse, there are still a number of typographical errors in the book.  This is the main reason I feel there is such a stigma on self-publishing: no matter how thoroughly the book is polished, there will always be the impression that there is a lack of professionalism inherent in self-published books that turns off a large segment of the reading population.  Of course, I wasn’t entirely displeased with the services iUniverse provided.  To clarify: the editorial review iUniverse provided was thoughtful, professional, thorough and contained excellent, succinct advice on how to improve certain sections of the novel, while their proofreading services were, well, not so great.  Comparatively speaking, iUniverse is still tops amongst similar publishers thanks to the worldwide distribution they provide through Amazon.com and their partner Barnes & Noble, the non-exclusivity of their author contracts, and the breadth of services they provide.  I know this from extensive research and personal experience–my previous novel, An Accidental House, was published by their rival Xlibris.  However, authors beware: do your homework and know exactly what you are paying for.  Don’t expect any more or any less than what the publisher expressly spells out for you.  Though I wouldn’t trade the learning experience for anything in the world, and self-publishing is a wonderful and viable option for many writers…when all is said and done, if iUniverse represents the best of what self-publishing has to offer, then I hope I never have to self-publish again and will do everything in my power not to have to do so.

*For an earlier diatribe on my follies in self-publishing and my advice to writers, see below:

https://davethenovelist.wordpress.com/2006/12/21/my-trials-and-tribulations-with-self-publishing/

iUniverse authors will also be happy to find that Floyd M. Orr posts the reviews not just on his blog, but also on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble’s site. The three posted reviews are unique and all have a slightly different twist.  I personally appreciated the extent to which Orr strived to provide fun taglines to use in marketing and promotions and some of the comparisons made, which ranged from very flattering (comparing my work to Stephen King and popular television programs like CSI), to off-the-wall (comparing the book to Bonfire of the Vanities).

In the  review Orr posted on Amazon.com he proclaimed, “The Thief Maker is a spider’s web of morality play, psychodrama, and CSI-style plot twists. Ricocheting back and forth like a boomerang on acid through bouncing timeframes and neurotic characters, the plotline whips the reader like the second-place horse in a race with a million-dollar purse…the satisfaction received in return from such an original storyline is relentless.”

On his blog Orr heralded, “D. H. Schleicher should be crowned the new King of the Plot Twists.”

*For the full review visit:

http://podbram.blogspot.com/2007/08/thief-maker.html

The Thief Maker is on the shelves at Philadelphia and South Jersey area Barnes & Noble stores and available for purchase worldwide through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.

Purchase Now from Amazon.com

Purchase Now from Barnes and Noble

Written by David H. Schleicher
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11 comments on “The Verdict on Self-Publishing and The Thief Maker

  1. Amanda says:

    If you go the iUniverse route again, don’t use their editing services. Find a freelance editor that you “click” with and you’ll be much happier with the outcome of your work. Find a professional typographer too. And then, you proof and proof and proof your own work until you know entire sections by heart. Read it out loud. Read it out loud with a ruler and a sheet of paper for noting errors. Get a proof copy of the book (part of the offset-printing process but not part of the POD process) before you begin selling it. Proof it again.

    My book, as far as I know or have been told, does not have a single error in it. I took the time to be paranoid because I’m well aware of the stigma of self-published books.

    You might like traditional self-publishing (where you form your own company and have complete control of production) better than using a POD company.

    Amanda, thanks for stopping by and sharing these useful tips. With the exception of hiring freelancers like you describe, I have done all the other things you listed. I’ve heard other writers suggest reading your work backwards as it lets you examine it word by word without context or meaning. None of these little tricks have worked for me personally, though I know many people who swear by them. I highly doubt I will ever use iUniverse or any other similar company or self-publish in any fashion ever again. However, never say never. The future is anything but a closed book. –DHS

  2. Mike says:

    I’ve found typos among the works of some of the most popular authors (I think even Stephen King). So a few typos don’t really verify the stigma associated with self-publishing, as long as they don’t go above the baseline of errors present in any novel. That won’t stop people from interpreting them in that way, though.

    Mike, this is true. The average reader doesn’t notice them, either. But someone always will. –DHS

  3. Lloyd says:

    I’m currently in the process of publishing through iUniverse. Last week my manuscript earned the Editor’s Choice and is being considered for Publisher‘s Choice. Instead of buying the copyediting services of iUniverse when it was recommended by the first editorial evaluation, I did the work myself. However, to be honest, I had help.

    I bought a copy of Editor from Serenity Software (www.serenity-software.com). I highly recommend this editing software. It appears to catch almost everything. If you purchase a copy of Editor to edit your manuscript yourself, be ready to work hard. The program does not correct your work for you. It points out possible errors of almost every kind and you have to do the editing from there. My manuscript runs twenty-seven chapters, and it took between three to five hours a chapter to complete the edit. The program cost $45 and saved me the $3,000 iUniverse charges for this service. I didn’t use just Editor. I developed an eleven step editing process, and Editor was the last three steps.

    Lloyd-iUniverse charges $3000 now for those services???? Their prices grow more outrageous every day. Thanks for the tip on the software! –DHS

  4. David,
    I can understand your frustration with editing. My romantic suspense ‘Relocating Mia’ was published through Brideway Books. Eventhough their other services (layout and cover) is top notch, I still find a few typographical errors and English is my SECOND language.
    Of course one will find errors in books published by the ‘big dogs’ as well.
    The flow of the read is very important, at least to me, and with that my editor at Bridgeway Books did help me a lot.
    However, for my sequel and the books beyond, I will find me an editor who I can develop a personal relationship with.

    Good luck to you all. It sure is a book jungle out there!
    Rebecca Lerwill
    http://www.rebeccalerwill.com

    Rebecca, thanks for stopping by! A personal relationship with an editor? What a novel idea! –DHS

  5. Dr T says:

    I have just finished a lexicon on Religions and Spirituality.
    Simple, dictionary/glossary-type text, and I too have contacted Author House, Xlibirs, Book Surge, etc.

    I am not ego driven, and the idea of “writing my own book” in itself has no real appeal. I am just trying to see if I can make a few bucks royalties, and through a reputable company who doesn’t lead me around the merry-go-round.

    Do you have any comments on Author House, as their prices are reasonable ($500-700) for a simple project. However, as with all of the POD publishers, the add-ons add up.

    Basically, any comments on a reasonably priced publisher.

    Wishing you luck.

    Dr T,
    I was not impressed with AuthorHouse last time I researched companies, which was about two or three years ago. However, it is my understanding that they are now owned by the same company as iUniverse thanks to some recent corporate buy-outs. I’m not sure how this might change their products/services/quality when compared with rivals. For what you describe, their pricing sounds reasonable. If I were you, I would wait and see if you can find any author who has used AuthorHouse since the recent changes and ask them for their opinion. Patience is a virtue. Knowing exactly what you are getting into is priceless. –DHS

  6. David-

    I am just beginning to enter the maze of publishing. It is confusing as it becomes overwhelming with mountains of information; pros and cons of both sides. I wrote “Secrets of a Modern Day Bounty Hunter” in 1999 and have been trying to get the baby off the ground since then. When I show an interest in any one particular company, (POD, vanity, etc.) , I immediately, ( and I mean in some case, seconds) am contacted by all concerned to purchase, purchase, and purchase their many services. This also becomes overwhelming as to what I truly need to get the book published and into the hands of the reader. I feel I will never get it completely accomplished.

    Any SHORT suggestions on how to finish this so I can get on to my next writing project?

    Many thanks,

    RJ

    Richard, first: are you sure you want to go the POD/self-publish route? If so, my only advice is to make a budget for yourself (i.e. what services you want and how much you are willing to pay for it). Then, shop around and find the best company that fits your specific needs. Realize, too, that you will be chiefly responsible for all the marketing and word-of-mouth for your book once it is out there.

    If you want to prolong things even further and go the traditional route…good luck. Writer’s Market and Writer’s Digest are great tools to use when trying to find an agent or publisher.

    -DHS

  7. John Lehman says:

    David, I know you through movie reviews both on your site and on mine, http://www.SpankyAndJohnGoToTheMovies.wordpress.com, but I enjoy your take on self-publishing and reviewing. I do paid reviews for a commercial web site and have seen about 80 books this year (many are self published). The comment on hiring an outside editor you can trust is a great one. Often magazine writers can be approached to do this and may be better than academics. Also, let me invite the writers of your audience to check out the free on line workshop I offer at
    http://www.CoolPlums.wordpress.com. It has useful tips for making work a better read. –John

    John, thanks for the helpful links. –DHS

  8. How do you go about getting your book considered for review from a site like this? I’ve been working on promo and marketing, but feel I need to bite the bullet and try to get a reviewer to take a look.

    Cheryl, I don’t do official reviews of new books on my site here, meaning I don’t accept or receive advance review copies openly from publishers or authors. I only review books that I have purchased and read for pleasure.

    However, you might want to check out http://www.readerviews.com. They openly receive and review books from all. That is the first place that reviewed my novel, The Thief Maker. –DHS

  9. DeeDee (Dcd) says:

    D.H.,
    While checking your book out over there at Barnes and Noble I came across this comment…“August 08, 2007: The Thief Maker is D. H. Schleicher’s fourth novel. He writes in an unusually stylistic manner in which the point of view changes from one character to another and the timeframe jumps back and forth from chapter to chapter…”

    Hmmm…interesting…I wonder what are the titles of your other four books? By the way, this is my very “last” question that I plan to ask you…Do you believe me?

    DeeDee 😉

    DeeDee…well, taking after my favorite writer, Graham Greene, I also “disown” much of my earlier work…I basically self-published my first three novels so friends and family could have an actual book to hold…they should’ve never been available to the public…I consider them “practice” for The Thief Maker, which is my only book that I think could or should be held up to scrutiny. The others were the whims of a careless young man who knew not what he was doing and was foolishly caught up in the newly emerging fad of POD….but they were necessary for my growth as a writer and though this may sound like self-absorbed regret…it’s not…I hope..well, maybe it is.

    There’s a whole nother post about that:

    https://davethenovelist.wordpress.com/2006/12/21/my-trials-and-tribulations-with-self-publishing/

    -DHS

  10. DeeDee (Dcd) says:

    “D.H. said,”I basically self-published my first three novels so friends and family could have an actual book to hold…they should’ve never been available to the public…”

    Oh! I see…By the way, your other three books were not on “display” over there at Amaxon.com or Barnes and Noble.
    Just the quote below…
    (“The Thief Maker is D. H. Schleicher’s fourth novel.”) or at least, I didn’t see the books.

    DeeDee 😉

    Sadly we writers can’t control what critics choose to reference or how they refer to our work…I was very happy with the review otherwise. Yes, the first three are not available any more. –DHS

  11. DeeDee (Dcd) says:

    Oops! 😳 …make that Amazon.com

    D.H.said,”but they were necessary for my growth as a writer and though this may sound like self-absorbed regret…it’s not…I hope..well, maybe it is.”

    D.H., Oh! No, I don’t think that you, sound self-absorbed…at all, but you do sound as if you have just a “smidgen” of regret…hmmm..maybe I’am wrong!and I don’t you feel you should have any “regret”…
    …because the first three novels allowed you, to reach the well received fourth novel.

    Take care!
    D.H.
    DeeDee 😉

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