The Joys & Pitfalls of Self-Publishing Part II
My ebook has been out there for a month now, and I have reassessed a lot of things over these past couple of weeks. Self-publishing is definitely a great option for some of us, but it does come with a unique set of issues to take into consideration. I will probably be posting more on this subject, as I learn new things and form new opinions on what works and what doesn’t, but I have to say, I already know one thing that is a major pitfall for those seeking to self-publish. EDITING!
Believe me when I say I went into the production of Wake-Robin Ridge determined to have the most professional and well-edited book I could produce, given my budget and my total lack of experience in writing or publishing. I had Beta readers galore, who helped me in so many ways. They offered constant support and encouragement, and they asked questions, pointed out typos and other mistakes, and helped me shape my draft for editing. I did major revisions, myself. I had a great editor who worked well with me, and understood what I was looking for. And I had Advanced Copy readers, who also pointed out any errors they spotted. Plus, I read and re-read the manuscript repeatedly, myself, though I’m sure having cataracts that needed to be removed didn’t help my contribution to the editing process. Even with all of the above, mistakes were found in the book after it went Live on Kindle. I was heartsick.
I know that even major books by best selling authors often have typos in them. I’ve seen it myself, including with the last book from one of my very favorite authors, which had a whopper of a typo in it. But that did not make me feel one bit better to find them in MY book, strangely enough.
The good news is, it’s very easy to fix errors on Kindle. The bad news is, your book is already in the hands of readers who may or may not notice them, and who may or may not forgive them. The best they can think is that it doesn’t look very professional. The worst, that you are a rank amateur and they aren’t interested in reading anything else you write. That is not good!
I don’t think the small number of errors I found in WRR is dreadful in a book as long as mine (427 pages), but it’s NOT acceptable to me. And I never want it to happen again. So I have a plan for my next book, which is already underway, and part of it entails how I proofread MYSELF, which will be via a print out of each chapter, and using a ruler to go line by line to be certain there are no mistakes. Somehow, errors show up much more vividly on paper than they do digitally. They also show up more on Kindle than they do in a word processing program. Don’t know why, but that’s the way of it.
Here are my suggestions to anyone heading down the Self-Publishing Path for the first time:
1. Definitely find some Beta readers who would enjoy reading your rough draft. It’s surprising how many people like being a part of the process from the very start. Ask them to tell you about ANY errors they see, or any plot points that don’t make sense to them. It can keep you from going down a wrong path that you might have to rewrite later on.
2. When you are finished with your rough draft, do your own first major revision, going back through with a critical eye and a machete, and lopping out stuff you know darn well is not needed to move your story along or advance any developing relationships between your characters.
3. Absolutely, positively, no matter what you have to sell to pay for it, hire an EDITOR. Get the best one you can afford. An editor will go through with a scalpel, some sandpaper and a buffer, and help you clean up rough edges and get rid of stuff that really doesn’t sound right. They can do a certain amount of proofing to help you with typos, and they can ask questions when your content doesn’t make sense. There are varying types of editing to be had, and my suggestion would be to go for the most complete service you can. Do check pricing, though, as sometimes a really high price isn’t bringing you more service, and a really low one may not give you enough. But don’t skip the editor. And you can make their job easier by running some decent self-editing software yourself, before sending your work to your editor, in the first place. I like SmartEdit, but there are other programs out there.
4. After you have done your revisions, and your editor has worked his or her magic, give some copies of your manuscript to some Advanced Copy Readers who, unlike your Beta readers, can read the book start to finish, as a whole, and give you feedback on what they liked or didn’t like. This is your last chance to change any important story details that didn’t work for readers.
5. BEFORE you upload your book to Kindle, print out a copy of each chapter, and re-read it yourself, using a ruler to keep your eye focused on each line, looking for any typos that may have been missed. You’ll probably find a couple. Fix them.
6. Upload your book to Kindle, but before announcing to the world that your book is ready, buy a copy yourself, and read it from cover to cover on your own Kindle. Even if you don’t find any more typos (though you probably will), you want to look for formatting mistakes that make your ebook look funny. Or font choices that don’t work. Or spacing that’s off. Those kinds of things are distracting to readers and should be fixed before letting everyone know that, at last, your book is ready. If you skip this step, you may find yourself feeling pretty embarrassed later on.
This is the way I plan to approach my second book, and I think it is going to make a big difference in how the finished product looks and reads. I hope this has been helpful to anyone looking to do this for the first time. My next self-publishing post will be on the things that I learned about the actual formatting of an eBook, so those of you who are interested, stay tuned.
That’s all, folks! As you were! 🙂