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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Self-Publishing? Your First Job is Quality. Second, Quality. And Last of All, Quality.

As authors flock to self-publishing, one important element in so many of today's new titles is suffering: Quality.



For some reason, authors believe that they are able to write, edit, and publish their own work without having it vetted by publishing professionals. I'm not talking about the "I-found-him-online" paid editors who may or may not have a clue about today's publishing standards, or what is acceptable in your genre, or do anything more than mark up your grammar and charge you a LOT of money.



I'm talking about traditionally/successfully published authors, critique groups,readers, and proofers. People NOT related to you who will read your work and give you honest feedback on literary elements such as:
· How's the pacing?
· Are the characters believable?
· Is the plot credible? Does it sag in the middle? Does it end appropriately?
· Is there enough dialog? Does it sound real and suitable to the character, or is it stilted? Too sophisticated, or not sophisticated enough?
· Is the point of view deep enough? Are all 5 senses involved?
· Are your word choices interesting and correct for the era?
· Is the manuscript over-written?
· Is your usage of dialect/colloquialisms a help or a hindrance to the reader?
· Do your sentences vary in length and structure? Do your paragraphs?


These are some of the issues that professional readers and writers can spot that the author may be too close to their work to see. If nothing else in this blog sticks with you, remember this: NO author can edit themselves. If you don't believe me, ask any successful author.



And all of this work is done, redone, checked, and rechecked multiple times before you format your print or ebook!



When you are ready for that step, examine several traditional ebooks and print books as you format yours. Make sure your pages look like theirs. Make sure you have the same pages at the beginning and end of your book with the same information as they do. Look at headers, footers and page numbers for your print books. Check the consistent use of fonts. Look at where on the page the chapters begin. Is the first letter in the chapter enlarged? Is the first word or phrase in bold? Details!



When it comes to typos, there is no point in proofing any manuscript until it's in its final form. Order multiple copies of your print proof and have two or three rounds of readers mark the typos (fix the book between rounds and then order new proofs). Because there WILL be typos. Plenty of them. Ditto for the ebook. Don't stop until it's as clean as you can make it!


Is this a lot of work? Heck yeah, it is! But you want to create a credible and quality product, don't you? Your name is on it. And your career depends on it.

The most common question I am asked is where do you find these people to help you? Here's where:
  • Professional writer groups comprised of traditionally published authors (join several)
  • A critique group made up of authors from these writer groups
  • Anal-retentive/OCD friends of yours who are intelligent and like to read, and who read a lot (doesn't matter what genre)

There will be some trial and error as you weed through these sources, but eventually you should find enough people who are actually helpful. And who enjoy helping you.

The bottom line is this: a traditionally published book takes 12-18 months to be released. Don't rush your own process! Take the time to create a quality product that you can be proud of. Because once you burn a "reader" bridge, rebuilding it is far more work than doing it well to begin with.

Kris Tualla, author of the Hansen Series of Historical Romance
Norway is the new Scotland!
September 2011 releases: Loving the Norseman & Loving the Knight






9 comments:

Therese said...

Amen!!!

Sarah Raplee said...

Kris,
Thank you for sharing your expertise. I agree that no author can edit themselves well.

Your advice makes total sense to me. I don't know if I'll self-publish some day, but I'm learning everything I can about all my options.

I've heard the 'Quality!' mantra over and over again from self-pubbed authors I respect. Thank you again for explaining what editors do for authors and where to find editing assistance.

Judith Ashley said...

Kris - thanks for sharing your words of wisdom that are really words of common sense. I don't know anyone who likes to read a book with multiple errors in it - so why would anyone want to read my book with multiple errors in it? Obviously, they wouldn't.

Your practical advice and suggestions will certainly make my journey, whichever path I take, easier!

Paty Jager said...

I agree. My self published work goes through two CP's, a friend who is an editor, and my hawk eye daughter who does the final run through for typos and grammar. Granted the big publishers have mistakes in their works(I've found a mistake every 6-8 pages in some Harlequins) But I make sure that what I self publish has been checked for premise, plot, and character development and then the grammar and typos are the best I and my group of "editors" can do.

Kris Tualla said...

The truth is, self-published authors are held to a higher standard. Snarky readers LOOK for mistakes! I heard of one reviewer who stops reading an indie book once she hits 15 mistakes. Does she doe the same for the Big 6?

Self-pubbed authors are gaining respect for the work they do - WHEN they do it. But we have a ways to go!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Kris,
This is a very informative blog and you have imparted vital information for anyone contemplating self-publishing.

Regards

Margaret

Dr. Debra Holland said...

Kris,

Please clarify that you didn't mean don't proof read your book until the very end. My boyfriend and I (both self-published) got into a disagreement about it. I said, "Of course she didn't mean don't correct mistakes as you go along." He thinks that's exactly what you said.

I think you need to proof at all stages of the process, but especially the very end. It's amazing with all the vigorous editing my books had, a few typos/mistakes still slipped through. Caught one last week!

Lily said...

Thank you, Kris, for the emphatic message. Readers are wary of any self-published book, for all the reasons you state. Clearly, the onus is on the author to meet the standards the reader expects and then to exceed them.

Heather Justesen said...

I couldn't agree more! I have several self-published friends, (and have self-published one title myself) and while some of them take the time for multpile rounds of critiques for content, punctuation, grammar, pacing, etc, far too many don't. And while most are careful about cover design, very few take the time to ensure their interiors look professional. If you aren't willing to take the time to create a professional product, how can you expect others to treat you like a professional?