Basic Editorial Checks in Self-Publishing

-Percy Parry

photo credit: alicemariedesign
photo credit: alicemariedesign

Watching the book you’ve worked so hard on finally get printed is a whole different feeling by itself. It‘s not like the feeling that you get when you hold in your hands a recently purchased book. No, it’s like holding a new born, your first born! The feeling is incredibly satisfying.

But getting this far was never easy for those who had gone about getting their book published  the traditional way, and neither will it be easy for those who want to get their book self-published. The process of getting mere concepts and ideas in the print form may look like a painstaking process, but with the right help, from the right people, at the right time this complication can be taken care of strategically.

To achieve the best possible results for your project, it’s often best to assemble a team of writing evaluators. You may be tempted to skip through the whole process of editing and proofreading, and so you use self-publishing as an easy ticket to fame. But even if you are an excellent writer, it is next to impossible to proofread your own work. This is basically because we tend to overlook our mistakes when we read our own work, as we tend to read what we think we wrote, which in the case of an experienced copy-editor these mistakes are hard to miss.

Here is a list of the things Janice Campbell, Director of the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors says, you ought to do before jumping into the process self-publishing your book.

  • First choose a good story from a range of interesting topics. This will include the main plot, the characters, etc.
  • Remember, ‘Half knowledge is MORE dangerous than ignorance!’ So do a research to find possible resources who can give you proper and reliable information about the matter you want to write about. Research can also give you a brief idea of possible competitors.
  • Plan your book, using a developmental editor or writing coach for structural help.
  • Outline the text, chapter by chapter, backing up your files regularly to a flash drive.
  • Draft each chapter using clear, vivid language. TIP: If you will be using a program such as InDesign or Quark to lay out the pages of the book, compose the text in a generic text editor such as TextEdit or TextPad. This will eliminate formatting-code problems in the page layout stage.
  • Spell-check the entire document.
  • Have your writing coach or developmental editor read through the completed manuscript draft and offer suggestions to enhance organization and clarity.
  • Consider the coach or editor’s suggestions, and make changes to the manuscript.
  • Spell-check again.
  • Repeat steps 7-9 until you have reached a satisfactory final draft.
  • Turn over your final draft to a copy-editor for mark-up.
  • Incorporate the copy-editor’s corrections into the document.
  • Flow text into your page layout software (or turn the book over to a book designer).
  • Print hard copies of the manuscript and have a proofreader go over the completed, laid-out text.
  • Make corrections, and proofread again, both onscreen and on a hard copy of the draft.
  • Generate the bibliography and Table of Contents.
  • Have an index created by a professional indexer or use your page layout software to create an index on your own. Be aware that a professional indexer can probably do the job much more quickly and efficiently than you can, and a good quality index can be a valuable asset to your book.
  • Put the completed book aside for at least a week, then proofread it again and make final corrections.
  • Have a sharp-eyed layperson read through the entire book. It’s not likely, but they may spot an error that all the pros have overlooked!
  • Send your completed manuscript to the printer of your choice.

 

Now remember, writing a book and getting it published either way is hard work. There are no shortcuts. Self-publishing is not a solution, to the problems that writers have been facing with traditional publishing. You are bound to make mistakes that most authors do when they are in a hurry to get their book self-published.

These are top five mistakes that Kristen Lamb says are killing self-publishing authors.

Mistake #1 Publishing Before We Are Ready:

When we are new, we often fail to understand what we do know and what we don’t know. Just because we know English, it doesn’t mean that we qualify to write a book spanning 60-100,000 words. There are countless writers out there, who refuse to read fiction, refuse to read craft books, but only go to pitch agents when they attend conferences at the expense of attending the craft sessions.

Additionally, too many new writers do not properly understand the antagonist. They don’t grasp three-act structure which has been around since Aristotle, and there is a lot of evidence in neuroscience that suggests that the three-act structure is actually hard-wired into the human brain. Thus, when we deviate too far from three-act structure, it confuses and frustrates readers. Stories have clear beginnings, middles and ends. Without a clear story objective, it is impossible to generate dramatic tension, and what is left over is drama’s inbred cousin, melodrama. Yet, many writers start off writing a book without properly understanding the basic skeleton of the story.

photo credit: brody4
photo credit: brody4

Writing fiction is therapeutic, but it isn’t therapy. Yes, characters should struggle with inner demons, but that does not make a plot. Struggling with weakness, inner demons, insecurity, addictions are all character arc, not plot arc. There should be a core story problem that we can articulate in ONE sentence. The plot arc should serve to drive the character arc. If the character does not grow and change she will fail, but it is the core story problem that drives this change. Without the problem, there is no crucible. The better we are at the basics, the better we know the rules, the more we become true artists.

Mistake #2 Jumping in Before Understanding the Business Side to the Business:

A lot of writers rush into self-publishing without properly preparing to be a small business, even though that is exactly what they are. When we self-publish, we take on new roles and we need to understand them. We need to be willing to fork out money for proper editing, cover design and formatting.

One of the benefits to traditional publishing is they take on all the risk and do the editing, proofing, etc. When we go at it alone, we need to prepare for some expenses and do our research. We can be told a million times to not judge a book by its cover, yet that is exactly what readers do. Additionally, we may need to look into becoming an LLC. We need to set up proper accounting procedures and withhold the correct amount of taxes, unemployment, state taxes and on and on.

Mistake #3 Believing that, “If We Write it They Will Come”:

There are a lot of writers who mistakenly believe that self-publishing is an easier and faster way to fame and success. Self-publishing is A LOT of work. Not only do we need to write good books, but we also need to write prolifically. We also need to work our tails off on social media. When we self-publish, we need a much larger platform because we don’t have New York in our corner. This is one of the reasons self-publishing isn’t for everyone. We need to look at how badly we want the dream, and then ask how many hours are we willing to work and what are we willing to sacrifice?

Mistake #4 Misusing FREE!

There are a lot of problems with giving books away for FREE! We shouldn’t be giving away our work unless it serves some kind of a strategic advantage. There are ways to effectively harness the power of FREE! But too few writers understand how to do this and they just end up giving away their art for no tangible gain. This goes with the above point of us needing to understand the business side of our business. When we do choose to give away stuff for FREE! It needs to serve longer-term business goals.

Mistake #5 Shopping One Book to DEATH:

One of the BIGGEST problems with self-published writers is that they publish one book and then they focus every bit of energy on selling THAT ONE book. Self-publishing, in many ways, just allows us to accelerate the career path of the author. Even in traditional publishing, it usually takes about three books to gain traction. In traditional publishing, this takes three years because we are dealing with a publisher’s schedule. In self-publishing, we can make our own schedule, but it still takes THREE BOOKS AT LEAST. There may be exceptions, but most self-published successes hit at about book three. The ability to offer multiple titles is a huge part of why John Locke became successful.

This is why it is critical to keep writing. Not only will writing more books make you a better writer, but once people discover they love your writing, they have a number of titles to purchase. Being able to offer multiple titles is how we make money at self-publishing.

Self-publishing is a wonderful alternative. Just because we self-publish doesn’t mean we cannot publish other ways, too. Sometimes there are reasons we are being rejected and we need to take a hard look and be honest. Self-publishing is suffering a stigma from too many writers publishing before they are ready. The ability  to self-publish is challenging all of us to come up higher. We are striving to be better writers, to be better entrepreneurs, to get better at organization and time-management and to write more books and better books. If we can learn from these mistakes and grow, then the future is ours for the taking.

Percy Parry interns with CinnamonTeal Publishing.