I love books. I always have. And the fact that I work with helping to create books always puts a smile on my face. The world would be a sad place without books to read.
But along with books by the big publishers and the small independent publishers we have the self-published books, made so much easier to produce in recent years by self-publishing companies helping authors to get their words out there. From creating a magazine via websites such as issuu.com through to ebooks via places like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing it has never been easier to publish that work that has been tapping away at your head for a while.
But don’t rush into making your work available to the public – respect your writing.
You see ebooks constantly being plugged on Twitter for $99/ 99p and “full priced” self-published books are often cheap due to incentives to get the book “out there” with a “sell them cheap to sell more” mentality. Self-published ebooks are cheap. The price of “properly published” ebooks is said to be rising to become the same price as physical copies, but a quick look at Amazon will bombard you with thousands of cheap publications. The margin between the big publishers and the self-publishers is blurring.
With a good piece of photo-manipulation or design software you can create your own cover, you can easily self-publish with all the available software out there and you can market your book yourself via social media. For the amateur writer, times are good. No more slogging around publishers or agents trying to get signed. Once you’ve decided to publish you can have your book converted and up on Amazon within a matter of hours.
But in the rush to become a published author, how many people are failing to respect their writing?
It’s sad to say that one thing that jumps out when looking at the difference between a self-published book and a professionally published one is the quality. Of course this often comes down to money, the major publishers can afford to hire a number of editors (developmental editors to help the author to redraft the story and copy-editors to catch the grammatical and typographical errors), and proofreaders to make their books the best they can be. Yet the self-publisher doesn’t necessarily need to hire an editor to heavily edit their text in order to produce a professional product if the writing is sound. Even something as small as putting aside some cash for a proofreader can make a huge difference.
A quick trawl of the internet shows that what annoys people the most about self-published books are the typos. Look on Twitter with, for example, the search “self published typo” and on Goodreads community pages, and you’ll see large numbers of messages berating books for the amount of errors that can be found. All very embarrassing for the authors.
I’ve blogged before about how your eyes get used to what you have written, and that it’s essential to have a second pair of eyes to look over you work, but getting family members and friends to read over your writing just doesn’t work as well as a professional proofreader. Note the word “professional” – we are trained to catch the errors for you and notice the little things that others often don’t.
The spell checker and computerised grammar checkers just won’t pick up some things….
Homophones, where words are pronounced the same but have a different meaning, quite often sneak into your writing, often by a slip of the fingers. These won’t be picked up as they are words that are spelled correctly… they are just not supposed to be there:
role instead of roll
pole instead of poll
Missing letters, especially at the end of words, and incorrect letters that are added but still make a word that the dictionary recognises:
them instead of then
cash instead of cast
fat instead of fact
the instead of them, then, they etc.
The wrong letters used – sometimes these make real words and are hard to find, and the spellchecker will ignore them:
c instead of e
T instead of F
T instead of I
Paragraph breaks where there should be none, for example if you’ve accidentally hit the return button and not picked it up.
Extra spaces in-between words.
Paragraphs that have been cut and pasted into the wrong section.
Repetition of pages, paragraphs, sentences.
These are just a few of the problems that can crop up when getting a book ready to be published. It’s something that editors and proofreaders deal with every day, but the self-publishing author, who has a story but not necessarily the experience, may struggle with or just miss these errors by being too close to their writing.
The good news is that by respecting your writing you can make your book the best it can be, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth…
Take your time – when you have finished your book you are obviously excited that you will finally be able to publish it and have the public read it. But don’t rush into things. Make sure that you have formatted it to look as professional as possible… if it is an ebook look at it on as many devices as you can, that way you can see if it transfers over to the different readers correctly. If you are publishing it in a physical medium make sure you have read the publishers instructions very carefully, and if possible try to have one printed to allow you to see what the end product will look like.
Budget – if you are self-publishing in a physical format there may be costs involved. Make sure you have budgeted correctly and know how much money you will need to create your book to your full satisfaction. Also whichever way you are publishing make sure you know what you will be getting for each copy of your book sold. Not all publishers are the same.
Read, read and read again – you would never publish the first draft of your book, but you should never publish the second draft either. Give the finished work to family and friends to read and get them to note down any errors or where they feel that the book falls down. Do not take this personally… if you want your book out there strangers are less likely to be kind, especially when parting with their cash. If you really feel uncomfortable, ask colleagues or people you are not as close to.
Hire a proofreader – when you think your book is ready to be published, even if you can’t afford an editor to go through your work, hiring a proofreader is money well spent, and probably won’t be as expensive as you think. By hiring a professional you are far less likely to feel the wrath of the reading community… a typo is much more likely to jump out at someone other than the author.
Above all, respect your writing. By taking time over it, and not rushing into things while the excitement is still fresh, you will produce a much more professional book or magazine, and may even break out of the realms of the 99p brigade; a better product deserves a better price. Your reviews will concentrate on your work and not the mistakes, and if you are lucky your audience will grow.
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© Sara-Jayne Donaldson, 2013-2021.