Saturday, March 1, 2014

Self Published Books

So you've made the decision to Self Publish.  Now what?

Question # 1:   Is your book done?   

"Of course it's done", you say.

Question # 2:   How many drafts have you written and how long has it been since you began this project?

"I wrote a first draft.  Had my spouse read it.  Printed it out.  Rewrote it once. Had a friend do what he called, "editing", and then incorporated his comments.  Next I had another friend read through it and point out mistakes," you say.

I say - This isn't good enough.  With the freedom to self publish anything and the free will of industrial giants like Amazon, writers feel an anxiousness to get there work out there.  This is great. You are giving the public lots of great stuff to read.


In my opinion an author does themselves a great disservice when their work is not adequately prepared prior to being self published.   It should be written and revised a minimum of five times, and in my own work the number is closer to twenty times, particularly if this is the author's self publishing debut.

In an interview with The Paris Review back in 1958 Ernest Hemingway told the journalist that the final words of "A Farewell to Arms," were rewritten "39 times before I was satisfied."

Writing novels does not entail a linear learning curve.  I've heard it said that the learning is on an upward slope, then levels off, then upward again, then levels off, etc.  All great authors continually strive to excel at their craft. Unfortunately great authors are not born with the skills to churn out masterpieces.  If you disagree with this pick up a debut book from any of your favorite bestselling authors.  Read it cover to cover.  Pick up their latest book, written ten plus years after their debut, and read it cover to cover.  I'd venture to say the 10th book will be far better than the first.  

It is because of this that all authors owe the reader the best that they can produce. It seems that once an author is in the publishing game speed is of the essence. Whether self published or traditionally published the pressure to produce increases greatly after the first work.  With self published authors the more books readers have to choose from, the greater the author's notoriety becomes.

There have been a great many Blog articles and interviews that have shown the connection between quantity of books published and author notoriety.  One example of this is indie author Russell Blake who wrote over 25 novels in just 30 months.  While doing this Russell squired away a great deal of money, and gained the attention of none other than Clive Cussler.

A sad fact about editing is that most folks who have not visited the library or searched the Internet for articles about the different types think editing is the same as proofreading.  In the hands of a professional editor a good piece of literature becomes great.  The tough fact is that most great professional editors are swamped.  The line for their services is long and once your work is in their cue the use of their time is competitive.

So what am I trying to say?  

Step # 1:
Get your work to a state where it is as good as it can be.

Step # 2:
Take Stephen Kings advice.  "Put it in a drawer in your desk."  My own words - Let it age a month or more like a find bottle of wine.  This, I believe, is great advise, but the problem lies with ones ability to leave their precious work alone.  Time is what allows us writers to free our minds from the words.  Take this break and begin the next book, write a short story, or work on your author platform.  We all need a website, especially if we intend to self publish.

Step # 3:
Once the manuscript has been allowed to age print it out.  Take a red pen and as you read mark words, sentences, and paragraphs that don't make sense, don't flow, or don't belong.  At this point you are reading as an editor.

Step # 4:
Repeat step # 3 a minimum of five times.  If you are doing step # 3 well each of these passes will yield less that needs to be fixed.  If you are working a day job, taking care of a family, or doing other things that compete with your time to spend writing you will distance yourself from your work.  Each time you revisit it you will see plot holes and come up with new plot ideas.  You will see your characters as they are on the page and you'll feel a need to make your characterisation better.

Time, my friend, is an author's friend not his enemy.

Now go get to work on that novel.


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