With the advent of the Kindle, Nook, iPads, and other wonderful e-readers, an explosion of eBooks has hit the market. A vast number of those books were never edited. Currently, on Amazon Kindle, there are 322,000 books listed in the “Science Fiction & Fantasy” category. That’s just in one category.
So, if you’re a new author with high dreams of breaking into the Indie market to strike it rich, think again. Consider your odds. The competition to find a readership is fierce, and even more severe if the book you plan to release is riddled with numerous grammatical errors and misspelled words. For what once was the literary agent/publisher’s slush pile has become an ocean of books for readers to dive through in their hopes to find a gem buried in the rubble.
Getting a book published today is easy. Too easy, some might argue. And so often times, books are shoved into the Indie world before they are ready. Would you pack up your child to enter college before he/she has started grade school? Of course not. So why the rush to publish? Why send your book into the world before it’s polished?
We should never upload an unpolished novel to Kindle, Draft2Digital, or Smashwords without hiring an editor to proofread and make corrections. Finishing the first draft of your manuscript is a remarkable accomplishment, but the novel isn’t ready to enter the world of readers. Your reputation is on the line. First impressions mean everything. A book filled with excessive grammatical errors, improper punctuation, and plot holes will only reveal an author’s lack of writing qualifications. Think about it. The better your book is, the more readers will anticipate your next one. And the best part is word of mouth. If readers are telling other readers how great your books are, your audience will grow. Needless to say, the opposite is also true.
Trust me. I speak from my own experience. In 2007, I published my first novel through a Print-on-Demand publisher, and the book was riddled with numerous flaws after being released. The publisher, which I shall leave nameless, did not make corrected edits that I had paid for, and the “package” I bought was a hefty price.
At first I was so ecstatic to see my book in print that I didn’t notice the errors. However, as time went by, readers messaged me via Myspace to let me know where they had found errors.
The more I looked, the more I realized the publisher had taken my money but didn’t do the work they were hired to do. And worse, this knowledge came to me after having a third novel published through them.
The final straw came with my third book, The Game of Pawns. I handed one of my sisters-in-law a copy because she loved the series. A week later she said, “Did you know at the end of the thirteenth chapter that it stops midsentence?”
Wait a minute, what?
I was horrified. I enjoy writing suspense, and an incomplete sentence would definitely leave a reader wondering what happened next … this wasn’t a good thing. For one, the book had been completely edited by an editor with over twenty years experience. Secondly, I had gone through the first digital galley they had emailed me and only found six errors. Six. I marked those and sent the e-galley back. When the second galley came, I checked for the corrections. All six had been fixed. I approved the novel to go to print and was rather pleased.
Once my sister-in-law pointed out the error, I went back to the galleys. Somehow between galley one and galley two, over two paragraphs had simply vanished. This was not on my end, so I called them. They wanted to charge me another $149.00 to “fix” their error. When I told them that I had kept copies of the digital galleys and could prove the error was on their end, they were taken back but insisted that I still needed to pay for the correction (something that would take fifteen minutes to fix). My reply was “short of legal action, I don’t know what else to do.” They fixed their error for free without further argument.
Another problem with the third book was the royalty rate I was receiving. Both Beyond the Darkness and The Game of Pawns are ~80,000 words. However, the printed version of The Game of Pawns was seventy pages longer than Beyond the Darkness, which not only increased the price of the book, it lowered my royalty per book. Thanks to CreateSpace and learning how to format paperbacks, I figured out what they had done. Instead of 1.15 space between the lines, they had used 1.5.
In my situation with that publisher, and since their imprint was on my books, most readers faulted the publisher, not me. This was before the Indie craze took flight and sales of Kindles and Nooks dramatically increased. Now the majority of readers fault the authors because we’re the ones that push the “Publish” button. Not other publishers.
Since I retained the rights to all of my books, I pulled them from the POD publisher and decided to upload them after thoroughly editing them once again. I’ve learned a lot during those three years, and I also finished my MFA in creative writing. The longer I’ve written, the more patient I have become as to when to release a book. I have also grown compulsively pickier about the quality of my writing. With most of my books, I try to read each page at least fifty times. Excessive? Yes. Are there still errors? Of course. No one catches all of them.
Let me give you an example. With Beyond the Darkness, I read the first page at least 100 times. No exaggeration. I handed the finished draft to my wife to read. On the first page she caught a mistake that I hadn’t seen, even after I had read it 100 times. Instead of “reclining” chair, I had typed “recycling” chair and missed the mistake every time. My mind kept correcting the word to what I thought I had written, but we all do that. Another set of eyes is essential to catch the mistakes. That’s why it is crucial to have Beta readers, proofreaders, and editors.
I am thankful for what Amazon, Smashwords, and Draft2Digital have done for Indie authors, but the ease at which people can publish is like a two-edged sword. It’s too easy to rush to publish. However, here’s a formula to consider: Rush 2 Publish = Readers’ Rush 2 Judgment. Quality should always outweigh the quantity, and if it doesn’t, readers won’t hesitate to let you know.
With hundreds of new books being uploaded each day at Amazon and other retailers, one of the best ways to stand out from the rest is to have your book edited by a professional. The best writing is through rewriting and revisions, which is the hardest part of the writing process for most people. Revisions can be agonizing, but the results are worth the time spent.