Do Yourself a Favor: Edit Your Book

IMG_20140627_165856Yesterday, Lorraine Devon Wilke was a guest blogger on Indies Unlimited. After starting out with the Amazon/Hachette debate, her post, The Persistence of Self-Publishing Stigmas and How To Transcend Themmoved to a topic that’s a constant source of irritation for me.  Lorraine’s opinions on why indie-authors are typically thought of as sub-par was spot-on, and you can read her opinions for yourself.

I agree with Ms. Wilke, but not because I’m an uppity my-writing-is better-than-yours author. No, I agree with her because I’m an avid reader, and I have pulled down far too many badly written indie books, rife with typos, poor grammar, and just plain bad writing. So many that I have a “Don’t Like” folder on my Kindle so that I won’t forget the author’s name. So many that I now shy away from most authors I haven’t read before. I paid for many of those poorly written books. But even if a book is free, I’m investing my spare time reading your work. And if you’re one of the ones who is putting out these obviously unedited books, you won’t get my repeat business. Sadly, it doesn’t affect just you. Actions like this reduce the chance of readers investing in other unknown, indie authors’ work.

Do yourself a favor, okay. Edit your book.

~0~

First of all, the idea that you can’t afford an editor is ridiculous. If you don’t barter, beg, or pay for an editor, chances are you won’t ever have the funds to pay for an editor because after reading your first book, no one will ever buy another one. If you can afford a $5 Macchiato every day, then you can afford to save up, budget, and pay for an editor. At the absolute very least have beta readers. There are a ton of groups on Facebook alone where people are willing to read your book, free of charge, and comment on it.

Do yourself a favor: let someone else decide when it’s ready to release.

 ~o~

That leads me to the idea that you can finish the last chapter on Monday and have your book available on Amazon on Tuesday. It is enticing, and it is prompting many new authors to “rush to publish”. Even though the rush to publish idea is a perfect metaphor for today’s society, it’s a bad, bad, bad idea. Did I mention it’s a bad idea? Have you not heard the term shitty first draft? If you publish right after finishing the last chapter, then you are publishing a first draft. I’d even bet that you haven’t gone back and re-read your book, probably not even once. This is not even a money issue. This is an arrogance issue, a stupidity issue. What is the big hurry? If you really believe that you can finish your book and publish it right away, you probably aren’t going to be losing any awards/money/readers by waiting a month or a year, because books like that don’t get awards or tons of royalties or loyal readers.

Do yourself a favor: wait, re-read your book, several times.

 ~o~

With many new authors, especially those who are still totally in love with their own work, there’s this attitude that their work is as good as it’s ever going to be and they may as well publish it now. Wrong. Every now and again, I go back and re-read the work I wrote in my first writing classes, and even though I see the potential in my writing, I also see what a huge pile of crap my writing was at that time. And at that time, I thought everything that came out of my pen was pure genius. It wasn’t.

Do yourself a favor: attend a class, join a critique group, learn your craft, polish your work.

~o~

I could go on and on about poor workmanship, bad writing, and ridiculous cover art. [gimp is free, folks, figure out how to use it to create an attractive cover.]

But I still wonder why some new authors believe that they don’t have to do the hard work, that just telling a story is enough?

Is it possible that someone has told them that their work is the greatest writing since [fill in the blank]? It’s possible. Which leads me to my biggest indie-world pet peeve: coercing your friends into writing 5-star reviews. If that person is your friend, and if you’re a good writer, then you should be able to take an honest, constructive critique. Several close, long time friends have given me a 3-star rating because literary [women’s literary] fiction isn’t a genre they enjoy. I’m okay with that. Personally, I never give a 5-star review unless I’ve read the book multiple times, or I think that I would want to read it again.

Untitled

While perusing books on Amazon, the first thing I do is to look at the review graph. If that graph shows anything other than an inverted triangle, then I don’t even bother. There is not a single book that’s been published that everyone likes. So don’t try to bullshit me that your book is so good that it has fifty 5-star reviews and nothing else.

On the flip side of this review/ratings coin are the people [usually indie authors themselves] who always give 5-star reviews, no matter how bad the book is. Maybe they want all the other authors to like them. Or possibly, these people think if I give Sara a 5-star rating, she’ll return the favor. That is not going to happen, and not because I like being a bitch. If I’ve read your book all the way through, and I see problems, then I feel it’s my responsibility to respect you and your work, and tell you the truth. This is not a mutual admiration society. We are authors. Stand up and be honest. Give constructive criticism.

Do yourself a huge favor: accept constructive criticism, use it to make your book(s) better.

~o~

Finally, I’ve re-read this post at least five times. There may still be typos because it’s hard to proof your own writing. You see what is supposed to be there. And I’m a terrible speller. But, no one can say that I didn’t spend the time trying to make this post as good as it can be.

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