Saturday, May 26, 2012

Who should see your book before you self-publish?

Hi All,

I know I've been a little absent lately. I'm working on my indie sequel to THE HALO CHRONICLES: THE GUARDIAN. And I've been in revisions for a traditional pub. project.

This morning I came across a question on the yahoo indie loop (Indie Romance Ink) about who should see a book before you self publish. This question was posed by a new author finishing up her first manuscript. Despite needing to make coffee and pack to go out of town, I felt compelled to answer.

The short answer: Several people and at least one professional!

Here's what I shared:

Congratulations that you are almost done with your book. That is huge! You should definitely stop and celebrate your achievement. But after you pop the champagne, you should think about the revision process as another critical step to being a professional author. One of the biggest mistakes newer authors make is to release material before it crafted to a professional level. It’s soooo tempting, and we’ve all been there. Don’t do it! Usually the revision process, if done right, will take several months of intensive work.

I don’t mean to sound discouraging, by this manuscript is your baby. You wouldn’t take your baby out in public with torn clothes and a dirty face, right? The baby needs cleaning up first. This is what separates the professionals from the amateurs in a deluged eBook market. And it’s worth it, I promise.

In looking for a critique partner, you want to find someone slightly ahead of where you are in your journey, whose experience can help identify the opportunities to strengthen your manuscript. The critique relationship is about building trust – after all, you’re trusting this person to point out flaws in your baby. J Loops, organizations you belong to, local writing groups are all great place to look for a critique partner. In googling “critique groups”, I came  across a fun site: ( *disclaimer* I have never used this group, but their approach is cool.

 As to your question on editing, most newer authors don’t know what type of editing they need. There are 3 standard types of editing in fiction writing and as an indie, you have a fourth. Knowing what type of editing you need is something a crit partner can help you with. At minimum, you will need #s 2, 3, & 4. Chances are, being newer, you will need #1 as well. And unless you have an amazing line editor, you might need a couple proofreaders. I’ve found readers, friends, or family with an eye for mistakes make great proofreaders.

 Here are the types of editing:

1.       Substantive Editing – structural (pacing, plot, characterization)

2.       Copy Editing – (Grammar, spelling, syntax, word usage, punctuation, writer tics, etc.)

3.       Line Editing – proofreading (typos)

4.       Format editing – (finished eBook forms and print pdf look as they should)*

*I would also extend this to any copy (blurbs, bios, etc.) you put on the web.

You might not need to hire a professional for all of them. #1 - Most of us that have been doing this awhile need less substantive editing than we used to (often our crit partner can point out issues and we can fit). #2 Get a professional. #3 and #4 – can be people we know with a meticulous eye for details. Have multiple proofreaders.

This might sound overwhelming, but consider the alternative. Bad reviews, bad ratings, damage to your author brand. And the internet is FOR-EVERRRRR. I’m going to go all cliché, but you only get one chance to make a first impression with a reader. Make it count!

Amanda Brice, my fellow indie YA sister and co-contibutor/driving force behind to the  Eternal Spring YA Anthology *free here* had this to say about when to release your baby into the world:

Congrats on getting close to THE END. Anytime you type that is a momentous occasion, but never moreso than your first time.
However, because this is your first book (and you wrote it without feedback), I'm inclined to agree with Maureen. You're probably not ready for either an editor or a beta reader yet. The first thing you need to do is find yourself a critique partner or critique group (are you a member of your local RWA chapter? Also, Romance Divas is a good place to learn the craft).

Then once you have the ms as sparkling as you can, I'd enter some contests for unbiased feedback. Then you might be ready for an editor. But even still, maybe not. I venture to guess that most of us did not publish our first ms and never will. The stereotype of the "book under the bed" is because first manuscripts tend to be learning books.

Is that the case with everyone? Of course not. some authors do publish their first book and do wonderfully. But most of us were not ready for publication on the first book, and you won't know this for sure until you get unbiased feedback. Hiring an editor will probably be a very expensive way to find out whether you're ready (and some books are unsalvagable), so I encourage you to run it through crit groups and the contest circuit first. This will take several months, but worth it.

Then once you're satisfied this book is potentially publishable (and you don't want to go the trad route), you'll need to find an editor. Since this is your first book, I highly encourage you to get both content editing and line editing, although some authors prefer to skip the content editing stage once they have a few books under their belt (and instead rely upon their critique partners and beta readers for developmental suggestions).

Good luck! I hope this wasn't discouraging, but the worst thing you can do is publish before you're ready.
Carey says: Thanks Amanda!

Now your turn: If you are an author, how many early books do you have buried under your bed?

I have books 1, 2, & 3 under the bed. #4 is my indie, 5 & 6 are with agents exploring traditional options.