I hope you are having the most fabulous of days!! It’s always a great day in Alabama!! 🙂
Today, I have a treat for you. Susan Hughes is visiting with us and we are talking about the one thing that many authors aren’t a fan of… EDITING!!! Susan has some wonderful suggestions to share with us. So, as always, enjoy…
When Marlena offered me the opportunity to write a guest post for her blog, I jumped right on it. As an editor, I’ve been exposed to a wide range of writing styles and skill levels. I’ve edited professional documents for school districts, articles for the Huffington Post, poetry, nonfiction, fiction . . . you name it. As the copy editor for Addison: The Magazine of the North Dallas Corridor, I spend time on that end of things as well.
Most of my work, however, is with self-published authors, those who have decided—for many reasons—not to go the traditional route when it comes to publishing their writing. You’ve probably heard it said that self-published authors aren’t “real” authors, that they’re a blemish on the forehead of the writing community. And, sadly, in some cases that’s true. I’ve edited for a few writers who now can claim to be a “published author” when, in reality, they really aren’t quite there yet. They’re published, yes. The writing part needs work.
So how do we fix this problem? How do we raise the bar when it comes to self-publishing? Yes, there’s a bar. Right now it’s so low that you couldn’t begin to limbo under it. I’d like to offer up a few suggestions.
1. Slow down!
Traditionally published authors will tell you that the writing process takes time. Lots of time. There’s writing and rewriting and rewriting again. First draft. Second draft. Maybe even more. There are writing classes, research, studying. There’s self-editing and revision and rewriting. Then there’s professional editing, and critiquing, and beta readers . . . not necessarily in that order and often more than once. More editing and proofreading. Query letters. Rejection letters. Refocusing.
Some of the writers I work with—let’s call them Indies—are in a hurry. They skip many, if not most, of the steps I just mentioned. And then they self-publish. Voila! And then it gets ugly.
Time and time again, I get editing requests from writers who have already tied themselves to a publishing deadline, booked a detailed blog tour, or scheduled an Amazon presale date that will cost money to adjust. They’ve planned for those things well in advance before even beginning the editing and revision (and maybe another edit) and proofreading part of it. I hear things like this: “I am going to publish this on December 1st in time for the holiday rush;” or “I already have a book signing scheduled at Barnes and Noble, so it has to be ready” on a certain date. Really? How many traditionally published writers do you think have such constraints on their work before having the manuscript edited? My guess is none. The Indie who is looking to be taken seriously values the editing and revision process—the actual writing of the book—above those other things. First and foremost, if the book isn’t well written, meticulously edited, revised, and proofed, all that other stuff isn’t going to matter. The book will go nowhere. And yes, I know there are exceptions. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example. It’s not a literary masterpiece, but it sold. It’s rare but it happens.
After I finish editing, the work goes back to the writer for revision, restructuring, etc. Sometimes that requires a lot of work. Errors are inevitably made during the revision process, so a second edit and more revision may be necessary. And someone needs to proofread the final version before it’s formatted (and afterward) to ensure the book is as error free as possible. Sadly, Indies often skip right over those steps. Write. Edit. Format. Boom! “I’m a published author, y’all!”
Do you see why writers who go the traditional route are shaking their heads? Tsk. Tsk. You cut corners, and you risk not being taken seriously.
So while every Indie is secretly hoping their book will be the next big hit, I encourage writers to take their time. Do the job correctly. Don’t skimp and cut corners in the name of becoming a “published author.” You’ll get the name, all right, along with a reputation that’s tough to overcome.
2. Plan in advance for the cost of your self-publishing adventure.
Most of us have to watch our budgets. Self-publishing isn’t cheap, especially if you’re depending on someone else to do the legwork for you. You need a cover (a professional one), an editor (do your homework there), a formatter, a printer. You can do a lot of it yourself (not the editing), if you take the time to learn the ropes. I have clients who do all of it on their own—cover art, formatting, publishing, marketing—and quite well. In fact, I’ve started referring clients to a couple writers I edited for who have become master formatters. There are companies out there who will do all of that for you, but it’s not cheap. Be careful of the scammers too. Don’t use a lack of funds as an excuse for cutting corners. In doing so, you’re likely to end up with an unattractive cover, sloppy editing, or a poorly formatted book, all of which will send readers running and attract those who thrive on leaving tacky one-star reviews.
Know what you’re up against going into it. Save your money. Budget. Barter. Try a Kickstarter campaign. I have payment plans for my editing clients who need one, as do many other editors. If you want to be taken seriously as an Indie, you need to take the process seriously.
3. Prepare yourself to become a marketing guru or connect with someone who is.
Traditionally published writers don’t have to stress as much over marketing. The publishing company swoops in with their editor in tow, fixing things the way they like (and yes, you lose control of your book at that point; hence, the attractiveness of self-publishing) and spreading the word about your book. Indies who get their work out there and sit back to wait for royalties to roll in are usually sadly disappointed. I see great books sitting on Amazon with ten reviews, all of which are from family and close friends.
Your book won’t sell itself. So unless you write something that really attracts attention (think The Hunger Games), you have to work as hard after you publish as you did before. There are social media platforms to build, book signings, festivals, fairs. Blogging and advertising . . . you name it. It takes time and effort and money (yep, more money). Are you up for it? Most Indies aren’t. So thousands of self-published books just sit there on Amazon. And the reputation of Indies as “less than the real thing” is born. It thrives and grows and threatens to suck us all in.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Self-publishing is an incredible opportunity to get your name out there as a writer. It’s much faster than spending years querying agents and publishers and trying to attract the attention of Random House or whomever. But when that attention comes—if it comes—you want it to be positive and powerful and life-changing. Will you be ready?
Susan is a freelance editor and copy editor for Addison: The Magazine of the North Dallas Corridor. She is the published author of Post, Share, and Tweet Your Way to the Top: A Freelancer’s Guide to Social Media Marketing, available through the Editorial Freelancers Association and Lulu Press.
Thank you so much for visiting with us today. I hope you enjoyed today’s post as much as I did! Please help me show this fabulous lady some love with likes, comments and shares.
Until next time, lovelies………Happy Reading & Reviewing!!!