So, today I am going to talk to you about a curse that affects self-published writers to a great degree. Our profession is by nature very lonely. Unlike actors, dancers, musicians and other art professionals, the writer gets feedback only after the book is out there for all and sundry to see. It should come as no surprise, then, that when we finish something, be it a short story or a novel or anything in the in between, we want to show it to people. That might be an understatement, actually. We want to shout it from the rooftops, not just show it. For weeks, months, in some cases years, we worked hard on that piece. Now it’s time for it to be released out there, no?
Um, no. Now it’s time for professional editing.
Self-published writer: What? You mean I have to wait even more? You can’t be serious.
I’m as serious as a constipated CEO who’s just discovered that you embezzle money from his company. As serious as a wife who got home early and caught her husband with her best friend playing the eight-legged beast on her new sofa. I really can’t get any more serious. You need to have it edited. Professionally.
Self-published writer: Now listen here, I read it like two thousand times and my best friend also read it and—
I don’t care if your entire family, including distant relatives in Alaska and Timbuktu, took turns reading it to the moon while ceremoniously slitting their wrists and chanting. You need an editor.
Self-published writer: But the money they ask for is ridiculous! Have you seen—
Of course I have seen! Shut up and let me show you something.
That, my friend, is the result I got when I took a brief look into Amazon’s releases on SF and Fantasy in the last 90 days. 50.000 books. Your book is probably in there, too. Yes, you read that right. 50.000 books in 90 days.
To make things simple, there are a lot of books out there. There are probably more books out now than at any other time in history, because Amazon got in the publishing business and they will publish ANYTHING. Even if someone read one book per day (!) for the rest of their lives, and they started at 20 years of age, up until the age of 80 they wouldn’t have read half of those. Which in turn means what?
It means we’re drowning in trashy books. The market is buried under a deluge of amateur, badly written, cheap novels, with atrocious covers and even more atrocious content. It means that people will think twice and thrice before giving their hard-earned money to anyone except safe choices, i.e. writers they already know and trust. In a nutshell, it means you’re f*cked.
Self-published writer: But, but, is there something I can do?
Of course. You can make sure your work is in top-notch condition when you get it out there. You can make sure it is written to the best of your ability and edited and proofread. Oh, and also the art on the book cover is not something you made in like, ten minutes, using a photo from your holidays and a font only you and black metal fans can read.
Self-published writer: But that takes ages! And it costs a lot of money, money I don’t have right now. I’d rather publish it quickly and let people know I exist instead of spending so much money with no guarantee I’ll have sales.
Okay, let me ask you a question. You see a girl or a guy and they are to die for, they are your dream come true. And you get a date with them. On your first date, would you wear your dirty underwear inside out and go there with a weeks’ sweat production wafting off your armpits? Or let’s say you get a job interview you want more than anything. Would you try to nail that job by going there in your pyjamas with your breath stinking of booze?
Self-published writer: Of course not! I wouldn’t stand a chance if I went there in such a state. That first date or interview would be also my last.
Well, it’s the same with your book, or short story, or whatever. There are so many books and writers out there that the chance of someone coming across your work is very, very slim. You need to make sure that if they do come across it, it will be something they remember for the right reasons. Not because it made them cringe. This might be the only chance you’ll get, EVER. Don’t waste it. That same person who came across a bad book or story by you, will never pay money to buy your work. In their minds, you’ll always be that mediocre, or worse, lame writer. There is simply no time for second chances when the next writer is just a click away, and there are 1.859.650 something books available in the Kindle store.
Self-published writer: I think you are exaggerating.
No, I am not. It’s a matter of being serious about your writing career, or not. I recently came across the trilogy of someone who gave $100.000 in advertising to promote her three novels. The idea behind the first was interesting, so I read the Amazon book description. Her heroine found herself in the royal court, “woefully under prepared”. I mean Jesus wore spandex and watered his plants, “underprepared” is one word. Not two. Google it if you are not sure, it’s not a rare or obscure word. She obviously gave her $100.000 to the wrong company, if someone couldn’t be bothered to read the bloody Amazon book description and fix that mistake! And no, I won’t be buying her books. A writer who can’t spot such an obvious mistake in the description of her own book, has either published a book riddled with mistakes, or has paid someone to ghost-write for her. And I, too, can’t be bothered buying it in either case.
Please don’t be the writer that even the book description of their book has mistakes. I mean, if you are serious about it, pretty please don’t be that writer.
Here is some valuable advice on editing:
More writing tips by the same author and editor.
Self-editing as well as lots of other information on how to avoid pitfalls.
There is also this software, and it is incredible. Use it. It will really help you.
Good luck! Oh, and by the way, you can get my book of short stories (that had been professionally edited) for next to nothing here and here. 😉