Self-Publishing: No Shortcuts

ereadersI’ve probably admitted this plenty of times before, but I’m a read-aholic. I love books, and get as many as I can. I’m also cheap (sorry, but it’s so true!), so a huge majority of the books I get are downloaded to my Kindle. Sometimes, they’re free for the day and I take advantage. Other times, they’re between ninety-nine cents to three dollars. (Told you I was cheap.) Since I read so many of these types of books, I’ve been incredibly exposed to self-published authors, as most self-published authors sell their books at these low prices.

Now, just because I’m getting published traditionally does not mean I have any bias against self-publishing. There are pros and cons to both. Each author must decide which method is best for them. However, I’ve noticed a trend as I’ve read these types of books on my Kindle and I can’t keep my observations to myself anymore. So, I’m writing this post, inspired, and somewhat bothered, by what I’ve seen.

It seems to me that a lot of self-published authors are taking shortcuts to get published. I’ve read many novels that had tremendous potential, but didn’t quite satisfy. Generally, it’s because it looks as if the author didn’t hire a professional editor to go over the manuscript before publishing. And I’m sorry, but if a book is riddled with misspelled words or a lot of grammatical errors, I can’t enjoy the story. So one shortcut that you should NEVER take if you’re going to self-publish is hiring a professional editor. It would be prudent to hire them for both content and copy editing. Editors are trained to spot inconsistencies in plot and character that an author might not catch.

Another shortcut you shouldn’t take (this applies to all authors): have both beta readers and a critique group. In case you’re wondering what the difference is: beta readers are readers who can help give feedback to the general feel of the book. They can point out what they like and don’t like about the plot and characters. A critique group in a group of people who trades their work. So you critique their work while they critique yours. It’s a nice fair trade. Not to mention that when you start critiquing other people’s work, it helps you grow in your own writing.

Now I’m not talking about getting friends and family to be your beta readers or critique group. No offense, but they can’t be trusted to give you the harsh truth you need to improve your work. What I’m talking about is finding people who are a part of the writing industry. People who go to writers conferences and listen to writing podcasts (Writing Excuses, anyone?) who can give you real, professional feedback.

I could go on to some other things to do before you publish, but I think those two are the big ones. Just remember, listen to all feedback with an open mind and tough skin. No one is reading your work so that they can tear into you and make you feel bad. Whatever they have to say is what they genuinely think as they read your work. Whether you implement their suggestion, you need to hear it. And I know a lot of you don’t want to pay for an editor. I get it. Like I said above, I’m totally cheap. But it’s a worthy investment to make. Because if you really want to be a successful writer, your novels have to look polished.

I would like to point out that not all self-published authors skip these steps. But I am noticing many who are, and it doesn’t reflect well on those self-published authors who have put in the time and money to make their work as professional as a traditionally published book.

When I do read eBooks that have a lot of spelling errors or just repeat a certain phrase over and over again (I find that really annoying), I won’t buy another one of their books. I don’t care if it’s a free download, I won’t get it. This is why I’m writing this post today. Because there are a lot of gifted authors out there. Some of them, I would buy more of their books if they were polished. So, please, go through the essential steps before you put your book out there – I promise it will benefit you.

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