Friday, August 16, 2013

A SELF-PUBLISHING JOURNEY: The Risks of Getting it Wrong

A few weeks back I wrote about the title of my book, how it needed to change and that I'd chosen the new title SHATTERED.

I can only say thank you to the friends kind enough to point out I'd made a mistake. I must have narrowed my search parameters too low when I was researching current titles because there are in fact a dozen or more other books in the kindle store with this title.

What a relief to find out my mistake before it was too late!

(If it matters, I'm going through the nomenclature process again. Currently leaning towards "Breakable" - but I'm not committing...yet).

But this highlights for me what probably has to be the primary danger in self-publishing: Because I can move quickly, the temptation is to do so. To dive in and make decisions on the fly and generally skip the quality-control.

I always knew this was the risk in self-publishing, but I thought being aware of it made me immune. I was wrong. One little mistake in setting up my search parameters on Amazon and I almost chose a title that would have been far more likely to get lost in the shuffle than my original (which also has more twins than I thought).

So how do I avoid similar mistakes in the future?

1. Gather a trustworthy team and be open to listening.

I had two blog readers and one dear friend who ran out and did some research on my title on my behalf, then made sure I knew what they'd found. I've got two writers, an editor and two readers currently reading my manuscript. I know without fail they're going to catch mistakes I've made, continuity issues, clunky sentences...the list goes on.

The point is, if I'd kept the whole process to myself my book wouldn't be as good - and my title would probably stink. Because without them I probably wouldn't ever have double-checked. Which leads me to point number two....

2. Double-Check.

Even if you're SURE it's right. Even if you're sure you already checked that it's right. Double check, triple check, and then ask someone else to double-triple check for you. And choose random details to check up on.

Do you know which dates your reviewers need the manuscript by? Do you have them correct in your calendar? Do you have a buffer of time in case you mess up, or their requirements change?

Do you know the different royalty rates for the different platforms? I got a rude shock to discover that my book would only earn 35% royalties on the Nook - and that I wasn't allowed to set the price differently to try and recoup it.

Do you have a proofreader, or someone to check your grammar and punctuation? You might think you know all the rules, but we all make mistakes...and we all miss details at times.

3. Take your time.

I think this is probably the hardest part of all this. Without long deadlines and the inexorably slow process of the traditional publishing machine, I'm free to rush. I've already regretted it once. What might I throw out into the public forum next time? It's so important not to let myself get caught up in the excitement of what's coming. Or worse, get tired and lazy and just skip that little step, or tell myself it will be fine if I don't do that seek and destroy mission on my last four over-used words and phrases because, let's be honest. Will anyone really notice? (Answer: Yes. Someone will. And it will inevitably be the kind of person who is irritated by writers who do that...).

That's all I can come up with right now. I'm writing this down to remind myself because this is advice I need to heed myself.

Remember: When we put a book out there, no matter how much we love it, to our readers it's a commodity. A product. It serves a purpose. And if it is unsatisfactory or unprofessional, we risk missing or alienating readers who might otherwise have enjoyed the story.

So, when the temptation arises to keep everything to yourself, or to hurry through the process, remember: None of us are perfect. But we have an opportunity to put the near-perfect world out there for the right reader. Don't be your own worst enemy!

Your Turn: Have you ever made a mistake with published material? Any advice for those of us just embarking on the journey?

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