How To Be A Self-Published Author
Introduction | Self-Publishing Options – Part 1 | Self-Publishing Options – Part 2 | Self-Publishing Options – Part 3 | Why Self-Publishing Is Worth Doing | Creating A Manuscript | Critiques Are Painful But Necessary | Book Illustrations | A Cover That Sells | Self-Publishing Through Lightning Source | Self-Publishing Through CreateSpace | Finally A Book!
UPDATE April 2015: The online world is continually changing and what was ‘current’ in 2009, is old news now. I have linked to the book on Amazon so that you can use their ‘Look Inside’ feature to see the layout of the print book as well as the Table of Contents. Not everything in the book is included here but you can probably get most of the information you need through this website.
Critiques Are Painful But Necessary
You may not have let anyone read your manuscript while you were writing it, but once it’s done, it’s time to get reader feedback. A word of caution: it isn’t always a good idea to ask family or friends to read your book and give their “honest” opinions.
You don’t really want to hear anything but absolute praise for what you’ve written, do you? Be honest. Anything other than “I loved it!” or “OMG! It’ll be a bestseller!” is going to hurt your feelings.
Unfortunately, some of the best comments may be negative ones, and, if you take them personally instead of in the manner in which they are intended, you’ll not only have hurt feelings, you’ll miss out on ideas that could make your book better.
Believe me, any negatives will hurt because writing a book is an exceptionally personal process. It doesn’t matter how thick-skinned you consider yourself, you will take criticism of your writing personally which is why it’s much safer for friends and family to say little or nothing other than to praise your finished work.
After I completed the original manuscript for Teen Mom: A Journal, I printed copies, put them in sturdy ring binders, and asked three trusted friends if they would critique the book. They did. They had ideas regarding layout and content that I felt were valid but all three had negative impressions after reading the book. They felt the story didn’t send a strong enough message to teenagers to keep them from making the same mistakes as “Teen Mom” and suggested I write a “moralistic” ending.
Their suggestions were similar to my own thoughts, but writing an ending that was anything other than the one teen mom was living wouldn’t have kept the integrity of the story. Because I had doubts, I shelved the project for almost a year and worked on other projects. Then, while re-arranging my office, I found one of the binders and started reading. The story was good. I knew it was worth publishing. I also knew it needed a lot more editing.
The final book Teen Mom: A Journal is not the same one my friends critiqued. It is much better because of a series of intense editing sessions which included their suggestions (except for rewriting the ending) as well as additional critiques by another author who reviewed what I thought was the final press-ready version. I let her read it, expecting nothing but praise. Instead, she suggested changes that I incorporated into the final press-ready file.
So, what do you do? Do you let friends and/or family critique your precious creation? Do you publish without anyone else taking a look and offering an opinion? Or do you hire an expert to provide an unbiased review?
It’s a difficult call. I know that the only way I can find typos, misspellings, and errors in grammar in any of my work is to either let someone else read it or put it aside for a month or more and then do another read through. Spell check isn’t going to catch all mistakes but working on something else and then looking at it with “new eyes” makes the typos and misspellings stand out.
Perhaps I was a proofreader in a former life because I can almost guarantee that I will find spelling mistakes in virtually any book, magazine, or printed material that I read — except my own. I’m not expecting to make mistakes, and, probably, neither are you. But we all make mistakes regardless of how precise or cautious we are. That’s why I step away and then take another look when the writing isn’t so fresh and that’s when the errors pop.
TIP: Guru.com has editors and proofreaders ready to bid on your job. Decide what you’re willing to pay, post your job, then sift through the people applying to do the work. Some will do it for less than what you’re willing to pay; some will want more. They all will provide portfolios of previous work and recommendations from former clients.
You could also barter with someone else who is self-publishing who may be good at editing but weak in one of your strong suits such as creating well-formatted Word documents. Or, offer to list them on the cover as the editor of your book. Everyone likes to see their name in print (okay, almost everyone).