January 26, 2011

Planning to Self Publish? Is Your Book Ready?

by Toni Leland

Writers have wonderful opportunities available these days. The age of print-on-demand (POD) and e-books has made it possible for anyone to see their work published. Not only possible, but easy. Almost too easy.

I recently went to a major online bookseller and checked on a title I’d heard about. On the first page, first paragraph, third line was the biggest typo you could imagine. I skimmed the sample and discovered that the writing was filled with more errors. I felt really bad for the author who, I’m sure, was thrilled to see the work in print. But over and over, I see new work that has been rushed to market. This is the biggest drawback to publishing your own book. There’s no guardian to keep you on track, no benchmark to which you can compare. There’s just that intoxicating knowledge that you can put your book out there for the world to see. But, is it really ready?

The following two steps can help you make the work the best it can be.

PROOF-READ! Yes, I know this is a pain, and you think you’ve read it enough times to know if it’s right. The problem is this: our brain “knows” what we wrote and our eyes “see” it correctly. You can look at a typo without seeing, or fail to notice a word that was dropped; it happens to all of us.

Solution? Don’t proof on the screen. Print the manuscript and, taking your time, read it out loud. You’ll be amazed at how many things you’ll find that are either wrong or you simply want to change. Once you’ve read the entire thing out loud, make the corrections or changes, then find something else to do for a couple of weeks. Again–don’t be in a hurry.

At the end of that time–especially if you think the piece is exactly as you want it–change the font to something different, then read the story again. Changing the typeface makes your brain pay closer attention. This time, you might see a few things to change, or edits that didn’t happen quite right, but you should get a good feel for whether the story is ready for publication.

Use this most recent proof-reading to check for things like possible copyright infringements, Fair Use issues (such as music lyrics or quotes), adding trademark symbols where needed, and checking citations for anything you’ve “borrowed.”

BETA READERS. The biggest favor you can do yourself is to cultivate a group of advance readers to help you fine-tune the work. Not only will beta readers be able to tell you if the story has plot or character discrepancies or pacing problems, they’ll see typos and other errors that you might miss in your own proofing. It’s so much better to hear these comments before the book is printed than to discover them embedded in an online customer review!

Publishing a book is hard work and whether you do it yourself or seek professional representation and a traditional publishing house, the work you do ahead of time will be the reason you succeed.

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