Distinguishing Yourself from the “Steaming Piles of Crap”
On of the members of the writer’s group I belong to, and a person I follow on Google+, recently released her first eBook. I offered my congratulations and she mentioned that anyone can put up an eBook, “…from Stephen King to steaming pile of crap.”
And truthfully she is right. Anyone can do it. They can go on Smashwords, KDP, or even PubIt and throw together an eBook and sell it in about ten minutes. I just got done setting up Dissolution of Peace for eBook sales on KDP and was surprised just how quick it was. I was set up and done in about an hour. And I spent some time debating the price and royalties options. On the other hand, the print version has taken almost a week now to get set up and it still isn’t done. But even that is only because they review the file for “print-ability” but not for content.
So one might wonder how they separate themselves from the crap. The simple answer is not to be crap.
If you wrote a book in a week, and published it the next week. Chances are your story is going to be garbage. You simply miss way to much when you spend so little time on a project. I’ve talked a lot about the steps you have to take to get your work ready for publication. If you start cutting corners, it will show. All told, I will have spent nine years (or more) working on Dissolution of Peace. From the original manuscript written in 2003-2004 to the final product you will all see October 16th.
Do I recommend taking nine years? No, not necessarily. From the time I made up my mind to finish, and see published, Dissolution of Peace it took almost exactly one year. In that year, I spent most of that time editing.
The rewrite of the manuscript cut out 30,000 words of pure crap. Words I might have missed if I didn’t reread the original manuscript. Next, I read it again. I corrected the mistakes I found, and read it again. Then I sent it off to a few beta readers. They made their comments. I fixed some things, and read it again. Then it went to a professional editor. He sent me back a boat load of suggestions. I fixed those, rewrote some passages, corrected the plot holes and confusing information. Then, you guessed it, I read it again. I fixed a few things and put it in format for publication. Then I ordered a proof.
ALWAYS ORDER A PROOF. I know many people who skip this step. They figure they have caught everything by this point. They look at the digital proof for format errors and then approve it. They never hold a proof copy in their hands. Well I ordered a proof. And I read it cover to cover. There were exactly ZERO formatting error. However, there were twenty-two other errors. Missing words, typo words, and other things. Things four beta readers, an editor, and five of my own readings missed. All of which were just things your eyes miss. When you see a word in its context you might not notice that “closest friend” was typed “closet friend” in the book. The fact remains that as I read it in book format, these things came out because it was the first time I had read it as an actual book. In print. Not on a computer screen. I saw my novel in a new way.
And now, as I get ready to approve the final draft I am confident it is ready to be read. Will I miss something? I will almost bet money I did. But even the professionals miss something. It is one of the ways book experts can detect what edition many books are. They know of certain misprints, typos, ect in each edition. The point to this is not to spend forever making the novel absolutely perfect. The point is to spend enough time with it to make it the best you can possible put out.
I read my story six times in this last year. If you are not reading your book multiple times to prepare it for publishing, how can you expect buyers to read it once? If you wrote it and you find it boring to read more than once, it may not belong in the steaming pile, but you should figure out what needs to be fixed to make it readable.
I will also say this. Grammar and punctuation do not make a book readable but they can may a book unreadable. If your book is overly riddled with grammar mistakes, they can distract a reader. However, you can have a grammatical masterpiece, not one grammatical error in the entire manuscript, and still have a steaming pile on your hands.
You need a plot. A story that starts where the real story starts. You need a conflict of some type. You need a resolution to the conflict. And you need a satisfying ending. You have to be able to tell a story. A story readers want to read. A story with characters people love (or hate for the right reasons). You need a world for this to all take place in. Once you master that, you can go back and fix the grammar.
The point is you need to take time with you works. He who publishes the most books, does not win.
You need to put together a quality novel before you submit it for publication. If you do that, your work will stand out for the steaming piles of crap that come out. But also remember that some people will simply not like your novel for their own reasons. While others may love it. You can’t please everyone. We’ve all bought a book we thought would be good only to be disappointed. But if you take your time to put your best work forward, you will find a following of readers who will love your story.