Self-Publishing, Part 3: My Most Important Mistake!

This is the third post in my series on self-publishing, in which I share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned. It is the post I’ve most dreaded writing. Why? Think about it. How do we learn? We learn from mistakes. I’ve already shared one mistake with you. (See: Self-Pub, Part 2) Now, I’m going to share another—a mistake that, for me, is far more embarrassing.

Having been traditionally published, and written several books for hire, it was a difficult decision to strike out on my own and self-publish. Then again, I come from an entrepreneurial family, and as they say, “timing is everything!” Timing, for me, came into play on several levels:

  • After years of writing, receiving critiques, and rewriting—WHEELS, my first novel, was finished.
  • At the same time, traditional book stores were closing, publishing houses were disappearing, and authors like Amanda Hocking and J.A. Konrath were successfully publishing their own eBooks; more importantly, improving the image of self-published authors.
  • Finally, self-publishing had become a risk that, quite simply, was affordable.

In short, while I made a few half-hearted attempts at querying agents, my little entrepreneurial soul was no longer content with waiting around for someone else to take control of my destiny.

I approached self-publishing fully aware that there is a reason authors who self-publish must work harder to be taken seriously. It has to do with editing, or rather, lack of editing. Let me back up a bit…

There is a class of self-published books which are clearly first drafts, hastily thrown together, and quickly published—I’m not speaking of those, as they don’t deserve to be spoken of. Rather, I’m referring to books that have been labored over, edited and revised, but in the end, lack the final touch of a professional copyeditor. In fact, copyediting, I believe, is the biggest obstacle self-published authors (if they are good ones) must tackle if they hope to be taken seriously.

First, let’s take a look at how I approached copyediting. Once I felt WHEELS was ready for publication…

  • I read, reread, and edited it multiple times. (This was in addition to the many drafts I’d written and revised over the years.)
  • I had well-educated family, friends, and other authors read my manuscript.
  • I had my computer read my entire manuscript out loud to me (a good way to catch missing words).
  • When I had no one left to read it and when I could no longer stand the sight or sound of my own book—yet, despite having a nagging fear that it probably wasn’t perfect—I uploaded WHEELS to Amazon. (I even asked early readers to email me any mistakes they found.)

Sounds like I was thorough—right? Wrong!

You may be a fine writer, you may be well-educated, but a true copyeditor has the eye and training to find typos and grammar mistakes that you and your closest and smartest friends will miss.

I had put in the effort to produce a good novel (whether you agree with me or not), and then made the mistake of thinking that, with the assistance of colleagues and family, I could tackle the copyediting myself.

Big mistake!

What got to me was the reviewer who said she would have given WHEELS five stars, but gave it only four stars because it had six mistakes.

REALLY! Six mistakes out of 100,000 words earns me one less &#%!@?! star! (I promptly thanked her and requested the edits.)

Still, I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed because I’d already received edits from caring readers and fixed them, yet there were six more. Worse—I was horrified, because I’d sent out copies to reviewers and over 8,000 people had already downloaded WHEELS. Mainly, however, I was frustrated because most of the downloads had been part of a freebie promotion and I knew that hiring a copyeditor was an expensive proposition.

…half of self-published authors earn less than $500.

If you click  go to the link under 4 WRITERS, you’ll find a list of copyediting services. Look closely, and you’ll find the going fee for copyediting a book the size of WHEELS (approx. 100,000 words) is around $1,200.00.

YIKES!

Given that figure, I still consider not having WHEELS professionally copyedited before I published it as the biggest mistake I’ve made on my self-publishing journey. It is also a mistake I rectified before publishing the paperback edition.

That said…few books are perfect. When the first copy of my 950 word, traditionally published, picture book arrived in the mail, I eagerly sat down to read it only to be horrified that the main character’s name was misspelled on one page. Honestly, between the editor, the professional New York copyeditor, and me—not one of us had caught the typo before the book went into print.

So, mistakes happen. And, while a big part of me wants to say something like, If you want to be taken seriously as a self-published author, make sure your manuscript is professionally copyedited before publishing it, another part of me is completely sympathetic when I find (a few) typos in a self-published book. I often, in fact, make a list of those typos and send them to the author. The great thing about eBooks is that you can quickly fix and republish your book.

For me, I will invest in the services of a professional copyeditor before I publish my next book. I want to be taken seriously as a writer (even if I do write about aliens). YOU must decide for yourself. However, in an attempt to help you with that decision, I’ve created a list of copyediting services. I implore authors who have used a copyediting service, and have been satisfied with the results, to send me a link to add to my list. Help improve the reputation of self-published authors! Send me a link to the service and any pertinent details via my contact page.

Finally, I leave you with a link to a TED talk most appropriately titled, “How to learn? From mistakes.”

Happy Writing.

For more on self-publishing/copyediting visit: Susan Kaye Quinn’s post: Tips N Tricks: A Checklist for Self-Publishing

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14 thoughts on “Self-Publishing, Part 3: My Most Important Mistake!

    • Lorijo Metz says:

      Well, then I’m glad I could help. Look at it this way, you’ve worked hard on your book, it’s worth the expense. One note, another writer warned me that some “not so honest” copyediting services are editing about 1/3 of the book and leaving the rest go, figuring the author won’t double check to make sure the work is completed. So, get references before you decide on a service. Good luck!

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  1. Greta van der Rol says:

    I think most of us have had that feeling when we find something wrong. But it’s not just self-published books with mistakes. Plenty of books from the Big Six have a few typos in them. I reckon 6 in a 100k word novel isn’t too bad. I’m sure we’d like zero – but that would be rare.

    Having said that, professional editing is important, not just for typos but for making sure the story flows as it should. I would encourage authors to find an editor. Prices vary.

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  2. Liz Broomfield says:

    Thanks for writing this – not because I’m an editor (although I am, I’m a busy one, so I’m not particularly touting for business right now) but because I’m a reader and I’m a friend of writers, and it pains me to see books out there which could have just had that last push to make them as good as they could be.

    It’s not just typos – a developmental editor will sort out the sentence structure, so there may not be fewer mistakes as such, but it’ll be a much less clunky read; character development; timelines and structural issues (you might get a nagging feeling something’s wrong when you’re reading a book, but not take the time to go through and find that missing year); balance of plot and sub-plot, all sorts of things.

    Thanks for mentioning references, too – I would not dream of not sending potential clients a link to my references page when I’m discussing projects with them!

    And many of us do offer special rates for independent self-publishers …

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    • Lorijo Metz says:

      I appreciate your comments. For me, as I know it is for other indie and self-published authors, it’s never been about being lazy. I work from dawn and dusk, it seems, just about every day. Once I’ve finished the first draft of a book, I figure I’m about twenty percent done—the rest is edits. For me, as a first time self-published author, my original choice to forego hiring an outside editor was purely a financial decision. To put it simply, I undervalued my work. I will never make that mistake again.

      Like

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