Why the rush to publish?
Never upload an unpolished novel to Kindle or Smashwords without hiring an editor to proofread and make corrections. Finishing the first draft of your manuscript is a remarkable accomplishment, but the novel isn’t ready to enter the world of readers. Your reputation is on the line. First impressions do mean everything. A book filled with excessive grammatical errors, improper punctuation, and plot holes will only reveal the author’s lack of writing qualifications. Think about it. The better your book is, the more readers will anticipate your next one. And the best part is word of mouth. If readers are telling other readers how great your books are, your audience is going to grow.
Trust me. I speak from my own experience. In 2007, I published my first novel through a Print-on-Demand publisher, and it was riddled with numerous flaws. The publisher, which I shall leave nameless, did not make corrected edits that I had paid for, and the “package” I bought was hefty in price.
At first I was so ecstatic to see my book in print that I didn’t notice. However, as time went by, readers would message me via Myspace and let me know where they had found some errors. The more I looked, the more I realized the publisher had taken my money but didn’t do the work they were hired to do. And worse, this knowledge came to me after having a third novel published through them.
The final straw was with my third book, The Game of Pawns. I handed one of my sisters-in-law a copy because she loved the series. A week later she said, “Did you know at the end of the thirteenth chapter that it stops midsentence?”
I was horrified. I know I enjoy writing suspense, and an incomplete sentence does leave a reader wondering what happened, but this wasn’t a good thing. For one, the book had been completely edited by an editor with over twenty years experience. Secondly, I had gone through the first digital galley they emailed me and found only six errors. I marked those and sent it back. When the second galley came, I checked for the corrections. All six had been fixed. I okayed the novel to go to print.
Once my sister-in-law pointed out the error, I went back to the galleys. Somehow between galley one and galley two, two and half paragraphs had vanished. This was not on my end, so I called them. They wanted to charge me another $149.00 to “fix” their error. When I told them that I kept copies of the digital galleys and could prove the error was on their end, they were taken back but insisted that I needed to pay for the correction. My reply was that short of legal action, I don’t know what else to do. They fixed their error for free.
Another problem with the third book was the royalty rate I was receiving. Both Beyond the Darkness and The Game of Pawns are ~80,000 words. However, The Game of Pawns was almost seventy pages longer than Beyond the Darkness, which not only increased the price of the book, it lowered my royalty per book. Thanks to CreateSpace and learning how to format paperbacks, I figured out what they had done. Instead of 1.15 space between the lines, they used 1.5. Sheesh . . .
In my situation with that publisher, and since their imprint was on my books, most readers faulted the publisher, not me. This was before the Indie craze took flight and sales of Kindles and Nooks dramatically increased. Now the majority of readers do fault the authors because we’re the ones that push the “Publish” button. Not other publishers.
I learned about KDP in 2011. I wish I had known sooner.
Since I retained the rights to all of my books, I pulled them from the POD publisher and decided to upload them after thoroughly editing them once again. I’ve learned a lot in three years, and during that time, I also finished my MFA in creative writing. I believe the more I write the more patient I have become as to when to release a book. I have also grown pickier about the quality of my writing. With most of my books, I try to read each page at least fifty times. Excessive? Yes. Are there still errors? Of course. No one catches all of them.
Let me give you an example. With Beyond the Darkness, I know I read the first page at least 100 times. No exaggeration. I handed the finished draft to my wife to read. On the first page she caught a mistake that I hadn’t seen. Instead of “reclining” chair, I had typed “recycling” chair. After nearly a hundred times of reading that page, I had missed it. That’s why it is crucial to have Beta readers, proofreaders, and editors. My mind kept correcting the word to what I thought I had written, but we all do that. Another set of eyes is essential to catch the mistakes.
Periodically, I have an author send me a request to read a novel and write a blurb. One author requested friendship on Facebook and after I accepted, she asked me to write a blurb for her novel. I told her that I couldn’t because I had not read the book. She sent me a PDF of the novel, and I read a few chapters. I politely mentioned that she needed to have it edited, which infuriated her. I explained that I was only speaking from my own experience. Suddenly she “unfriended” me on Facebook.
I am thankful for what Amazon and Smashwords have done for Indie authors, but the ease at which people can publish is like a two-edged sword. It’s too easy to rush to publish. However, here’s a formula to consider: Rush 2 Publish = Readers’ Rush 2 Judgment. Quality should always outweigh the quantity.