Friday, 23 March 2018

Three Mistakes New Writers Are Still Making


I've been doing this self-publishing thing for seven years now, and during that time I must have read, written, tweeted, retweeted and commented on hundreds of blog posts about the whole complex subject.  Sometimes, when writing a guest post, I think, 'does this really need saying yet again?'  But I forget; I may have been seeing all this stuff forever, but new writers are starting out every day, and won't have read seven years' worth of dire warnings about not getting scammed, not spamming people on social media, etc, etc.


Or maybe it's just that the people who need to read all those advice posts are clicking on the ones entitled 'Three Reasons Why Everyone Will Want To Read Your Novel', instead.  Anyway, a few recent conversations have made me think that these three old chestnuts could do with underlining again.  And again, and possibly again!  So here goes:

Mistake 1:  Skipping the proofreading step.  

Recently, I looked at a novel on Amazon because the (expensive-looking) cover interested me, but I rejected it as a possible buy because several reviews complained about the large amount of errors.  One demanded both an explanation (why would the author publish a novel without getting it proofread first?) and an apology for her wasted money.  The author had commented back that he was so sorry, but he couldn't afford 'expensive proofreading and editing' (although he clearly thought the 'packaging' was worth spending money on!) and he hoped readers would be patient with him while he realised his dream of becoming a published author.  Or something. 

Sad but true: Amazon is not a 'have-a-go' writers group.  The reading public are less interested in your personal dreams than in reading something with the commas in the right places and no spelling mistakes.  


Professional proofreading isn't cheap, but many proofreaders will take payment in instalments if money is a problem, and it really is essential if you want to avoid those bad reviews.  You can edit yourself (if you don't know the difference between editing and proofreading, please read this), but it takes time, patience, attention to detail (ie, considering every sentence), an understanding of pace and structure and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to see when a passage must be cut, no matter how dear it is to your heart.  A good piece of advice I read was to read the book as your enemies would read it, not your friends.

It's also worth bearing in mind that every time someone reads a self-pub novel that's full of typos and punctuation errors, it enforces the theory still held by some that all self-published material is substandard crap.  

Most important: when choosing a proofreader, don't necessarily go for the cheapest, or those who say they use 'proofreading software'.  You need the human eye.  Get recommendations from other authors. 





Mistake 2. Spamming on social media

By which I mean tweeting the book to strangers by tagging them in the tweet, in the hope that they will be interested in it.  Or doing auto DMs asking everyone who follows you to read and review your book.  If you want reviews, you need to look at book blogs individually, see what the blogger likes to read, study their submission guidelines.  If you really feel you must resort to the asking random strangers method, at least check out whether they read your genre, if they do actually review books, and enquire, first, if they might be interested in taking a look at yours.  But it's still best not to do it.

The best way to get people to know about your book is to be active on social media.  Share other people's stuff.  Talk to them.  I've written more about writers on Twitter on Swirl and Thread blog, here.



Mistake 3.  Not understanding the difference between Big 5 publishers, good independents, bad independents, and vanity presses.

... or researching the subject before signing a contract with a small independent publisher or a vanity (often called 'hybrid') press.  

If this is you, please read this article; it might save you much angst and frustration further down the line.



Research, research, research.  Talk to published writers.  Get recommendations.  Don't just google 'publishers'.  And good luck!

Good sites with writing/self-pub/book marketing info:

BadRedhead Media 
Anne R Allen's blog 







12 comments:

  1. I agree it does need to be said again and again.

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    1. Yes.... if it can change the outlook of just one person every time...!

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  2. Great post, Terry. You are so right about new writers emerging all the time and the 'stuff' we've been doing (or not doing) for years is alien to them. The opportunities that are now available to self-published authors is incredible but care, attention, and professionalism is still absolutely necessary. I treat my writing as a business and my books as my shop front. Creating the best product possible is vital so paying for proofreading, formatting, or cover designs is first on my must-do list. I care about my work and want it to be the best it can be for my readers - and myself.

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    1. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I treat my writing as a business, but I certainly like to keep my feet on the ground and would certainly never be vain/deluded enough to think that everyone will want to read my third, unproofread draft!!! Which is what some of the stuff stuck up on Amazon is, I reckon. The worst thing is when writers DO pay to get proofread but end up paying money to people who don't know what they're doing. I agree with all you say!

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  3. All well worth repeating Terry.

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    1. When I did my final read through of UK2 yesterday, Judith, I found 5 more errors. Only tiny ones (a lower case letter that should have been an upper case, a 'nobody else would probably have noticed' continuity error, that sort of thing), but I was so glad I did it. I just wish I could stop everyone getting scammed, most of all!

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  4. Thanks, Terry. It's important to remember that new writers don't know all this (some might be better informed than others) and that there are not only more and more writers publishing their work but also more and more people out there offering "services" that are not always who they claim to be.

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    1. Oh, aren't there just, Olga? They weren't around when I started all this. I sometimes think I'm lucky that I wrote before the internet - there were no blog posts or spam/scamming marketers. I just wrote what I wanted, and bought the Writers and Artists Year Book to find out what to do with it.

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  5. Thank you for this post, Terry. I am still pretty much a newby and I knew some of this by intuition but it is great to have it spelled out so clearly.

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    1. Ah, that's the diff, Robbie - you knew it BY INTUITION. You're probably like me, then - no one had to tell me not to spam people or not to be sucked in by vanity presses. However, I was daft enough not to realise about professional proofreading at first. There's another post about this sort of thing up my side bar too - 7 myths that can hold new writers back. Thanks for commenting!

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  6. This is some really good advice for writers :) I can't tell you how much bad grammar or spelling bugs me -.- it's not even essential to the story, but you know - it feels like the writer thinks the reader is stupid and will not see the difference. And nobody likes feeling like that! I think that's why it bothers me so much, argh.

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    1. Sorry not to reply to this earlier, Evelina - I've had internet problems and have to log onto another browser to reply to my own blog's comments so I tend to do them in bulk!

      Thanks so much for reading. I know, I know, I feel the same. I know proofreading is expensive, but if people are not even up on basic grammar why don't they get that sorted out before publishing a novel? It makes me feel cheated, too - especially when there's a lovely expensive cover but the content is substandard. Like, it's all packaging.

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