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:
Anne R Allen's blog