(This post is not intended to point fingers at individuals, nor is it a reaction to a particular book.)
After having read dozens of indie- and self-published books over the last year or so in several different genres, I’ve found some common threads that link them together as indie fiction and separate them from traditionally-published books.
Most prominent is the lack of editing. The vast, vast, vast majority of writers need an editor, or, if nothing else, a competent, experienced proofreader to make their work ready for prime time. There really is no acceptable number of typos or grammatical mistakes allowable in a published work. The expression “the perfect is the enemy of the good” doesn’t apply to publishing.
There are, of course, more subjective elements to your book that may or may not benefit from a story editor: character arcs, plot arcs, dialogue, a clearly-defined antagonist, etc. They’re important, but their very subjectivity puts them up for debate. (The subject of a later post will cover the relative value of having a book editor review your book.) I’m talking about having everything spelled properly. No wrong word choices like “vocal chords” or “it’s” when you mean “its.” Microsoft Word doesn’t fix run-ons, comma placement, and subject-verb agreement, and if you can’t do it (most writers, remember, cannot), you must find someone to fix these errors for you.
Yes, I know it’s expensive. And time-consuming. And a pain in the ass and a gut check and you still have to do it because if you don’t do it you’re putting out marginal work. These things count. We’ve all read traditionally-published books with grammatical errors, yes. But just because some people put out substandard work, it’s no excuse for you to do the same. Do you want to be good for an indie, or just plain good?
Get it professionally edited, and if you can’t, get it proofread. It shows you care about the reader.
My other concern is book formatting. I’ve read some books that were horribly formatted. There’s no excuse for that. If you can’t or won’t have your book professionally formatted, download this invaluable guide, follow the instructions, and you’ll have formatted your book properly. Mark Coker is my personal hero for writing this guide and making it available for free.
The bottom line is that publishing is all about being detail-oriented. Including self-publishing.
In other news, The Nephilim and the False Prophet has been sent to educated, literate readers I trust to sanity-check it. The end is nigh!