Don’t Do What We Did. Advice for New Indie Authors.

DO

There Will Be No Galley Proofs for You So Settle Your Ass Down and Edit!

The latest meme/sport of Indie book reviewers, most likely based consciously or subconsciously in some kind of contempt, is to go on and on that the book needs more editing. (You may also get a ‘helpful’ email from a reviewer bashing your website). Justified or not, in some cases, this is the entire “review” which is not a review at all–it is a public editing/proof session. A review that says next to nothing about the content of the book is not a book review. It may also be the sign of a lazy reviewer. Also, if you sent your book out for a “free review” and have since edited/revised it, the reviewer may review the older ‘draft’ version. It seems disingenuous of reviewers not to state, “I received this book nine months ago and this is the version I am reviewing.” They generally don’t do this. (This is why we are not advocates of free reviews. It took one of our authors A YEAR before she got her “free review” and in the meantime, she had revised her book. It didn’t matter. The reviewer posted a review about the older version, of course bashing the book for needing more editing).

Traditional publishing (trad pub) releases something called “galley proofs”. They are released to reviewers prior to the official publishing date of a book. Usually, the book is at about 90% when the proofs are released. Many reviews for trad pub books are written based on the galley proofs that may have editing errors but the understanding is these errors will be fixed prior to the official publishing date.

Understand this Indie Author–THERE WILL BE NO GALLEY PROOFS FOR YOU.

Yes, even if you are doing the deed entirely on your own, there will be no mercy for you, cold as that sounds. Indie books are expected to look, feel, and read like trad pub books. We do believe Indie books will take on their own “culture” in time but right now, everyone is shoving the Indie book into the trad pub model. This is why you don’t want to release your book before it’s absolutely ready. Yes, it is exciting as hell (though temper your expectations. It’s highly unlikely the editor of the “Books” section of the NY Times is going to call you one week after you release your book (if ever) BUT maybe the editor of the local paper will get in touch if you send them a copy of your book. This would be a great start).

A good way to settle down is to indulge your fears. We suggest buying a good bottle of wine and watching the movie Sideways (don’t watch it however if you never go past G-rated movies). We can all relate to Miles. Take a break. You probably deserve it.

DON’T

Keeping the above info in mind, DON’T EVER release your book until it is absolutely DONE. DO NOT release a draft “galley proof” version. Indie’s don’t have this luxury. No one will focus on the content. All the so-called reviews will focus on is that your book needs more editing. Also, you just exposed your soft underbelly and God help you as your guts get strewn all over the place. It can be very depressing so don’t do this to your creation or YOURSELF.

Keep in mind too that some people have already decided they hate Indie books (based in large part on 50 Shades/they are used to the trad pub world, etc.) so there is nothing you can do if they seize upon your book with the intention to skewer it simply BECAUSE it is an Indie creation. They are misguided since Indie publishing is going to be the norm someday, and quality Indie books are going to develop their own rich free-spirited culture.

DO

Finish It Artfully

Try to detach emotionally from your book so you can really SEE it. If you cannot afford an editor, proofreader, can’t find or don’t want to find someone to read it for you, there are other things you can do:

Buy a copy of Strunk and White, current editing manuals, basic grammar and spelling manuals. Read them from cover to cover. (We read Strunk and White, and Margaret Shertzer, The Elements of Grammar). Be prepared for how this may change your book and the agony of trying to make it grammatically correct while keeping your authentic voice. It’s hard to do.

Sign up for a basic English comp. class at your community college and use your draft book as your project for the class. As you proceed through the class, edit your manuscript. This approach will force you to slow down, get off the content and on to the nuts and bolts of your book, and insure a great version when you publish. Last we checked, community college tuition is still pretty reasonable. You may meet new friends too. (Hey Writer! Get out of your closet and socialize! It will be good for you).

Contact your local English graduate department and ask them if they can advertise to the (most likely struggling) graduate students that you are looking for a freelance editor/proofreader. You should offer to pay a student SOMETHING. Ask him/her what seems reasonable. This will give them experience, save you money, and who knows, maybe result in future collaboration.

Set Per Day Edit Page Limits: One page a day? Five pages a day? The point is to force yourself to focus on your editing and not overwhelm yourself. Set your limit then stick to it. (We strongly recommend you purchase an E-Reader. We have Kobos. Download your PDF versions of your book to an e-reader and save paper. It’s awesome). This also forces you to forget your book for a little while and take a break. Don’t set out to edit your entire book in one sitting. The breaks will improve your perspective and your product.

DO

Realize that writing/self-publishing a book solo can be a lonely experience. What follows is no less daunting–marketing your book. It can be exhausting. There are some fantastic resources on the web regarding this topic so have at it but we’re just going to say it–you will need money to market your book–for purchasing a paid review if you cannot get a review otherwise, for running an ad (can be pricey), if you hire a publicist, get a new Tweet account–whatever method/plan you implement, it is highly likely you will need some dough to cover the costs. Factor this into your costs.

DON’T

How to Terrorize Your Family and Friends In One Easy Step!

MILES: “Did you read the latest draft by the way?”
JACK: “Oh yeah, yeah.”
MILES: “AND?”
JACK: “It’s great! I mean it’s…so many improvements, much tighter, I don’t know, it just seems more congealed or something.”
MILES: “What about the new ending? Did you like that?”
JACK: “Oh yeah. New ending, VASTLY SUPERIOR to the old ending.”
MILES: “There is no new ending. Page 751 is EXACTLY the same.”
JACK: “Well, maybe it just seemed new because everything leading up to it was so different?”
MILES: “Yeah, that must be it!”

Scene from Sideways based on the novel by Rex Pickett

Yes, you finished your masterpiece and then, in a fit of, let’s just say enthusiasm, narcissism, self-absorption (because this is what writing a book does to you), you sent it off to your possibly now former friends and family. Nothing happened. Then nothing happened again. You have not heard from them. Your sense of isolation grows, self-loathing. You blame your characters, yes the ones that came from the inside of your own head. It’s their fault no one loves you anymore, stays in touch, and forget the congratulatory “book launch party” you were expecting them to hold for you.

After you finish your book, the strange reward might be the pain of realizing no one in your life, including your closest friends, really cares all that much about it. Their calls drop off. Most likely you will not get one review from any of them. The solution?

DON’T DO THIS TO THEM.

Don’t send them your book. Let them know you finished it then let THEM ask for a copy but your friends are not in any way obligated to buy/read your book! They are not obligated in any way to like your book! They are not obligated in any way to write you a review. They may resent being converted from friends and family into ad hoc marketing agents for your book. Yes, it is painful and for a couple of us, it led to us nixing a friendship or two. Again, let them know you finished it but then leave the ball in their court. If they never bring it up again, you are going to have to figure out your next step.

This leads us once again to the bizarre paradox that in a democratic country (more or less) completely free independent souls who write books cannot get reviews from the “establishment”. This is why IS exists. Maybe one day, we won’t have to.

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