Monday, March 21, 2011

Week One: What Am I Publishing?

The first step in publishing your own book is to figure out what you've got. This may seem obvious at first, but as I said at the beginning of this adventure, if you're going to publish a book, it needs to be as good as a book from a traditional publishing house. It needs to be a good read and it needs to be professionally presented.

Presumably you have a story to tell. (I am purposefully ignoring the people who say, "Wow, Amanda Hocking made a fortune writing paranormal romance! I think I'll do that!" When they have never picked up a paranormal romance in their life, haven't read any of Amanda Hocking's books, and are looking for the quickest route to fame and fortune. While occasionally a mercenary approach may hit a bullseye, it is not a blueprint for anything.)

In the interest of expediency, I am going to show rather than tell. I have four novels that I want to publish in the next 4-5 months. The first is a vampire novel, the next two are the first two books in a serial mystery series that I wrote with Susan, and the fourth is another horror/suspense novel that is fully outlined and mostly written, but the last 120 pages or so are unfinished.

I've got a head start on a lot of people, because the first three books at one time were agented. One had a contract with a small press that fell through when the editor who liked the book left. The mystery series made it all the way to a fight on the editorial board, where after some major back and forth and a requested partial rewrite on our part, the series was eventually passed on because one person who had veto rights decided she didn't like certain elements. (Yes, these are the vagaries of publishing. The kind of vagaries that make you want to tie a cinderblock around your waist and fling yourself into the closest pond.)

The point is, those first three books are almost ready to go. They've been gone over and over, been through numerous rewrites, been read by publisher's reading groups, been perused by various beta readers. They still need some finessing, but they're in the final stages. We've had massive feedback and taken it into account. So what's left is final rewrites and a proofreading process.

Takeaway? Typing "The End" is just beginning. By far the biggest compliant I see in reviews of self-published books is that the books were not professionally proofread and edited. To put it simply, everybody thinks their baby is perfect. You need somebody else to point out what you can't see.

So take a look at your manuscripts. Putting aside the rewriting (which may be continual tweaking or a massive slash and burn) and you have four stages: beta reading, copy editing, proofreading, and formatting. Skimp on any of these stages and you're likely to end up with something that's going to be unsatisfying, both to readers and to your inner critic.

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