I know I promised a book review this month, but I ended up unable to read past the 25% point of the book. I won’t review a book that I couldn’t finish, because there are a lot of reasons that I stopped. But with that said, I still wanted to use this time to talk about five pre-publishing checks I think every Indie Author should do before publishing their books.
The following are ideas inspired by the book I didn’t finish and my experience with my first attempt at publishing Extoria.
- Remember Strunk and White
There’s one way to guarantee you have the basics down. Review The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, a small book with the pertinent information for every writer. I’ll admit that grammar, and those damned commas, are my weak points in writing. So, I rely heavily on writing aids like The Elements of Style in my writing process. One thing I think happened in Extoria, and the book I didn’t finish, was the editing process is miserable if you don’t know your approach. Also, I may have finished my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing, but I still did not know what I was doing with the basics.
The Strunk and White approach gives the writer the basics of style to focus on. They cover topics from basic punctuation to words and expressions commonly misused. The Elements of Style won’t just sink in after one read, you’ll need to review, study, and practice this guide to style often. But make sure you remember to check your S&Ws before publishing. The reason being, poor grammar, punctuation, or structure can push readers out of your book.
Inconsistency is a killer of novels. The moment you misspell one of your character’s names in one place is the moment you lose a reader. It seems small, everyone makes typos, but it distracts your readers. They become more worried about if they read the name right all the other times instead of reading on. The only time you want a reader to go back is if they missed a clue in the earlier pages. Consistency of language with characters, especially if you use dialects, or the narrative will keep readers reading. Check for consistency in how characters refer to each other, and if that changes, make it count. Watch out for dialogue inconsistencies. Always make sure your dialogue opens and closes with quotation marks, sentences end in punctuation, and that your dialogue tags remain consistent with your style.
These days, structure can challenge even the most veteran Indie Authors. Having to plan your story structure for reading in print, on kindles (or similar devices), and on smartphones, adds a new level of difficulty. I know that when I first formatted Extoria I struggle with the indents and transferring them to the Kindle hosted software. But taking the extra time to give your readers enough white space for reading along all devices becomes more important as the years progress. Beyond my indent challenges, I had brick walls of text that looked nice in paperback, but miserable on a phone screen. I don’t have the best answer for this one yet, but take the time to experiment to give your readers the best experience possible.
4. Give the Book the Time it Needs
My greatest error with self-publishing, Extoria, was the desire to just have something out there. And I still fight that urge today. The reason I bring this up is that each book takes a different amount of time to write, edit, and refine. While you may have friends, family, and followers breathing down your neck for the next installment, or the first, a book is not a project that many understand. Everyone outside the writers’ community thinks that you can pump out projects like Tom Clancy, Louise L’amour, or Stephen King. Only you know when a book is truly ready. I reached the point where I didn’t want to pitch the book to anymore friends, family, or strangers because I recognized I hadn’t done my basic checks before publishing.
5. Be Ready to Give Your Heart and Soul to the Book:
Every work of fiction, poem, memoir, or non-fiction is a piece of your reality. Whether your characters are aliens or people in your life, it doesn’t matter. You must be as ready as possible to show yourself to everyone who reads your work. Because, while their critiques may be on your book, it becomes a gray area as the author. It can easily feel like a personal attack instead of a review of your work. And, once you release your book, it doesn’t just sell itself, you must be ready to share with friends, family, strangers, and followers on social media. Those who read and like your work will help sell you to others, but the legwork will always come back to your efforts.
Thank you for reading this post on five pre-publishing checks for the Indie Author. If you have any other recommendations for pre-publishing checks for Indie Authors, please comment below or send me a message. I’d love to share them in future writing tip posts.
Next week check back for the Tuesday Writing Tips on the flat character arc, and Saturday for the next entry to Frozen in Line. Thank you for reading, and as always, stay fresh, my nugs!