Saturday, 16 July 2011

Make your book as good as possible

Writing is hard work. Did someone tell you it's easy? Well, that someone lied. Big time. The transformation from the very first draft to the actual book published is enormous, especially when you're just starting out with your first book. If you are lucky and happy to learn, it will get easier once you've been through the process of rewriting, editing, proofing, etc.

I've read a few self-published books that weren't ready by a long shot and I've stopped reading most of them. Not saying there aren't good self-published books out there, but it looks like I didn't find them yet. I'm self-published myself and I know how hard it is to go through the book over and over and over again until you're sick and tired of the book you once loved, but it's worth it. It's my reputation, my author's name out there and I want the book to be the best it can get. Though, I've learned that I've sold over 1000 copies of the short stories with words missing, stray words and typos I didn't see. I've sort of rushed to publish it, not doing another round of proofing. Luckily, a friend was kind enough to point them out and it's fixed now. He also found quite a few in my novel, even AFTER proofing twice. That said, I can live with typos and missing words, but I can't live with poor character development, continuously use wrong dialogue attributes, plot holes and illogical story lines. Those are things that drive me mad as a reader.

Now, how to avoid things like that, you wonder.

Well, first off, learn the craft. Talent is one thing, but you need the skills to actually enhance your talent. That's what beautiful writing is. See it as a paining with a perfect frame, it will accentuate the painting, if you have a shabby frame it will look odd, drawing your eyes to the ugly frame rather than the painting itself. It's the same with writing, a great story can be disturbed by bad use of grammar or dialogue attributes or plot holes.

I'll take the painting again: imagine you have a person in it and he has an arm where the ear should be, now wouldn't that irritate you? Same goes with writing, when you have plot holes, it disturbs the flow, lets you pause and drags you out of the story, you stop to think where that character came from, where it went and what purpose it might have when it doesn't add to the plot.

Learn as much about writing as you can, try to secure yourself some beta readers, those who are confident in giving feedback. Try not to ask family and friends, unless they know a thing or two about writing and are honest with you. Compare your dialogue with traditionally published books and correct yours. Google is your best friend when it comes to read about 'rules'. Depending on how self-critical you are, you might need three rounds or more of editing and beta-reading. (I went 16 times through my first novel.) Don't ask the ones you've had before, they're now biased. Fresh eyes is what you need.

Be patient, don't rush into it. When you put a book out which isn't ready, you're likely to lose potential readers for your second or third book.

Make your book as perfect as you can. The end customers, your readers, will thank you by not only recommending a book they enjoyed, but also with loyalty.

If you'd like to know more about the journey of my novel No Wings Attached, please read an interview with me here:


  1. I agree completely, I've seen some good self-published novels on Kindle but I've seen a lot more sloppy ones. All good starting points but just not ready. Price dropping is not a compensation for quality.
    I guess one good thing about ebooks is you can choose to further improve your work based on reader feedback too. But yes, it should be polished before it goes out.
    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

  2. Stella very useful indeed. Editing is certainly an issue with self-published books. In all books I've found the issue. But when story is good, character development is good, then it can be glossed over.

    Sometimes, POV changes without any notice like First person from the female protagonist then suddenly the male protagonist takes over. This sucks sometimes. And craft, apart from me, you too talk of. Good.

    Useful post Stella. Wishing you good luck for the next project. Thank god, there is an easy exit, right below. So, here i go, but certainly i'll return. Lol.

  3. Thank you, you two.

    Charmaine, I found the same, good, strong voices, but could definitely do with another edit. Shame and no, dropping the price is not a compensation.

    Sudam, you're so funny. Yes, POV changes are annoying and that is basic knowledge and shouldn't happen. Glad you're coming back, you always crack me up.

  4. Life's too short to waste reading a crappy book. No matter how low the price.

  5. Jacqueline, you're absolutely right, thing is: what for you is crappy, for others is highly enjoyable. I guess it depends on the reader. I'm reading a traditionally published book at the moment and am immensely enjoying it. That said, I'm convinced to find some equally enjoyable self-published books.

    I even stopped reading Amanda Hocking's vampire books and I'm a fan of Twilight. Her characters weren't believable to me. I was annoyed with the girl who has a good friend treating her like shite. Who in their right might would have friends like that? Not even as a teenager.

  6. You're right. Though, if you choose a genre that you usually enjoy, the writing should not be a turnoff. I read one Twilight novel. Although the philosophy behind it drove me nuts - submissive female worshipping creepy male. And blaming herself when her males friends behave badly. Longing to die for a guy who's thirsting for her blood. I lost count of the number of times she buried her head in Edward's chest. However, I read to the end, because the novel was reasonably well written. But I won't be tempted to try another.

  7. That's all fine by me and certainly down to taste. I think many self-published books have a great premise and good voice, but they are simply not ready, they're not crappy either, just not ready and that disturbes my sensitive reader soul.
    I read the whole series, by the way and loved it so much, that I read them again, straight away. Doesn't happen often that I read a book twice.

  8. Wonderful post, Stella. I think too often many self-publishers are so excited to get their book out there that they skip over crucial editing and revision.

    Aside from design, I think the best money an indie author can spend is on professional content editing with an editor who's a good match for their personality, genre and writing style.

    In the end, good writing will be more important than just about anything else in determining the success of their work!

  9. Hi, Toni

    Yes, I think the problem with self-publishing often is, that people THINK their book is ready, when it's not. Since I'm also an editor, I spot these basic mistakes immediately and though there are a few very well-polished books out there, there are still more unpolished books on the market. It's sad, because a really good story can be destroyed by such basic errors. I agree with your statement, that inexperienced writers should work with a plot-editor. I personally had authors sending me their ms, along with the words 'I've been over it and I think it's pretty good.'
    Needless to say they were amazed of what actually needed changing. Pace, characters, plot, dialogue attributes, punctuation in general, flow, etc. I believe beginners can benefit from working with an editor, it's sort of the short-cut of learning. From then on, they're able to work with beta-readers.

  10. Stella, although I've written a nonfiction book, I feel exactly as you do. I found I had to defend myself when people asked why my book wasn't published yet and I said I was still editing it. Even though I paid an editor, I found errors and sections that didn't read well. I don't believe that you can't edit your own work; I read and reread until I was cross-eyed.

    I thought I held the world's record for ordering proofs, but I guess three doesn't come close. I refused to let that book go out until I was satisfied that it represented the best I had to offer.

    I have to add that I see errors in traditionally published books, as well, but self-published authors seem to have more to gain from getting it right. Thanks for your post.

  11. Hello, Marcie

    I agree, you can edit a book yourself, but only if you have more experience. If not, you're most likely to have POV glitches, pace and character problems, you name it. I've seen enough of self-published books with exactly those areas needing more work. Plus, I read my short stories several times and didn't see one glaring error. Had people queueing for 30 min in front of a club and then stated the club was still empty. Doh! Happens and those are things we're blind to, hence the need of beta-readers.

    Trad. published books do have errors, too, but the percentage is much lower than in self-published books. As I said, typos, I can live with. We're all humans.