Friday, 5 July 2013

Don't cut corners

Most people are quite happy to throw their spare cash wantonly on whatever whim they feel like, be it clothes, beers, cigarettes, eating out, entertainment ... yet for some reason, when it comes to self-publishing, suddenly people "can't afford" editing, proofreading, decent cover design, formatting ... can't afford to pay to advertise, can't afford to do pretty much anything, in other words.

From reading many writers forums you'd be forgiven for believing that all self-published writers are poverty-stricken, bridge dwellers who have to make daily decisions between which they need most, coffee or cigarettes.

Of course some might be one step away from the dole queue, but most aren't. Most have exactly the same amount of disposable income as anyone else, but when it comes to putting money into their books there seems to be an unnatural aversion to it.


Perhaps because it is possible to self-publish for free, many writers think that spending money on it is money wasted. Perhaps they don't feel their work is deserving of it. Or perhaps, like I did when I started out, they feel that they don't need to. They think they're good enough to carry it all by themselves.

A few days ago I got this review -

Not a bad story, shame about lack of a definitive ending to allow the sequals.

Does need a bit of proofing with a few words missing (but you can tell what is implied) and a few plurals missing their S.

Don't get me started on the comment - there's no more a cliffhanger in that book than there is in Star Wars, and I've never seen anyone complain about that. Nor that the review was posted by an indie author who managed to spell the world "sequel" wrong, but whatever. What's important is that if you cut corners in the beginning it will come back to haunt you.

I'm an English teacher by profession. I'm halfway through a MSc in Linguistics. I felt I could catch anything, felt I didn't need anyone to help me.


Tube Riders, the book in question, has since had a paid professional edit and I'm quite confident there are none of the errors the reviewer talks about. However, since I was stupid enough to go the Amazon KDP Select free promos route for a while (against my better judgement and something that, for novels at least, I now regret) there are some 8000 copies of Tube Riders out there in various states of repair.

Freebie hunters are notorious for not reading the books they horde, but at any point such a review could jump up and bite me. And while genuine readers rarely mention actually textual errors, indie author "reviewers", the bane of new writers everywhere, take an almost sadistic pride in pointing out the errors of their fellow writers.

It doesn't matter that Tube Riders is now in good shape. That review is up there and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm not about to start adding "newly corrected version" at the top of my book listings page because there's nothing that screams "amateur!" louder.

However, if I'd been wise enough not to trust myself in the first place and got a paid edit of Tube Riders done before I first published it, I wouldn't be in this position.

So, think about it before you put your masterpiece out into the world for public criticism. You don't have to pay a fortune - the edit for Tube Riders cost me about $200 - but getting a professional pair of eyes to look over it can make all the difference. I might never know how many readers have been turned off by reading such reviews about Tube Riders, but I do know is that it would have been easy to avoid getting those reviews in the first place.

Don't cut corners.

Chris Ward
July 5th 2013