Self-editing…yeah right

I was going through edits for Deadworld 2 (tentative title right now is: The Vengeful Dead), which are thankfully pretty light on content revision, but there were roughly 60 or 70 places where I’d done stupid shit like “to” instead of “too” or “heal” instead of “heel” or just leaving out a word. Missing a few is one thing, but holy crap there were a lot. Spell and grammar check won’t catch a lot of this stuff. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best editor in the world. I need time away from my writing in order to get any distance suitable enough to see bigger picture things. I’m not talking a week or two, but more like a month or two, which in the writing world and maintaining deadlines, is problematic. It points out to me though, just how difficult it can be when looking at self-publishing, and getting out a suitable product for consumption.

Self-publishing is growing in viability and I imagine it will only continue to do so in the future. It’s very easy to put words out there for people to read. One of the biggest complaints you will hear however, is the dearth of poorly edited, formatted, etc. books that make the reading experience unpleasant. It makes me appreciate the fact that I have an editor and a copyeditor and a cover artist to make my books the best they can be. Unless you are an editor yourself, putting out a clean book is a difficult process. I don’t think many writers new to writing get just how difficult it is. If you want to assure yourself of putting out the best book you can, it requires buying editing services, and finding someone to create a cover that will attract reader’s attention. Let me repeat, none of this is easy to do on your own. Personally, I find it very daunting to consider doing all of the publishing aspects on my own.

So, I am quite pleased to have my books published by a publishing house that has professional services available. To me, it’s worth the tradeoff of not getting as much money per book. The odds of me selling more books is much higher given I will have a professional product actually going out on bookstore shelves. I do understand the self-publishing route, however. Getting bought by a publishing house is extremely difficult. It takes more than a great story. It also takes some timing and luck. Even then, there’s no guarantee you will find success. The odds are still against me at this point. The odds are even lower if you self-publish. The only way to have a shot is to put out a great product. You have to have quality editing, copyediting, cover art, and so on. This requires money. These services are not cheap, and the vast majority of authors are not pros at these aspects. I understand the desire to have people read your stories.  However, nobody is going to want to if they have to wade through errors. Readers are pretty picky in this regard, and let’s face it, there are a ton of books out there that are error free (or virtually so), have great covers, and don’t do anything to throw the reader out of the reading experience. Give them a poor experience and they won’t come back.

So, writing is hard. I put a lot of effort into creating an enjoyable story. I can’t edit for shit. I may never be able to do it well, at least in a timely fashion. If I were to self-publish, I’d have to time needed to get the necessary distance to do a decent job of editing. Even then, I’d likely still want to invest in professional services. I don’t just want my book available to read. I want people to enjoy the experience and want to read more, and they certainly wouldn’t be doing this if there were 60 to 70 errors scattered throughout the book. Publishing is far more than just writing. Understanding this is the first step on a long road to achieving any kind of success. Good luck, writers, and happy writing!

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4 responses to “Self-editing…yeah right

  1. Great post. You hit so many good points about self-publishing. An author shouldn’t just slap a book together and expect it to be of the same quality as one published through a publisher. I can’t tell you how many extra commas and wrong words I use!

    Love your tentative title for book 2!

  2. Lately, I’ve been sitting on the fence of whether or not I should pursue the traditional publishing route. To me, diving into self-publishing (even with the faith that what you’ve written is of high quality) is the scariest thing I can think of. Landing an agent and a book deal through a publisher seems like the safer route. At least you know that by the time your book reaches the public, it’s gone through enough middle-men to be screened for problems. You end up paying for it over time with the small percentage you get from book sales, but at least your book is out there being sold.

    With self publishing, you would have a higher initial investment, should you choose to hire an editor, cover artist, and whatnot, but there is NO GUARANTEE that your book will sell, even if it is a really good book. There’s no real guarantee that your book will sell traditionally either, but at least you got that nice little advance from the publisher to keep you happy for a little while.

    I’m with you, Jim. I’d rather put a high-quality book on the market, free of typography errors and polished to near-perfection, but there’s this niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I could do it on my own. On the flip-side, I’m trained to think that I have to get an agent and try for the Big Six. It’s like this ever-raging battle that never leaves my mind. It makes doing revisions on my current novel rather difficult, because I don’t know what I’m going to do when I’m done. It’s exhausting.

    Thanks for the post! I think you’ll find that a lot of people have something to say on the matter.