Sunday, May 6, 2012


We can't sell books if the descriptions and the books contain mistakes. I understand formatting mistakes and overlook them, because that can happen to anyone--and does! It happened to me. As soon as I found out, I made corrections, and when that still wasn't good enough, because the book had been scanned from a paperback and then put through OCR, I had my proofreader go over it to catch the mistakes I missed. Not only that, I owned up to the error-ridden e-book and offered everyone who had downloaded it on a KDP Free day a replacement book.

The mistakes we need to really talk about aren't made by scanning and OCR errors. I'm talking about the mistakes made in grammar or spelling, wrong punctuation or garbled sentence construction. These are the problems that really turn me off from wanting to read a Kindle title. I think everyone reacts that way.

I read a whole blog about a woman who received a bad review. She began defending herself, but her remarks were so littered with bad spelling, word use (their for there), and pure, crazy anger that she proved the review to be true. The big problem was she really believed her book was "fine," as she called it. It was not fine. The writer hadn't done her homework and did not get her work checked for mistakes before putting the book up on Kindle. Once called out, she proceeded to make blog posts that were senseless and full of grammatical errors. This not only did harm to her reputation, but it tolled a death knell for her book sales.

There are few places we need perfection--or as close to it as humanly possible--and one of those places is in publishing our books for public consumption.

I used to teach writing for the Writer's Digest School (and a course for novelists on AOL) and, at one time, I used to charge a set fee per page and edited books for people. Writers who want to give their books every chance for success don't have to necessarily hire any editor to go over their works, but they do need feedback and critiques by someone who is competent, someone they trust. I use a writer friend who is extremely good at finding technical mistakes in manuscripts and who also is adept at plot construction. I try my best to be careful with my own work, but just because I can edit others doesn't mean I'm perfect in editing my own writing. I think we all need other eyes on the work before it's published. You can lure in a buyer for your e-book with a great cover, title, and description, but if the book itself is riddled with grammatical mistakes, poor plotting, or poor characterization, that reader won't come back for another book by you.

We have to face the fact that there are over 750,000 e-books on Kindle so it's always important to give our work the best we have. If readers buy one of our books and they aren't happy, we have lost the potential to sell them the rest of our novels.

How many of you have editors or other good writers go over your book before offering it for sale? How important do you think it is to do so? The books I've put up so far, except for one, were published in print first, so they had editorial input. When I put up my original that had never been print published before, you can bet it was checked carefully first by both my reader and my proofreader. How did I do? Not badly. The reader found a plot hole and I rewrote a couple of chapters. The proofreader discovered I had two Chapter 17s and I had to fix the chapter numbers. He also found a few other mistakes that I corrected. Overall, it wasn't in terrible shape, but I sure wouldn't have wanted it to go out into the world with plot holes and duplicate chapter numbers and other small mistakes. Being a professional means you care enough to work hard on your novel and then find others who can work hard on it too. Not your mom or your best friend, either, but someone who has technical expertise and who will tell you the truth.

There are fewer e-books lately that I notice are full of bad writing and I think that's because those who tried to sell them discovered it wasn't going to work. Readers are used to reading books from print publishers who employ editors and proofreaders. They simply will not put up with a book, e-book or paper print, that is riddled with mistakes and bad writing. Why should they pay for that? You have to respect your reader most of all. He is your boss. If you abuse him and make him upset with your writing, you're upsetting the boss--and trust me, he'll fire you. Or in the case of e-books, he might ask for a refund and never buy another word you ever write. That's the same as being fired. You only have one chance to impress your reader and you have to make the most of it if you want him to return to find more of your work.

There are people online now who are very competent editors and proofreaders. Employ them. Care enough to do what you're doing the right way. Never go for second best, never take the chances that could mean the end of your career. Do it right. As a reader, that's all I want. As readers, that's what we demand. If you're going to be a professional writer then make sure you give the reader the best that's in you and that means your spelling is correct, your punctuation is correct, your verb tenses and sentence construction is correct. That means you must know how to write characterization, description, and dialogue. You have to know your business and then you'll get the business--sales of your work. And isn't that what we all want? Without an audience, can you be a writer? I guess you could, but it's a whole lot better WITH an audience. Give them--your bosses--what they deserve and at the very least that is a competently written, technically correct piece of work.

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