I’m self-published, there, I’ve admitted it, and judging by the reaction that I get from a lot of people, both in and out of the industry, you’d think that I had just told them that I suffer from Hansen’s Disease. (Proving that I do my research!)
The internet is full of stories about how awful self-published novels are, how they are full of spelling, grammar and formatting errors, how the covers have been drawn in a children’s paint programme and how the stories themselves lack any literary merit. And most of those comments have been addressed to me at one time or another. Yet there are so many great self-published books. it seems that they never get as much notice. When one does leap into view, it’s almost as if a miracle has occurred. There is a ripple of shock in the literary establishment, they call it an overnight success, not realising that it might have been the result of years of work, of trying to gain wider recognition.
In the interests of fairness, I thought that it would be nice to let you in on a secret. It may be that some of the criticism is valid. But then, I have read many books from reputable publishers and found missing pages or paragraphs, spelling mistakes and poor covers.
I suspect that there are many critics who have never sullied their hands with a self-published novel, merely repeated the things they have heard.
I can only speak for myself here, but I consider my work to be as valid as any. It took me months to write, the same as it takes anyone and I’m proud of it. I want the reader to enjoy it, not be irritated by a misplaced comma that alters the whole sense of the story.
So, I thought that it would be a good idea to tell you what happens to my manuscript once I have finished what I feel is the first draft. And you should bear in mind that I’ve already self-edited and refined the manuscript many times before we get to this stage.
This is the process that it undertakes before anyone has the chance to see my novel, let alone buy a copy.
First, my editor sees it. Yes, I have an editor! According to some ‘experts,’ self-published authors use F7 and that’s about it. My editor is a partner member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and works for major publishers as well as me. And let’s face it, as far as they’re concerned, I’m another publisher.
My editor reads my efforts and flags up the spelling, grammar and any plot inconsistencies. I correct them and then I send this version to my team of beta readers.
They read the story and give me their honest opinion of it, they tell me where it doesn’t work and any other things that they see in it, good or bad.
Once I have their verdict, I will re-write it as appropriate and send it back to my editor for another check. Whilst that is going on I will contact my cover designer who, incidentally, is a multiple award winner. We will discuss what I want and they will produce a series of ideas for me to choose from, or amend.
Here are a couple of examples of preliminary artwork from Andorra Pett, these are copyright Matthew Britton.
And some of the first ideas for my Steampunk book covers, from Avalon Graphics.
Once the second edit is returned, I can correct it again, it’s always a surprise to see how many more mistakes are found in the second reading.
It then goes to my formatter, another leading expert, who works for me as they do for other publishers. They set out eBook and paperback versions, formatted to industry standards.
Once I have the formatted pdf file back, it goes back to the editor for a final check. Any corrections are incorporated in the final print-ready manuscript, to which the cover file is added before it is all uploaded, ready to be sold or printed. My paperbacks are printed by the same company that a lot of large publishers use.
I think that what I have described is about the same as what would happen if my novel were at a ‘traditional’ publishing house.
So when I hear people saying, “Oh, self-published,” with the implication that it means a somehow inferior product, slapped together with little thought, it makes me feel slightly annoyed.
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