by Jo Barney
A friend of mine has a lovely fantasy novel both as a Print-on-Demand and as an e-book. She has accomplished this publication using, for the most part, Createspace, the arm of Amazon that for a fee will help design a cover, hand-hold an author through the choices of font, paper, front and back pages and covers. She paid for these services and was exultant when she held the finished copy.
But the process wasn’t easy. She had chosen the wrong paper, changed the language of the acknowledgements and summary on the back cover several times, and didn’t like the size of the book when she got the mock-up.
The worst thing, she discovered, was that the pristine manuscript that she had paid to have edited for content—and which she and her husband, a patient man, had line-edited—was filled with typos. They stopped all efforts to publish until they had gone over the book again; in fact, several times again.
“How could that happen?” she wondered over coffee one day. “I swear we read that manuscript until we were cross-eyed.”
I, on the other hand, decided to publish my novel myself, using the advice and directions from Amazon/Kindle. The formatting seemed easy, after I got the hang of it, and with a shaking finger I punched the “Publish” button.
When I reviewed what I had created, I found that I had no paragraphs or, rather, that each chapter was one paragraph long. Several weeks later I tried again. This version had paragraphs but no picture inside, just an ugly question mark. Days later I learned what “zip” meant, but couldn’t do it. Forget the picture, I told myself. And I did.
Then I went on to format and publish my novel on Lulu, which distributes to iBook and Nook. With help of Nadine at Lulu, I got through the tear-provoking Table of Contents requirement for their books.
I sent emails to everyone I knew. Buy my book! And about forty friends did.
Then I sent a hard copy to Sally, a former librarian who does not and will not do e-books. She wrote a glowing review and attached a three-page list of typos and left-out words she’d discovered. For some reason, prepositions had sunk from sight and, while the sentences were readable, they were riddled with potholes that Sally insisted she had learned to ignore.
“How could this happen?” I asked myself, as I glanced over the manuscript she had sent back to me. I had read the thing at least twenty times before I published it. Sure enough, there they weren’t: many of the tiny words—of, to, or, in—that lubricate our language.
I realized I had edited my novel on my computer screen. My anxious eyes had slipped easily over the mass of words gathered there, wanting to move on. Had I printed out one copy of the book and sat down in an easy chair with a cup of coffee or two and read the pages aloud, or at least consciously, I would have noticed the problem.
My friend’s POD book and e-book cost her hundreds of dollars to publish and weeks of stress. Mine cost no money, many more weeks of stress, and an embarrassed apology to my first buyers who had to put up with imperfect copies. Now that it’s all over, I think we both would agree that the first rule of self-publishing, no matter how you go about it, has to be PROOFREAD! And I’d add, do it with a paper copy and a red pencil in hand to help guide the search for lost and misplaced prepositions.
Jo Barney served on VC6’s editorial team and recently published her first e-book The Solarium. You’ll find Jo and all her books at Jo Barney Writes.
Image sources: Click on the image to be taken to its original source. All images have a creative commons license and were found via Compfight–a great source for free images. Please respect the licensing restrictions of any images you use and include proper attribution.