Never Say PleaseDon’t: Three Books in Twelve Months
By Lauren Carr
A couple of weeks ago, Fay’s post, Three Books in Twelve Months, made me laugh and blush, both at the same time. The laughter came not so much because she mentioned my accomplishment of writing and publishing three books in the span of twelve months (Shades of Murder, Dead on Ice, Blast from the Past, not to mention Beauty to Die For & Other Mystery Shorts ,an anthology), but from embarrassment.
Ironically, less than two years ago, I wrote a blog post pleading with independent authors not to strive to release multiple books a year.
In that article, I had explained that the wonderful breakthrough for writers to easily and inexpensively publish their books has become a double-edge sword: No longer are we dependent on the gatekeepers in New York to make our books available to readers.
The other edge of the sword is that since anybody can slap together a book and publish it, the market has been hit with an avalanche of bad books. I define “bad books” as unedited books filled with typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors, poorly formatted (either ebook or print), and/or unprofessional cover design.
My post went on to explain the math: At the time of this article I was writing and publishing one, maybe two, books a year. I go through several drafts:
- Reviewed by a fellow author for flow of storyline and loose ends after no less than three rough drafts.
- Rewrite after said review.
- Edited by professional editor.
- Layout & formatting
- Corrections based on proofread
Let’s say I release two books in a year. In that same year, another author whips out five books without any review by someone who would give him honest feedback, nothing more than the benefit of his MS Word spell-checker as far as editing, and a cover slapped together by a twelve-year old neighbor.
Math: That is five bad books to two good ones. Let’s go further and multiply it by ten. Out of a total of seventy self-published books, we have fifty poorly done to twenty well done.
The result: Quote from one reviewer: “Looking for a good self-published book is like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
I had written that blog post in response to recently releasing one of my books and discovering that some bloggers who had previously reviewed self-published books had only recently shut their doors to independent authors. One reviewer told me that the problem of new authors whipping out books without any review or editing had gotten worse in the last few years. Another blogger, who does accept self-published books, compared it to mining for a gem in a pile of rocks. It’s exciting to find a good book because there are so many bad ones.
As an author and publisher on a mission to change the perception of self-published authors as second-rate, I am horrified by this development. The marketplace has been hit with an avalanche of bad self-published books. As quickly as doors to publishing are being opened, doors to promoting us are being closed and it is the fault of some of our own members.
The message in my blog post: When one writer cuts corners in quality in order to rush to publish his book, he doesn’t hurt just himself, he hurts all self-published authors.
Yes, I released three books and an anthology in twelve months last year. I am at a new high in my career as an author. The reviews and sales on my books have been stupendous. I am thrilled every day to check my sales and author ranking on Amazon, where I am regularly listed in the top one-hundred of police procedural & cozy mysteries.
My previous post was not to tell authors to refrain from striving for the same goal, which is how some authors took it; nor am I being judgmental by saying that there are a lot of bad self-published books out there. That assessment is from reviewers and bloggers, not me.
Multi-book years can be done—but I do beg other self-published authors to please, for the sake of all independent authors, do it right. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:
Get an editorial review done. This is extremely important. An editorial review provides feedback on your storyline, plot, and those elements that reviewers and readers are most likely to comment on: One-dimensional characters, loose ends in your plot, lack of research, bad ending.
Have this done by someone who knows the genre, reads books, and is not afraid to hurt your feelings. Don’t take your book to your grandmother who would never hurt your feelings. These reviewers are called perfect readers. Most published and successful authors have them. My publishing company Acorn Book Services provides editorial reviews for a fee, but if you know someone who meets this criterion, maybe someone in your writers’ group, then you can have it done for free. Author Cindy McDonald is my perfect reader.
Get a good editor. Getting a good editor is like looking for a good hair stylist. They are hard to find and when you find one that you can work with, don’t let them go. Every editor is different. Some are light editors who don’t make a lot of changes. Others are heavy-handed and make a ton of changes.
Proofread, proofread, and proofread! For all the work that you put into your masterpiece, nothing can ruin the whole project more than typos that you would have caught if you had simply proofed it. It looks sloppy. You cannot proofread enough. (As a publisher, I say you can. There does come a point where I have to tell every author, “Let it go!”) As a self-published writer, I implore you, proof your book at every stage. Proof it in hardcopy at least twice. Proof it after it has been formatted. Stuff happens during formatting. If your book is in print, sit down with a pen, put yourself in the mind of the reader, and read through it.
Proofing Tip: If you have a friend who is willing, ask them to proof your book in the final stage. At this point, you will have seen and read through it so many times that you will be unable to see mistakes. A fresh pair of eyes at this point will prove invaluable.
Have a professional looking cover. Like typos, a cheesy cover can repel readers. If you cannot afford to hire a real graphic artist, then at least study tips on the Internet for what makes a professional looking cover. There are dozens of sites that offer these tips and they cost you nothing. Go to Amazon and study the covers of the top-selling books in your genre.
You may be asking, how is it possible for me to release so many books when I put so much into them, and do it well, in a course of twelve months?
As you can see on my list of tips, at many points, my book is off in someone else’s hands. While Cindy is reading one of my books for an editorial review, I’ll be working on the first draft of my next book. After a re-write of the first book, I’ll send it off to the editor. While that book is gone, I’m working on the second book. I am always working on a book but it is not always the same book.
Yep, it takes a lot of work, by a lot of trusted professionals, to publish a lot of books. Also consider this. Ten years ago, none of this was possible.
Isn’t it great?
Fay’s Note: HEY, LAUREN– YOU FORGOT “A GNARLY CHRISTMAS.” IT’S BEEN A GREAT YEAR! Keep up the good work.