Self-Publishing Mistakes

Running a site devoted to self-publishing, for however short a period, I’ve gotten a quick sense into some of the mistakes self-publishers make when sending out a book. I don’t want to single anyone out here by linking to anyone, but I wanted to point these things out. It occurs to me as well that scathingly attacking a self-published writer makes little sense. After all, the writer is self-releasing the book at his or her own expense, and will struggle to find readers. Why bother attacking someone who’s already struggling to be read? That said, I wanted to point some very obvious mistakes that are being made.

One of the things that struck me in the interview with Kristen Tsetsi is how careful she is. She might not want me to mention this, but more than once she wrote back and gave me corrections to her previous answer (the interview was conducted by email). This sort of attention to detail shows up in her novel as well. She’s careful about every word; she’s never sloppy. And that’s exactly how it should be for any self-published writer – not just in the book itself, but in every piece of correspondence and marketing material regarding the book.

For example, I received this note from a self-published writer looking for a review:

I seen the forum post on Lulu.com about this site…I have a book I would love to be reviewed by you guys. Even better, a author interview. I didn’t see if there is
any fee though. I’m sort on money, but in exhange, I could advertise your site on my
domain name. It’s new aswell, but get’s traffic daily. Please reply back.

I feel a bit condescending to be pointing out grammatical errors – I’m sure this site has a few of them. But this is a query for something to be read by a reviewer – a person who’s supposed to weigh the quality of a book – and in the query itself there are five or so errors. If you’re really serious about getting reviewed, and have your book taken seriously by any reviewer, take as much time with any email you send out as with anything you put into print.

But that’s not always the case either, as published books have their own problems:

Here’s the first paragraph of a novel that was submitted:

“You’re really going to enjoy the unit.” the heavy-set nurse muttered in between almost obscene sounding deep breathes, “They’ll be really nice to you here.”

There’s a typo in the first sentence. Again, I don’t relish doing this: because the writer of this book could read this and be hurt by it. And it’s not any news that self-published books go to print with mistakes. But the point of this online magazine is to help the culture around self-publishing improve and to help self-publishers get better at what they do. This isn’t just a case of, “You should hire an editor,” because sometimes it appears that writers don’t even consider copyediting. The moral: don’t send anything out or print anything until you’re absolutely sure it’s ready for other people to read.