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Occupy Amazon.Com: The Curse of the Indies

Posted by on January 27, 2013

“This book is so full of misspellings, punctuation errors, and grammatical mistakes that I couldn’t make myself finish it.” So said the Amazon reviewer of my first book. And she was right, back then.

That book has now had the input of almost a dozen people hunting for errors, correcting grammar, and tightening prose.

It wasn’t ready for primetime when I first published it, and unfortunately, that surge of sales that comes from a new release has passed. I plug along steadily, usually in the top 1 or 2 % of Kindle books sold. But I missed out on hundreds of follow through sales from the first book to the sequel because of my editing mistakes. You never get a second chance to make a first impression; It’s true with potential lovers and it’s true with readers.

So what do indy authors do wrong? We publish the second draft instead of the fifth. We don’t vet our editors well enough (“I always see the typos in my library books!” doesn’t qualify your bff to be a line editor,) and we believe we can do it all ourselves.

Or at least I did, in 2009. And judging by the reviews I see over and over again on kindle books, so do a lot of indies.

To take your Nano-novel from first draft to ready-to-publish you need educated insight into three areas of your writing.

1. Structure: Find a reader who loves your genre who can tell you how your story holds up. Ask them if it has a good hook. Ask them where the story drags where it is too skimpy.

2. Grammar: find someone who loves grammar and has a good two weeks to spend looking over your book and fixing it. Hopefully this person will also have the heart of a teacher. Time spent listening to this person is a wise investment.

3. Polish: Find an Eagle-eyed nitpicker. Pay them with Starbucks cards, dirty money, or your first born. Anything. Give them an e-copy and a printed copy of your book. Give them time. When you get it back from that person work very slowly and try not to make new mistakes while you fix the old ones.

Before you publish you should have at least five people read the book, and at least two of them should read it for you after it has gone through all of these stages of editing.

So, how do you find these magical editors? Since this is your first self-published book, cost is likely an issue. I suggest networking on Facebook or the Nanowrimo forums. Search for local writers ‘groups and genre groups. Exchange work with the people you meet. Some people might help for free and many people will be willing to exchange efforts. Also, be willing to make a financial investment. Cost for professional editors can range from 2 cents per word to $3 a page. Many will be willing to edit a sample chapter or two, giving you invaluable advice on how to go about fixing the rest of the book.

A Few Resources for Editing your Nano-Novel

The Knife Editing Services:
The Grammar Girl:
On Self-Editing
Freelance Editors
Nanowrimo Forums:

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