Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Indy publishing for Dummies part 2- quality control.

Getting a book to print is absurdly easy. Getting a quality book to print is an altogether different animal. One of the reasons that self publishers get such a bad rap is because there really is no quality control involved... Basically, if a writer thinks it's ready, there's little stopping him from taking the plunge and printing off a few copies.

As a writer, I think it's important to hold ourselves to a higher standard than that. This brings us to the self publishing prime directive:

Don't write in a vacuum. What I mean by this is that it is imperative that someone other than you reads your manuscript before you get it out there. It might be hard for your ego to accept, but you need other people to tell you if there's anything wrong with the work. Find one or two friends that won't spare your feelings, and let them give you notes on it. This is a very hard thing for any writer to do, but it is essential to putting out quality work.

Don't believe me? Let's talk about a famous writer, without mentioning names. In the mid seventies, a talented writer created a script for a science fiction film that was revolutionary. It was also crap. When he sold the idea to a major studio, they had people give him notes. He took them to heart, and came out with a better product. The film did fantastic at the box office, and so he was asked to write sequels. The problem was that because of his previous success, he was granted more "creative control" and the movies started to go downhill. Still good, mind you, but not great. Then he moved on, starting his own media empire... After around twenty years, he decided to come back to the story, but was now one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. With his fame came a bubble around him of people that were all paid to kiss his ass. As a result, he cranked out three more movies in the franchise with no notes from anyone, and complete creative control.

The point is, without negative input to keep him in check the resultant movies were a huge disappointment for all involved, and led to endless debates on the Internet about whether the writer was now on crack.

Now, this is an extreme example, but shows how important feedback can be for even the best of us. Get others to read what you've written, and take their advice to heart. Rewrite it until you have a product you are insanely proud of. Then and only then will you be ready to take the next step. I have three readers that I hand my finished manuscripts off to, and I consider each helpful to my writing in a different way...

Reader 1 shares my sense of humor, and will generally tell me if a plot point or a gag doesn't really work. Reader 1 is also one of my biggest supporters, and loves my writing, so I pay careful attention as to where that reader stops reading for whatever reason... I know that this reader only puts down my books when the plot flags a bit, and so I take a careful look at whatever she marks as her put down points.

Reader 2 is my science/continuity nerd, and I rely on them to tell me if something makes no sense in the context of the world I've built. This reader is also a avid follower of my genre, and will generally tell me if a plot device is overused or confusing.

Reader 3 is my spelling, punctuation, and grammar Nazi. I am embarrassed to say that the first edition of Dimensional Games went to press with a lot of simple capitalization errors, and I was lucky that reader 3 stepped forward to help me with the issue.

Then I go over the manuscript with a fine tooth comb myself, incorporating all 3 readers comments. It's my process, and it works pretty well. I don't get nearly as crazy about my short stories, thank goodness, but putting forward your best work is essential for any writer.

1 comment:

amusingmuse said...

I find having the "text to speech" function helps catch typos, even the ones spellchecker won't find. And if the sentence sounds awkward, it probably is.