For Crying Out Loud- Get It Right!

September 1, 2011

The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend.  ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

By: Stacey Purcell

Do you want to hear a semi depressing number? I read that less than 1% of the books that are published by the Big Six are by debut authors. Excuse me while I sit down for a second. That is a fairly harsh number, to say the least.

Fortunately for those of us still working on getting the first book out of the door, we have options. The publishing landscape is not as desolate as it seemed when I came across that tidbit of information. As you have undoubtedly heard by now, our industry is changing fast. What does that mean?

It means that we have options…if we don’t blow it.

E-publishing has brought us several more publishing houses that are looking for quality work. Companies like Carina, Wild Rose and Ellora’s Cave are offering representation to thousands of authors and paying a higher percentage to the writer. We also have the ability to skip agents and publishers altogether.

Here’s where we start to have some trouble.

The other day, I was chatting with Jenn about writing contests. She noted that there seems to be a drop in the number of entrants across the board. I’m sure the economy is partially to blame, but she also pointed out another factor that is driving the numbers down. As more writers self-pub, they are entering less contests. Whoa! Stop everything! It should be just the opposite..

One of the biggest draws in a writing contest is the final judge for each genre. If you’re a finalist, then your pages are read by agents and editors. Obviously, if you are doing your own work, then you don’t need them. So why enter? In my opinion, if you are publishing your own book, then you should be entered in multiple contests. It’s a terrific way to get your pages edited and help you polish those words. Can you edit your own work? Of course you can, I just wouldn’t advise it.

Listen up people, if you are going to publish DIY, then please don’t settle for editing it yourself. Enter contests, find critique partners, hire professional editors, and just get it right! We have this amazing opportunity to take control of our artistic future and the public is receptive. There are many success stories, but there are many failures as well. I’m afraid that if they are continually disappointed with mediocre, sloppy books, they will stop giving new authors a try.

Even at $2.99.

Even at $1.99.

Heck, even at .99.

When an author puts out a crappy piece of work full of typos, poor spelling and awkward sentences, they sink themselves. They also make it more difficult for me to grab that customer back to being willing to try an unknown writer. That makes me mad. Many of my friends have beat me in putting their stories up for sale first and I watched how hard they worked. Countless hours were spent writing and re-writing until it was their best possible product. They used the feedback from contests to hone their writing style and add more texture to the stories. It didn’t stop there. They had critique partners and beta readers marking up their manuscripts. It wasn’t always fun, but they knew it was necessary. Feedback is essential to any really good author.

This is a competitive industry. Be smart when you make decisions about your career. There are many things we can’t control in life, but the quality of our work isn’t one of them.

This one is just because I thought it was funny!