Sunday, January 6, 2013

Reading Into A Brick Wall

Good evening constant reader.

When I read a book for review, I don't read it any diferently than I would any other book I read.
I read a book by a first time author with the same expectations:
1. It will be interesting.
2. It will be a fresh approach to something that has been done before.
3. The plot is going to be engrossing and the characters are going to be ones I care about.
4. It's going to be free from egregious typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.

All of these seem reasonable.

But the one that is consistently trampled into the dust?

Number 4.

I realize some of the submissions I receive may be vanity press publications.
I realize some of the submissions I receive are lucky to get a publisher, never mind an editor.

But for the love of God and all that is holy, if you are a first time author, or one who has been published a few times, please know this:
You must be your own editor.
If you're lucky enough to be with a publishing house who provides an editor?
Still, you must be your own editor.
Please, please do not rely on spell check.
Do not rely on a program that looks at grammar usage.
Do not blithely  put words to paper and assume it's all good.
Read it.
Read it again.
Read it one more time.
Ask a friend or family member (preferably one with a grammar fetish) to read your work.

I don't know how many times I'll be reading along and the story is working and the characters are working and then I slam up against a brick wall of sentences that don't make sense that stick out like a sore thumb.
It's a jarring experience and one I'm coming across more and more often.

You the author must be your own bird dog in this matter.
Nothing fouls a good reading experience like coming across sentences that are poorly written and make no sense.
In this day and age, there is no excuse for it.
Editing your own work is easy. Not editing your own work is lazy.
Once it passes a certain point with your publisher, it's a lost game.
Your work will be published with glaring errors to last forever, unless someone catches them and corrects them for future editions.
If you're being published in an e-format, errors are easy to fix. Amend the file and it's all good.
If your work is something to be printed and published, an e-mail to your contact at your publisher will do, as long as you stay on them to make the changes.

I was talking once to author Carole Nelson Douglas about the author photo used on one of her books. She told me her husband Sam had taken it. The picture was professional quality, but she said she had to stay on her publisher doggedly to use it, even though they were the ones who had requested it.
Same thing with her dust jackets and paperback covers. She had to stay on them constantly to please include foiling, and please use embossing to make the title stand out.
This is an established author with a major publisher we're talking about here, too.
If Carole had to ride her publisher, then you're going to really have to ride yours.

I say all this not to be critical, but to help.
It's not enough to pat yourself on the back about being published. You've got to take ownership of your baby and make sure it's the best it can be, from the first word of the first sentence, to the editing, to the dust jacket and cover art and author photo.

End of semi-rant.

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