I love being a self-published author, and I’m not alone. I’ve heard now from a few established authors who started traditionally published that switched, and they prefer self-publishing, too. Now, it’s not without its challenges, and traditionally publishing has a lot going for it as well. Still, self publishing allows us to share stories we feel it’s in our hearts to tell.
How do we keep the quality of our books up? We have to pay attention, but we can put out books just as high quality as you’d get from a major traditional publisher. I’m not only an author, but also a reader. I love finding hidden gems from other self published authors. I’ve also started many books and ended up stopping early. I’ll share the main reasons I’ll stop reading, so you can look at your own writing and see if it’s something you need to be aware of.
1. Long and convoluted sentences can break the flow of a story. There’s nothing wrong with using commas. I use them, too. If you’re going to use them, use them well. If you have more than one or two commas in a sentence, you might want to break the sentence up, or even find a way to reword your ideas. I stopped reading a book because sentences were too complex and I couldn’t get into the story. Actually, this might be the top reason I’ve given up on books. Five commas are a sign you need to re-examine your sentence. Seriously, I’ve seen it often.
2. Watch your point of view. Learn about the different points of view you can use and how each one works. Whatever you choose, be consistent. It’s possible to mix points of view and do it well, but this takes real skill. The hardest one I think to do well is third person omniscient, which means you hear from every character and know their thoughts. If your narrative is head hopping randomly, it can be more distracting than effective. Ways to handle multiple points of view include separating views by chapter, or section, or even by book in a series.
3. Spelling and grammar issues can be distracting. Spell checkers are great, but they won’t necessarily tell you when you used the wrong word, and grammar checkers might not catch it, either. Having someone else read your work can help, as we don’t always catch our own mistakes. Even professional proofreaders miss the occasional error, so it’s usually not a dealbreaker for all but the fussiest readers, but most readers won’t fuss over a single error or two.
4. Know your audience. At least, pay attention to your audience’s age and reading level. I expect different things if I’m picking up a young adult book, a middle grade book, or something aimed at adults. Young people can be all over the place in their reading levels, with a voracious 12 year old maybe out-reading a late teen reader. However, sometimes you have a young reader who is more sheltered mentally or emotionally. Keep this in mind when choosing your story and how to tell it, if age might be a factor. It doesn’t mean you have to change your story, but maybe it’ll help you decide how much detail to use on certain scenes, or what words to use.
Put out the best book you can. You’ll get better the more you write. My second book is more polished and has better writing than my first book. That’s normal. Many books from now, I might look back and see how much better a writer I am than when I started. Write every chance you get and study writing. Not all writing rules matter to all writers, but you’ll find a style that works for you. Just keep in mind who your audience is, so you can write a book they’ll love. Firstly, though, make sure you love your story, too. Get writing!
I’ve been writing stories for myself for years. Now, I’m a published author. No genre is off limits, though I have some favorites.