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The Woman in White Marble Gets a Makeover

My next indie book will be released soon. I prefer to call myself an Indie Author, indicating that I’m not under the shackles of The Man, but rather that I’m free and making my own waves (See I’m an Indie Author). Of course, other people call it self-publishing, but hey, each to their own. Anyway, the new book is called The Woman in White Marble. In the past several weeks I’ve been through two editorial evaluations, line-by-line editing, proof-reading, cover and interior design, and marketing strategies. The editorial evaluations assessed: Title; Opening; Basic Premise and Tone; Point of View; Structure; Plot and Pace; Setting; Characterization; Dialogue; Punctuation and Grammar; and General Comments. Basically no place to hide. Before receiving the thirty page report the publisher sent me an email telling me not to be hurt and angry. I wasn’t. The evaluator (who was not named but I think was a man) found a major whole in my plot. He also made smaller suggestions for improvement. I worked for two weeks to make the fixes and the revised manuscript was sent back to the same editor for a second evaluation. He liked what I did, but repeated two needed improvements that I had ignored, simply because I didn’t agree with him. One was trivial and the other important. Eventually I caved on both, because he was right.

After that came the line-by-line editing. There are something like four punctuation and grammar bibles out there and each publishing house embraces one of them. If you want to impress your publisher you need to know which one it worships. The publisher I’m working with uses The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition. The damn thing is 1026 pages long. No way I was going to master that. I thus decided to go in-house on the line-by-line and proof-reading to make sure it was done right. Everything you read about self-publishing says you need to put the money into editing. Everyone says it because it is true.

I had thought after two thorough editorial evaluations the proof-reading would be redundant, but I was wrong. The proof-reader highlighted inconsistencies in characterizations and plot that I hadn’t seen. For example, in the story a ten year old girl brings dessert to my main character. The girl’s father and mother own a big hotel and the main character often goes to the hotel for a meal. In England desserts are often called puddings or puds for short. I had written: “Libbie would saunter on over with my “pud”, as she put it.”

My proof-reader made the following comment:

“Pud” is a slang term for “pudendum,” or genitals, in the US. The way you have this phrased can be read as a joke about the sexual organs (and availability) of an underage girl, which I think is not what you intend. Please consider revising.

I revised.

My in-house editorial consultant encouraged me to pay for the line-by-line and proof-reading if I wanted my book to be professional. Her suggestion highlights an important aspect of self-publish. Self-publishing companies exist to make money helping people publish their books. They’re not in it to be nice, though the people you work with are more than not quite nice. However, if you can’t accept that you have to spend money and that some of the people you encounter during the publishing process are there to both help you and to sell you services, then don’t get into self-publishing. More than not people that help you with editorial issues and marketing will also try to sell you services. People in production are just there to create a cover and interior design that you’re happy with.

At bottom line, trust is important. If you can’t accept that this is a business and people will try and sell you services along the way, then it will be very difficult for you trust them. If you think you are being taken advantage of at every turn and manipulated into spending money you would rather not spend, it will be hard to trust. An example will help.

I dropped my last publisher, for Notes from 39,000 Feet and Alien Love. Why? Because I don’t trust them. On three or four occasions the marketing people contacted me with the most ludicrous claim: a producer in Hollywood wanted to make a movie out of Alien Love and I needed to respond urgently! When I asked the name of the producer a cone of silence fell over the marketing person. The telephone calls and emails stopped. False urgency, absurd claims and outright lying to entice me to spend money. I dropped the publisher. In contrast to that experience, my current publisher for The Woman in White Marble are not preposterous, melodramatic and deceitful. When people have suggested I purchase services they have been clear and straightforward about why. There has been no real pressure to buy, just reasons and encouragement. If I say no, the matter is dropped. Yes, they’re good at their job, and that’s one of the reasons I trust them.

I enjoy self-publishing and being an Indie Author. I’m willing to put time and money into the process so the book is as good and professional as it can be. When my in-house editorial consultant suggested I purchase editorial services, she asked if the book was just for my family and friends or if I wanted it to be sold more widely. Her advice: if it is just for family and friends then you might not want to spend the money, but if it is for the general public, then editing is a must (it really is!). I said this to her: “I have no illusions about selling hundreds of thousands of copies, but I also don’t want my book to be crap.”

Copyright © 2014 Dale Rominger

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