The Blood, Sweat and Tears Were Part of It All
Authors Beverly Jenkins, Brenda Jackson and other traditional published writers have learned the secret. Whatever happens in the publishing industry, they’ll always be at the top of their games. Their names will forever come first when I’m asked to list my all-time favorite authors.
When they started, their creativity was only the first step in producing a best seller. Their talent piqued the interest of a publisher who took the rawness that was submitted and dissected it thought-by-thought, word-by-word and returned it to the writer for another chance to rework their masterpiece. The cycle repeated over a long period of time until a perfect product was produced.
Ask them and I’m sure they’ll say those weren’t fun times, seeing their words red-marked and whole pages and chapters crossed out that may have taken weeks or more to put on paper. I’m certain there were many days of self-doubt before they could even sit down and attempt the rewrites. But in the end, it was worth the blood, sweat and tears.
Technology Has Created a Monster
I stand up and cheer for today’s writers being able to publish their own work. That means they now have the freedom to create their masterpiece how and when they please, in their own words. Technology has made it possible for writers to put out as many books as they want, limited only by the number of hours they’re willing to put in.
Readers are no longer satisfied with wondering what happened with their characters after turning the last page. Being able to communicate 24-7 with authors on Facebook, Twitter and etc., etc., has created that monster of a reader that demands to know what happens next. And they want to know—right now. Likewise, a growing addiction for book series has readers pushing authors to constantly churn their imaginations for more and more storylines.
While the monsters want to know—right now—they’ll also rip writers apart in the reviews if they’re not getting that same quality they feel their purchase entitles them to. Even if it’s free. Why read a bad free book when there’s a ton of good free books written by writers trying to break in? Readers expect publisher standards. They don’t care how it’s done, they still want the best for their time and their bucks.
Slow Down! You’re Moving Too Fast
Where technology has helped, it has also harmed many good storytellers. While it allows writers to generate raw books at breakneck speed, it also exposes their weaknesses. Finishing a book and uploading it on Amazon can’t make a new writer a best-selling author. Neither can an influx of good reviews by family and friends. A writer’s one and two-star-rated reviews because of poor grammar and misspellings are only a Google search away. And that stays. Forever. In 2015 reviews have become an author’s resume. Although volume is overtaking quality, how many books can a tarnished or destroyed reputation sell?
Today’s microwave culture has created such a rush to publish that too many writers have deleted the crucial steps the Beverly Jenkinses and Brenda Jacksons had to endure. New writers are flooding the marketplace with pieces of work that only generous teachers would have graded an incomplete because of typos and inconsistencies. Many of those unedited, and probably imaginative, stories would have probably been emptied from a publisher’s shredder long before the editor reached the manuscript’s midway point. That stuff wouldn’t have made the cut because they tried to rush and cheat the process.
What Are The Steps?
- Know your role. You are the creator. Your talent lies in telling the story. But your responsibility is ensuring your final piece is a masterpiece.
- Understand the process. If you’re playing the game to win, learn the rules and stick with the process. You can’t skip the fundamentals. Create-Edit-Edit Again-Proofread-Upload-Market-Sell.
- Invest in the right tools. Realize that to showcase your work properly, you’ll need professional help. Your sister or BFF may read all the time, but are they qualified to edit your book by publisher standards? Your nephew and SO both taught themselves Photoshop, but can either design your book’s cover to meet professional specifications? Ask trusted, successful writers who they recommend and be willing to pay the price. You can’t play in the monetizing game without spending some money.
- Trust your resources. If my host author and friend Deatri, in her Become a Successful Author, shared how to format your book, follow that. She’s had years of paid experience from a traditional publisher to transform raw manuscripts to books fit for printing. And now she’s doing what you want to do—and accepting awards for doing it well.
- Make that first impression count. Your mother already taught you that. Need I say more?
What do Beverly and Brenda Know?
Twenty years and they’re still doing the blood, sweat and tears. Enduring the red-marked words, but not agonizing so much over those lost pages and chapters. They still do the creative, raw part because that’s what they’re good at. The other stuff—the developmental and copy editing, and proofreading—they leave to the pros. They know that’s a partnership that should never be left out of the publishing process—traditional or self. They know the secret. While technology continues to make things faster and easier and allows writers to self-publish, they know that over time quality is going to win out. And finally, they just know their adoring and demanding readers expect the same publisher’s standards they’ve always wanted, and will accept nothing less.
Paulette Nunlee is the proofreader for fivestarproofing.com. A former telecommunications executive, she has many years experience in editing corporate communications. She currently proofreads for award-winning authors and is writing her first book. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.