Lessons from Self-Publishing : Trial by Fire

Hello!

This post is pretty late compared to the schedule I usually try to post, but work became somewhat more demanding. I will try and keep to the schedule of one post a week and (hopefully) that won’t be an issue!

Now onto the post:

Recently I published my first book, The Legend of Nariko: The Mark of Silverfrost, and I’ve learned quite a few lessons from this venture. For those of you that took a gander at my book previously, you may notice that the cover looks different. Having put my book side to side with other books in my genre, I noticed that my book didn’t “fit in” with the others. Hilariously, I began to think of my original cover more as fan art than a proper book cover. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think its possible not to judge a book initially by its cover. I decided that the best thing to do would be update the cover to appeal to a broader audience as opposed to appealing to a specific target group.

You may also notice that the text in the sample is also different than the initial release. A couple weeks ago as I was going about spreading my book throughout the internet as best I could (also an interesting learning experience) when a reviewer rejected my book due to the quality not being up to her standards. At first I was a bit hurt by that but, putting my ego aside, I asked what was wrong with my book. One of the items she pointed out was the formatting of the book.

I had never considered that before.

For the longest time in my beginning career as an author, I had thought that a lot of what I read in novels were stylistic choices based on how the author wanted to write the book. I had never considered that some of the format choices were actually quite standard. For instance, paragraph indentation:

“I’m sorry. We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
Thunder did want to. She wanted to talk to someone after being alone 
for so long that Icarus’s general interest brought her a little peace. 
Though she remembered why she was alone and that was enough to silence her. She remembered her failures, 
the blood on her hands and the reason for her isolation.
His blood.
They continued walking the cold dirt trail through the misty trees in 
silence. But Thunder found this silence comforting.
She wasn’t alone anymore.

New Text :
  “I’m sorry. We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
   Thunder did want to. She wanted to talk to someone after being alone 
for so long that Icarus’s general interest brought her a little peace. 
Though she remembered why she was alone and that was enough to silence her. She remembered her failures, 
the blood on her hands and the reason for her isolation.
His blood.
   They continued walking the cold dirt trail through the misty trees in 
silence. But Thunder found this silence comforting.
   She wasn’t alone anymore.

It’s a simple fix that, while it doesn’t appear to drastically change the book itself, it does make it easier to read. I found this was especially necessary on the pages with multiple paragraphs that weren’t broken up by dialogue. I hate to admit it, but I never considered how the appearance of the text can give a reader the impression of quality. While they seemed small to me initially, once I implemented them I saw just how big of a difference they made. Something so simple as re-orienting the chapter title can make a significant difference:

Chapter 1: New Beginnings
Chapter 1
– New Beginnings –

 

While I don’t believe it is necessary, I have to admit that it does look more professional and far more polished having each Chapter Title stand out more.

When it comes to learning these lessons, I feel I would have never learned this had I not just pulled the trigger and published my book. While it is unfortunate that now I’m working with Amazon to update everyone who had already purchased a copy (the Amazon customer support team for KDP has been nothing but fantastic in responding to my concerns, really helpful), I feel as though this was necessary to grow as an Author trying to learn every aspect of publishing.

“Trial by Fire” as its called, feels far more permanent as the consequences of those mistakes stay with you. While I was going through my book indenting the paragraphs and modifying the Chapter Titles, I also noticed a few grammatical errors that felt unprofessional and inexcusable. The first thought I had was “how could I have missed that?!” but thinking on it further, as an author, I am probably the worst person to edit my own work. Mentally I would be concerned far more with the content of the novel as opposed to the technical quality of it. My editors as well I had asked for their opinion on the quality of the plot, the writing style and character development, but I had never put forth the request for technical editting. Its funny when I think about it as I’ve edited other people’s works brought to me with a ruthless red inked pen but with my own work I let too much slide. It solidifies to me that I cannot edit my own work as effectively as I could edit anyone else’s, I need someone else to do the technical editing. I can now justify to myself the need for hiring a technical editor to read my work and apply corrections.

I can’t advise that everyone go out and try to learn by making mistakes, but personally I feel that it is the best way to learn (albeit the hardest).

For this curious, my book is available to purchase and it is the updated corrected copy that will be sent.

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