Self-Publish Your Book

Wyoming 2019: Jackson Hole—Day 2


On day two in Jackson Hole, we woke to rain. In between the downpours, we browsed the few shops that had opened. Most were closed until the coming weekend when the summer season officially began. We also missed out on the aerial tram to the mountaintop; it opened the following day. Still, we enjoyed our walk around town. Later in the afternoon, the rain intensified and we were stuck indoors. Time to catch up on emails and news from home. read more…

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Repeat after Me: Write, Edit, and Edit Some More

In 2011, for a number of reasons, but primarily time, I decided to self-publish my Darcy McClain and Bullet Thriller Series. I felt it was time to cut out the middleman and sell directly to the buyer—my readers. The books would either sell—or languish—in online retail sites or brick and mortar bookstores.

As an author, my first priority was to produce a quality product, one I could be proud of from cover to cover. So my first order of business was to hire an editor, a professional invaluable to the success of your novel. Right on the heels of hiring an editor, I hired a professional book cover designer. 

Having written my first novel and experienced firsthand how much work goes into turning out a quality book, I knew the editing part would be time-consuming and tedious, especially since my plots center on technology or science. A good writer will do her utmost to be spot-on with facts. It takes an inordinate amount of time to thoroughly research various subjects, but it ensures the authenticity and the feasibility of your plotlines. Therefore, one of my main criteria for hiring the “right” editor was a keen eye for detail, in addition to the traditional skills an editor brings to producing a quality manuscript.

When I decided to self-publish, I had already written five novels in the series and had rough drafts for an additional three, so I wanted to find an editor I could build a long-term relationship with, someone who could grow with my characters as they grew, someone who knew them almost as well as I knew them. Sure, situations change for any number of reasons, and the editor you have today may not be available tomorrow, so you have to be flexible. Still, I hired my first editor with the hope of having her on board for the life of the series. And when I felt I needed a second editor, a fresh pair of eyes, I hired her with the same thought, hoping she would be available to edit the entire Darcy McClain and Bullet Thriller Series. Why hire a second editor? I’ll get to that in a moment.

Recently, I’ve read several articles about editors missing or making mistakes during their edits. Editing is far more than simply finding typos in a manuscript, but it seems that many newbie authors like to point out mistakes or challenge their editors regarding oversights or errors. Sure, I’ve come across typos or errors that have been overlooked, but there is a polite way to point them out to your editor. If they are minor, I simply make the correction(s) during one of my many passes of the edited book. Personally, I don’t expect—and have never expected—my editor to apologize for any oversight. Editing is, in my opinion, a collaborative effort between my editors, proofreader, and me. We are all striving for the same goal.

I learned early on that to catch over 95 percent of your mistakes, especially with plots centered on a tech or medical theme, the more pairs of fresh eyes on the manuscript, the better. Yes, there will always be a margin of error. So to ensure the level of excellence all editors, proofreaders, and authors are striving for, hire more eyes as an insurance policy.  

To date, my most complex plot was in Genocide, book three in the series. I wrote the first draft in 1990 and the novel had undergone extensive edits, but none by a professional until 2015. The book was released in 2017. Because of the complexity of the plot, its scientific theme, and the cadre of characters, my “test readers” (also known as beta readers), none of whom were professional editors, suggested I simplify the plot. Intimately familiar with the plot and the characters, I had no problem keeping track of these elements and no intention of simplifying the plot. Instead, I decided to hire an additional set of editorial eyes and have her either agree or disagree with my test readers’ assessment. That was when I hired my second editor, as well as a proofreader. Expense-wise, is hiring two or more editors always feasible? No, but fortunately, the investment has paid off in good reviews and steady sales.

Even after ten pairs of fresh eyes on the manuscript, excluding my own, my proofreader emailed me to point out that she was confused by my dockworker Don being in two places at once. I had inadvertently given two different characters the same name. None of us had caught this oversight, minor in the entire scheme of the five-hundred-plus-page novel. But the catch was most appreciated—proving that once again, editing is a collaborative effort. 

One of the most rewarding compliments I have ever received from a reader was this: “Genocide is really four books in one when you look at the richness in the storylines and the fireworks at the end. I keep being amazed about all the topics Krapf has researched and talks so easily about in her books. She made a complex plot with a large cast of characters simple to understand and easy to follow.” This I attribute to listening to my test readers and then hiring a team of good editors to reach our goal. 

Most traditionally published books go through multiple editing passes and rounds of proofreading, and still errors of one kind or another slip through. As much as we would love to be perfect, we are not, but that doesn’t keep good editors and proofreaders from striving for perfection. So much goes into editing. And as I pointed out earlier, editing is far more than simply spotting typos. While this is important, it’s minor in comparison to the many hats an editor must wear—for example, the skills they bring to the table include developmental, substantive editing, stylistic editing, copy editing, and proofreading, all of which are time-consuming and demanding in their requirements. And certainly all authors require more than one type of editing. Read more about the different levels of editing here: https://www.sokanu.com/careers/editor/

Your first step as an author is to polish and repolish your work to make it the best manuscript possible before submitting it to your editor. Not only will this cut your editing time and reduce your editing costs, but it will also greatly decrease the number of mistakes in your manuscript. And remember that mistakes are best prevented by doing more rounds of editing, and by more than one editor. 

I mentioned that editing is a collaborative effort, a partnership between the author, the editor(s), proofreader, all working toward the same goal: to produce a quality product. A fellow writer once bragged that he had published over seventeen books, and wannabe authors admired him for being so prolific. Half an hour later, he informed me he had fired his editor because four of his books had been released with “untold errors.” I asked him if he had reviewed the book, word by word, after it had been edited. Well, no. Do you? I do. As arduous a task as it may be, especially after all the effort and time spent researching and writing the book, I reread the book at every step along the way—multiple times during the polishing stage, after every edit, and after it has been typeset, as errors can occur after the book has been laid out as well. After the book has been proofread, I read the novel again, and I read the proof copy from Amazon before the book is released for sale. And recently I listened to and read along with my entire novel, Brainwash—four times during audiobook production. 

Whether you are a new author or a number-one bestselling author, you will make mistakes. Just be gracious enough to admit them, correct them if you can, and then move on. Mistakes happen. Even Sandra Brown acknowledges them. Under her contact information you will find this disclaimer: Damaged Books, Typos, Etc. Typos happen. We do our best to catch them, and believe us when we say each manuscript passes through many many sets of eyes and hands, but those eyes and hands are human. Please forgive us.  


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Why I Self-Published My Thriller Series

Time was my primary reason for self-publishing the Darcy McClain Thriller Series. 

When I began writing thrillers, I focused on doing just that—writing. Many years later, and after countless revisions, I had four novels I felt were ready for submission to literary agents. But for one reason or another—and many times no reason was given—the books were rejected. My reaction to these rejections? Disappointing, but they only reinforced my commitment to write the next book in the series. Blind Revenge and Genocide were rejected because of their length, and justifiably so. However, back then, as a novice writer, I was in a quandary as to how to cut the word count, so I enrolled in a self-editing class—one of the best investments of my writing career. Our professor, Don Whittington, made it a course requirement to attend one meeting of the Dallas/Fort Worth Writers’ Workshop, a read and critique group. I was a member for ten years, and the knowledge and direction gained was invaluable.

Of the book rejections I received, one stands out as the most constructive, and it steered me in the right direction. The handwritten note came from literary agent Elizabeth Pomada of Larsen Pomada Literary Agents in San Francisco. “Dear Pat—Thanks very much for sharing Genocide with me. The idea is intriguing, but more pacing and pruning would help. Keep at it.” After Ms. Pomada’s comment, I enrolled in Don’s class.

As for Gadgets, one agent wrote, “You write well . . .  no question about it, but this isn’t what I am looking for right now.” Regarding Brainwash, the general consensus was that agents didn’t like me “sticking my toe into sci-fi” when the book was labeled a thriller. Undeterred, I kept honing my craft and I pressed on with my writing, occasionally taking time for submissions, but my main focus was working on the next book in the series. Bottom line, I was hooked on Darcy. In 2001, Gadgets won the Betty L. Henrichs Award for Best Publishable Mystery Novel, bolstering my confidence in my writing skills.

In 2004, Brainwash failed to make the cut but didn’t miss the mark by much, and the critique proved helpful. In my estimation, the deficiencies cited were minor because they could be easily fixed. For example, an argument between Darcy and Charlene took center stage at the beginning of the book but fizzled toward the end with no solid resolution. I never intended for there to be a resolution. After all, how do you resolve a lifetime rift in one book? However, I did tone down the conflict, and the long-standing divide between the two sisters will explode in a heated argument in Clonx and a decisive resolution will occur, as I had originally intended. The judges also wanted to see, hear, and smell more of the New Mexico landscape. From reader reviews, I’ve gathered that this has been corrected as well. Many readers have commented that they felt as though they had been to New Mexico even though they have never set foot in the state. Others who knew the area said I captured its essence, and my love for New Mexico was apparent.

I toyed with the idea of, once again, going the traditional route but weighed the time involved. At lunch one day with several fellow writers, I listened to someone say they had waited months for a reply to their query, while another had waited almost sixteen months for a response regarding her manuscript submission. Another said his novel had sat on a desk for over two years, and when pressed, the literary agent finally admitted the box containing the manuscript had never even been opened—and the agent had personally requested to read the book. None of this was news to me, for I had been through similar experiences. For weeks, I mulled over the time issue and finally made the decision to self-publish.

I came to this conclusion by weighing the following considerations: Publishing is a subjective business with agent and publisher wants/needs always changing, which makes predicting what they want, need, or find marketable at any point in time an impossibility. Besides, my goal was to write what interested me and not to write simply for commercial appeal. Publishing is also a slow industry. It takes weeks, sometimes longer, to get a response to a query letter, and months to read a three hundred- to four hundred-page manuscript. I waited over a year to hear about Brainwash. When I did, the response was encouraging: “You write well and you have a compelling concept for a thriller.” However, the editor did not like my crossover from the thriller genre to science fiction, even though the step was, in my opinion, minor. She agreed to “take on the book” if I deleted any sci-fi references. I pondered this request for over a week and relented, only to learn that she no longer worked for the publishing house and was “pursuing other interests.” Around this time I began to ponder why any writer needed to look to the publishing industry for validation. Why not self-publish and let readers determine the outcome of your series? Either it sold or it languished on Amazon. And as far as promoting the series, with a degree in advertising and post-grad work in marketing, I stood a fighting chance of seeing the series sell, and sell well. Would it take a lot of work to self-publish and to promote the books? You bet. But how rewarding to promote your own creation. And another upside to self-publishing? You have control. You can’t control someone else’s time, but the more you are in charge, the more you can control.

First of all, writing is not a footrace, which is another plus to self-publishing: working to your own deadlines and not those mandated by a contract. And my goal is to produce quality, not quantity. I have no interest in adding to the glut of poor-quality books already in the marketplace any more than I wish to surpass my fellow writers in the number of books they have on Amazon, or any other book outlet. Producing a quality book from cover to cover is what I am striving to do with the series. I recently read an interesting article titled “Dear Self-Published Author: Do NOT Write Four Books a Year” by Lorraine Devon Wilke and thought you might enjoy reading it as well.

Discussing how many books an author has written brought to mind a conversation I had with a woman at a recent party I attended. She said, “So, you’re an author. Tell me, how is that working out for you? Are you selling a lot of books? Making a lot of money?” I replied, “The goal was to write and produce the best book I was capable of publishing, not to see how much money I could make.” As she walked away, she said, “Well, we all have different expectations.

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