Lessons Learned: Editing
This is SUCH an embarrassing story! However, this series is not for me. It's for you, the writer, the would-be self-published author. Very few authors are willing to tell this kind of story. We appear weak by announcing to anyone who actually reads this post that we fail sometimes, that we're not great. We don't want readers to go, "Well, maybe I don't want to spend my 99 cents on this book. Maybe I want to spend it over here, instead." No, no. Spend it here. Really. No. @_@ Really.
The Dustman was written and published seven years ago. I had a team of editors go through it the first time. So I said to myself, "Self, this would be a good book to publish on your own. This award winning novel has already been edited. It's just not something you've written recently. The bad news is that you've grown as a writer. The good news is that you probably used 'past' and 'passed' correctly. You used to know how to use those."
I went through it and cut 20,000 words, which made it a stronger book. I was quite the rambler back then. I found a couple of people who said they would edit it for cheap and I sent it out.
I was just starting on my path of self-publishing. I had a budget and it was TIGHT! It looked like this: Peanut butter and bread or an editor? You can't PAY an editor on a peanut butter and bread allowance. They laugh at you. So I had a problem. I couldn't afford a high-paid editor. I had to test-drive editors who were just stepping out, trying to see if they could make it. So I said, "Self, since you're test driving, forgo the peanut butter, eat eggs and Ramon Noodles instead, and test drive two."
Over Confidence & Too Much Self-Reliance
I knew that I could self-edit. I'm a veteran of the publishing business. *self-kicking groan* I know how to step back from my work and look at it like it's someone else's. This turned out to be problem number two. I was relying, primarily, on myself.
Lack of Time!
Which led to problem number three. I ran out of time. I'd already posted when I was publishing Dustman. Granted, I had all of five people who cared, but you never know the ones that are lurking on the sidelines, saying nothing. I was launching As Night Falls, finishing the last few chapters of The Hands of Tarot, working on edits for Those Damn Angels, finishing the last half of A Shady Side of Dead (still working on the title of that one) and building up a following, all while working a full-time job. (I know I'm a bit of an overachiever, but I have friends who put ME to shame.)
Falling on My Face
I launched Dustman, knowing that it was a good story. My BETA's all gave me great reviews. But then the real reviews came trickling in and they kept mentioning the grammar. Grammar and typos. Not only that, but there was a definite LACK of reviews from people who said they would and then never did.
So, I searched through it, doing a quick scan and I found five typos and/or grammar errors.OMW! I was dumbfounded. That many in just a quick scan. WHAT?!
I was still trying to finish writing A Shady Side of Dead, which was kicking my butt, and waiting for edits back for Those Damn Angels. I was now in the middle of the Dustman launch and getting ready for my Demons Are Jackasses launch (which will be another topic at a later date).
The Wake-Up Call
I received the review that made me really take a good hard look at what I was doing, what I was cramming myself into. The review was from a friend who I had mentored years ago. She said that the story was good. But then she ripped me a new one on the grammar. She said I'd disappointed her, that a writer of my caliber shouldn't be putting out work of this poor quality.
This veteran sat down and CRIED! I'll be the first person to tell you that in this business, you have to be tough. Your Big Girl Panties had better be on, but I'll admit, even I cry sometimes. I sobbed like a baby!
Taking the Time to Edit the 2nd Edition
Luck was with me. I'd just found my Darling Dork and his mom said, "Let me look at it." She shredded it! It was amazing! Going through her edits, I realized that seven years ago, I was okay at telling a story, but in all that time, I'd grown as a writer more than I'd thought. My sentence structure was weak. My character arc bordered on stereotypical. The only thing I really had going for me were the secondary characters and the stellar setting.
Well, and the fact that it really is a great story if you look around the technical aspect. It's sold well for a book with a no-name author, and that's due to the book's premise. The plot and the setting are unique and interesting. I've sold over 5,000 copies and have a handful of reviews. It's good. It's just not great. On the other hand, it doesn't suck so bad that everyone has to jump on that bandwagon either.
Dustman, 2nd Edition, is as good as it's going to get unless I scrap it and re-write it, which I'm probably not going to do. It's a testament to how far I've come. It's also a visual reminder on WHY you should SPEND DEDICATED TIME to your editing. Don't just trust that others are polishing your book because you don't have the time. MAKE the time and DO IT RIGHT! Read. Every. Single. Word. Read it out loud. Do whatever it takes, but Do...It...Right!
The Lesson Learned
The Dustman could have been a FRELLING FANTASTIC book, but it will always be just a good story because of the level of writing that went into it. I hope that you take this lesson and learn from my mistakes. We need to flood the market with really GREAT books, not just books with great potential.
Update: I have scrapped it. I will be relaunching this book in 2019 under the title Saving Dreamland and the penname Hattie Hunt!