It turns out you can make your work-in-progress look too like a real book too easily. The image of seeing your WIP in kindle format (or even print) is seductive, but probably not a great idea for the proof copy. Aside from the hassle of getting the right format to everyone, when pretty much all e-readers can open the traditional pdf, I’ve discovered the existence of “them”.
After my mother gave her damning verdict on Pictures of Love, “I preferred your first book,” (the one I wrote in a few weeks, barely edited at all, and had rejected by Mills and Boon,) she said something that dumfounded me:
“Did they not edit or proof-read your book before formatting it for kindle?”
My response, when I stopped laughing, was to say, “Mum, there’s no They. I wrote it, revised it, edited it, proof-read it, designed the cover, wrestled with kindle formatting, added the copyright, the dedication, the publisher’s logo. All of it. You’re my beta reader, so in fact you’re They. You’re meant to help me find the typos.”
“Oh,” she said, “I wondered why there were so many. They do come a bit thick and fast at the end.” Not what I wanted to hear but unsurprising as every time I started proof-reading I began at the beginning but didn’t always make it to the end. I get distracted so easily.
As a result I have a thudding fear that the second half of the novel, the half only my mother has read apart from me, is a bit rubbish. Seems I’m probably right, at least as far as editing goes. And if I missed a heap of typos, I probably didn’t spend enough time revising the latter half of the book in terms of language, character, plot.
And yet there it is, my Lulu print version, sitting in paperback glory on my kitchen table, looking for all the world like a ‘proper’ book.
So I think when the naysayers who don’t like self-publishing bemoan the fact that something can look like a traditionally published book and still be awful, they may occasionally have a point.
Another scary thought is how easily the formatted-for-kindle version is being passed around without my knowledge. I used to password protect my pdfs. I don’t even know if you can do that for kindle. What if my proof makes it into the outside world? (My sister-in-law has already sent it to my father-in-law, and another beta reader has given a copy to his parents.)
What if everyone thinks like my mother and wonders why They haven’t done a better job finding errors? Or me for that matter. I don’t mind if the book is deemed a failure because the characters are underdeveloped or the plot is thin, but being damned for typos when it isn’t even the final edit gives me the shivers. In future I think I’ll splash Beta Reader Copy or Proof over every page and be less vain about trying to make it look like a proper novel.
Or maybe it is time to go back to that Agent list after all.