Nancy L. Baumann, aka “The Book Professor,” has a great article on her website: “Ten Fatal Mistakes Made by Self-Publishing Authors.” It’s a bit of a misnomer because even authors who aren’t self-publishing commonly make these mistakes. I insist that you go there, right now, and read it.
OK, now that you’ve read it, I’d like to talk about it. As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I review self-published books for Kirkus Indie, and believe me, I’ve seen every one of these mistakes. Often within the same book. Mostly, these authors make mistakes numbers six and seven: they don’t understand grammar and punctuation and they won’t invest in a good editor/proofreader. It still blows my mind that someone would spend almost $500 for a review of a book they haven’t spent a dime on for editing.
Which brings me to what I think is really at the heart of so many bad self-published books: many authors think writing is easy. They think because they are mentally able to form words out of letters, they can write a great novel or memoir. That’s like me saying because I know how to hammer a nail, I can build a house.
Writing is a craft, like any other. My advice to new writers is to learn all you can; read books about the craft of writing, take writing classes, and, most importantly, read what others have written in your genre. Look at others’ writing critically: what did you like, and why? What didn’t you like, and why? Notice how they start and end their stories, how they reveal character and setting. Join a writer’s group that gives honest, constructive feedback. And practice, practice, practice.