by Patricia Fry
Hurry Up and Fail
By Patricia Fry
It happened again. A former client rushed off and delivered his book to the printer, not because he knew it was ready, but in order to meet his personal deadline. He sent me a copy of the completed, bound book and my heart sunk when I opened it.
There, blatantly on the title page, I saw the first mistake. To my dismay, I discovered that this was just a hint at what was to follow: misspelled words, typos, punctuation problems and oh so many grammatical mishaps. If only he had taken the time to have me or another set of professional eyes take a look at his manuscript before he scheduled his print date.
But this client, like so many others, was in a hurry. He had a publication date in mind and this date began to rule. He was so focused on completing his work on time-he became so obsessed with his deadline-that he rushed a project that wasn't quite ready.
How many of us have done this? We become so fixated on finally finishing that we start eliminating important steps. We are so anxious to hold our book in our hands that we will compromise its quality.
Authors, don't make this mistake with your projects. Avoid serving up your prose or your story before it is ready. Publishing is a process and each stage of it takes time and attention. Following are 6 steps that, if omitted, could mean the difference between the success or the failure of your project:
Before you start writing the book:
- Study the publishing industry. It is imperative that you know what choices are available to an author and the consequences of your publishing decisions. You must also have a clear understanding of your responsibilities as a published author. Here's something that many unaware authors find shocking: whether you land a traditional royalty publisher, self-publish (establish your own publishing company) or hire a fee-based POD publishing service, you-the author-are responsible for promoting your book.
- Write a book proposal. A well-organized, well-designed, well-written book proposal will tell you whether you have a book at all, whether it is a viable product, who your audience is, where you will find them and it will guide you in establishing your platform.
Many an author has changed the focus of his or her book during the book proposal process and, as a result, turned out a more successful product.
- After you've finished writing your book
Assess the content of your book. Review it from many angles. For a nonfiction book, make sure that you have included everything that you need in order to inform, guide, teach and/or educate your audience, if that is your intent. Is your book organized logically? Is it easy to follow? Should you break up long streams of text by using headings and subheads? Is your content correct, quotes exact and statistics fresh and precise? Spend as much time as you need to make your nonfiction book the useful tool it is meant to be.
For a novel, does every transition and instance of dialogue work? Are there any areas that sort of grate on you? This could indicate that your story needs more work. Don't quit writing too soon. But try to avoid stressing over your story to the point that you start changing things that don't need changing.
- Hire an editor. Every author needs at least one extra set of eyes before they can call their book finished. Hire a good editor and allow them the time it takes to perform his or her job. How do you pick a good editor? Choose one who is familiar with the type of book you've written-if they know the topic well, all the better. Select an editor who has come highly recommended.
Be careful about sending off copies of your manuscript to too many friends and colleagues. I know a hopeful author who has been working on her book for over 20 years. Every time she finishes it, she sends it around to friends to read. Then she takes each of their comments and suggestions to heart and does another rewrite. She has yet to complete this book.
- Proof any and all changes. Anytime you make a change or you ask your book design person to make a change, do a thorough proofing of the entire area that may be affected by this change. Did the designer type the new phrase correctly? When he added it in, did this affect the spacing or the flow from one page to the next? Do you need to make a change in the index because of an addition or a change? Scrutinize each and every change and addition. This will take a little time, but it is an excellent way to assure quality control.
- Add all of the appropriate amenities. Don't skimp because of a time constraint. If you forgot to purchase a barcode and decide to publish without it, know that you are making a huge mistake. Now your book is automatically ineligible for most retail store sales. Omit the ISBN and you probably can't get your book placed at amazon.com. Is your book suitable for libraries? Then make sure to spend the time necessary to obtain the Publishers Cataloging in Publication block. And if yours is a reference book or a self-help or how-to book with many references, resources and tips, please, please, take the time to create an index.
In publishing, time is probably not so much of the essence as is professionalism. Don't allow yourself to be governed by the clock when it means rushing your project. Take charge. Concentrate on perfecting your manuscript, first and foremost. Deadlines can be changed. Producing a book before its ready can be a costly and embarrassing mistake.
Patricia Fry is a full-time writer and the author of 35 books. If you found this article helpful, see her most recent books in the left column of this page.