Books are like children. They start as a baby, an idea, and they grow and mature into the books you see on shelves. They need that growth process to be the absolute best they can be, but so many authors aren’t reaching their true potential because they haven’t let their story grow. I’m one of them. I made the mistake of publishing before my story was ready. I learned the hard way. Learn from my mistakes, fellow writers, and don’t publish your story until it’s done growing and maturing. Here’s why.
Your story isn’t ready. It still needs some TLC. You may be sick and tired of reading it. You may have gone through it so many times, you’ve got it memorized. But that’s not a sign you should publish it. I promise, it’s not. If you publish your book before it’s ready, there will be typos. There will be plot holes and inconsistencies. There will be things that only make sense to you. You may love grammar more than life itself, but I guarantee that your book will have grammatical errors. Why? Because spotting someone else’s mistakes are easier than our own.
Publish a book before it’s ready and you will get negative reviews. I know I did. You don’t want negative reviews. They turn away potential readers before they even look at the sample. You want honest reviews, yes, but you also want them to be good ones. Granted, you may have a negative review or two anyways. Not every book will be liked by every person and that’s ok. But if you get negative reviews, you want them to be because of things outside of your control, not because your book wasn’t ready to be published.
When you publish before your book is ready, more likely than not, you’ll have to upload a new version, one that fixes all the issues. Most of the time, this version is what you should have published in the first place. Uploading a new version can cost money if you’re like me and can’t format your own documents. It takes time away from other projects you’d like to work on, but can’t because you need to fix this one. It also causes lots of problems. Do you publicize that you messed up? Do you try to track down every reader you have and tell them of the newer version? Do you pretend it never happened and hope for the best?
And really, come on, do you want to read a book that’s riddled with typos and plot holes? No, you don’t. So don’t make your story one of those disappointing letdowns to other readers.
So how do you know when your book is ready to be published?
I’m glad you asked.
Now, I’m not an expert by ANY means. I’m just a rookie author trying to wade her way through the madness, but here are some rules of thumbs I’ve discovered.
Have some good beta readers. Family and friends are great, but they aren’t writers. They’ll tell you what they think, but they aren’t as helpful as writers who also beta. Find some writer friends and volunteer to beta for them if and when they ask. Don’t be pushy about it. Most people will be happy to return the favor and beta for you. Listen to what they say, especially if more than one say the same thing. (A good rule of thumb I’ve found is to have between 3 to 5 betas.) Now, that doesn’t mean you have to follow through on every suggestion they make, but keep in mind that they’re goal is to help you make your story the best it can be. If all the betas you have are saying the same thing, it’s probably a good idea to think about enacting that change. If only one says something, feel free to ignore it if you wish.
Get your story line edited. The less typos you have, the better off your story will be. Now, I know that editing is expensive. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t get my book edited, me being a poor college student. But let me tell you how much I regret that! Almost everyone has, without fail, told me that typos riddle my book. How embarrassing! Editing may be expensive, but it’s worth it. And if, like me, you truly can’t afford it, see if you can find a writer who’s a grammar guru. Chances are, they’ll exchange or discount their editing services in exchange for beta-ing for them. Just make sure that they’re truly a fantastic editor.
And that’s all I have. It’s not a lot, I know. Like I said, I’m still learning. And that’s ok, learning is good. Your story deserves to have the time devoted to it so that it matures from an idea to a mature work that bookstores would be proud to sell.