Linda is giving a lucky reader a copy of her new book, How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie. She’ll pick one commenter on this post at random after one week. (UPDATE: Congratulations to winner Karen!)
You know what’s really sweet about self-publishing?
You control everything.
There are no gatekeepers telling you what you can and can’t publish. No one telling you what to charge, and no one taking most of the money and giving you a paltry 15 percent royalty. No ten-month lag time between starting your book and seeing it published. And most important, no annoying editors and fact checkers correcting your writing and asking for endless revisions.
That’s the line the publishing “gurus” feed you, anyway. You know, those marketers who tell you you can achieve instant riches through self-publishing … and you can buy their course to learn how!
The reality is that creating a compelling, sellable book is most often a team effort.
What are the chances you’re good at every single aspect of publishing a book, from cover design to proofreading? (Hint: Pretty slim.)
I learned about the importance of outside feedback while working on my newest book, How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie.
Warning: Endless revisions ahead.
My first draft was awesome! Oh, wait…
I thought my first draft was great, and proudly sent it to my business partner, Diana. I was all ready to bask in her praise and then send the manuscript along to my 20 beta readers!
She tried to let me down gently.
Diana told me the Do-It-All Plan in my book wasn’t making sense. I shared too much personal information in some places and not enough in others. I used too many em-dashes and ellipses, my advice was too generic, and a lot of my tips required spending money.
And those were only a few of the issues she pointed out.
After Diana’s close eye, this excerpt:
Important note: You don’t have to get up early. I know every personal development book and article in the known universe says you must rise at 5 am if you want to not be a total loser. And somehow, people who go to bed at 1 am are seen as either lazy or workaholics, while those who get up in the wee hours are heaped with praise. Well, I say we D-I-A women all need to do what’s right for us. If you’re a night owl, try staying up a little later every night until you feel tired the next day, then move your bedtime back a bit.
Important note: You don’t have to get up early. I know every personal development book and article in the known universe says only losers sleep past five a.m. and that people who go to bed at one a.m. are lazy or workaholics. Well, I say we D-I-A women all need to do what’s right for us. If you’re a night owl, try staying up a little later every night until you feel tired the next day, then move your bedtime back a bit.
But the second draft was fabulous, right?
I rewrote the entire book, printed out all 200-plus pages, and had my writer husband look it over.
He covered my manuscript with so much red ink it looked like he had sacrificed a goat on it.
He fixed typos, tightened up the copy, and helped the writing flow better.
Thanks to that awful red pen, this:
But we’re misled to believe we can’t or shouldn’t do it all, even if that’s what we really, really want. After all, doing — and caring about — lots of things can lead to (gasp!) stress.
But we’re misled to believe we can’t or shouldn’t do it all, even if that’s what we really want. After all, doing and caring about lots of things can lead to stress.
Surely the third draft was ready to go! Umm…
I finally sent the manuscript to my 20 beta readers, and compiled all their insights.
- My jokes fell flat.
- The Do-It-All Plan still wasn’t quite right.
- The chapters were not in the correct order.
- My intro was too braggy.
- Some small chapters needed to be combined into bigger ones.
- I swore too much.
- And much, much more.
I went through the book and made it just about every change my beta readers suggested.
The First Rule of the D-I-A Plan: You do not talk about the D-I-A Plan. Er, I mean, complete any Level of the D-I-A Desire and you are done with that Desire and it’s time to move on to the next one…unless you’re so inspired you want to go on to the next level right away! (And that’s actually the only rule, but I wanted to get in that Fight Club reference because I’m a dork.)
In the D-I-A Plan, you’ll be adding one Desire — one new goal, event, experience, skill, or accomplishment — to your life at a time. For each Desire you’ll be filling out the corresponding Desire Worksheet, and using the other Worksheets as instructed in the next chapter to help keep you motivated and on track. Once you’ve reached your Desire, you’ll then move on to the next one in the same way.
Now it was ready, right? Right?
Well, then I sent the book along to the proofreader I had hired.
He ended up being more of a developmental editor, and had a ton of good suggestions on making the subheads work, rearranging the chapters, and more.
He also mentioned I had more than 150 parenthetical asides that I thought were hilarious, but that actually distracted readers from the main message and made me come off as less than an expert.
I went through and made most of his changes, and when I printed out the resulting draft, I then had to clean up all of the new typos that had made their way in during the final editing process.
Go (back) to college. If the skill you want to pick up is more complicated than what you can learn by reading a book or taking a single class, or you want to go deeper into the subject or even turn it into a new career, consider going (back) to college or a trade school, or earning a certificate.
Get schooled. If the skill you want to pick up is more complicated than what you can learn by reading a book or taking a single class, or you want to go deeper into the subject or even turn it into a new career, consider earning a college degree, attending a trade school, or earning a certificate.
It took me four weeks to write How to Do It All — and seven weeks to edit it.
I originally believed my first draft was perfect. After all, I’ve been writing full time for almost two decades!
But looking back after reading the final version, I can see that the original manuscript was a mess.
You may be looking at these examples of my edits and saying, “They got rid of all the personality!”
I thought the same at first.
But the edgy, humorous writing style I had been relying on became tiring in a 60,000-word book. Now, my personal style still shines through, but without the crutches of swear words, parenthetical asides, and lame jokes.
Don’t do it all alone
Writers are often blind to your own errors and the quirks of your writing.
You blip right over those phrases you tend to overuse. Passages that would confuse readers are completely clear to you, because you wrote them!
And of course we always miss typos, even if you rake over the copy 20 times with your own eyes.
It takes an outside perspective to make your writing as good as it can be.
Those marketers who tell you that you can churn out a book in a few hours, toss it onto Amazon, and create a sustainable income? They’re either lying, or have been unbelievably lucky with their own books.
Seek insight from others, and your writing — and sales — will be much stronger.
How much time have you spent on your own self-publishing journey? What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
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