Blinders

What blinders do you have on that prevent you from seeing with honesty your own failings as a writer? Well, maybe not failings, but less than acceptable aspects. ; ) Like the horse drawing the cart and plodding along with blinders on, we don’t have peripheral vision that can spook us, and it’s heads down and typing away as we create our stories.

For me it’s grammar. I can sail along thinking I’m doing just fine, close out the work, and maybe not re-read when I start again. When I finally do re-read my material I’ll find apostrophes where they should not be and commas missing or added at random.

Dunce Holding Paper Money ca. 2001

We all have weak spots that we’re unaware of but finding and recognizing them can help us to become better writers. We can take a class, or get some advice, or arm-wrestle a friend for assistance. Ignoring the weaknesses and assuming we are the greatest author since Hemingway is perhaps not the route to take. There is no growth there. Having an excellent editor to guide us is a wonderful opportunity, but what if the objective is to self-publish? Many authors jumped on the bandwagon three or four years ago and had huge success, others followed suit. Some, like me, held back not wanting to be a lemming following blindly to the edge of the cliff and diving off to an instant death.

Courtney Milan gave a talk on self-publishing at the Golden Heart Retreat at RWA13. Having these blind spots was a topic she discussed at length. (I can’t remember what she called them but she didn’t call them blind spots, however it was something that meant the same.)  It was a great talk, and I couldn’t write fast enough. She suggested that no one can be proficient in every aspect required of the self-publishing industry, but yet many of us would proceed as if we were competent. Somewhere we would need assistance. Either in story development, copyediting, line editing, formatting, cover art design, promotion or marketing. She said it’s important to look deeply and find those weaknesses before beginning the process.

I know I could do a better job with my grammar (after edits on four books) than I could have two years ago; however, formatting would be my primary weakness. Saying the word sends a shiver of fear up my spine. I know my cortisol level shoots skyward, and I break into a cold sweat of anxiety at the thought of formatting a book on my own for the world to see. There are parts of technology that I skipped over. I figured I’d never use them in my day to day computer work (kind of like Algebra, I mean who uses that?) and now I have giant gaps in my knowledge.

Self-publishing sounds so romantic. What an adventure! Having control of my own career would be wonderful. Not needing the Big Six, or however many NYC houses are left, would be awesome. Not giving 15% of earnings to an agent would be spectacular. Building my own business, mapping out my own career…it gets this entrepreneur’s heart beating faster.

Removing my blinders, forcing myself to assess where I need help is good for me. Knowing that I would need this formatting assistance, (and a copyeditor, and a graphic artist, because those are also blind spots, so I would need help there too) allows me to understand what I would be undertaking. What my expenditures would be. I can now weigh the pros and cons. I can figure out how many books I would need to sell at a 70% return to break even. I can weigh my promotional and marketing talents, or lack thereof, and figure out if without a publishing house behind me I would be successful. After publishing four books I will still be an unknown in the writer’s world. On my own, will I be able to draw readers? Will I be able to entice people to buy my book? These are the not so romantic questions. It’s a risk no matter which way I look at it. And yet, the questions must be faced and answered with complete honesty if I want to be a player.

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Thank you Courtney for making me reassess before plunging into the unknown. My decision is still pending. What about you, my readers? Are you daring? Are you a risk taker? Whether you are a writer or a reader, tell me what blind spots you have about yourself.

 

 

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4 Responses to Blinders

  1. And editor (not just a copy editor) is of utmost importance, because we all have blinders on when we tell our story (the one we love to bits and tend to over indulge in)

    I took a formatting class while you were at National Conference, and am still scared to death to try. I attempted to put up my book at Amazon, and the formatting was all wonky. Have now asked my web person to format it for me, then I’ll go back and upload it. Even with step-by-step instructions from the formatting class, I am afraid to do it.

    I don’t want to be my own publisher, but I do want to wade into the self-pubbing waters. Taking a book from scratch to final publication is something that needs to be handled with care. I worry there are a lot of books thrown up on the web that may make readers feel burned and give up on the whole lot as a result.

  2. Robena Grant says:

    I hear you, Lynne. I know I couldn’t do a good job of it, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t pay someone to do the things I know I couldn’t. We shall see.

  3. A good story well told gets me through much, but bad formatting and typos can distract from, even ruin a book. I recently read a book which made frequent allusions to the legend that Poseidon’s horses, running under the sea, cause a shifting of tectonic plates, thus causing earthquakes. Love and am familiar with the myth. But somehow (spellcheck?) in this book they were referred to as “Teutonic plates,” and that really ripped me out of the mood, especially as that came up 4-5 times.

  4. Robena Grant says:

    I agree, Bev. There is nothing like having a good editor, and a good editor would have caught that. While we’d all like the chance of grabbing at the brass ring and making some $$ off indie publishing, one poorly edited work, or poorly formatted work, can lose us valued readers.