I’m sorry that I haven’t published my blog in a couple of weeks. I was quite busy preparing for the release of my new book. It’s amazing as a self-published author how much work goes into marketing a book. It’s definitely not the fun part of writing.
This is the era of the self-published author. If we look at success stories like Hugh Howey, it’s important to recognize that this new way of publishing books is gaining ground. I know that statistics show self-published work still lagging behind traditionally published products, but we are gaining ground.
With that said, there is a lot of competition out there. Some of it is very good work by competent writers. Other work does not make the mark. As an author, you have to strive toward making your work as strong as it can be. Regardless of the genre that your enjoy writing, there are some key things that you can do to continuously improve the quality of your work. Some of these things might be time consuming in the long-run, but will save you from putting out work that others may not view as high-quality. I consider myself a perpetual student of writing and I have added steps with each work that I’ve published to improve the quality of my writing. Here are some of those steps:
1) Use an editor – I can’t emphasize this step enough. You may be fluent in all of the rules of writing, usage, grammar, and punctuation. Over the course of a 70,000 word novel, however, you are going to make mistakes. I am lucky enough to have an editor that not only catches those structural mistakes, but she also does a sanity check on what my characters are doing and saying. She is an avid reader and reads my work for story elements as well as mistakes. If you don’t have an editor, you can use services such as elance.com to find one. My editor has some bandwidth for other authors and you can send me a message if you’re interested in her reasonably-priced services.
2) Communicate with your readers – It is a good idea to establish relationships with readers early on. They will tell you what they like and don’t like about your stories. They will also help you by pointing out things in your writing that you didn’t realize were present. I’ve established a newsletter where my readers can give me feedback about my writing and I can tell them what’s coming up. I have tried techniques like contests to name my book and special Q&A opportunities for book clubs. This can help you learn more about your own writing.
3) Use beta readers – This is something I’m doing with my next book. In spite of the writing and re-writing and the multiple rounds of editing, there are those wonderful people out there that spot things like inconsistencies in dates, contradictory statements by your characters, and shaky plot elements. I have identified a couple of individuals that are great at this kind of thing and I will be enlisting there help with the next book in return for signed editions of the book.
4) Read your reviews – Read all of your reviews. You are going to find that you’ll have distinct categories of reviews. We all have those friends and family members that will give us gushing 5-star reviews regardless of the quality of the writing. It’s those other reviews, both good and bad, that will help you gain readers and attract positive reviews. If positive reviews focus on plot elements and characters that are enjoyable, look for patterns and make sure you include more of these same elements in your future writing. On the other hand, if there are negative reviews, read them carefully and determine if a) the review makes valid points and b) there are things you can do to improve upon the items cited in those points. As a side note, out of 40+ reviews for my books, I have only received one “negative” review. It was on Amazon. I saw the two star review and was devastated. I then rushed to read the narrative of the review and it was a single word, “boring”. I pondered this for a while and then looked at some of the other reviews by this same person for other books and found them equally uninformative. My initial response was to respond to this person. This is a fatal mistake that some writers make. If a person reads your work and the only thing they can come up with is “boring”, then I think that pity is a better reaction than anger.
Finally, in this world of self-publishing, we have so many tools available to us. Once you publish your work, if there are ways to improve it, don’t be afraid to go back and make changes to your initial version. Not only will future readers have the improved work, but for Kindle readers, they can update their downloaded version when changes are made. It’s your call, but I like to embrace my mistakes and, through my newsletter, let readers know that I’ve made improvements. I’ve even called out specific readers by name and have thanked them for their help. Keep in mind that the self-publishing world is more of a community. It is not the one way flow that occurs through the traditional publishing channel. Embrace your readers and their opinions and ultimately, you will have more success and a better product.
About Don Massenzio
Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.
Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.
His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of what will be a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.
The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available.
Prior to finishing his books, his published work was comprised of short stories that will be merged into a collection in the near future.
Find out more about Don at his web site: