Today I was engaged in a discussion over on Facebook about self-pubbed authors. I got the feeling most of the authors involved in the debate were either traditionally published or with small presses. While I’m with a small press now, I used to self-pub so I kind of felt sorry for the object of their scorn. None-the-less, I understood completely the issue at hand. It all came down to the utter lack of editing that a majority of self-pubbed authors have with their work.
Cthulhu knows I didn’t have a whole lot back in the day.
Now, I do think self-pubbed authors would greatly benefit from having a professional editor. Wait… let me clarify something – let’s make a crowbar division between “Editing” and “Proofing.” We’ll say Editing is when someone looks over your manuscript for issues with character development, plot flow, theme, and all that other literary stuff. Proofing is when someone looks over your maniscript for SPaG issues, or problems with Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar. All self-pubbed authors should have someone else (preferably semi-trained) dispassionately Proof their manuscript. The Editing I’ll leave to your discretion.
However, I think it’s more than that. Too often I find that both Would-Be Authors, early Self-Pubbed Authors and (sadly) a lot of D-List Authors (like myself) only read the works that are similar to the genre they write in. Just because you’ve read every gigantic tome written by Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind, you are not necessarily in a position yourself to write the next great fantasy epic. Consuming every YA Vampire novel you can get your hands on does not make you an author of one. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t read the stuff you like, nor am I saying that you need an advanced degree in English to pen a book, but c’mon… diversify.
I read just about everything except Harlequin Romance. Well, and Sports Biographies. (Lame.) An author should always be up for absorbing new things, gathering more information. Read Westerns, SciFi, Horror, Romance, Fantasy, whatever. Read non-fiction books on History, Cooking, Physics, Crime, Technology, Philosophy, whatever. Read the local newspaper, read the label on your frozen pizza, read your junk mail, whatever.
After running a used bookstore for a year, I found that most readers have one or two genres they like, with only about a half-dozen authors they regularly read. While that might be fine for the general public, you’re an Author… you don’t get that luxury. You just need to read.
And who knows – maybe there won’t be as much Proofing that needs done later…