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Friday, July 8, 2011

Why I quit querying and proceeded to publish, Part 3

Knowing well and deeply desiring to transcend the often-deserved stigma surrounding self-publishing, I resolved not to undertake it unless I made a book that would stand up to any other, self-published or otherwise. I didn’t want it falling apart in readers’ hands, I didn’t want someone else’s ISBN on it, and I absolutely, positively would not stand for the typos, grammatical and other glaring errors I often see even in conventionally published books. To do that, I knew I’d need to pay a professional for a comprehensive edit.

I know it’s another cliché, so I’ll throw this in, if only to entertain the sardonic experts out there who refuse to assign it any value: I’d had my old English teacher edit my first draft. Now, if you knew Mr. Robert Webb, you wouldn’t see any humor in this. Kids didn’t get A’s from Mr. Webb; kids got psychological damage (which we overcame years later, after testing out of college English). I still recall him remorselessly reducing to tears one of the hardest-boiled smart-asses in my class—a kid who actually bullied another, less confident teacher. Mr. Webb found lots of mistakes, but he loved my story, and he read it when I had the whole trilogy—161,000 words’ worth— in one book.

Nevertheless, I felt I needed someone actually in the industry to check my work. I looked around at various editor’s sites, marveling at the prices charged by some, the obvious lack of qualifications of others, and the sheer caustic hubris of one, whose following still amazes me. It wasn’t very difficult to winnow the field to a manageable number.

Around this time Cassandra Marshall had just begun offering her services as an editor. Cassandra and I met very soon after I joined Twitter. Her old handle, @thatwemightfly, had me thinking she might be a pilot, but we got on the same page soon enough, became friends, and she gave me tons of help with my queries, never asking for a thing in return. Needless to say, she was the early favorite. I thought her comments on my queries were good, I’d read some of her own writing and her CV and knew she was a well-educated, well-read “organic” linguist, and her price was reasonable.

We came to terms quickly, she got my markup back to me on time, and a few months later, I’d finally found a way to incorporate nearly every change she’d recommended and many more she’d inspired. I felt like my novel had transformed from an awkward teenager with clear potential to a beautiful, fully developed young adult. All that was left to do was the cover. And deciding on a printer. And converting the Word manuscript to a .pdf file. And converting that to a different format for e-books. And the audio book. Oh, and there was that whole marketing/promotion plan to figure out. Easter was over, and AirVenture was in late July. I needed to get a move on.

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