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Have You Read Your Book?

Earlier this week I re-posted a wonderful blog by Kristen Lamb – an author I admire and always find words of wisdom in her posts. The title of the post was Generation Snowflake & The High Cost of Instant and it resonated with me at a profound level. In her post, Kristen sheds a bright light on The Good, The Bad and The Awful of self-publishing and the rise of social media.

In The Good, authors who had given up on their passion and gone back to their “regular” jobs had access to the masses through Amazon, Smash Words, Kobo, etc. And, they had easy access to building an author platform, even before their book was published, through social media, i.e., Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. They were no longer at the effect of traditional publishing and there was light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

In The Bad, and this is where Kristen really got my attention, she begins to touch on what I would call the disadvantage of anyone being able to publish a book and the slush pile that is now being dumped on readers. She points out that by giving anyone who had finished a book the title of “published author” devalued the title and it made correcting bad writing harder and harder.

In The Awful, Kristen touched me at an even deeper level. I have a policy that if I can’t leave at least a 3 star rating for my review, I don’t review. This is becoming increasingly problematic for me. In her blog, Kristen asserts that,

Publishing is the new Participation Trophy. We are drowning in a sea of participation trophies and this is problematic not only for readers, it is devastating to the writing community. Writers who were in no way ready to publish are, but because they are “published”, this makes it all but impossible to offer meaningful correction so they can actually grow.”

Yes, I am a published author and have actually made some money with my novel. I am also an avid reader, especially in my genre, Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy/Adult Fiction. I can no longer be silent/avoid the “slush pile” that readers are being subjected to in this new era of self-publishing. I’m not talking about the occasional typo or wrong tense, I’m talking about books that in the same paragraph go from present tense to past tense four times – not once but throughout the book. Or the misuse of POV in a chapter – I felt like I was watching a ping pong game. Many, many of the books I have read or tried to read lately (and many of them claim to be best sellers) are so poorly written I want to cry.

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And, this is where I would love to initiate a dialogue using my own book, When Darkness Falls, and experience as the platform.

When I first decided to write a novel, one of the commitments I made to myself and others was to produce the best product possible and to be unrelenting in that commitment. My readers are my customers and customer satisfaction is very important to me (the customer is always right).

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I thought it would be a breeze and in many ways it was. I finished a first draft in nine months. Someone told me “You need to edit your book”. So, I did. Ha! Clueless in Vancouver. I was so proud of my book and knew it was ready for publication. I had a friend read it, and he, very politely, said, “I’m not sure this is ready for publishing. Maybe you should find a writing coach.” Of course I was hurt and in my arrogance, my initial reaction was “what does he know anyway – he’s only a movie producer.” This was my baby. Fortunately, for my book and especially my readers, I valued my friend’s opinion and explored my options for coaching. This all happened in 2010.

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2011 was the year from Hell. I was plagued with terrible back pain, and my husband’s cancer returned with a vengeance and he died in October of that year. Needless to say, the book was put on the back burner. On New Year’s Eve of 2011, I was waiting for a friend at a coffee shop and saw a brochure that advertised – Writing Retreats in Mexico, January, 2012″. It looked interesting, so I took it with me. I showed it to several friends that night at a party, and one of them looked me in the eyes and said “You have to do this.” Two weeks later I was on a plane to Mexico for a writing retreat facilitated by an amazing woman, Kathrin Lake.

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Kathrin loved that I had a completed a first draft, and she made it clear that it was definitely “a first draft.” For the next two-and-a-half years, Kathrin worked with me, and literally taught me how to write – how to do not only a story arc, but a chapter arc. How to develop my characters and give them depth and a voice that is particular to each one. She kept saying to me over and over “Drive your hero/heroine up a tree and then keep throwing rocks at them. Go with strong suits in every chapter. Does this move the story forward?” In other words, conflict, conflict, conflict. And my strong suits are sex, violence and action. I remember one chapter I rewrote twenty times before we were satisfied. I learned to love the rewriting process and saw that this was my access to honing my craft. At one point Kathrin said my book was “Dan Brown meets Anne Rice”. Loved her for that as Anne Rice is someone I admire.

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Toward the end of 2014, Kathrin recommended I send out an email to friends, family and acquaintances requesting that they be a Beta Reader for the book. I didn’t want them to proof read or edit, just give me their feedback on content and/or any blaring time differences, ie, heroine goes to sleep in her bedroom and wakes up in someone elses bedroom and the reader doesn’t know how she got there. The response was excellent – ten people said they would read for me and I sent each a PDF file with a request to get back to me in a month. I then sent it to a couple of proof readers, who, I thought, did a great job in finding typos, tense changes in a sentence or paragraph, etc. I’d changed the names of a couple of my characters and they found places where the change hadn’t been made.

By the beginning of 2015 my book was ready for an editor, and I hired a wonderful editor who worked with me over the next several months editing the book as I could afford to pay her. Finally, in August of 2015, the edits were done. I packed my bags, loaded the edited paper version of my book into my carry-on along with my computer and headed for Southern France to spend a month there putting all the edits on the paper version into my computer.

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The day I sent the updated computer file to my editor the sense of accomplishment and pride was breathtaking and I celebrated with my dear French friends with an excellent bottle of champagne.

I had always intended to self-publish, and when I returned to Vancouver, an author friend of mine recommended I apply for the Kindle publishing contract. I did and spent the next several months advertising and asking people to vote for me. I didn’t win the contract. What did happen is that a publisher (Relentlessly Creative Books) approached me with a very unusual publishing model. I loved it. Basically it meant we would split everything 50/50. Any advertising, marketing promotion expenses incurred, we split. All sales, we split except for the first 25 printed books which she gave me to sell at my book launch and I kept the proceeds. (I sold every copy and could have sold more.) My publisher revamped the cover and the title, read through it for content and basic proof reading. We were both satisfied that it was “ready.”

When Darkness Falls, The First Vampire Redemption Story” was published on Amazon on March 16, 2016 in both Kindle ebooks and in Create Space, Amazon’s print on demand version. I was so proud and happy and fulfilled.

The road to this point had been long and somewhat arduous and I felt confident that we had published a well-written, “impeccable” novel. Ah, the arrogance of it all.

Original Image via Wikimedia Commons

One week later, my publisher received an email from a reviewer saying the French spoken in the book was atrocious and offensive to any French speaking person. Fortunately for me, this reviewer has a heart of gold and she sent corrections for all of the French phrases in the book. My publisher had to correct both the Kindle version as well as the print version – a time consuming and arduous process. Then, another reviewer, also someone with a heart of gold, began sending my publisher and I places where the sentences didn’t make sense and a few typos. More correction to the Kindle and Create Space versions. And, yes thank goodness for honest, generous reviewers who have integrity.

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So much for my commitment to impeccability. It’s not that my commitment wavered, it simply showed me what it takes to actually produce an impeccable novel.

So, dear readers and authors, how do you feel about this? Are you angry? Upset? Discouraged? Frustrated? I want to hear from you, so please give me feedback. What are your thoughts?

Ellen Chauvet – #writing, #reading, #honestreviews, #editing

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