Nobody Cares Like Mama

We all know that’s true. At least, for those of us who were blessed with mothers of that spirit. We know that no matter what our problem is, Mama will not only sense it like a bloodhound on steroids, but will bend over backwards, sell her needlepoint collection, and bake umpteen apple pies to make it right.

What I’m talking about here, though, are Mama Writers—another term for Authors. I’m talking about our books. Our creations. The writers’ babies. I’d like to share my various experiences through the publishing minefield, and share what I’ve learned.

My first three published books were contracted by small publishers. Not any of the NY Big 5, but independent, legitimate small companies who, although they did not pay me an advance, did not charge me a dime to publish my book. They provided the content editing, the copy editing, the cover, the formatting, and distribution. I end up with an average of about 58 cents for every book that sells, whether digital or paperback. And, being small publishers, they provide nothing as far as marketing. I have to do all of that myself.

Now there was a day when the very term “self-published” made my lip curl. There was no way in hell I would ever stoop that low. Ahem. I am now standing, spoon in hand with a smile on my face, ready to eat each and every one of those words without any sweetener, artificial or otherwise.

History lesson about my experiences with the three small publishers: it’s a mixed bag.

One gave me excellent editing, a lovely cover allowing my input, and NO marketing. The book is dying a quiet death. One straddled me with an “editor” (I use this term very loosely) who was barely literate. What I got out of the deal was an awesome cover and some extremely encouraging network support. One gave me outstanding editing, then shocked me (literally) with a gag-worthy cover.

So, for now obvious reasons, I figured it was time to try to go it alone. Do the Indie thing. Which, on March 29, I did, when the Kindle edition of Hearts Unloched came out. The paperback followed on April 15.

What was different? LOTS. The pros: for one, I got to choose the release date. Therefore, I could plan a Facebook Launch Party, and plan direct email promotions through places like Do a cover reveal. Build a buzz on social media.

Second, I got to choose my cover. I have a bit of an advantage, since my sister is a graphic artist, and is also patient enough to humor me through the endless “could you just change….?” emails. I now make about $3.50 a book, whether it’s digital or paperback (instead of 58 cents). And if I want to put my book on sale, as I did this week through Kindle CountDown deals, I did. Without having to ask anybody’s permission.

Those are the pros: now for the cons. If not for my unfortunate sister, I would have had to pay for a cover. Lucky me. And I did have to format the thing myself (NO BIG DEAL. I promise). Plus, I had to pay for editing. Now we’re getting to the meat of the matter.

What is editing?

In one book, after publication, I discovered a number—a considerable number—of errors, not only grammatical, but spelling. Getting the publisher to change these was akin to a root canal without Novocain. In another book, even though I’d paid for a two-round copy edit, I discovered a misspelling of a common word occurring not once, but six times in one chapter. In another book, after three rounds of content edits AND a copy edit, I found not only grammatical errors, but inconsistencies in the plot: what is mentioned as having happened three years ago in the beginning is referred to multiple times as having been TWO years ago later on. And my heroine’s eye color changed. WTF?

Now, granted, as an author, we are literally BLIND to many of our own errors (I misspelled the word “lightning” six times in one chapter and never saw it. The editor didn’t see it. My Audible narrator pointed it out). So we definitely need beta readers as well as a reliable copy editor. But DO NOT think that once the manuscript arrives after that final edit—no matter HOW good the editor is—that your book is ready to publish. Put it aside, forget about it for a while, and then READ IT AGAIN. With fresh eyes.

I’m convinced there’s no such thing as a perfect book. I just got finished reading one by a NYT bestselling author out of a big NY Five publishing house with an error so big, I couldn’t believe it still hasn’t been corrected. A child died in the beginning of the book at 8 months old, but by the end, was mentioned as dying at eight YEARS old. Guess the kid kept aging even though he was dead. And no, this was not a paranormal.

My point? Nobody cares as much about your baby as YOU, the author does. Take the time to do your baby justice. Don’t rely on others, no matter how much you’ve paid them. They may have done their very best, and given you your money’s worth. But when it comes right down to it, there are errors and inconsistencies in your story that only YOU will spot. It’s YOUR job to fix them.

You, the author, are the final gatekeeper. And if you’re like me—the anal, obsessive-compulsive, control freak that I am—you won’t rest until you’re certain that YOUR story, with YOUR name on it, is as perfect as it can be.

Well, almost.

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Claire Gem
Claire is a multi-published, award winning author of supernatural and romantic suspense, and women’s fiction. She writes about strong, resilient women who won’t give up their quest for a happy-ever-after—and the men lucky enough to earn their love. No helpless, hapless heroines here. These spunky ladies redefine romance, on their terms.

Her paranormal/romantic suspense, Hearts Unloched, won the 2016 New York Book Festival. Her latest release, The Phoenix Syndrome, won the women’s fiction division in FCRWA’s The Beacon Contest.

A New York native, Claire has lived in five of the United States and held a variety of jobs, from waitress to bridal designer to research technician—but loves being an author best. She and her happily-ever-after hero, her husband of 38 years, now live in central Massachusetts.

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