January has been a tumultuous roller coaster of highs and lows, triumphs and epic failures. My blog tour was a huge success (which I’ll blog about in more detail later) but as it wound down, some emails slipped through the cracks, some information was miscommunicated, oh, and I discovered that the copy-editing for The Boy In Her Dreams still left behind some glaring mistakes. Having published four books prior, I thought I knew how to cross my Ts and dot my Is but getting this particular novel out into the world was a huge test of my patience. I struggled with the formatting the entire way through and once I did finally manage to get it online there were not only spelling and grammatical mistakes but also continuity errors as well. Luckily they weren’t entirely atrocious but were they enough to be distracting? Yes.
I’d never gotten a review for any of my previous novels mentioning problems with the copy-editing so as soon as reader feedback started coming in, of course I panicked! When it comes to self-publishing, whether I outsource some of the work or not, the final responsibility to put out a stellar product is always on me. Only me. And it’s my choice. It’s my choice to have total control. So far it’s been an incredibly rewarding choice but when something goes wrong it’s a reminder of how terrifying that choice really is.
I immediately took the book off sale and started researching copy-editors. The person I’d worked with in the past was a friend and therefore free and now I’ve learned my lesson that neither are good when it comes to doing business. Thankfully I found someone who came highly recommended via the blog of a self-publishing powerhouse who I so admire and I didn’t hesitate to email her. Because this person is actually a professional she got the edits back to me just a few weeks later and basically saved my life in the process. Overall the entire experience was smooth and stress-free and it left me feeling grateful that the entire calamity had actually taken place.
Because I’m indie and my books exist entirely online, I was able to swap out the new revised edition in less than an hour and it was on sale the next morning. I didn’t have to recall print copies or send out formal apologies to my distributors. Did I spend money to make the corrections? Yes, but did I “lose” money because of the original mistakes? No. I didn’t lose readers. I didn’t ruin my reputation as an author. Instead, coming face to face with this particular chink in my workflow has made me better. It’s made my book better and because of this experience, everything I publish after this will be better too. Not only was my learning expedited due to the stressful circumstances but it was also done in private. A few readers, who are total strangers to me, offered constructive feedback, and miles away, alone in my apartment, their words helped facilitate growth.
That’s the kind of direct relationship you get to have with readers when you’re indie. Because readers are not some kind of ephemeral finish line. They’re not just consumers, they’re people. Real people who don’t just read books but who have the power to make them better. If we just open ourselves up and actually listen to them. When you hit publish, you’re creating a real relationship between you and your audience whether you realize it or not. During the few weeks that The Boy In Her Dreams was off sale I was flooded with emails from people saying they’d loved the first book and wanted to know where to find the sequel. I went from feeling like a failure to feeling so incredibly validated and it changed my outlook on the entire situation.
I’m not saying that we should preoccupy ourselves with trying to make everyone happy. That would be impossible. But engaging and connecting and being open to having a relationship with our readers is one of the greatest things about being indie. We’re accessible and that makes us better human beings. They’re accessible and that makes us better writers. We are a team. Whether you’re the person crafting a story word by word or you’re the person indulging in it the same way, we’re all in this together. Creating and sharing and living. The life of a story doesn’t exist between point A and point B, it’s an infinite loop that connects us long after the final word is written, the journey starting over every time that very first word is read.