It’s time we let you all in on a little joke Wendi and I have shared for the last year. Well, it didn’t start out as a joke. In fact, some writers may have viewed it as quite an embarrassment. And for a split second, I did too.
Early last year, after Loyalties had been out for several months already, we decided it could use some more streamlining. The first edition was good, the story solid, but after all the growth we went through as writers, we saw places in Loyalties we thought could be much better.
We had a lot of areas in the book that were full of exposition (too much telling and not enough showing), other places that had too much repetition, and some that needed clarity in the dialogue and character points of view. After having lived with our novel in print for several months, we knew we could make it better.
That’s the joy of printing books in the do it yourself, digital age—and the downfall. George Lucas is notorious for going back into his Star Wars films and making technical upgrades…and a few story changes, much to the despair of the fans.
You could say we did a “Lucas”. But only a small one. We didn’t change any of the story. We took out things that weren’t missed. We didn’t want to do anything like Greedo shooting Han Solo first when we all know (at least those of us who saw the original Star Wars in the theater) Han shot first.
Once again, we read the book from cover to cover, made our cuts and fixed areas for clarity.
During this process I got an IM from Wendi one afternoon and she said, “Take a look at page 357. John just found a typo.”
My stomach dropped. A typo? How could that be? How bad was it? And more importantly, how could so many sets of eyes missed it?
We had dozens of people read the manuscript; several focus groups, at least four different editors, ourselves, our family and friends all went over it carefully.
I opened my first edition copy and turned to the page. There it was, in a key, high-tension scene. I just stared for a second or two and then busted out laughing so hard my sides hurt.
A group of our baddies, the rough and tumble, bad-ass motorcycle gang of vampires had red bananas on their heads!
The visual alone still makes me laugh. Instead of wearing red bandanas, they had brightly colored produce on their heads like Carmen Miranda gone seriously wrong. Good thing the second edition hadn’t gone to print yet. We got to change it and restore dignity once again to Ramon’s crew.
Our Top Five Tips For Avoiding Mistakes In Your Book
Mistakes happen. Even Charles Dickens made mistakes. Despite our best efforts, one or two always slip through the cracks. That’s always a given. But just because it’s inevitable doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do everything you possibly can to make it right to begin with.
To help you avoid some of the newbie pitfalls that crop up, we’ve put together this list of our top five tips for avoiding mistakes in your book.
1. Cutting Costs. If you’re a new author doing your book yourself, you may be tempted to cut corners and do every aspect of your book yourself. This is like passing over a dollar to pick up a shiny dime. It’s rare for any one individual to possess all the skills required to produce a book. You want a professional book, you’ll need professionals to help you. Otherwise, your book will stick out like a sore thumb next to all those other books on the shelf. Don’t be cheap when it comes to your work.
2. Hire an Editor. Do it. Beg, borrow or barter if you have to, but get yourself an editor…or two. Not all editors do proofing and not all editors understand story structure. You may need both types to get the job done and done well.
3. Do NOT Rely on Spellcheck. Spellcheck is good in the draft phases and catches many misspellings and grammatical errors, if you have your settings done correctly. You’re out of luck though, if a word is a word already (like “bananas” and “bandanas”). No red flags will come up and you’ll miss it.
4. Slow Down. We know you want ot get that book out. Your fans are waiting on the edge of their seats, you’re excited at the prospect of seeing your book listed on Amazon, and holding that print copy in your hands for the first time. But stop. After you think you’re finished, let it sit on the shelf for a month or more.
I know, it’s awfully painful. You have to do it, though. Once you take a real break from it, come back and read it with fresh eyes. You’ll be surprised how much you catch.
5. Get a Proof. Recently, many of the print on demand houses like Lighting Source and Create Space have started offering digital proofs. You have the option of getting a free PDF to view your cover and text. This is where we refer you back to Tip #1.
Don’t get sucked into the temptation of saving a few bucks and think the free PDF will be enough. You need to read your book in as many formats as possible and one of the best ways to catch mistakes is to read your book on good old-fashioned ink and paper.
Your cover counts in this too. Colors on screen vary greatly when compared to a printed version. You need physical proof the blues aren’t too purple, or the reds too dull. You’ll see major differences in color. Not just from computer screen to print, but between glossy and matte finishes.
So, now you know how to avoid some of the most common mistakes first time authors make. And those of you who bought a first edition hardcover of Loyalties, go ahead and re-read page 357. Bet you didn’t notice it the first time around either.
What was the funniest typo you ever found in a book? Tell us in the comments.