Am I doing this right?

There is a hidden enemy for the independent author, a stumbling block, based on a misconception. There seems to be a feeling of, “I have to do everything right if I want to be a famous writer!”


Self-publishing is the new wild west. The only hard and fast rule I have come across is, “There are no hard and fast rules.”

Why? Because the fabulous access to the information superhighway has given everyone keys to the publishing kingdom. Those keys used to be guarded by a handful of publishing companies. Now that direct publishing companies are ubiquitous, anyone can publish anything. Trotting a product out is now, relatively, easy.

I have shifted my focus from giving publishers something they want to see to putting out a damn good book. When the dust settles, the person who used the correct em dash, en dash, or hyphen will not be nearly as important as who wrote a really great book.

To be fair, I do know people who are over-officious and will put down a book if someone italicized something that should have been underlined.  I was asked by someone recently if I used em dashes or en dashes. My reply? “Cool people don’t think about things like that.”

I’m not saying we should throw grammar to the four winds. Punctuation and spelling are there for clarity. Really well structured reading (including grammar and punctuation) serves one main purpose- it makes life easier for the reader. You want the reader to “get it”. Sloppy editing can make things jarring for an unsuspecting reader.

I use an editing service (because my mechanical skills are a little pathetic) to make sure my books are coherent. The difference between, “Let’s eat, Grandma.” and “Let’s eat Grandma.” Is important…especially to Grandma. I also use beta readers.

Beta readers are the unsung heroes of my publishing journey. I use Facebook to get my readers. I send out a blanket inquiry to my friends. “Hey, does anyone want to read my new book and give me some feedback?” People reply that are interested. Then I privately message them and ask them if they will pay particular attention to one aspect of the book that coincides with their natural inclinations. My friend Kim is my go to for continuity. She always catches that one time I mean Sally but I write Sarah. My friend Lars is great for pointing out archaic or awkward language. The cool thing about beta readers is, they point stuff out but you are under no obligation to take their advice. There is no risk and vast reward.

My books have done quite well. I published my first novella 2 years ago. I have published 3 novellas and 3 novels in those two years. If not for my beta readers, it would have been disastrous. I have not written these books “right”. I have crafted entertaining books that people are reading. Most importantly, I am proud of my books and I didn’t have to stress out to get them in the hands of readers.

Indie publishing is going to continue to change. I think people that are not malleable enough in their approach are going to be swept away in the oncoming cyber-tsunami. If you roll with the changes, you’ll have a better chance of surviving…you might also be in a position to enjoy the process.

This post is contributed as Guest post by Andrew (Drew) Sutherland