My first book was an unmitigated disaster, in a lot of respects. No, really. You think I’m kidding? Check this out:
The Color of Fate on Barnes & Noble. (Amazon no longer even carries it, and that’s ridiculously okay with me.)
See, it was my first effort, and I made… well, about every mistake it’s possible for a new author to make. I had a friend who’s an absolutely incredible artist, and she created my dragon. Beautiful work… just not the right cover for my book. I had two beta readers and editors combined. I knew I needed an editor, and I had an awesome one, but I didn’t have her do a final read-through after I finished my edits, and as a result there are some glaring errors in the manuscript. And for that matter, the manuscript itself had some issues.
I had issues, I tell ya. Issues. Huuuuge issues.
One thing that would have made an enormous and immediate difference? Reading the story out loud, even to myself. That, in fact, is when I realized that my introductory chapter was dreck. (And that’s putting it mildly.) I did an information dump. I did manage to “show not tell” – mostly – but that’s about the only thing I did right. I also discovered – after publishing – that my first chapter bore a striking similarity to another book. I didn’t read the other book until after I’d published, and it was obviously not so alike that it looked like outright plagiarism, but still…
Another error? I didn’t do my eBook and print editions simultaneously. If I’d done the print version first (which is now the only method I would consider,) I’d have caught a lot of things before the eBook was dumped onto the Internet, where it’s now stuck forever. Yes, boys and girls: I can’t even retrieve this monstrosity. It’s why I chose to change my pen name and use my real name for everything going forward.
While I won’t tell you my non-fiction books are going to win the Nobel Prize for literature, they’re leaps and bounds ahead of my first attempt at self-publishing. And in spite of my first book selling (I think) about six copies, it was worth every painful moment, because it was a priceless learning experience. I learned about formatting, both for eBook and for print. I learned about the importance of going with professional covers. I learned… well, a LOT. I’m still learning, and hope to keep learning. The business is undergoing a lot of changes these days. I expect that trajectory to continue. If there’s one constant in the world, it’s change!
The moral of this little story is not to let a truly atrocious book discourage you. There’s no wasted effort.