There’s hardly any chance you might mistake Dixon Rice for John Grisham. We don’t look alike. We don’t write alike. Our bank balances have little in common. Grisham could get his grocery list made into a Hollywood movie, whereas my brilliance is still a closely-guarded secret.
Despite my shortcomings, I still enjoy trying to help other struggling authors. I’ve been out there in the slush piles, and I’ve self-published on Amazon – maybe my experiences could help others. I been a writing conference coordinator, a writing group president, and started my own critique group. I blog nearly every day, and I make a pest of myself in a number of online writing groups, and I have more than 4,600 FB buddies. I’ve written more clichés and sentence fragments than the law allows. I’ve been there and done that.
I’ve been around enough to realize that, whether you’re traditionally published or you’re flogging a self-published e-book or you’re somewhere in between, it’s a tough world for 99 out of 100 authors. So when someone with a familiar name messages me that, “Hey, Dixon, my novel Book X is free on Amazon for the next couple days – please help me spread the word!”…well, I do just that.
Not no more.
At least, not without performing some due diligence. I recently told the world to check out the freebie of Book X, before I had actually read a page of it. Then I downloaded Book X and started to read.
There were so many run-on sentences in the first few pages, I had trouble finding a sentence that WASN’T a run-on. Twice in the first two pages, the author used “your” when “you’re” was needed. There were spelling errors. There were formatting errors. All the characters sounded alike. The dialogue was long and rambling, full of info dumps. I couldn’t fight my way past page five.
People, before you submit or self-publish, get some additional sets of eyes on your manuscript. Have your story read by somebody who is an avid reader, or a writer, or a retired English teacher. Preferably somebody who’ll provide honest feedback, and who you’ve never slept with. Then do it again with 5-6 other people. Call them beta readers, or online writing partners, or previewers, or critique partners – just call them before you inflict your masterpiece on people who really matter, such as literary agents, editors, or paying customers.
If you have a half-dozen fairly literate people read your manuscript, then most of the typos, misspellings and grammar/punctuation mistakes should be eliminated, along with some of the glaring plot issues. Hopefully, your beta readers will have also asked you questions, forcing you to re-think some of your story decisions. This process results in a better book – one that Dixon (or anyone else) would be proud to help promote.
I was mortified to think I had recommended that folks waste their time reading the unprofessional mess that is Book X. I have learned my lesson. In the future, I pledge to be more protective of your time, and more deserving of your confidence.