Mother of the Bride Resists
by Nancy Martin
The dress I chose to wear to my daughter’s wedding is the reason I have doubts about ever self-publishing my work. Here’s why:
There are 500 websites devoted to Mother of the Bride dresses, and I should have taken the time to search a few of them, but last fall I was writing two books and re-vamping my website and planning a wedding that would take place over the holidays--which is nuts, I admit, but my theory was that as long as I was already busy, I might as well be crazy busy. Emphasis on crazy.
I was too busy to worry about what I’d look like in photographs that will last forever. Instead of shopping for a great Mother of the Bride gown, I decided to recycle the dress I’d worn to my other daughter’s wedding a couple of years ago. It was black, and I know I look half dead in black, but at the time it seemed like an easy solution. So I took the old dress to a seamstress. She made a few alterations and added a ruffled collar. I tried it on in her dim bedroom, glanced into the mirror and said:
Boy, was I wrong. When the pictures arrived, I took a good look at myself in that dress and groaned. What was I thinking? In the black dress with the ruffled collar, I look like a dog ordered not to chew her itchy patches.
Generally when I look in a mirror, I have no sense of what other people see. Maybe it’s hysterical blindness. I much prefer photos of myself that have been liberally doctored by a kind photographer with Photoshop.
I fear I’m equally blind to the flaws in my writing. Even though I was an English teacher once. Even though I’ve written nearly 50 books. I still send every manuscript to critique partners and a ruthless alpha reader and an eagle-eyed beta reader before it goes to my editor and at least one professional copyeditor. Even with all those backups, there’s never been one of my books published that doesn’t cause a reader to write me a note within the first week of release to point out a mistake.
Hell, when I received my author copies of STICKY FINGERS last week, I opened the book, and right there in the opening pages is a missing comma. I mean, it was there the last time I read the chapter, honest, and now it’s gone!
If you’re an author, you know readers love to play Gotcha! Even now, after 30 years of writing books, there are still people who send me long emails with lists—lists!—of mistakes they’ve found in my books.
“Nancy,” a perfectly nice lady said to me at a book festival, “would it bother you if I told you about a mistake I noticed in your last book?”
“Would it bother me?” I said. “Of course not. I’m used to it. But I guarantee you won’t be the first to have mentioned it. In fact, you’re probably not going to be the tenth. Even if it was a tiny little blunder, I’ve been told over and over, and although I’m powerless to fix it now, I am perfectly happy to listen to your complaints about the book I worked for a year to write, then spent months double-checking with editors and copyeditors. Please, tell me about the mistake you found. I’m listening.”
Maybe that speech landed a little spittle on her nice sweater, I’m not sure. She backed off.
Yes, I have peeked at some self-published novels for sale on Amazon, and I cringe at the quality of the writing. How do some of those writers have the courage to self-promote the way they do? Maybe I’m fussier than most readers, but spelling and punctuation matter to me. A story that makes sense is vital. Little inconsistencies bother me a lot. Plot threads left dangling? They annoy the hell out of me. Themes that never quite come together? What’s the point of a book like that?
Yes, there are some excellent self-published books out there. The best one feature strong storytelling---an immediately engaging voice, characters plunged into peril and emotionally bound together. It seems that e-book writers have best learned the lesson of starting a story fast.
It's the bad grammar I can't get past.
Yes, I recognize fussbudgets like me are in the minority now. Maybe most books are written for readers who haven’t made it past 8th grade and wouldn’t recognize a split infinitive or a dangling modifier if it bit them in the butt.
Maybe I'm the dinosaur.
This month, a lot of big changes have shaken the publishing industry. At least one well-established, successful writer has decided to forgo a major advance from an established publisher to publish his own work. Maybe he’ll make a fortune. I hope he does. He has certainly changed the business, and I applaud him for that. And one plucky self-published author has been snatched up by a "traditional" publishing house for her ability to tell a great story.
But . . . me? Self-pub? I take one look at those awful wedding photos and think I’m not ready.
STICKY FINGERS, the 2nd book in Nancy's rock 'em, sock 'em Roxy Abruzzo series, is available now at bookstores everywhere. Or here, if you'd like to order an autographed copy.