Joys and Pitfalls of Self-publishing – 2

Truth Telling for Beginners.


Since Self-published, facilitated published, and vanity published books first hit the virtual and physical bookshelf, there have been many articles written about the supposed lack of professionalism of those who dare to spurn the traditional publishing route.

I’ve read some invectives in my time, and won’t repeat them here, but weindies have a bit of a reputation for not being as well-edited as we could be. I could deny it until the cows come home, but frankly, there is a little bit of truth in the criticism.

So today, I want to tell you of one way that will try to improve quality. If you’re an indie author and you need to know how to ensure that you publish the best product you can, I hope this post helps.

If you’re a reader, I hope to share a secret about what happens to a good book before you ever set eyes on it.

My No. 1 Rule for Improving Quality = Find Good Beta-Readers.

A beta-reader is someone who will take your manuscript when you think it is finished, and pull it apart to tell you that it isn’t. A good beta-reader is a truth-teller. They can tell you what works, and what doesn’t. They will find that one instance where you accidentally called your character George when you meant Mary. They should make you quake in mingled fear and anticipation when their email arrives with an attachment.

They are the very devil - and they are an indie author’s path to salvation.

A good beta-reader is the equivalent of a content editor, a proof-reader, and a structural editor all in one, and they usually do it all for free – or perhaps for love.

Where is an indie author to find such a doyen, let alone more than one?

Well, I started with my friends. Then I kept the three friends who actually told me the truth, and stopped sending my manuscripts to those that didn’t, or perhaps more accurately (more’s the pity), didn’t feel they could.

Then I sent a call out to my facebook fans. A few came back, eager for the chance to read my books before they were published. I applied the same rule of brutal critique to them as well.

I was left with four or five people I can rely on. I spread my manuscripts amongst them, so they are not burned out.

They keep me honest.

They help me improve.

They make my product better.

So here’s a ‘Huzzah’ to all the beta-readers in the world. You are part of a long tradition of truth-telling, like the court-jesters of old.

It is my assertion that a state of blissful ignorance is no way to publish a book.

Or, in the words of the immortal Dr Seuss:

“So the writer who breeds more words than [s]he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”



J-L Heylen is the author of five self-published works in the genres of Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction, Lesbian Fiction and Steampunk.


She lives in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, with her wife and three dogs, and writes commentary, blogs, short stories and novels. She also helps manage lesfic down under, with fellow speculative fiction author Kate Genet.

Links to books, contact details and other information can be found here, or through the links below.


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