The question that I am most frequently asked by new authors is, “How can I make my book stand out?” Now, if there were a simple formula that I could pass on to guarantee publishing success, I would be a very rich woman. However, there is no one sure-fire way to ensure that your, often self-published, book will be the one to grab the public’s attention and propel you to literary superstardom.
However, there are ways to give your book a fighting chance against the competition and the most obvious is to make sure that it is free from errors. You may have penned a really good novel, but potential readers are put off by bad reviews and poor grammar, incorrect spelling and badly punctuated books tend to attract negative feedback.
I recently received a book to proofread, via a publisher, with the assurance that is was a virtually clean copy and would need little more than a ‘quick read through’. Apparently, several people had ‘checked’ the manuscript and it was just about print-ready. This was far from the case and book, in fact, contained many mistakes, which would have reflected badly on the author if the book had gone to print in that condition.
During my time as a magazine editor, several people would check the proofs, again and again. It is very difficult for one person to pick up every single error and practically impossible for the author or writer. You should never attempt to proofread your own work, and by that last statement I mean for the final copy, I would assume that all writers will check their own work to make sure that it is as good as it can be before handing it to someone to proofread.
Ideally, a manuscript should be passed to an editor, or proofreader, or possibly both before publication and preferably to a professional. Whilst it is perfectly possible for your mum or great aunt Mabel to read your manuscript and even to correct errors, I would always recommend that the final check should be made by someone whose business it is to pick up on other people’s mistakes. A professional editor or proofreader will approach the job very differently from a layman (or woman) and be aware of all those tricky foibles of grammar, spelling and punctuation that writers routinely come unstuck over.
If time allows, I always proofread from hard (printed) copy rather than the computer screen, as lots of mistakes can be missed this way and if a text has become very familiar, I have even been known to read it ‘backwards’.
So, before you rush to publish your book, it is wise to invest time and, yes, money on making sure that your book is error-free. That way, you can be certain that if it your novel captures readers’ attention, it will be for all the right reasons.