By Iola GoultonOver the last three weeks, Narelle Atkins has been sharing about the development, writing, publishing and marketing of her first indie novella, His Perfect Catch, released as part of the SPLASH! box set with eight other writers.
Shortly after I’d finished editing His Perfect Catch I was approached by Autumn Macarthur, one of the other contributing authors, to see if I’d like to review SPLASH! on Amazon. If you’ve been reading my posts here on Australasian Christian writers, you’ll know that Amazon doesn’t permit reviewers to review any book in which they have a financial interest. Being the editor constitutes a financial interest, even though I only edited one novella in a collection of nine, and I have no ongoing financial interest (editors work for a set dollar figure, not a percentage of sales!).
Anyway, even if I can’t review SPLASH! on Amazon, I can review it on my blog, which I have done and you can click here to read my review.
But in reading the nine novellas (somewhere around 250,000 words in total) as a reader rather than as an editor or proofreader did highlight some issues:
1. You can never have too much editing or proofreading
On one of Narelle’s blog posts, one person asked about the editing process, and specifically whether one person had done a full read-through of the complete box set to ensure consistency. The answer to that is ‘yes’ … that person was me, and I was reading as a reader/reviewer, not a final proofreader (as Narelle has mentioned, each of the participating authors was responsible for proofreading a portion of the full manuscript).
I did notice a few minor issues, which I communicated to Narelle and she passed on to the group leader. I subsequently had follow-up emails from authors in the group to clarify some of the issues I’d raised (I questioned the occupation of one character, and was amused to find that hadn’t been their original occupation—she’d changed it part-way through the writing process. After my comment, she changed it back).
Advice: Yes, someone needs to read the full collection through before publication, ideally someone fresh who is going to read the words on the page, not the words she thinks are on the page (which is what we tend to do when we proof our own work). However, this could be difficult, as few people are willing or able to read/proof 250,000+ words in a very short timeframe.
2. You can never have too much editing or proofreading
All nine novellas had been professionally edited, by nine different people each with different editing styles and standards. This meant there were slight differences between the novellas, even though they had agreed they would all use US spelling and grammar rules. For example, the dictionary says resume can be spelled without any accent marks, with an accent mark on the final ‘e’, or accents on both ‘e’s’. Two authors used the word resume, but each used a different version. Yes, it’s likely only a picky editor like me would notice that!
3. You can never have too much editing or proofreading (are you seeing a pattern yet?)
Indie authors have limited funds, which means their books aren’t necessarily edited and proofread as often as traditionally published books (not that traditionally published books are exempt from editing errors). One novella had the other woman (not the heroine) touching the hero in a way that made his knees “week”. The story had been edited, revised and proofread, but they’d all missed this one line.
Please don't think I'm criticising any of the other editors involved. I'm not. I'm simply saying one or two rounds of editing might not be enough. I recently read a blog post where our own Kara Isaac commented that her upcoming novel is currently undergoing its fourth round of editing by the publisher, and it's not due to be published until January 2016. Or is that March? Anyway, that's at least three rounds more editing than most indie authors can afford.
I did enjoy the water theme to each of the novellas, and the variety of international settings, from Africa to Australia. I do believe this helps with engaging readers, a vital part of marketing.
5. Story length
The novellas appear in the SPLASH! collection in order of author last name, which means Narelle Atkins’s novella is first and Marion Ueckermann’s is last. While there is an obvious logic to this, it did have a drawback: length. The novellas varied from 20,000 to 35,000 words in length. This meant some novellas were more than 50% longer than the story before … and when a longer novella came immediately after a short novella, it did mean the longer story dragged because my reader expectations around length had been set by the shorter story. I got to the 2/3rd mark in the later novella, and was thinking it was time for it to end … because 2/3 of a 35,000 word novella is close to 24,000 words, which was longer than the shortest novella.
Advice: ordering the stories from shortest to longest (or perhaps longest to shortest) would fool the reader (me) into believing they were all similar length, because I wouldn’t have perceived the 35,000-word novella as ‘long’ if it had followed a 30,000-word novella.
6. Front and back matter
On a related note, some of the stories had a lot more front and back matter than others. In this case, I think the first story (Narelle’s) set the standard, and I found some of the books had too much front or back matter (and one author had back matter that I thought would have been better shared at the front). I would suggest keeping the front and back matter minimal in a box set—there will be plenty of room for additional acknowledgements and author notes in the individual release.
I would absolutely echo Narelle’s comments about the added market visibility of participating in a multi-author box set. I follow several of the authors in the set, and saw SPLASH! coming up in my Facebook and Twitter feeds a lot in the weeks before and during the book launch.
And it's a great read, and is available for a limited time, and for less than a dollar!
About Iola GoultonI am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Tsu.
I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon Reviewer Rank that floats around 2500.