Self-Publishing Pitfalls

Thursday, May 03, 2018
So I’ve been reading more self-published novels these days and I’m finding a much improved product out there. But as excited as I am to see professional standards in self-publishing, I’m still finding errors. The good news is that they’re not major errors; they’re easily fixable errors!


By far the biggest error I come across is the misplaced, extra word in the sentence:

My heart nearly broke in two in when John’s puppy licked my face.

There is a very good reason why this kind of error ends up so often on the written page. As sophisticated as our technology is, a computer program cannot discern when an extra word is lurking about in a sentence. It’s up to the human writer to correct that sort of mistake. There’s also a very good reason why the human writer misses an extra word: we don’t see it.

When we write, whether it’s a manuscript, email, or tweet, we know what we mean to say and that’s what our brain reads. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read an email that I’ve sent where I’ve omitted a word in the sentence or added an extra word. I just didn’t see the error because my brain automatically corrected it. So how to guard against this self-publishing pitfall?

Ask a writer friend who has never read the manuscript to do a line proofread. Granted, that’s asking a lot and you’re going to owe that writer friend big time. But a fresh read will give your work the best chance of fixing those kinds of errors. Plus, there’s something else that a new reader can do for you.


We all have a word or cliché or phrase we over use. Trouble is, we’re not aware of it. We love our favorite words, expressions, or phrases because they make us laugh, or because we think they’re different and/or unique, or just because. But it’s because these expressions are funny or different that a reader remembers them. Take, for instance, the word “quirk” used as a verb. As in, “He quirked an eyebrow.” Or, “Her mouth quirked.”

Quirk is a perfectly fine word. But in this day and age, we use it more as a noun than as the verb. The verb usage dates back to the 16th century and means “to move or twist suddenly.” Also a perfectly good albeit unusual verb. And for reasons I can’t explain, it’s become very contemporary and cool to say, “He quirked an eyebrow.” How interesting! How unique!

Yep! But I guarantee that the first time I read it, I’m going to notice it. And if you write an entire book and use it once, I’ll give you a pass. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to read it another five or six times, and I’m going to think about it every time. And what I’m going to think is, “Why did this writer choose to use this weird verb?” A trusted friend will call you on those over-used though interesting-the-first-time expressions. Do your readers a favor and listen.


I don’t think I need to explain how annoying it is to see a misplaced comma, random quotation marks, or an incorrectly-used semi-colon. But I will also admit that it’s only other writers who will likely be annoyed by punctuation errors.

Or maybe it will just be me. The point is, you can easily fix these self-publishing pitfalls before I download your e-book. And that’s a win for everybody!

Cathy C. Hall spends as much time reading as she does writing, so let her know if you've published a good book! (Though her To Be Read List is very, very long. Also, she's pretty sure that she has never quirked her mouth, but she may have quirked an eyebrow or two.)


Debra Mayhew said...

Well said, Cathy. Good stuff to remember even if you're NOT self publishing. I want my very best work put out there for whoever sees it. It's well worth the extra time to get a second set of eyes on it.

Pat Wahler said...

It's so hard to get everything perfect. I've seen mistakes from even the biggest publishing houses.

Linda O'Connell said...

My motto is put it away for the day and come back tomorrow. You are sure to catch an oopsie.

Mary Horner said...

Thanks for sharing, I have a habit of reusing phrases in the same paragraph that I don't see until my critique group points it out!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Yep, it's more than just self-publishing. And it does help to put something away for a bit of time and then proofread again. Thanks for the tip and reminders!

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Yes, yes, yes! My internal editor is always on duty. This makes it difficult to enjoy books BECAUSE while the story may be wonderful, the quirks (ha) and punctuation errors take me right out of the story. It doesn't help that as a writer I know I have my own "things" to deal with. I just deleted about 250 words from my manuscript. All one word: just. Yep. Just. 250 of them. *sigh*

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