Do you have trouble letting go of your finished book? Can't quite bring yourself to release your baby into the world until you've had one more last read-through – and another, and another, and another? Australian ALLi Partner member and publishing coach Dixie Carlton counsels how to let go and get on with your next book.
“I’ve just ordered another proof,” he said.
“But you probably don’t need another printed proof if that is the only change required.”
“Yes, but I think I would feel better if I do see it in the physical, rather than just online.”
After a huge surge in to-ing and fro-ing between this author, the formatting designer, and myself, the book was checked, and rechecked, and re-edited, and ever-increasing changes were made until finally almost total perfection was achieved, and still the author could not let go and sign off to send it to print. Every time he received a new proof copy from Create Space, he would ultimately end up re-reading it again, and noting more changes he wanted made.
This book should have been published weeks earlier, but the need for perfection was crippling the process.
This happens far more often than you may think. Even authors who assure me and others that they can live with a few errors, (because there’s no way the editing process is ever going to guarantee every single typo is caught) struggle with this. But readers are very forgiving of the odd handful – and by handful I mean half a dozen or so.
Another client has been working on her manuscript for three years, and keeps changing the content, adding more, deleting some, and every year, she misses being able to take a printed copy to a convention she attends, where it’s clear to her and all her colleagues that she really needs that book.
I suggested that perhaps her stumbling to cross the finish line is based on a past life experience of being tarred and feathered for sedition once upon a few hundred years ago.
I also heard about a person who has been writing and rewriting the same book for 20 years and still can't let it go, although she's about 70 and if not careful will never have time to write anything else!
Why Fear of Imperfection Should Not Hold Up Publication
Whatever the reason authors stress over signing off on their first books, their fear of having it not quite perfect enough is real and valid. Unfortunately, often it’s relatively unnecessary to delay publication due to potential imperfections, and here’s why:
- Every book has a small handful of mistakes – yes, even the ones published by top best selling authors. When I personally find these errors, I can see that simply the proofing process may have just been hit by the proofer reaching the end of another long read, and their eyes were drooping. But knowing that the book may have been passed through thoroughly at least half a dozen times by the professionals, and countless times by beta readers pre-publication, an occasional slip is hardly likely to drive me towards asking for a refund on the book.
- In this age of digital uploads and print on demand, the errors that are picked up post-publication are easily corrected and the files updated immediately. So long as the book is 99% perfect that really is good enough.
The Parenthood Analogy
It’s like having children. We always stress out more about Junior having cookies before dinner time when they are our firstborn, but by the time baby number three comes along, parents are far more relaxed about what their kids eat, do, or play with.
Authors generally do ease up on ‘perfection paralysis’ after their first couple of books, but at the start of their journeys, most do cling to their fears of their books not being good enough, some more than others.
It simply comes down to this. Would you rather get the information out to your readers, and get on with the next book, or hold on and starve your readers of your wisdom, knowledge, and expertise?
I freely admit to having published imperfect books, but I know that I can always go back and update, improve, or change. Anytime. And updated editions are always worth relaunching.
OVER TO YOU Do you suffer from perfection paralysis? What do you do to escape its grasp? Join the conversation!#Authors - do you suffer from perfection paralysis? Read @DixieCarlton's advice on why you need to stop tinkering & get on with the next book! Click To Tweet