The Learning Curve: Kindle and Errors

As I lifelong learner, I’m interested in the many things I’m learning as I get closer to bringing Fifty Over Fifty into the world. To that end, I’ve been working with other material to explore self-publishing in general and Create Space and Kindle in particular. My latest experiment, published just before Thanksgiving, Life Design Blueprints Playbook certainly taught me a lot about formatting, what Kindle-izing can do to our layout and how to design a cover. O.K. All useful and expected lessons.

Often, it’s the unexpected learning that has an even greater value, though. In the process, I learned a little about promotions, a fair amount about reviews, and – most surprisingly – the value of using grammar check.

Now, as an English major and long-time writer, I’ve always disdained using the grammar check that’s part of Word. I disable it immediately. I’ve ignored it successfully for decades. Today, it saved me hours of work and I understand its value. But first, a few words about reviews.

Life Blueprints is a compilation of materials that I’ve been using for decades. It’s very dear to my heart, and I know the process works. I was interested in getting the Kindle version of the book out to as many people as possible, so I took advantage of the opportunity to do a three-day free give-away. I timed it right around New Year’s Eve, reasoning that, between parties and parades and football, people might be spending a little time evaluating their lives and they might want a free book to help them do that.

A reasonable number of free books were downloaded. I waited to see what would happen. The first thing that happened was that I got a perfectly dreadful review from someone who had never written a review before (Amazon provides that information). It said that the reviewer couldn’t trust my advice because the book was riddled with typos – she wasn’t able to get past the second page. I was crushed. And mortified. How could this be? I’d used this material for years. It had been edited professionally after being proofread and spell-checked by me.

A few friends also read the book. As it turned out, the reviewer had misidentified the page where the errors were, but errors there were. I needed to fix them. Quickly. I opened my own Kindle version of the book as well as the file I’d uploaded and began to re-proof the document. I knew there was a problem on page 12 and another in the 20’s, but I couldn’t find them.

This is where I swallowed my pride and turned on the grammar check. It found the errors – somehow, “are” instead of “am” had crept in – in seconds. I was hooked. I kept going. Grammar check and I still disagree. I use sentence fragments for emphasis or as a style point. Sometimes, passive is just fine. Sometimes, grammar check is just plain wrong about subject/verb agreement. Still, I found a number of other errors that had gotten past both me and my very talented, very experienced editor. I also found a few suggested wordings that I liked better than my own.

By tomorrow, the revised book will be uploaded and everyone will get a notice that they can download the new version. As I work on my next manuscript, I might even leave the grammar check on. I’ll certainly include it in phase one of the editing process. I’ve learned from the bad review, too. I’ve gone from, “hey, lady – you got all this great advice free and could have maybe been a little nicer,” to thinking that I’m glad to have had the opportunity to correct the situation and produce a version of the book that makes me proud.

So, the learning curve continues – sometimes steep, sometimes smooth, sometimes painful, sometimes exhilarating. I’m looking forward to it.

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