I looked at the email for a few minutes, considering whether I wanted to read what it had to say. I decided to clear the rest of my inbox before opening the attachment. I guess I was also clearing my head to be able to better assess whatever might be revealed in the report. Or maybe (more likely) I just had trepidations about what it might say. The evaluation looked at the manuscript from multiple perspectives. It assessed the pacing of the story, character development, plot development, literary devices and imagery and writing mechanics. The mention of those criteria scared me a little. I at least had some idea what plot and character development were, but I had no idea about writing mechanics as they would relate to my story and I certainly hadn’t deliberately used any such things while writing.
Good news and bad news. The editor rated the pacing positively and through providing multiple examples from the manuscript, I learned a good deal about what pacing was and what an effective tool it could be. There were suggestions on areas where I could improve, so I took that element of the report as a win. The opening comments on Plot Development were also encouraging;
The author has created an engaging, moving and well-developed plot.
I might have been stumbling along as an author but it seemed that by not knowing what I didn’t know, I hadn’t been inhibited by any norms that might have shaped my style. She also pointed out several shortcomings, where the plot was not well connected or where I had developments in the story out of chronological order. These points were really valuable in helping me determine what I needed to do to improve the flow of the story. Moving on to Character Development, the editor commented that;
The author has done an admirable job of creating characters with depth and complexity.
There were also examples of where I could improve character depth, so I added them to my ‘to-do’ list. Literary devices and imagery feedback were most interesting. First of all, I learned what the heck those things meant! It seemed that I had unknowingly used such things multiple times. Writing mechanics feedback was perhaps the most telling. I also had several pages of grammatical errors called out, for which I was grateful. The editor finished by commenting that she was ‘engaged in the story from beginning to end’. In summary, I was pleased with the review.
I had one other factor in play that I needed to consider before finalising my publishing direction. While ‘The Shadow’ is a work of fiction, every one of the characters is based on real people. Some of those people have passed on, but some still live in the northern Victorian community where the story is based. Some of those people would not be happy that this story is being told. Others might not like the way it is being told. I don’t want to hurt anyone that might make any level of association with a character, so I needed to retain control over how the book was represented in public. The only way to do this, especially as an unpublished author, was to become an ‘indie.’ An ‘indie’ is an independently published author. It means that the author takes all of the risks and self-funds the publishing process. It was about now I learnt that self-published books average less than 150 units sold. 90% of self-published books sell less than 100 copies. Only a very small percentage of ‘indies’ recoup their investment through book sales.
Did I want to do this? On balance, it made no commercial sense.
More next week.
By the way, ‘The Shadow’ is getting some good reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. Thank you to those of you that have read or begun reading. If you have any questions that don’t give the story away, feel free to share them here or otherwise, you can contact me via the contact page on the website. Feedback is especially welcome.