A recent comment from a LinkedIn member reminded me of a story that I felt would be really great to share, especially for those authors who are self publishing and even more so for those thinking to print in bulk to save money.
When I was first starting out, regarding self publishing, I was still learning. The books interior was pre-watercolor-illustrations-by-Carol. The really first book that I now call the Limited Edition: “Hamilton Troll meets Pink Light Sprite” I was having it printed in bulk. I had just received the proof for the printing. It looked gorgeous (I thought). I read through it again. I had many people (adults) read through it, we thought we had found all of the errors. Everyone had given their thumbs-up.
I was having breakfast with my late mother’s best friend and had just pulled the proof out to show her. I was so proud. I was hours away from sending the proceed-with-printing-the-books email when a higher power put an inkling in my head.
I looked across the table and saw a father with two young girls sitting at the next table over. The girls looked bored! Heads on the table, hands sprawled out across it, dangling feet swinging back and forth… just plain bored and an idea came to me.
They were children, the exact age group I had intended the book for and I had a book that they could read. The idea of getting them to read it, seeing their expressions, witnessing for the first time an actual child’s perspective on my story, was suddenly and for the first time, exactly what I needed.
I excused myself from my friend and walked over to the father. I introduced myself as a new children’s book author. That I had here my proof for my very first book and I would really love it if the girls wanted to read the story and let me know what they thought of it.
They agreed. Joyfully!
My friend and I watched with smiles as Colleen, the eldest young girl read aloud to her father and sister. We loved watching it, but eventually turned back to our conversation and our breakfast when it was delivered.
About 10 minutes later, the father returned the book to us with a message. “I don’t think many American children will know what Cricket is.” I was stumped. I hadn’t mentioned the game of Cricket in my story. “You did, here, it says “He’s as fun as cricket…”
Oh my gosh! I forgot to type the a. He’s as fun as a cricket (like the bug, not the game) and I was about to have these printed in bulk! And worse yet, he brought me down one more level and said “we also found a typo.” My jaw dropped to the table.
“When my daughter was reading she said “he titled his head” at first I told her she meant tilted (which is exactly what every other adult had read and overlooked) I transposed the t and the l on a word that should have read tilted, he tilted his head! Only a child still learning how to sound out words, would have caught that mistake!
At first I was embarrassed but that only lasted about 2.3 seconds. After that I was so incredibly relieved that this little girl had caught those errors that I gave her the biggest hug ever. I told her she was my hero! Which she was. I went back to the office and fixed the errors and rechecked it again word for word and sent up a new version to the printers and had the book printed flawlessly and I have Colleen to thank for that.
I can’t imagine what I would have done with a pallet of books that had errors in them. I couldn’t have sold them. I wouldn’t have dared! Not to children! That higher power (whom I believe had to have been my mother, since I was having breakfast with her best friend) saved my bacon and it’s a good thing! That book is dedicated to her, she would have wanted it to be perfect.
Additionally, Colleen and her sister loved the story. The images to the right and left are drawings and notes they made to me on their napkins. Colleen is another child who taught me something and that lesson was a strong one! Have children read the book BEFORE you go to print!!!
Amazing the way we learn things! You can read your book over and over and still miss something. Edit the manuscript numerous times and still miss an error. Even when you have someone else reading, there is always something that someone else sees or maybe even misinterprets. It is all part of the learning experience as a writer.
A standard proof reader’s trick is to read the book backwards. That way, the sense of the story doesn’t get in the way and you look at each word individually. There are problem words that spell check will never catch like tow and two. Can’t have too many eyes on a proof.