How Do You Know When to Hit Publish? (Or, Those Dreaded Commas!)

 June 7, 2016

publish button

“I spent the morning putting in a comma and the afternoon removing it.” Gustave Flaubert

Or in my case, I spent the morning peering at my back cover and deciding to change one word in a quote from my book. I sent this request to my cover designer in the morning, then looked again at the quote in the context of the book and decided not to make the change. In the afternoon I emailed my cover designer and told her to ignore what I had sent in the morning. “When I change something in the morning and change it back in the afternoon, I figure I’m pretty close to being done,” I told her.

Sure, there is always something more you can do — add a comma here or delete one there. Commas are my personal bane. I can never get them right. I think the problem stems from the fact that the rules have changed over the course of my life. In high school commas were everywhere, but then in college I was instructed to get rid of those pesky commas, only use them when absolutely essential. Now I think we are seeing a mix of the two. Is it any wonder I’m confused.

Another factor is all those poorly written freshman psych papers I graded over the years. After reading so many of them and marking them with red until my eyes crossed, I began to question who was right. It’s hard to see so many of the same mistakes repeated without beginning to think you were the one who was wrong. Isn’t this how language changes after all? Common usage eventually changes the rules.

One of the pluses of independent publishing is that you don’t have to answer to anyone else. You decide when your writing is ready. That’s also one of the minuses. Only you determine when your work is ready to go out into the world. You don’t have the benefit of all those extra eyes on your work letting you know it is time.

It seems to me that whenever you find yourself changing something only to change it back, it’s time to quit. Enough already.

Rob Eager, from Wildfire Marketing, quoted Allen Weiss, another marketing and management consultant, saying that if a product is 80% ready to go, send it out there. Usually in the last 20% you get so caught up in details that you are counterproductive, hence, working all morning to add a comma and all afternoon to remove it. Get it out there; let the market determine whether you’ve got a winning product. Let your customers tell you what more needs to be done.

I certainly wouldn’t want to put out a manuscript that is only 80% complete, however if I keep editing for that elusive 100%, I may never publish. Also, in this day and age of on-demand printing, errors found can be easily changed with a click of a mouse.

In my case, after numerous read throughs and reading the manuscript out loud, I set the manuscript aside one more time to see if anything else came to my attention. After two weeks, I opened the file again and found extreme resistance to making any more changes. The two sections that I had considered changing seemed perfectly fine to me. I was so ready to move on and start writing the next book in the series!

So I hit publish and ordered copies for my upcoming book launch. Then I checked the kindle version, made formatting changes, and realized I had left out a comma in “the note to the reader” section that I included at the end of the book! Aaaagh!

Oh well! Another benefit of independent publishing is that you can easily make changes and upload the revised version.

If you have done your job well, had outside input from beta readers, an editor or two along the way and a proof reader, then there comes a point in the publishing process when it’s time to send your manuscript out into the world. You’ll never reach perfection. That’s what heaven is for. And what seems perfect now, may not seem perfect after a few years.

As Pontius Pilate said when asked to change what he had put on the cross, “What I have written, I have written!” Click that button and release your creation.

What about you? How do you know when you are done editing? Are we ever done?


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