You're pretty amazing, aren't you? You've written a book. You've spent your valuable time on it, pushed other things aside for it, dedicated weeks or months or years of your life to the story in your head that wouldn't go away. You've made sacrifices, and you haven't given up, and somehow you've brought a whole world to life from nothing. Anyone who has the staying power to do that should be proud.
So now you're ready to send your precious book out into the world, and you've decided to self-publish. You love your story and your characters, and you can't wait to find other people who'll love them too. I understand that. I do. Writing is such a solitary pursuit that it's always wonderful to find an audience. To share what you've been doing all this time with people who get it. Without readers, after all, we writers are like chefs cooking endless banquets that no-one ever gets to eat.
But before you hit the button to submit your baby to CreateSpace or Lulu or Smashwords, I beg you, stop. Just for a moment.
And give yourself an honest answer to this question: are you absolutely, positively, one hundred percent sure your book – this thing you've spent so much energy on already – is error-free? That you haven't mixed up rung and wrung or born and borne or bizarre and bazaar? That your sentences all make sense even after that last-minute edit you did in Chapter 12? That your apostrophes are in their proper places? Have you run it past at least two people who you know have a better grasp of grammar than you do?
If the answer to any of these questions is no then you really should reconsider. You owe it to those among the reading public who know the difference between its and it's, and who develop an uncontrollable twitch each time they encounter the wrong one. You owe it to those among the reading public who don't know the difference and will only start to learn it if they see things done properly in the books they enjoy. Most of all, you owe it to yourself: to make your magnum opus, your pride and your pain, the best it possibly can be. To earn a loyal following through professionalism and polish and knowing your craft. To never settle for second best.
Because the thing is, it's all on you. The buck stops here. It may feel like I'm picking on you right now, but that's because I am. I'm picking on you because there's no-one else. Of course self-published books aren't the only ones to suffer from these kinds of problems. Of course traditionally published books contain typos. But traditionally published books are subject to a whole host of different people making decisions on their behalf. The only person who's going to make decisions about your self-published book is you.
So, dear author, I implore you: employ an editor or a proofreader. Beg the services of a friend or several friends or a whole critique group. Better still, learn how to fix this stuff yourself. Of course you can't know everything – no-one can. Even the most experienced editor in the world lets the occasional error slip past her tired eyes. But if you are really serious about the rewarding, surprising, incredibly frustrating process that is writing, you can do yourself no greater favour than to keep learning. Because being an author is so, so much more than just getting the story down, patting yourself on the back and hitting Publish.
Words are your tools. Employ them as they were meant to be employed. Your book will thank you for it, and so will your readers.