My story The Happiness Dress won an award from the Commonwealth Foundation for the best children's story in 2011. I was greatly honoured and thrilled. The Foundation published the stories in audio form, to be distributed throughout the Commonwealth. It was left for the writers to find print publishers. I sought a publisher, thought I had found one, and then faced problems, which resulted in lost time, a couple of years really. So as not to feel totally helpless, at the mercy of the vicissitudes of life, I decided to publish The Happiness Dress as an e-book, to join my other children's e-books on Amazon. Not making many sales really, but at least the book would be somewhere.
I figured that at the most I would just have one more read through of the book before telling the designer /illustrator to make a final copy for uploading to Amazon, when I suddenly found myself in Barbados visiting the grandchildren. Yes, suddenly, as in just like magic, and certainly there is a bit of magic in this. Do you believe in magic?
Having tried out another story (in the works) on the 'grands', to what seemed like a positive reception, I became bolder, and thought I would show them other stories I had brought, a print out of Ebony and the Auntie of the Starlight, a Caribbean Cinderella story (already on Amazon) and The Happiness Dress. My nine year-old granddaughter declared Ebony interesting and humourous. It passed! The Happiness Dress, although below her age group (she's gobbling up chapter books), was next. She loved the illustrations, of course (like Ebony, done by Rachel Wade Moss).
"Grandma, here's a mistake!"
"A what? No, there can't be a mistake. A lot of us read it. No, there's no mistake," the voice moving from shock to that indulgent adult tone you use when you don't want to discourage a child who is showing initiative, but has got it wrong.
"Yes, there is," says a nine year-old Bajan (pet name for Barbadian) voice, carrying all the certainty with it of a country with a 98% literacy rate (or some impressive figure like that).
"Let me see," I say.
And there it is! An error! How do you miss an error in 500 words, spread across 24 pages? So many of us have read it. So, it's only a question mark, but still.
Then she finds another. Then she finds a page where she says, "Paragraphs!"
And, lo and behold! There it is, a page, a short page, where the paragraphs need revisiting, a nice publishing word for the 'paragraph them wrong'. By then I'm feeling pale and wan. (reference from English lit. in school).
It is only a matter of time before she tells me what I already know about the typeface. The distance between the apostrophe and the next letter (e.g. won' t) is too great. It will confuse young readers. The typeface must be changed. A whole heap of work is left on this book!
I have never claimed to be good at proofing. I like editing, but I always use a proofer, paying for the services of one out of my money if there has been no allowance made for it in a project. But still, how do you miss these errors in 500 words and 24 pages?
Much praise is heaped upon my granddaughter. She suggests that she can do all proofing for me in the future.
Then my seven year-old grandson shouts that he has found an error.
"No, you haven't," we say.
After all, he is only seven, and the bright reader of chapter books has already 'shredded' the text.
"Yes!" he declares, "Carolyne is spelt Carolyne in most places, but there is one which is spelt Caroline."
We are all struck dumb. He is quite right. That is even worse than question marks and paragraphs. His mother asks if he read the story. No, he hasn't. He just checked all the Carolynes ( standard proofing procedure, but did we employ it for 500 words and 24 pages?) This is the boy who does Math exercises for fun, no doubt, hence the zeroing on the concept of checking one word throughout.
No, this is not an adoring Grandma post. I am not saying that my grandchildren are brilliant beyond words. I am not suggesting that you use your grandchildren for proofing, though it might not be a bad idea. Rather, it's a post to warn you about the importance of proofing, even of 500 words; the challenge of self-publishing - it is essential to use professionals even if you, yourself, are a professional, or perhaps because you are a professional, and too confident by far. (That's why you should also use an editor.) I tremble to think what might have happened, had I not unexpectedly (magically) come to Barbados. So now, do you believe in magic?
Also, I get a chance to tell you about the upcoming placing of The Happiness Dress on Amazon. However there will be more about that closer to the time.