With self-publishing now easier than ever, only one voice holds back most aspiring writers. This voice, Self-Doubt, tempers writers’ enthusiasm with a tough dilemma – “What if it sucks? What if it’s so dumb, so banal, or so pointless that it poisons any chance of a career?” In my mind, this voice won for years over the voice of my Muse, who whispered “Write! Share! Now!” Last year, the Muse lost patience, as more and more seedlings of ideas took root within my mind. Finally, the Muse began outshouting Self-Doubt, and I couldn’t ignore either voice any longer. I was left with this classic dilemma – which voice is right, the one that urges me to share and be damned, or the one that demands a more cautious approach?
The best answer I've found? Share polished work, enjoy sharing, and accept that despite best efforts, sometimes it can still suck. Self-Publishing offers unique ways for readers and publishers to connect - authors can set prices and offer books for free to gather fans and reviews, and can reward those fans with special offers, contests, and other goodies. If the work needs further editing, most ebook publishers offer something that traditional publishers aren't ever likely to - the ability to revise already-published work. This does not mean you should go at it half-assed and wait for reviews to set you straight. It means that you can share your works with friends and writing circles before publishing, use feedback, and proofread as much as possible within reasonable time limits. I go with one month limits for short stories and flash fiction, and I'd say one to two years of proofreading should work for most novel-length fiction. Once the time is up, publish, no matter what Self-Doubt screams at you. You will get negative feedback - this happens to every single writer, regardless of skill or experience. You will also get positive reviews - maybe not as many, but they will come. You also have to think about the time readers spent to create either kind of review - during that time, your work took root in their minds, for better or worse. You will have what your Muse truly wanted - a captive audience.
What's your own answer to this dilemma? How much proofreading is 'enough' before sharing your work?