[Author’s Note: we recommend reading this post only after having imbibed at least a triple-strength portion of your preferred caffeine-based beverage and propping each of your eyelids open with a matchstick.]
Self-publishing is power. The power to sidestep agents and traditional publishers. The power to it your way. But with power comes responsibility. You’re going to publish without a traditional publisher, so without all of the behind-the-scenes support that publishers employ before a product comes to market. In that case, there’s one thing you need to get yourself, apart from a reliable supply of happy pills. It costs nothing but your time and a small ability to make decisions. It can help your writing, your editing, and your proof-reading, so leaving your angst and self-torture to roam free over characterisation, plot and exposition. It’s called a House Style.
Each traditional publisher, whether of books, magazines or journalism, has a House Style, a document which states how certain words and phrases are always used in its publications. The main purpose is so that all writers, editors and proof-readers who work for it adhere to the same rules, and thus its readers come to expect and appreciate the same quality content. Fortunately you as the self-publishing writer do not have to contend with a small army of writing subordinates who all think they know how to write better than you. But by having your own House Style, by deciding how you’re going to use certain language items, you can ease your writing journey a little, and be more confident of bringing a good quality product to market.
Here are a few points I’ve found helpful to decide beforehand, rather than suddenly realising that I must make a decision about them just as I’m agonising over some other vital story problem. Decide these either when you begin writing or as a separate editing objective. What follows is by no means exhaustive; any proper House Style document will run to several thousand words, but I hope these results of my experiences may give you an idea of a few of the concomitant editorial issues that face every self-publisher. Continue reading “So what’s your House Style?”