There’s a quote attributed to baseball great Joe DiMaggio that I discovered recently that resounded in me. He was once asked why he always played so hard in every game. DiMaggio replied, “There may be some kid in the stands who’s seeing me or the first time, or maybe the last, and I don’t want to disappoint him.”
I think that, as artists, we should abide by the same work ethic. We don’t know if someone seeing our work is seeing it for the first time, or maybe the last. We should make a good impression, a lasting impression. This is why our final product, the piece we put out there for the world to see, should be the best we can provide.
That’s one of the things about the self-publishing world, I don’t think we always get the best final product. I’m more selective about the books I buy than my partner is, and she’s run into all sorts of typos and weird formatting in the e-books she reads. And not just simple mistakes – a misplaced apostrophe or a single misspelling – but entire paragraphs missing, or blank pages where none should be, or fonts changing mid-sentence.
From a reader’s perspective, this would put me off buying another book by that author. To me, it shows they didn’t take the time needed to provide a clean final copy. Laziness? Didn’t care? Or did they put the work off on someone else and didn’t follow up afterward to ensure they did a good job? Could be any of the aforementioned.
And I’ll be the first to admit, it’s happened to me. I’ve submitted stories to editors only to be told later there were typos. That’s incredibly embarrassing and, in my case, I felt it was unprofessional of me to submit something that had obvious errors. Having worked on the editor side of publishing, I can forgive simple mistakes. It happens. No one is perfect and, as I’ve written here before, perfection is boring. If the story is amazing, then it’s much easier to forgive a misspelling or three.
But after reading the quote from DiMaggio, I’m looking at my writing from a different angle. Sure, I always try to do my best to tell a good story, to entertain my readers, maybe make them think differently for a while. But making an impression, either first or last, makes me want to try harder, not just in my storytelling but also in my presentation.
Here’s the thing – making a good impression means not only can you hook a reader, but that reader will then tell another reader, and so on and so on. Even if it’s a last good impression, that impression will stick with the reader. They’ll carry it with them even if they never read another thing you’re written. And in doing so, they will still probably tell others about your work. It’s a win-win situation.
Remember, you always want to do your best. Not just for you, but for the person who spent their money on your book.