The Eighth Error of Self-Publishing: Failure to Follow Conventions

There are certain standards established publishers follow. Though these conventions may seem arbitrary, a failure to follow them could make your book stand out in a bad way.

The Eighth Error of Self-Publishing: Failure to Follow ConventionsFor example:

  • On the cover, the author’s name stands alone without the word “By.”
  • Subtitles aren’t preceded by a colon but placed on a separate line from the title.
  • Chapters start on the right side, not the left.
  • The first paragraph of a chapter is not indented; the rest are.
  • Lines aren’t right justified.
  • Serif fonts are used; san serif fonts are not.
  • The page number, chapter title, and title appear on specific locations on each page.
  • It’s Acknowledgments not Acknowledgements.
  • The author writes the Preface.
  • The author does not write the Foreword (not Forward); someone else does.
  • It’s Prologue not Prolog.

Aside from issues of spelling for the last two items, I don’t know why or how these things became expected—or who decided on them in the first place. While I’ve seen all these conventions broken on occasion by established publishers, be aware that the less we adhere to these expectations, the more likely a book will just not “feel” right to a reader or potential buyer.

Personally, I’d like to break them all. But I won’t because I want my book to have the best chance of success. If I need to follow some arbitrary rules, I gladly will.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

The Seventh Error of Self-Publishing: Having a Homemade Look

To address the seventh of eight self-publishing errors, let’s take a step back. Let’s look at the bigger picture, that is, the book as a whole. Don’t self-published a book that looks homemade.

A book that looks homemade: The 7th Error of Self-PublishingIn years past, this may have included photocopied pages, a simplistic cover, spiral binding (or three-hole punched for a binder), 8 1/2 by 11 size, crooked pages, missing pages, or out of order pages. Some books suffered from all these production problems.

With advances in technology, these issues are in the past. However, we must still guard against producing a book that looks homemade. All of the prior six errors can point to a homemade look, but four in particular lead the way: a poor cover, lackluster editing, inadequate file conversion, and getting carried away with fonts. Other issues include simplistic graphics, low-resolution photos, and pixilated or distorted artwork.

We must still guard against producing a book that looks homemade. Click To Tweet

Individually, each of these errors is bad enough. But when combined, the evidence quickly builds that the book is homemade: a second-rate effort and not worthy of serious attention.

Consider deliberating over a book and the cover looks second rate. Then open it to find a typo on page one, be assaulted with different font types and sizes, and see a random paragraph start in midsentence. In all likelihood, we’ll dismiss the book—as well as the author—and proceed to another title.

Only if we want to support the author or have a deep interest in the topic will we condescend to buy a book that looks homemade.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

The Sixth Error of Self-Publishing: Font Abuse

I call the sixth error of self-publishing, font abuse. That not as prevalent and it once was, font abuse is using multiple font styles, with varying point sizes throughout a manuscript.The Sixth Error of Self-Publishing: FONT ABUSE

The author may view this as creative formatting, but the only thing it accomplishes is irritating the reader. At best, this barrage of fonts slows readers down; at worst, it causes them to stop reading altogether.

In one self-published book, the first page used four different fonts and even more point sizes for those fonts. There were words in bold, italic, and uppercase. It was a nightmare to read. Hoping it was an anomaly, I turned the page: two fonts, four points sizes, and some more italic formatting.

The variations in font shape and size repelled me. I didn’t want to read further. If I’d have pushed through, I’m sure a headache awaited me.

This was font abuse at its worse—and a telltale sign of a self-published book.

[The first five errors of self-publishing are poor content, cover, title, editing, and file conversion.]

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

The Fifth Error of Self-Publishing: Formatting Errors

If we avoid the first four errors of self-publishing (poor content, cover, title, and editing), we can still ruin our hard work with formatting errors. Just because a book looks good in Microsoft Word, doesn’t mean it’s going to convert nicely to an e-book. Even one conversion error will lower a reader’s esteem for our work; numerous ones will cause them to stop reading altogether.Formatting Errors: The 5th Error of Self-Publishing

Here are some formatting errors I’ve encountered with books. These mostly relate to e-books, but I’ve also seen some of them in printed books:

  • Missing paragraph indents: A new paragraph is not indented but is flush left.
  • Errant paragraph marks: A new paragraph starts mid-sentence.
  • Inconsistent paragraphs spacing: Some paragraphs have no space between them, while others have a full line—or more— between them.
  • Hyphenation problems: A hyphenated word appears in the middle of the line, instead of at the end. Sometimes there is a space after the hyphen.
  • Random font point variations: A sentence, phrase, word, or even letter is larger or smaller than the rest of the text around it.

Many of these formatting errors are more noticeable as we resize text in a reader. Regardless of how careful the file conversion is, we must read (not scan) the converted file to find mistakes. I’ve also noticed a disproportionate number of errors towards the end of books, suggesting that people stopped checking or got in a rush as they neared the end.We must read (not scan) the converted file to find mistakes Click To Tweet

Converting a file is tricky and checking the results is tedious, but these are critical steps if we are to produce a quality product with not formatting errors.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

The 4th Error of Self-Publishing: Poor Editing

After poor content, cover, and title, the fourth error is skipping or scrimping on the editing. Our books deserve quality editing.

Quality editing is essential. Although we can trade editing services with other writers or perhaps even find a qualified person who will do it for free, we usually need to pay for editing.I’ve never met anyone who could self-edit with complete success. Yes, some writers are better than others. And, with time, we can all improve our self-editing skills, but we will never catch every error in our own work.If we want our work to shine—and not pile up critical reviews – we need quality editing. Click To Tweet

We need others to edit for us—but not just anyone. Your aunt who’s good at English doesn’t count or your friend who likes to read. These folks might serve well as first-readers but not for a final edit.

Types of Quality Editing

Also, there are different types of edits—and we need them all. Depending on who you ask, there are at least three; they go by different names. One type looks at the big picture, addressing the overall concept and construction of the work. Another focuses on the book’s flow, from one chapter to the next, one scene to the next, and one sentence to the next. A third type fine-tunes the piece, considering grammar, word choice, typos, and punctuation. And there may be other types of edits, too.

Although we can trade editing services with other writers or perhaps even find someone who is qualified and willing to do it for free, we usually need to pay for editing at each level. This isn’t cheap, but if we want our work to shine—and not pile up critical reviews – we need quality editing.

What types of errors do you usually catch in your own work? Which ones do you tend to overlook?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

What’s the Deal with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)?

Discover How the GDPR Applies to Writers Outside the European Union

What’s the Deal with GDPR?

I don’t think anyone fully understands the practical implications of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) for the European Union. This post explores the GDPR as it relates to writers. (Reminder: I’m not a lawyer, and this isn’t legal advice; this is my opinion and understanding.)

As it applies to writers, the GDPR affects us if we have people from the European Union on our mailing list or maybe even if they visit our website.

Some people outside of Europe are choosing to remove all European subscribers from their mailing list, and others are deciding to ignore the law. Both are extreme responses.

As I understand it, the two main things that apply to us as writers are that when someone from the European Union gives us their email address, we must be clear what we will do with it, such as add them to our email newsletter list or send them periodic updates. Second, if they unsubscribe we must remove them immediately and remove all their information from our records, which would include backup files.

Email Marketing Providers Respond to GDPR

Our email marketing providers (MailChimp, ConvertKit, etc.) are making sure their systems comply with this regulation, and they will tell us what changes we need to do on our part to follow this law. This includes updating the wording on our opt-in message and our privacy statement on our website. Our email marketing providers are making sure their systems comply with the GDPR, and they will tell us what changes we need to do on our part to follow this law. Click To Tweet

Note that GDPR also applies to Book Funnel and other providers that gather email addresses for us.

Also, some people (but not me) think we need to provide notice to our website visitors from the European Union if our website uses cookies (most do). And that we must have all people from Europe (and unknown locations) re-subscribe to our mailing list. Sheesh!

A final thought is that some people consider that the GDPR will emerge as a best practice. As such, we should follow it for all our email subscribers and website visitors. I think this has some merit.

To learn more (then you want to know), do an internet search for GDPR.

But the short answer when it comes to GDPR is to do what your email marketing provider recommends.

The Third Error of Self-Publishing: A Lackluster Title

In past posts, we’ve covered the importance of content and cover. The next element is the book title.A Poor Book Title: The Third Error of Self-Publishing

People browsing books (be it online or in a bookstore) generally look at the cover first. If the cover grabs their attention, then they’ll read the title. If the title reinforces the cover or further interests them, then they’ll consider the book itself.The title contains the most important words of your entire book. Click To Tweet

The other way people select a book is by scanning titles (be it by keyword or a list within a category). The title must capture their attention: making the book’s content clear, being provocative or intriguing, or demanding additional consideration. If the title does one of these things, then they’ll see if the cover reinforces the book title. If so, they’ll give the book more consideration.

However, a lackluster title will end their deliberation; they’ll move on to the next title. Don’t let a weak, confusing, or unmemorable book title get in the way of someone making a purchase.

You’ve worked hard on your book; work even harder on its name. After all, the book title contains the most important words of your entire book.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

The Second Error of Self-Publishing: A Lousy Cover

Last week, I said that the primary error of self-publishing is poor content. The second error, almost as critical, is a lousy book cover. People do, quite literally, judge a book by its cover—and even more so when buying online.The Second Error of Self-Publishing: A Lousy Book Cover

Don’t Make Your Own Book Cover

Unless you make a living designing book covers—or have at least garnered enthusiastic compliments designing covers for others—then you shouldn’t design your own. Just because you have graphic design software, doesn’t mean you’re qualified to use it—any more than having word processing software makes someone a writer. And don’t tap your family and friends, either—unless they have a portfolio of covers to show you.

While every successful designer, at one time, designed his or her first cover, don’t let it be your cover. Go with a seasoned professional. You can find them online.

Some people will design a cover on spec (which is a controversial subject, but it is an option nonetheless).Your book deserves the best possible cover. Click To Tweet

Hire a Book Cover Designer

Otherwise you can hire a cover designer. In picking the right designer from a slew of options, consider their past work. Do you like it? Would you buy that book based on the cover? Does their work fit your genre?

Discount cover designs start at about $100, but $300 to $400 is more typical, with some designers charge upwards of a couple thousand. While you don’t want to pay too much for a great cover, don’t take the cheapest option either. Your book deserves the best possible cover, so don’t be reluctant to pay for it. Your book sales depend on it.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

The Main Problem with Self-Publishing is Poor Content

I’ve read many self-published books and looked at even more. Too many of them scream “Self-published!” This distresses me. I love self-publishing and the many options it offers, but I loathe seeing it done poorly. This begins a series of posts on the Errors of Self-Publishing.The main problem of self-publishing is poor content

The primary error of self-publishing is poor content

This is the quickest way to doom a book to failure. Doing everything else right cannot overcome inferior material, be it bad writing, a weak concept, or a flawed storyline or structure.

Bad Writing: Everyone can write, but not many can write well, and only a few can write great. And it takes great writing to succeed. Too many (perhaps most) self-published writers publish too soon. They need to hone their craft and polish their work first.

Weak Concept: Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, a shoddy premise won’t hold readers’ attention. A memoir detailing everything the author eats for a year won’t fly. A novel about a lazy dog that sleeps too much won’t garner attention. An academic treatise on the 97 reasons why people need to dream won’t gain traction.

Flawed Storyline or Structure: I’ve seen all kinds of errors in books. In novels, storyline flaws include impossible actions, unrealistic plot twists, unexplained character shifts, and conflicts that never existed or resolve themselves. In non-fiction, structure flaws include failing to follow the book’s stated premise, presenting fiction as fact, not fact checking, logic errors, and inconsistent presentation.

Having great content is the first key to self-publishing success.

I encourage authors to consider self-publishing, while at the same time I beg them to do professionally. This starts with great content.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Quotes from Great Writers: Learn, Grow, and Write

Great writers can teach us about writing and inspire us to write with excellence

Here are some of my favorite quotes from great writers and other famous people:

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” -Flannery O’Connor

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” -Muriel Rukeyser

“Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.” -Marc Brown

“A word has power in and of itself. It comes from nothing into sound and meaning; it gives origin to all things.” -N. Scott Momaday

“If the real world were a book, it would never find a publisher. Overlong, detailed to the point of distraction-and ultimately, without a major resolution.” -Jasper Fforde

“Never give up…No one knows what’s going to happen next.” -L. Frank Baum

“Not all those who wander are lost.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

“Humanity lives in its fiction.” -Blaise Cendrars

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” -A.A. Milne

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” -Kurt Vonnegut

“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” -Herman Melville

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be.” -Abraham Maslow

“If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.” -Juan Ramon Jimenez

“One day I was speeding along at the typewriter, and my daughter—who was a child at the time—asked me, ‘Daddy, why are you writing so fast?’ And I replied, ‘Because I want to see how the story turns out!’” -Louis L’Amour

“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?” -Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin

I hope you enjoyed these quotes from great writers and other famous people. May these writing quotes inspire you to write with more joy and purpose.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Discussing the art of writing and the business of publishing

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