Category Archives: Publishing

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!

What Are the Chief Weakness of Self-Published Books

As I read more and more self-published books, I’m dismayed over a reoccurring theme: many lack robust editing. That’s not to imply these works had no editing at all, most did. It’s just that they lacked full editing.Edit type 1 through 4: Do all four

The first reminder to every writer is we can’t truly edit our own work. True, we must self-edit, but we delude ourselves if we think we’ll catch every error. Traditional publishers subject books to multiple edits before publication. To do our work justice, self-published works deserve the same scrutiny.

Though the names vary and their definitions sometimes overlap or even contradict, I’ll share four types of edits, using generic labels.As an author, we need to double-check our facts, especially when we self-publish. Click To Tweet

Edit Type 1: Fact Checking

As an author, we need to double-check our facts, especially when we self-publish. It’s possible that someone else may catch our errors, but more likely they’ll just assume what we wrote is correct. One book had the protagonist make a 200 mile drive in 90 minutes. Oops. Another common mistake is relying on memory for historic information. Don’t do that; I always verify, even when I’m sure I’m right.

Edit Type 2: Macro Edit

Sometimes called developmental or substantive editing, whatever name this edit goes by, the intent is to look at the big picture of the book. Is the overall structure sound, the organization good, and the flow understandable? I’m currently reading a memoir and the author’s timeline jumps all over the place, often backwards and forwards, several times within each chapter, making the chronology overwhelming to follow. Other considerations are if the right style is used or if the voice matches the genre and supports the story or theme. A “macro edit” addresses all these concerns.

Edit Type 3: Intermediate Edit

The next level, often called copy editing, of edit takes a closer look at the flow and structure, from paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence, and thought to thought. Does the writing make sense?

Edit Type 4: Micro Edit

The final edit, usually called proofreading, looks at grammar, punctuation, and the technical details. I read one book that had a quality “micro edit” but lacked any other editing—and the work suffered as a result.

Paying others to edit our work when we self-publish is expensive, but our readers deserve no less and our career demands 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!

E-Book Challenges: 5 Things That Are Hard To Do In E-Books

Last week I posted Five Things You Can Do With E-Books. Today I consider their limitations. Here are my top e-book challenges:E-Book Challenges: 5 Things That Are Hard To Do In E-Books

Footnotes

If a book needs references, I prefer footnotes to endnotes. However, with the font resizing aspect of e-book readers, displaying footnotes are challenging at best and impossible at worst.

Charts and Tables

Including a text-based graph, chart, or table in an e-book is problematic. When a reader changes the font size, these elements will also be adjusted. Once resized they can go from functional to unreadable. Compounding the problem is that each device will render them differently. Straight text just reflows; specially formatted words become convoluted.

Artwork and Graphics

Any non-text image, such as photos, pictures, line art, figures, or graphics solve the issues caused by changing the font size. But they create another problem. Their size is fixed, so if they are too small on a certain device, they cannot be enlarged. This makes their inclusion more frustrating than helpful. 5 things that are difficult to do in an e-book. Click To Tweet

Fixed Formatting

The PDF version of my book How Big Is Your Tent?, for example, contains special formatting to give readers a unique reading experience. Some text is left justified, other lines are centered, and, some words are to the far right. Other times, successive lines each contain one additional indent to present a staggered appearance. Also, by design, certain concepts are self-contained on one page. None of these formatting decisions can be retained in an e-book, as adjusting the font size messes up all of these layout choices.

Color or Not

E-books with color may disappoint readers using monochrome devices. Conversely, e-books in black and white will limit the experience of readers with color devices. These e-book challenges are a conundrum for e-book publishers.

What else is difficult to do in an e-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!

Five Things You Can Do With E-Books

There is some writing that we almost never see in printed form, due to its length, content, format, market size, or other factors. When it comes to e-books these are no longer issues.Five Things You Can Do With E-Books

Here are five things we can do with e-books that we seldom see in print.

Novellas

A novella is a work of fiction that falls into the gap between a short story (under 7,500 words) and a novel (over 40,000 words). Novellas are too long for a magazine or literary journal but too short to meet the physical requirements of a printed book. When it comes to an e-book, length doesn’t matter.With e-books, our work can reach an even larger audience and then be fine-tuned. Click To Tweet

Serial Fiction

We all have TV shows we love to watch. We anticipate the next episode to see what happens next. What about books? Yes, the same applies, but waiting a year or more for the next book is agonizing. What if we can read stories in installments or episodes? Although some magazines do this, it’s not too common.

E-books are the answer. Imagine unveiling a 5,000 to 10,000 word e-book every month or so. Just like a TV show, there needs to be a self-contained story that is resolved and a larger story that advances with each installment. We can include cliffhangers and even write seasons.

Poetry

Although there are books of poetry, they’re not too common—unless the author is famous. Most poets toil in obscurity, with few readers ever seeing their work. An e-book solves that. I’m not much of a poet, but if I was (or when I am), an e-book will be the way to go.

Short Story Collections

Yes, printed books of short stories do exist, but they’re not common and are often anthologies or by well-known authors. For most writers, a printed collection of their short stories is a dream that will go unmet. E-books solve that.

Test Marketing

Most authors have critique partners (who give initial input on a book) and beta readers (who help fine-tune things further), but even so, these readers may offer conflicting advice or may not uncover all a book’s issues.

With e-books, our work can reach an even larger audience and then be fine-tuned. That doesn’t mean publishing junk or half-baked ideas. The e-book needs to be the best we can make it. But if corrections are needed, e-publishing makes them easy to accomplish.

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!

Three Perspectives on Hybrid Authors

Be a hybrid author: 3 perspective to considerA hybrid author is someone who uses both traditional publishing and self-publishing. Though the reasons for pursuing this dual approach are many, there are two base motivations: more sales or more income.

Generally, traditionally published books are better vetted, have higher quality, enjoy wider distribution, and produce more sales.

The benefits of self-publishing tend to be faster publication, more author control, greater profit per sale, and much faster access to profits.

1) Author Perspective of being a Hybrid Author

For the author, self-publishing some books, while traditionally publishing others, offers the best of both worlds. Taking the hybrid approach results in dual revenue streams and potentially more books on the market with greater readership. And at its base level, isn’t that what every author wants: more readers and the chance to earn a living?

2) Publisher Perspective for a Hybrid Author

Publishers can have many worries about authors who take the hybrid approach. From a macro standpoint, more self-publishing means less traditional publishing—and that’s bad for the industry.

From a practical assessment, authors who also self-publish divide their focus, time, and energy between two or more projects. This suggests they spend less time writing, so the quality may not be as good. They may have less time to promote their traditionally published books because they spend more time promoting their self-published works. They could damage their reputation if their self-published books are not as good. Also, they could confuse their audience (be it called their community, platform, or tribe) if they publish in multiple genres, use different styles, or target different readers.

3) Enlightened Publisher Perspective for a Hybrid Author

While all these publisher concerns are valid, an alternate view is that if these risks can be minimized or controlled, the result can be a larger author platform, a better reputation, and the likelihood of selling more of the author’s traditionally published books.A hybrid author is someone who uses both traditional publishing and self-publishing. Click To Tweet

To do this, traditional publishers can offer their authors career advice and strategic planning for all their books. They can encourage their authors to pursue greater quality in their self-published works, even to the point of letting them tap into their network of freelance editors, designers, and marketers.

When done wisely, hybrid authors can benefit themselves as well as their traditional publishers.

[Also consider hybrid publishing.]

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 Next For the Publishing Industry?

The Publishing Industry Is Changing

In round numbers, five hundred years ago the world witnessed the invention of the printing press, changing the way people communicated. This innovation (along with advances in shipbuilding) ushered in the modern era. There’s a definite connection between the printing press and modernity. What's next for the publishing industry?

Though the technology of printing has advanced greatly in the intervening five centuries, the modern publishing industry has changed little.The publishing industry of tomorrow will have little semblance with its predecessor from yesteryear. It will emerge newer, better, and more exciting. Click To Tweet

Currently, the modern era is yielding to the postmodern era. One of the chief catalysts of this transition is the Internet. The Internet is to postmodernity as the printing press was to modernity.

The Publishing Industry In the Postmodern Era

With this transition, the publishing industry is undergoing dramatic changes, a transformation that literally happens once every half a millennium. However, the postmodern era and the Internet that facilitated it, does not portend the end of publishing but merely its rebirth.

The publishing industry of tomorrow will have little semblance with its predecessor from yesteryear. It will emerge newer, better, and more exciting – for all who are willing to embrace change and hang on for a wild transition.

I, for one, am giddy with excitement.

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!

Four Ways to Stay Informed About Book Publishing

In the world of book publishing, if we blink, something’s apt to change. Every day there seems to be a new option, a different twist, or better pricing. The best solution for a particular situation soon yields to an even better answer—often within months or even weeks.Four Ways to Stay Informed About Book Publishing

Publishing books becomes an art of aiming at a moving target, a goal that ebbs and flows at the pace of a changing tide. New vendors emerge and existing players develop innovations to target a different niche.

How’s a person to keep up?

1. Join Industry Associations

Groups of like-minded individuals offer the means to stay abreast of changing conditions. Members share news and ideas with each other. It’s an easy way to be informed, although merely joining a group isn’t enough; participation is required.

2. Read Blogs

Find and follow blogs, podcasts, and v-blogs of thought leaders and news aggregators. They’re plenty to choose from; pick ones with a voice you like and a perspective you respect. Ironically, reading books about publishing is not the answer; things change too quickly. Even e-books risk being out of date by the time they reach us.

3. Network

Connect with others. The goal is to listen and to share. Benefits abound when giving, even more so than when receiving.

4. Ask Questions

Requesting advice in a respectful way usually results in new information to consider. People enjoy it when we seek them out and usually offer their opinions to sincere questions. We honor them when we listen to what they say. As a writer, the key is to always be in a learning mode. Don’t become complacent. Click To Tweet

The key is to always be in a learning mode; don’t become complacent, thinking you’ve figured out all the answers. Never disregard a vendor or idea as not viable. In a moment it could become the exact solution we seek.

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!

Three Possible Problems with Self-Published Books

Self-published Book Problems

Self-published books carry a stigma of poor quality: weak writing, shoddy editing, second-rate production, and a product that often screams “amateur.” Unfortunately, this perception stems from the growing evidence provided by many self-published works. Though not all self-published books are substandard, too many are.Self-Published Book Problems: 3 common mistakes to fix

Here are thee examples self-published book problems from some of my recent reads:

1. A Lack of Editing

This printed book had a nice cover and looked professional. It unveiled a pleasing storyline and contained no errors (at least that I noticed). What it needed, however, was a thorough copy-edit, as there were continuity issues, implausible events, and an impossible timeline.

Also, the author tied up every loose end to produce a fairytale conclusion for most every character. Despite much promise, the journey was unsatisfying.

2. The Rough Draft

This novella-length e-book had a decent title and acceptable cover. The story line was intriguing—and those were the good points. It had significant issues with flow and continuity, but worse yet, I felt I was reading a first draft.

To its credit, the book had a killer surprise ending I never saw coming and delighted me immensely. But, unless someone options this for a movie (which could happen), I see no value to this book—either commercial or literary.

3. Missing Substance

A third book had none of these shortcomings. Well written, it benefited from careful editing and proofreading. The author had an enjoyable voice and wonderful concept.

What this book needed, however, was more substance and the removal of some idealistic recommendations that surely no one would follow. Though the majority of the book had value, the impractical parts threatened to overshadow the rest. Your self-published book must avoid these three problems. Click To Tweet

This isn’t to imply all self-published books are bad. There are good self-published books out there, which don’t suffer from these self-published book problems. They contain no consequential flaws and are enjoyable or valuable to read.

Unfortunately, in my experience, good self-published books are not as common as they could and should be.

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!