Category Archives: Publishing

The Main Problem with Self-Publishing is Poor Content

The main problem of 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 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

Edit type 1 through 4: Do all four

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.

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 backward 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

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:

Footnotes

If a book needs references, I prefer footnotes to endnotes. However, with the font resizing aspect of e-book readers, displaying footnotes is 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!

Check Out the Legal Handbook for Authors

Self-Published Author and Business Attorney Writes Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook

Self Publisher’s Legal Handbook by Helen Sedwick

Helen Sedwick, a self-published author, and business attorney, shares vital legal information for all writers whether self-published, traditionally published, or not-yet-published. Billed as “the step-by-step guide to protecting your copyright, avoiding scams and lawsuits, [and] maximizing tax deductions” Legal Handbook answers questions that most authors struggle with and corrects common misinformation.

Though the Self Publisher’s Legal Handbook is most helpful to authors who want to self-publish, it is a primer for writers in the earlier stages of their careers and offers practical advice to traditionally published authors as well. Each of the book’s eleven chapters shares critical counsel, moving a writer through the process of publishing a book. But don’t wait until you have a book ready to publish before you read this one. If you do you will miss essential recommendations that are relevant as you write and even as you prepare to write. Skipping these steps, or delaying them, will only put your work in jeopardy and slow down your progress.The Self Publisher’s Legal Handbook is an investment in your future as a writer. Click To Tweet

Among the many indispensable insights included in the Legal Handbook are how to properly deal with images in your blog and book, what copyright means and how to protect your rights, book contract gotchas, avoiding defamation claims, handling taxes, avoiding publishing scams, social media pitfalls, and setting up your business. Yes, if we take our writing seriously or plan to self-publish our book, we need to treat writing as a business. This isn’t to constrain us but to free us from legal worries, tax issues, and lopsided publishing contracts.

Reading the Self Publisher’s Legal Handbook is an investment in your future, your future as a writer. Don’t put it off.

What legal concerns do you have about writing and publishing? What worries do you have about self-publishing? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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!

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Becoming a Hybrid Author: A Case Study of Author Robin Mellom

Becoming a Hybrid Author: A Case Study of Author Robin Mellom

Fellow writer and cyber-friend Robin Mellom just self-published her new book, Perfect Timing. I first heard about Robin through Writer’s Digest when they highlighted her as a debut novelist for her book, Ditched, a YA (young adult) romantic comedy. Although intrigued, I figured I was too old to read YA, but soon the compelling storyline wooed me back. Eventually, I bought Ditched and read it; then I read it again; then I looked for more of Robin’s work.

Alas, she had no more YA titles. Though she did have a middle-grade series, Classroom, I said I wouldn’t read them. Junior High wasn’t a good time for me, and I didn’t want to go back. So I waited for her next YA book – and I waited. Finally, desperate for more of her witty humor, I relented and dove into the first three books in her Classroom series. I’m glad I did!

Her next YA book was written, but her publisher wasn’t interested (shortsighted on their part) and her agent couldn’t find anyone else who would bite (a bad move on their part). She considered self-publishing, and I encouraged her to go for it. It must be many other people did, too, because the next thing I knew, she self-published Perfect Timing as a Kindle e-book. I devoured it in two days. In case it’s not clear, I’m a fan of Robin’s and am even on her mailing list.

She also apparently got the rights back for Ditched, because she just self-published an updated version, retitled as Perfect Kiss,  complete with a new cover. I bought and am reading that, too. I’m interested in seeing how it differs from the original version.

However, with these two self-published works, Robin has not made the switch to pure indie author. Instead she is doing what many authors are now doing. She has become a hybrid author, self-publishing some books, while going the traditional publishing route on others. From a traditional publisher, her fourth middle-grade book, The Classroom: When Nature Calls, Hang Up! is due out in June, and I hear a children’s picture book is in the works. So she’s breaking from another long-held publishing tradition, too, proving an author can successfully write for multiple audiences.

As authors in the ever-changing book publishing world, we need to not fixate on one way to publish our work. We must consider all our options and do what makes the most sense for our careers and our audience – just like Robin.

Check out Robin Mellom’s books:

Ditched
The Classroom (The Epic Documentary of a Not-Yet-Epic Kid)
The Classroom: Student Council Smackdown!
The Classroom Trick Out My School!
The Classroom: When Nature Calls, Hang Up!
Perfect Timing (originally known as Busted)
Perfect Kiss (formerly Ditched)

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 Will Book Publishing Look Like in 2015?

I’m bullish about publishing books. Yes, the industry is changing rapidly, but change means opportunity. Though I don’t feel qualified to predict what book publishing will look like in the future, or even next year, I do know one place to look.

The December 2014 issue of Book Business tapped industry experts to contemplate the future of book publishing. While some items discussed were broad, philosophical strategic visions, others were more practical.

The cover story, “The Big Ideas Shaping Book Publishing,” featured ten experts who weighed in on various topics. I most appreciated Caleb Mason’s submission, “Bringing Instincts Back to Acquisitions,” which should be welcome news to every frustrated writer.

Equally insightful is the interview with Rick Joyce, titled “Battling the Homogenization of Books.” Among other topics, he discussed digital media, data collection, pursuing niche audiences (a personal favorite), selecting the right social media platform, and book discovery.

If you want to get a glimpse of what the future may look like or want to help shape your own book publishing strategies, check out the December 2014 issue of Book Business.

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 Ultimate Self-Publishing Guide

The Ultimate Self-Publishing Guide

There are many good (and some not so good) resources that cover self-publishing. Some of these are in the form of books, others as podcasts, and more as blog posts, all from industry insiders.

By far the best one I’ve seen is the book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch. As the APE acronym implies, the book contains three parts. The middle section, P for Publisher, covers self-publishing, giving a thorough explanation of all aspects.

While the coverage stops short of being comprehensive—an all-inclusive manual would be both unwieldy and immediately out-of-date—it offers the best self-publishing resource available. Guy and Shawn share detailed information on the options available to self-publishers, based on research that would be too time-consuming for most people to amass.

APE is an essential guide for the beginner and intermediate level of self-publishers. Even the experienced self-publisher is sure to pick up some new ideas and pointers. Though I wouldn’t advise anyone to skip the author section, for those with a publication-ready book, the publisher section may be the place to start.

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!

Going APE Over Guy Kawasaki

I don’t normally mention books I haven’t read, but after hearing a podcast with the iconic Guy Kawasaki about his new book, I’ll make an exception. Guy’s latest contribution to society is APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book. Can you see why I’m mentioning it?

APE is an acronym for Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur, representing the three steps or phases in self-publishing a book. Each step is progressively harder, with the writing phase being the easiest and the entrepreneur needs to focus on the business side of the product, including promotion.

According to Amazon, APE, first released on January 7, 2013, has already undergone an update, with version 1.2 available since March 5.

Not only is APE on my reading wish list,but it’s also at the top.

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!