Tag Archives: book cover

Three Possible Problems with Self-Published Books

Self-published Book Problems

Self-Published Book Problems: 3 common mistakes to fix

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.

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 I 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 almost every character. Despite many promise, the journey was unsatisfying.

2. The Rough Draft

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

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

Self-Published Authors Need to be Entrepreneurs

Being a self-published author requires a lot of hard work but offers great rewards

Self-Published Author: Your book is a product for you to produce and sell.

In the rapidly changing world of book publishing, an emerging reality is that a self-published author needs to be ab entrepreneur. Writing a great book is not enough; penning compelling content is only the first step.

Authors who desire to self-publish their work need to view their book as a product and themselves as an entrepreneur; they must develop, execute, and fund a business plan for each book they write and publish.

The self-published author, perhaps better called an indie author, becomes a production manager. This is analogous to a general contractor overseeing the construction of a house, in this case, his or her own house.

So it is with self-publishing. The self-published author/entrepreneur/general contractor needs to direct, oversee, and pay for:

  • Developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading.
  • Cover design
  • Interior layout
  • E-book conversion
  • Printing
  • A publicist
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Advertising
  • Distribution

They must also:

  • Pay all the above vendors before any money comes in.
  • Conduct market research.
  • Handle book returns and technical issues with the delivery of e-books.
  • Collect payments and deal with bad debt (the people who don’t pay what they owe).
  • Set up a business and all that it entails, including licensing, legal structure, payment of taxes and fees, completing required forms and reports, and so forth

As these lists reveal, being successful in self-publishing, aka indie-publishing, requires a lot of work. For the non-business minded, these tasks may loom as overwhelming, sucking the life from your writing and out of your life.

As a self-published author, you are in control. Click To Tweet

However, for entrepreneurial-minded authors, these activities are invigorating, which offers great potential and reward. The personality and strengths of each writer will determine if the self-publishing road is the right road to take.

As a self-published author, you are in control. You can pick your book title and have the final say over your cover. You set the production schedule and publishing date. You decide how to promote your book, and you can change course and adjust pricing anytime you wish. Your future resides in your hands—not with some publishing company.

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!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

Five Reasons a Writer Should Pursue a Traditional Publishing Deal

Five Reasons a Writer Should Go With a Traditional Publisher

The Benefits of Going with a Traditional Publisher

In “Why Self-publishing vs Traditional Publishing Doesn’t Matter” I pointed out that both options have the potential to satisfy the core needs of a writer seeking publication. Writers must carefully consider the pros and cons of each option before pursuing either one. Future posts will consider some of these issues.

To start the discussion, here are five reasons why a writer should go with a traditional publisher:

1. Wider Distribution

Traditional publishers have distribution avenues that are effectively not available to self-published books. Sure, there are work-around solutions, but they’re limited and require much time and effort. Traditional publishers handle the distribution, easy peasy.

2. An Advance

Traditional publishers provide an advance. While the advances are getting smaller, they still exist. Self-publishers never receive an advance. In fact, self-publishing costs money, so it’s like a negative advance.

3. More Prestige

An author of a traditionally published book earns greater respect and garners more esteem.

4. Higher Quality

Traditional publishers generally produce a higher quality product. There are more eyes looking at it to catch errors and make it the best they can.

5. They Do the Heavy Lifting

What about e-books, hardcover and paperback, press releases, cover designs, ISBN, bar codes, back cover material, and author photos? A traditional publisher handles all these items. There’s nothing for the author to master or worry about; traditional publishers make it happen.

Five reasons why a writer should go with a traditional publisher. Click To Tweet

Traditional Publisher versus Self-Publishing

Given all this, why would anyone want to self-publish? Next week, we’ll consider why.

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!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

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9 Keys to Self-Publishing Success

It’s never been easier to publish a book, but that doesn’t mean we should

Self-published book

I once read a self-published book, a novella. I read it for several reasons: it was recommended (which turned out to be a bad reason), it would be a quick read, I’d never read a novella, and it was free (I got what I paid for).

On the plus side, the opening captured my attention, the storyline was intriguing, and the ending was a delightful surprise. On the negative side, the book did not flow smoothly, was poorly edited (or not edited at all), contained many errors, and was poorly converted into e-book format. Overall, the great ending did not overcome all the negative elements.

Self-Published Book Success

For a self-published book to be successful, it needs what all great books need:

1. A Promising Idea

If you don’t have a great story idea or theme, don’t start writing. This novella did, but its implementation fell short.

2. A Compelling Opening (a Hook)

The opening didn’t grab me, but it was sufficient to make me want to read more.

3. Great Writing

I felt I was reading a rough draft. Elements of good writing were present, but they were too sparse to be effective.

4. Professional Editing

The novella may have been self-edited (never a wise idea) or done so on the cheap, but the result wasn’t even close to professional. While publishing perfection is hard to achieve (if not impossible) the goal should be to get as close as possible.

5. A Satisfying Ending

The ending of the novella was superb. It was the most notable element of the work. But one good line does not make a good book.

6. A Memorable Title

Some titles are hard to forget and others are hard to remember. I can’t recall this novella’s title.

7. An Attention-Grabbing Cover

The cover didn’t hurt the book, but it didn’t help either. If I were judging this book by its cover, I would have passed.

8. A Pleasing Layout

In print, a self-published book shouldn’t look self-published. (We can’t always define it, but we know it when we see it).

In electronic form, the formatting should flow smoothly with no glitches, misplaced text, bad alignment, or floating words or titles. In any good book, the interior design should be innocuous.

When people notice the layout it becomes a distraction.

9. Effective Marketing

The above items all relate to the quality of the product. (There are more elements to consider, but these are the main ones.) A quality product requires effective marketing. A stellar book with no sales will not be a success, nor will great marketing of lousy writing work out.

Before you self-publish your book, make sure you include these 9 requirements. Click To Tweet

If you’re considering self-publishing, be it in print or e-book, make sure you cover all nine of these items before proceeding. Your book’s success will depend on it.

Bonus Content

Here’s a resource I recommend from Jerry Jenkins, How to Publish a 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!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

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Researching Competitive Titles

Competitive Titles

A common part of many book proposals is a “competitive works” section. I recently researched competitive titles for one of my book proposals. What I saw enlightened me.

Traditionally Published Books

To research competitive titles, I first looked at books from traditional publishers. They gave me pause. I had to think a bit to determine how my book was different and how it would stand out. This challenged me, but it was good exercise.

Each book was impressive: an attractive cover, nice title, a great concept or theme where the content flowed nicely, and professional editing and formatting. However, I didn’t think about any of these qualities at first. I expected these characteristics. Since they met my expectations, I gave these traits no thought—until I looked at some indie-published books.Our finished product must look like a traditionally published book if we hope for folks to take it seriously. Click To Tweet

Indie-Published Print Books

Next, in my competitive titles research, I looked at some print books that were indie-published. At first glance, the covers were of similar quality and the titles were almost as good.

The content, however, was not the same. The concept of these books was lacking and their execution, disappointing. Also, the writing wasn’t nearly as good. One didn’t even appear to have been edited, with sloppy formatting and missing words—and that from reading less than one page. The fault in all this is not is a tool they used to publish the book. It is the author. If you put garbage into the tool, you get garbage out of it.

Indie-Published E-Books

Last, in my competitive titles research, I considered a pair of indie-published e-books. They offered no print options.

These suffered even more. Their covers weren’t as good, and their concept was questionable. As far as the writing, the interior layout was so bad that I couldn’t force myself to read it. I didn’t include them in my “competitive works” section because I didn’t view them as competition, merely a distraction.

Takeaway

From all this, I’m reminded, once again, that indie-publishing (self-publishing) is an attractive option and an affordable solution when traditional publishers take a pass on our books. While this could be for reasons outside of our control, it might also be that our content is ill-conceived or our book still needs work. Sometimes this is hard to determine, especially after we’ve poured ourselves into writing it.

Regardless, if we choose to indie-publish, we need to keep in mind that our finished product must look like a traditionally published book if we hope for folks to take it seriously.

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!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

Great Article on Book Cover Design

Book Cover Design

Several years ago, Karen Saunders wrote an excellent article “How to Make a Book Cover Design that Flies Off the Shelf!” Today, her suggestions are still just as valid.

However, there is the one I would elevate in importance: “Seek the services of an experienced book cover designer.” I don’t view this as an option or a suggestion but as a requirement. Of course, I have no illusions about my graphic design abilities, so it is easy for me to say everyone should hire a professional book cover designer.

The only thing I might add to her excellent recommendations is to create a cover that looks great as a thumbnail. This is because most people browsing online only look at the thumbnail of the cover, not the actual cover. When you shop online, do you judge a book by its thumbnail? Click To Tweet

Instead of judging a book by its cover, they actually judge a book by the thumbnail of its cover. Make sure the title in the thumbnail is clear and easy to read. Next, ensure the reduced size graphics still communicate your intended message.

“Book cover design,” she says in conclusion “is a form of packaging.” Make sure to present your book in the best possible package.

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!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

The Two Extremes of Self-Publishing: Both Are Wrong

The Two Extremes of Self-Publishing: Both Are Wrong

With changes in publishing and advances in technology, it’s never been easier to publish a book. This isn’t to imply publishing a book is easy, just that the barriers are disappearing and the costs are dropping. This emerging reality leads to two extremes of self-publishing for do-it-yourself authors who want to publish their books.

Extremes of Self-Publishing: Full Speed Ahead

Seeing it’s within their power to publish their books, some eager authors take the shortest (or the cheapest) path possible to place their books in print, be it on paper or a reading device. The casualty is quality: they make their own cover, skip peer review, bypass professional editing, don’t consider the need for interior design, and fail to pick the best possible title. The middle space between these two extremes is the best way to publish books and connect with receptive readers. Click To Tweet

The result is they see their book published quickly—and it’s terrible. It is amateurish, few people will buy it, and even fewer will read it. Those who wade threw it will give it one star and a terrible review.

This makes it harder for others who self-publish to gain respect and sell books; they are guilty by association.

Extremes of Self-Publishing: Do Everything Perfect

The other extreme is those authors who desire to produce the best possible book. They survey their followers to find the ideal title, hire a designer for their cover, tap a professional editor to copy-edit and proofread the book, and use someone to do the interior layout.

Along the way, they consider every option for distribution and promotion, looking at the pros and cons of each possibility, comparing risks with rewards. They know they will only be able to launch their book once and want to make sure it’s perfect.

The result is the plethora of ever-changing options will paralyze them from taking action. They will never actually publish their book, because there will always be one more opportunity to explore. Then no one will be able to read their book, because they will never get around to publishing it.

Both extremes of self-publishing are in error.

Authors must resist the urge to race unrestrained towards their goal; they must also fight to not fall victim to the paralysis of perfection. The middle space between these two extremes is the best way to publish books and connect with receptive readers.

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!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

Why We Should Always Have Four Books in Our Book Pipeline

Writers: How many books do you have in your book pipeline?

Some authors start writing their book, focus on it until completion, work to publish it, and then promote it. Then they start their next book—assuming they have an idea for one. They have one book in their book pipeline.

Other authors are working on so many books that it’s hard to accomplish anything. I fall into that trap. I have about a dozen books in various phases of development. In reality, the number is much higher. It is insane. How many books are you presently writing? What do you think about having a book pipeline? Click To Tweet

One successful fulltime writer works on three at a time. Even though I don’t spend all day writing books, I tweaked his advice about having four books in my book pipeline:

The Planning Stage: Starting with a book idea, be it a title, a concept, a lead character, a plot, or an ending, we gather information. This includes research, making notes, taking pictures, outlining, and writing the book proposal. This activity is not our focus, but it must be intentional. Our goal is to be 100 percent ready to start writing when the time comes.

The Writing Stage: For this phase, we write the book from start to finish. We work on it every day. This is our focus. We don’t switch books. Bouncing from one project to another dulls our concentration and lengthens the time required to finish it. When we finish the book, we start writing the next one right away because we have already done all our prep work.

The Publication Stage: If we are seeking a traditional publisher, this phase entails writing query letters, fine-tuning our book proposal, and seeking representation. Once we have a publisher, we need to work with them to finalize the book.

If we are indie-publishing, this involves hiring an editor (or two) and reviewing their edits, having a cover designed, finding someone to do the interior layout, and so forth. This is our book, so we must be involved with every step.

Regardless of which publication path we pursue, there are lulls in activity as we wait for others to do their work. Our involvement happens in spurts. When it is time for us to act, we must make it a priority, all the while writing our next book.

The Promotion Stage: As the publication date nears, we switch into promotion mode. This could start six months in advance but at least one. Our involvement for this stage looks like a bell curve: there is a little bit of work leading up to the month before the launch, things peak—requiring much attention, and then a month or so after the launch things taper off. However, for as long as the book is in print, we should be promoting it to some extent.

Having four book projects in our book pipeline at all times ensures we will have a steady stream of output and hopefully some income to match.

How many books are you presently writing? What do you think about having a book pipeline?

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!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

What Do Readers Care About?

What do book readers care about?

When book readers consider our book, few will bother to look to see who published it. They won’t care if a major publisher, let alone any traditional publisher, produced it. When it comes to publishers, there is little brand loyalty, let alone much brand recognition. The imprint is of no consequence. How the printed book gets into their hands or the e-book gets into their reader doesn’t matter to them.

Here’s what does matter:

Book Readers Care about the Cover

What they will look at is the cover. They will, in fact, judge our book by its cover. First impressions matter a great deal.

Book Readers Care about the Title

The title is critical, too. Depending on how they discovered our book, whether they see the title first or the cover first, the other element will seal the deal—or not. If the cover is great but the title, lame, they will dismiss it. Similarly, if they see the title first, a great cover will move them towards a purchase, while a bad cover will move them to a different book.

Book Readers Care about the Formatting

Next, they will look at the insides, whether thumbing through the actual pages or clicking online. If the layout looks “normal,” they will proceed. If it looks odd—even though they won’t know why—a red flag pops up.

Book Readers Care about the Content

If our book passes these first three screens, they may actually read a section or two. Great writing beckons them; bad writing or editing—even average writing or editing—sends them packing.

Only when they get this far will they consider buying it.

What is your experience when buying a book? What do you care about? Click To Tweet

Readers don’t care if our book is traditionally published or self-published; they care if our book is professional looking, well written, and interesting.

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!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

What Type of Book Will Yours Be?

My books are overflowing my shelves

A couple of years ago, I wrote about “Six Types of Books in My Library.” In summary, this is how I view my books on my bookshelves:

  1. Books Worth Keeping: I enjoyed them once, and I’ll read them again.
  2. Reference Materials: Books with the information I want to keep.
  3. Books I Plan to Read: I really do intend to read them—someday.
  4. One Reading Was Enough: I enjoyed these books, but once was sufficient.
  5. Books I Started But Never Finished: Despite initial promise, I gave up on them.
  6. Books That Seemed Like a Good Idea: I’ll never get around to reading them.

Running out of space and wanting to downsize, I gave away all my books in the last three categories. Some of those books will be read, many will be thrown away, and the rest will be dismissed—again. At some point, my books in category 3 will likely go, too.

With self-publishing options so prevalent today, anyone can publish a book. The question is, what category will these books end up in? Too many will fall into category 5 and 6. Some may not even rate that high. That’s because too many writers are impatient with the writing and publishing process, cutting short the honing of their work. Too many writers are impatient with the writing and publishing process, cutting short the honing of their work. Click To Tweet

While we can’t guarantee that the books we write will end up in the “worth keeping” category, we can increase the likelihood through:

  • Careful writing and rewriting
  • Listening to feedback from critique partners and beta-readers
  • Hiring a copy-editor
  • Paying for professional cover design and interior layout

May your next book be one that people actually read and then keep to read again.

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!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]