Tag Archives: book quality

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!

What Type of Book Will Yours Be?

My books are overflowing my shelvesA couple years ago, I wrote about “Six Types of Books in My Library.” In summary, this is how I view my books on my book shelves:

  1. Books Worth Keeping: I enjoyed them once, and I’ll read them again.
  2. Reference Materials: Books with 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!

Seven Things to Look For in a Beta Reader

Have a beta reader give you feedback on your book

Selecting the Right Beta Reader is Key to Receiving Helpful Feedback

We’ve talked about the importance of having a beta reader to give feedback on our books. I hope you’re as sold on the idea as I am.

The next step is finding beta readers—not just any one but the right ones. If we pick a beta reader who isn’t a good match, they could do more harm than good, both for our book and for our career. If we pick a beta reader who isn’t a good match, they could do more harm than good, both for our book and for our career. Click To Tweet

The ideal beta reader should:

1. Be a Regular Reader

If they aren’t a regular reader, how can they provide usable feedback? While they don’t need to be voracious, they do need to read. Ask them how many books they’ve read in the past six months. Their answer will be enlightening.

2. Speak the Truth (in Love)

Beta readers who don’t want to hurt our feelings will tell us our book is perfect; they offer no value. Beta readers must commit to giving honest feedback but in a constructive way.

3. Respect Our Writing Voice

If a beta reader wants to change our writing voice, they will only generate irritation for us and frustration for them and us. They must resist the urge to reword what we write.

4. Know the Genre

Do they read and like our genre? If the answer is “no,” then they aren’t the right beta reader for our project.

5. Like Our Premise

Beta readers need to have a positive predisposition for our topic or story at the onset. If a non-fiction book has a thesis they disagree with or a fiction book with a storyline that irritates them, they will likely struggle through the entire project.

6. Be Committed

Will the beta reader finish the project? How long will they take? Too many people agree to being a beta reader but never follow through. See item seven.

7. Have Beta Reader Experience

Everyone at one time has no experience, so our book may be his or her first one. However, the more experience they have, the better the chance the results will be good.

For more info, check out the post about setting expectations with beta 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!

Why Our Books Need Beta Readers

beta readersThe more people who provide feedback on our books the better. Of course, to be of benefit, this needs to happen before publication, when there is time to make changes. Although review by various types of editors (each pass focusing on different elements) is essential, basic feedback is first needed to work out the kinks, spot embarrassing errors, and correct deficiencies before handing it over to professionals. The more work we do before editors do theirs, the more they can do to improve it.Beta readers can give us critical feedback to make our book better before we move to the next step Click To Tweet

Once we do all we can ourselves, beta readers can give us critical feedback to make our book better before we move to the next step.

Beta readers can catch:

  • Typos: We all make them, but we don’t always catch them.
  • Spelling errors: Of course we always spell check our work; however, what about when we use the wrong word but spell it correctly?
  • Repetition: We write over time and can easily repeat an idea. When we move sections around, sometimes they end up in the book twice.
  • Logic blunders: Another set of eyes can take a fresh look at our logic.
  • Continuity oversights: To make sense, things need to occur in a certain sequence; sometimes we’re too close to notice when our words are out of order.
  • Bad writing habits: Every writer has a least one bad habit or less-than-ideal tendency, but it usually takes someone else to point them out.

While one beta reader won’t spot all these items, they will help us hone our work. Then we can tap a second person for another pass.

Beta readers help us become better writers and produce better work.

Next week: What to look for in a beta reader.

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!

Can You Self-Publish Your Book For Free?

self publishing costsIf we publish our book with a traditional publisher, there are no out-of-pocket expenses. The publisher even pays us an advance. Although it might not be much, at least we receive some money at the beginning of the publishing process. Not so with self publishing. Self publishing costs money,

Self Publishing Costs Money

This is not the case when we self-publish. When we act as our own publisher, there is no advance and there are expenses, which can add up quickly. We don’t earn any money until we can sell copies of our book. And that can take a while.

Is there a middle ground, a way to self-publish without incurring a bunch of upfront costs? The short answer is, “Yes!” However, the wise response is, “No!”

Self-publishing without spending any money would require a huge investment of time, and the results would not be good. Regardless of how talented we are and how diverse our skillset, one person cannot cover everything required to produce a quality book. The finished product would look like an amateur did it. And it’s hard to sell a book that fails to meet the expectations of today’s buyers.Self-publishing without spending any money would require a huge investment of time, and the results would not be good. Click To Tweet

Here are a few of the self publishing costs we’ll encounter when we self-publish:

Cover Costs

People do judge a book by its cover. A professional impression is critical because there is only a split second to catch someone’s attention. Don’t try this yourself.

Editing Costs

Few writers can edit their own work and do it well. And your friend who majored in English is seldom the answer—nor is your mom, high school writing teacher, or second cousin who reads a lot.

Interior Layout Costs

Have you ever opened a book and sensed something was wrong? You’re not sure what it is, but you know the book is different—and in an odd way. This is because of a poor interior design, and those books are hard to read.

Photography Costs

Taking a quality self-portrait is improbable, and selfies are out of the question for a book cover or publicity shot. Just because you own a fancy, high-resolution camera doesn’t make you a photographer.

ISDN Costs

For any book to sell, it requires an ISBN. If you plan to only peddle books from the trunk of your car, you can skip this expense. Otherwise you need to purchase an ISBN.

There are additional self publishing costs, but these are the more critical ones. Though you might be the exception who has the experience and ability to do one of these tasks with excellence, no one can master them all—especially if you want your book to sell.

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 Nine Errors of Self-Publishing

For the past two months, I’ve blogged about the nine self-publishing errors. My list isn’t comprehensive, but it’s a great starting point.The Nine Errors of Self-Publishing

Nine Self-Publishing Errors

  1. Poor Content
  2. A Lousy Cover
  3. A Lackluster Title
  4. Poor Editing
  5. Poor File Conversion
  6. Font Abuse: Getting Carried Away With Fonts
  7. Having a Homemade Look
  8. Failure to Follow Conventions
  9. Publishing Too Soon

When you self-publish your next book, be sure to avoid these nine errors. Click To Tweet When you self-publish your next book, be sure to review these items. I know I will.

What would you add to the list?

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 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!