Tag Archives: book quality

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-Publishing

In 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 the 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

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 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 point 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

Formatting Errors: The 5th Error of Self-Publishing

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.

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 no 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!

The Third Error of Self-Publishing: A Lackluster Title

A Poor Book Title: The Third Error of Self-Publishing

In past posts, we’ve covered the importance of content and cover. The next element is the book title.

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

The Second Error of Self-Publishing: A Lousy Book 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.

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

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!

6 Reader Responses to Books

I read a lot of books, but I start more then I complete. Some books just aren’t worth finishing. With so many books waiting for my attention, it makes no sense to waste time reading a book I’ve lost interest in.

Do you finish every book you're reading?

Here are six reactions I have when I read a book:

1. Give Up

Nothing grabs me. The opening lacks a hook, the first page ends with no reason to turn it, or I grow bored before the first chapter finishes. I stop reading and reject the book.

2. Never Return

The book starts out okay, but I never pick it back up. Another book seems more interesting so I start it, and I stick with it. Then I go on to another book. This doesn’t mean the first book isn’t good; it just means other books are better.

3. Force to Finish

For some books, I push through. Maybe it started okay and then languished, but I plod on anyway. For other books I hold on, hoping for a payoff at the end. Regardless of the reason, I’m invariably glad when I finish it, not for its content or conclusion, but so that I can go on to something better.

4. Pleasant Diversion

These books are those I enjoy reading and look forward to. They are worthy of my time and the end brings satisfaction. I’m glad to have read it and plan to read the author’s next book.

5. Page Turner

These books are so good that I keep reading even when I need to turn off the light and go to sleep. Just one more page becomes just one more chapter. It’s hard to put down, and I can’t wait to return.

6. Takes Priority

Sometimes a book is so good that I’d rather read it rather than doing anything else. The book gets in the way of eating, working, and writing. Ignore others; skip TV; forget the movie. I must read this book. Nothing else matters.

Make sure you write the best possible book; your readers deserve it. Click To Tweet

I’ve read books in all six of these categories. For those that fit in the first three, sometimes it’s my fault; I just don’t click with the book.

In other cases, it’s the writer’s fault. They didn’t write a good book, they published it too soon, or they didn’t take steps to make it as good as they could.

Don’t be that writer.

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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How Not to Write a Nonfiction Book

A friend, who is also a prolific reader, once shocked me. Talking about nonfiction books, he said: “I only read the first chapter. Then I page through the rest and stop to read anything that’s interesting.”

How Not to Write a Nonfiction Book

My incredulous look encouraged him to explain. “Most nonfiction books pack their entire message into the first chapter. The rest of the book just rehashes it.” While some books warrant a more thorough investigation, he claimed most didn’t.

I’ve tested his theory. He’s right. Most nonfiction books present all of the essential information in the first chapter. Yes, the subsequent chapters do expound on the first chapter’s truths, but they do little to add substance to the main concept. In too many nonfiction books, I learn 90 percent of the main material in 10 percent of the time by just reading the first chapter.

Most nonfiction books cover everything in chapter 1. The rest of the book just rehashes it. Click To Tweet

I see three reasons why this happens:

1) The author doesn’t have enough content for a book. Some ideas, really great ideas, are simply not big enough to fill a book. Maybe it’s perfect for an article or even a blog post, but not a book. Yet authors may try to stretch an article into a book.

2) The author has a word count goal. Publishers (or agents) want a certain length book. They require X number of words to fill Y number of pages. That’s what best fits their production process or what marketing feels the buying public expects. After all, if we spend $15 on a book, we expect it to have some heft. As a result, authors stretch their words to hit a target. But that doesn’t make for a good book.

3) The author doesn’t know how to write nonfiction. There are all kinds of instructions on how to write fiction, but the amount of information on writing nonfiction is nonexistent in comparison. Maybe the assumption is that nonfiction is easy to write and requires no training. In fiction, we learn how to grab readers’ attention, keep them turning pages, and skillfully guide them to a satisfying conclusion. We would never reveal the ending in chapter 1 and then explain how it all happened. Yet that is precisely what too many authors do in nonfiction.

The more I think about this, the more I realize what a huge problem this is. Maybe I should write a book about it. No, on second thought, I only have enough for a blog post.

Do you find this true when you read nonfiction? What resources can you recommend about writing nonfiction? 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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