Okay, self-publishing, in and of itself, doesn’t suck. It wouldn’t make sense for me to say that since I’m a longtime proponent of what I prefer to refer to as independent book publishing. In fact, my mission at Write Your Life is to help improve the reputation of independent book publishing with every book we publish and for each and every author I coach and assist.
Having said that, the reason self-publishing sucks is because too many authors ignore the very basic elements needed to ensure their independent published book is a quality reflection of intellect, and provides discerning readers with information they can use, be inspired by, and are proud to share.
When authors skimp on these essential elements, they’re basically illustrating that they don’t value their own reputation, or that they just don’t know about — and didn’t bother to get help with — the finer points of publishing to deliver a product (their book) that will serve readers.
Here’s where I see far too many authors miss the boat, giving self-publishing a bad name:
1. No copy editing. The absence of professional copy editing is like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. This is the top complaint by readers of self-published books. Readers can tell when a book hasn’t been edited. From the typos and misplaced punctuation, to the missing words and the indecipherable sentences, it’s annoying as heck to read a book that hasn’t been edited.
2. Elementary content. If you’re writing a book for the elementary school audience, then elementary quality content is fine. However, if you’re writing a book for adults, and you expect them to learn from, or be inspired by, your content, then your words, and the organization of your thoughts, should be presented intelligently. No one wants to buy a book that is confusing, that’s jumbled with industry-speak, or that has absolutely no substance whatsoever.
3. Poor interior layout. If you’re not a publishing expert, no one expects you to know the finer points of interior layout. That’s why you hire professionals. They can ensure that your interior design is consistent, attractive, and inclusive of all necessary elements. That includes proper margins, consistent and appropriate fonts, a standard copyright page, an accurate contents page, necessary back matter, standard headers and footers, and other critical elements that, when done right, readers don’t even notice. (Note: Readers will notice elements that are missing, inconsistent, or just plain ugly.)
4. Amateur cover design. Ever walk into an event and notice someone wearing the exact same outfit as yours? Yeah, that’s the feeling you’ll get when you see another author’s book with the exact same cover design as yours. It’s devastating. Add to that a less than attractive cover with either too many or too few relevant design elements, and you’ll be left with unsold books by the box. When authors don’t invest in a custom book cover, they risk getting whatever they pay for in the “standard package,” which likely winds up being recycled cover that underwhelms readers and can lead to some embarrassing moments.
5. Poor print quality. Yes, people still read physical books. And those who do can sometimes be pretty hard on their printed purchases. When we crack the spine we expect the pages to stay together, not become unglued and fall out. OMG! Readers also expect the coating on the book cover to remain intact, the pages to be inserted evenly, and the ink not to smear, among other things. Your printer should ensure that all of this (and more) is reviewed in their quality control system. Oh sure, you can blame it on the printer if your book falls apart, but the reader will blame it on you!
No one expects you to know all of the finer points of book production. You’ve got a hard enough time writing the book, after all. That’s why you work with an experienced author coach who can help you hire a professional publishing dream team.
You don’t want to face the struggle of a book do-over (the first one can be challenging enough). So do it right the first time. Your self-publishing journey should be enjoyable. Do it right, and your self-published book won’t suck.
Anita R. Henderson is president of The Write Image, LLC and creator of Write Your Life. Her work with professionals and entrepreneurs has resulted in multiple award-winning books and has helped authors grow their media and online visibility, speaker platforms, industry credibility, and overall confidence in their ability to write a compelling, high-quality book and leverage it in their business or career.