Thanks to technology and the internet, just about anyone can publish their own book these days. That’s the problem.
Anybody can do it. And a whole lot of anybodies try it. Most of them produce books that scream, “self-published by amateurs!!”
It usually starts with the cover. Often the cover looks like a third-grade exercise in finger painting or, maybe, Vincent Van Gogh on a three-day drunk. That’s a good thing, though, because what’s between the covers is often pretty bad.
The interior design can be dreadful. Some pages have so many typefaces they look like ransom notes. Page design may not be consistent throughout the book. In some books, the gutters are so narrow that words disappear into them.
That can be a good thing. Many authors believe that they don’t really need a professional editor. I was one of them early in my career until a great editor showed me the light. Savvy authors know that good editors save us from ourselves and make us look better.
Why does this happen?
Sometimes the self-published book looks self-published because the author doesn’t want to spend much money. Alas, he or she doesn’t know what “necessary” is. A printer I worked with years ago had a sign behind his counter. It read, “You can have it cheap. You can have it good. You can have it fast. Pick two.”
Sometimes a self-published book looks self-published because the author was rushing to get it to market. Speed became more important than quality. The only problem is that the book will be out there representing the author long after the need for speed is gone.
But there’s one big reason why so many self-published books look self-published. The author/publisher doesn’t know what he or she is doing. Publishing is a complex endeavor with lots of moving parts. Legacy publishers have teams of specialists. When you self-publish, you’re responsible for it all.
How to get it right
Getting it right starts with a commitment to quality. Pick out a couple of professionally done books that you like. Use them as the standard when you make decisions about your book.
Learn as much as you can about the publishing process. As the publisher, you must make a lot of decisions about things you don’t know much about. The more you can learn, the better. There are lots of people out there ready to tell you it’s easy. To parody “The Princess Bride,” “Publishing is pain, Princess. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.”
Instead of trying to learn how to do everything yourself, ask “where can I find help?” Today, author services companies exist that can handle the entire process for you. Talk to them to find out what they have to offer. Whether you use them or not, you’ll learn from your discussions.
Learn as much as you can about the publishing process.
Find professionally done books to use as a standard.
Most self-published books look self-published because the author doesn’t know what he or she is doing.
Getting it right starts with a commitment to quality
Engage people who can help you.
You can have it cheap. You can have it good. You can have it fast. Pick two.