Monday, July 11, 2011

Three Book Chores You Should Not Do Yourself

It pains me when writers work hard on a story then make mistakes when posting it online. Same goes for uploading books into print book programs. Believe it or not, preparing a book for publication is as important as the basis of the story. We are visual animals, and when we screw up presentation, we might as well have posted copies of seventh-grade essays in a book instead of a serious tale, because nobody will read it, much less buy it.

There are three book chores you should not do yourself:

1. Design the Cover

Unless you make a living as a graphic artist or photographer, do not attempt this at home. They scream amateur from ten miles away. New, small publishers, particularly those established by authors wanting to publish their own books then branch into books of their friends and others, often "settle" for this type of cover. I click on the site. I see distorted colored pencil drawings or stiff-legged horses or sloppy watercolors and immediately draw a conclusion about the quality of the books and the company's publishing ability.

Hire a professional to design your cover. A beautiful, polished cover sets the stage and puts the reader into a positive state before he cracks open the book and reads Chapter One.

2. Format the Book

Again, unless you work for a publisher or printer, you will struggle with formatting. Word processors are lousy formatting tools. Guido Henkel (love that name) formats books for a living. In his recent post on the blog The Book Designer, he says:

I have seen countless recommendations on the web that tell authors not to use things such as curly quotation marks, em-dashes or ellipses because they supposedly cause problems. This is ill advice at its worst, really. When created properly all e-books can safely feature typographically correct text. You simply have to take the time to understand its underpinnings and do it right.

Your ebook sits on the same site as those from St. Martin's Press and Random House. Don't think that readers will not compare.

3. Edit

No, you cannot edit your own work sufficiently to make it shine its best. No, you cannot skip this part of the process. No, you will not catch the misspellings, typos, grammar errors or stupid errors, because as their creator, you see them as correct or don't see them at all. Your eyes play tricks as does your brain. When you are so steeped in a story, after months or years of writing, you will NOT catch all the gaffs. Sorry. Find a fabulous (professional) mentor, join a writers group (of people published and better than you), or hire an editor, maybe even two.

I don't care who you are, I'd bet serious money on the fact that at one time, if not now, you pondered for a second that you could do one or more of the above. You can't. Get that out of your system, and find pros. You are competing with entire publishing houses when it comes to these three chores. The minute you compromise, you shortchange yourself and handicap your sales.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Hope--I agree with all three of your points. However, it DOES help when revising to actually read your work aloud to yourself. You're right--if something is missing (a word, a bit of punctuation) our brain DOES slip it in automatically. Unfortunately, since it's automatic, our brain then fails to follow up by telling us, "Fix that. I just did."

I've found taking the time to read aloud my work, when I hear it, I can find left-out words, awkward spots, spots where the tense changes, and so on. It's very helpful...

BECKY said...

Great info as always Hope. Just from what I've seen of self-published books, I totally agree about the covers. I've seen some really awful ones, and if I saw them in a book store, I probably wouldn't even pick them up.

Kelly said...

I always appreciate your straight-forward advice. Thank you!

Miss Cheyenne Mitchell said...

Hello Hope: I have read your blog and find it so very interesting and informative. I am an Author/Novelist of Supernatural Thrillers and found that you are one of Jenna Glatzer's cool friends. My novels are exciting, suspenseful and mysterious and designed to entertain my readers. They are entitled THE COVERING and SYROIA published by Author House and will be on sale this Summer. I ask that you please take a little time and read my blog and tell me what you think. I appreciate very highly the comments of other Authors/Editors, etc. like yourself. Hope you will see my blog.
Thanks Hope

Conda Douglas said...

Useful, thank you!

Krissy Brady, Writer said...

I agree with all of your points! Although I do work as a website/graphic designer, if self-publishing I still wouldn't design my own cover. I like the thought of pitching my ideas to a designer, then letting them run free, since it's what we get to do with our words. It's a great way to gain a fresh perspective on a project that we've been staring at for what seems like forever. ;)

Benjamin Simms said...

I have written on and off for years with the thought of publishing in a distant future. To be honest, my "real life" took priority over my writing life for a long, long time. Over the past couple years I have started raising the priority of my writing life and only recently have come to realize that I cannot move beyond where I am without becoming part of the writing community. Having someone else edit my work, even my short stories, is going to be essential in taking the next step to quality writing. Artwork and layout....I wouldn't even know where to begin to create professional quality on my own.

Juanita said...

I recently started using an editor and let me tell you that it works. I can edit other peoples work successfully. I can do a good preliminary edit on my own work, but then I have to let the manuscript go, let an outsider do the edit and boy do they catch a lot of things that I didn't. I have edited papers six or seven times before I let an editor look at it, and she still caught a lot of things I just couldn't see, because I was too close to the work.