Today’s post is by guest speaker Rosie Milton:
People decide to self publish for various reasons. It may be that numerous publishers have rejected a book for not being commercially viable enough, or that the meagre royalties offered by a publishing house don’t sound appealing. Whatever the reason, self-publishing has never been easier to do. With e-book services such as Smashwords, publish on demand services such as Lulu, and retailers like Amazon, nearly anybody can format and release a book for sale.
Just because you no longer need a publisher, doesn’t mean you should necessarily do everything that a publisher would have done yourself. Whether it’s a non-fiction book on banking and getting the best savings rates, or a thriller, mystery or romance novel, publishers don’t just take a manuscript and slap it between the covers of a book before they release it. All processes happen before a book is released, and in self-publishing, these processes can’t and shouldn’t all be done on your own.
One of the most valuable processes a traditional publisher does to a manuscript before it is released is editing. Editors don’t just check for errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation, although they do this too, but also they check to ensure the story flows well, that the characters are convincing and that there are no holes in the story.
Releasing a book to the world which is full of such errors is a sure fire way of receiving one-star reviews and having all your hard work go to waste. Nobody wants to read a bad book, but without an editor, it can be nearly impossible for a writer to identify all the possible mistakes in his or her own work. Hiring an editor is the best solution for anybody considering self-publishing, but this isn’t cheap, and not everybody can afford to have their manuscript professionally edited, but there are other ways of ensuring the book is as good as it can be.
Get Honest Opinions
Beta readers can help identify mistakes in both syntax and plot. Getting as many people as possible to read you manuscript, will help with the proofreading and also help to spot holes in the story, poor characterisation and other weaknesses. While you will have proofread and checked the manuscript you intend to self-publish dozens of times just to make sure it’s perfect, you won’t find everything yourself as you are far too close to the work. You may not have noticed that your main character has left the house in red shoes, only to get her blue trainers wet in a puddle a page later, but a fresh pair of eyes might. However, these people need to be unbiased.
Simply giving your manuscript to all your friends and family is not going to get you honest opinions. Most people close to you would be worried about upsetting you if they didn’t like something about your manuscript, so it’s far better to find people you don’t know as beta readers. Using critique groups and writer’s resources such as Baen’s Bar or Writers Digest is a great way to find people that will give honest opinions and help identify errors, plot holes, bad pacing or unrealistic characters.
Judging a Book by its Cover
While we’ve all heard the old saying, ‘Never judge a book by its cover,’ the truth is that people do. Good covers sell books, bad covers don’t. This is true for both hard copy books in bookshops and those bought on the internet. A good cover should represent what is within the pages of the book, but also be visually appealing. Unless you know what you are doing, creating your own cover could damage any future sales so you need to find somebody that can help.
Not everybody has a degree in graphic design or fine art, and not everybody can create his or her own book cover. Again, if you can afford it, hire a professional artist, ideally somebody that specialises in book covers. If not, try to find somebody that has some background in art. It’s important you explain exactly what type of book it is otherwise the cover may clash with the work. If possible, get several covers created and get different people to give their opinions of them and choose the most popular one.
Editing and cover design are just as important for a self-published book as one that is published in the traditional way, so before you submit all your hard work to the world, don’t try to do it all yourself. Get outside help, as it will give your work the best possible chance of being successful and prevent all that hard work from going to waste.