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Writing and Publishing

Do Indie Authors Need to Follow Publishing Conventions?

Indie Authors

Have you ever flipped through a book and sensed there was something odd about it? Though you couldn’t identify what was different, you knew something was off. It felt wrong. This has happened to me.

Perhaps the feeling was so strong that you opted not to read the book. Again, this has happened to me. Because my reaction to something in the layout was so negative, I have decided not to bother reading it.

When this happens it is most likely because the book deviated from some standard publishing practices. Though most readers are unaware of what these principles are, we subconsciously know when they aren’t followed. That’s when we get this unexplained feeling that something is wrong. If the feeling is strong, we might not read the book.

This is why indie authors should follow all of the time-honored traditions of book design, but there is nothing to say that we must. We can break from tradition. Sometimes we may have a good reason to not follow the rules.

The key is to be aware that the more book publishing practices we break, the greater the likelihood our finished product will produce a visceral reaction in potential readers that pushes some of them away.

As indie authors, we should follow publishing conventions whenever we can. If we do decide to break a rule, it should be for a good reason and with full knowledge that it could hurt readership.

Yes, rules are made to be broken, but they are also there to guide us. Choose wisely.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

The Two Extremes of Self-Publishing: Both Are Wrong

The Two Extremes of Self-Publishing: Both Are Wrong

With changes in publishing and advances in technology, it’s never been easier to publish a book. This isn’t to imply publishing a book is easy, just that the barriers are disappearing and the costs are dropping. This emerging reality leads to two extremes of self-publishing for do-it-yourself authors who want to publish their books.

Extremes of Self-Publishing: Full Speed Ahead

Seeing it’s within their power to publish their books, some eager authors take the shortest (or the cheapest) path possible to place their books in print, be it on paper or a reading device. The casualty is quality: they make their own cover, skip peer review, bypass professional editing, don’t consider the need for interior design, and fail to pick the best possible title.

The result is they see their book published quickly—and it’s terrible. It is amateurish, few people will buy it, and even fewer will read it. Those who wade threw it will give it one star and a terrible review.

This makes it harder for others who self-publish to gain respect and sell books; they are guilty by association.

Extremes of Self-Publishing: Do Everything Perfect

The other extreme is those authors who desire to produce the best possible book. They survey their followers to find the ideal title, hire a designer for their cover, tap a professional editor to copy-edit and proofread the book, and use someone to do the interior layout.

Along the way, they consider every option for distribution and promotion, looking at the pros and cons of each possibility, comparing risks with rewards. They know they will only be able to launch their book once and want to make sure it’s perfect.

The result is the plethora of ever-changing options will paralyze them from taking action. They will never actually publish their book, because there will always be one more opportunity to explore. Then no one will be able to read their book, because they will never get around to publishing it.

Both extremes of self-publishing are in error.

Authors must resist the urge to race unrestrained towards their goal; they must also fight to not fall victim to the paralysis of perfection. The middle space between these two extremes is the best way to publish books and connect with receptive readers.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Don’t Be an Idealist If You Want to be a Self-Published Author

self-published author

I once heard about a self-published author who criticized other self-published authors for having professionally designed covers and hiring editors. He accused them of selling out. He claimed it wasn’t truly self-publishing if you didn’t do it all yourself.

Rubbish.

No one can truly self-publish a book all by himself or herself. Have you bought to buy a printing press to print copies? Will, you cut down a tree to make the paper? Do you plan to hand mix the ink? Will you ship boxes of books to each retail store or personally deliver a copy to each buyer?

Even if you skip printing and go the e-book route, will you only sell the book on your website? Who designed your site anyway? And if you did your own, who wrote the software you used to create it? If you put your book on e-book platforms, how many programs, online resources, and intermediaries will you use to make that happen?

Self-Published Authors Need to Outside Help

If you look at the theoretical meaning of self-publishing, no one can truly self-publish a book. Every self-published author needs the help of others; much of the work must be outsourced. While prepress, production, and delivery are all obvious areas requiring assistance, other items are likewise worthy of outsourcing to professionals. These include cover design, editing, interior layout, and so forth.

Just as you could design your own cover, you could also make your own paper, mix your own ink, and handprint each page on a printing press you built. All of this would be foolhardy.

Self-publishing isn’t doing everything yourself. Instead, self-publishing is taking control of your book production and distribution, tapping experts along the way to make it happen in the most professional, effective way possible.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

What Do Readers Care About?

What do book readers care about?

When book readers consider our book, few will bother to look to see who published it. They won’t care if a major publisher, let alone any traditional publisher, produced it. When it comes to publishers, there is little brand loyalty, let alone much brand recognition. The imprint is of no consequence. How the printed book gets into their hands or the e-book gets into their reader doesn’t matter to them.

Here’s what does matter:

Book Readers Care about the Cover

What they will look at is the cover. They will, in fact, judge our book by its cover. First impressions matter a great deal.

Book Readers Care about the Title

The title is critical, too. Depending on how they discovered our book, whether they see the title first or the cover first, the other element will seal the deal—or not. If the cover is great but the title, lame, they will dismiss it. Similarly, if they see the title first, a great cover will move them towards a purchase, while a bad cover will move them to a different book.

Book Readers Care about the Formatting

Next, they will look at the insides, whether thumbing through the actual pages or clicking online. If the layout looks “normal,” they will proceed. If it looks odd—even though they won’t know why—a red flag pops up.

Book Readers Care about the Content

If our book passes these first three screens, they may actually read a section or two. Great writing beckons them; bad writing or editing—even average writing or editing—sends them packing.

Only when they get this far will they consider buying it.

Readers don’t care if our book is traditionally published or self-published; they care if our book is professional looking, well written, and interesting.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Lessons From a Published Author: It’s Never a Sure Thing

A published author has no guarantee of selling their next book

A couple of years ago I blogged about a young adult (YA) book from a published author that I really, really, really liked—and the author honored me by leaving a comment to my post. Since then we’ve shared a few online interactions, with her offering careful communication and me trying hard not to come across as a creepy fan who is cyber-stalking her.

Ever since reading her first book, I’ve clamored for her next YA one.

Since then she published three junior (mid-grade) titles—all were on my Christmas wish list—and a fourth book in the series had a release date. She also has a children’s picture book scheduled for publication.

Being a Published Author Carries No Guarantees

The long-awaited YA follow-up was written and waiting.

Despite success with her junior titles, her publisher declined the new book, citing too low of sales on her first YA title. Her agent showed the book to other publishers, but none were willing to move forward with it.

To my dismay, the book I long to read was languishing on her computer hard drive. Understandably discouraged, she was considering self-publishing it as an e-book.

I think her publisher was making a huge mistake. In a few years, the fans of her junior series will move on to YA books. Though she currently had one title waiting for them, two (or more) would be better.

Aside from my distress over not being able to read this book, I see two lessons in this.

1. Low Sales Hurt

First, low sales on just one book can hurt our chances of another one being published. That’s a sobering thought. Today’s publishing world increasingly risk-averse, and it doesn’t take much for them to say “no.”

2. Be a Hybrid Author

Second, I think every author—even a published author—should pursue a dual-track of traditional publishing and indie-publishing, that is, to be a hybrid author. If one option doesn’t work, perhaps the other will. If both options bear fruit, all the better.

I encouraged my writer friend to self-publish her YA book. I was hoping she would.

[Update: Robin Mellom did indeed self-publish her YA book. It’s Perfect Timing.]

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.