In last week’s article, based on my experience at the 10th Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival (GAWBOFEST), I did a comparison between traditional publishing and self-publishing. While every writer hopes to get their manuscripts published via the traditional publishing routes, it will sadly not materialize. Especially in our part of the world, there is simply not enough publishers to take on all the manuscripts being drafted. Most of them, for business reasons, would rather publish textbooks than non-textbook materials such as novels, autobiographies, biographies, memoirs etc.
A lot of writers will have to settle for self-publishing despite the bad rap about it. Last week, I mentioned that self-published books were thought to be vain and some people did not think the book had the stamp of validity or credence a traditional publisher give a book. I, however, also stated that people will buy and read a good book whether it is self-published or traditionally published. What is important is that whichever publishing route you follow, just make sure you deliver a good book.
Below are selected excerpts of Kelly Nataras’ article addressing the issue of ensuring quality in your self-published book. These resonate with my practice for many years. I believe it is the ultimate guide. You will find it helpful.
Contrary to traditional publishing—where you have to win over a literary agent and then a publisher before you are invited to the party. When you DIY the only arbiter of your book’s readability, usefulness, and virtue is, well, you. And just like every Mama thinks her baby is the cutest in the world—even when it looks like a grumpy old man to the rest of us—most authors deeply believe their book is the belle of the ball regardless of its objective quality. Because of this, the plain fact is that many self-published books are neither easy nor interesting to read for anyone but the author herself.
To ensure quality control, take a really honest look at your writing skill, your book idea and your outline before you jump into the writing process. If you’re not clearing the bar of excellence on any of these three elements (or you don’t feel qualified to self-assess) consider seeking the advice of a professional book editor, ghostwriter or book doctor.
Similarly, walking the traditional publishing path ensures your book will receive not just a cursory grammar check but will be given 6-8 in-depth, highly professional rounds of editing before it ever hits the shelf. The biggest tragedy I see in self-publishing is when an author has unique, useful and interesting content to share—i.e., the content clears the “quality control” bar I mentioned above—but they neglect to give the book the depth of professional editing it deserves. Lack of editing = lack of readability and, consequently, lack of reading. And lack of reading = lack of word-of-mouth sales, which is the key to the success of any book.
Get your book edited for both content and technique. A traditional publishing company gives every book 2-3 rounds of content editing and 4-6 rounds of technical editing (copy-editing and proofreading). If you want your book to stand tall on the shelf next to its traditionally published peers, you need to do the same.
The third reason self-publishing is the outcast of the publishing world has to do with design—both exterior and interior. Too often DIY authors want to cut corners and save money, which means they hire cover and interior designers with minimal book-specific design know-how. Give me 5 seconds with most self-published books and I can tell you whether they’ve been professionally designed (or not). The #1 dead giveaway? The interior is laid out with full line breaks between paragraphs rather than run-in paragraphs with indentation. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Reason numero uno to hire a professional book designer. They know these things so you don’t have to!
Use professional book designers for both your cover and interior design. By “professional” I mean, “designs book covers and book interiors for a living.” Use the power of Google, or simply send me an email and I can point you in the right direction.
What do all three of these antidotes come down to? Simply put, professional excellence. This is good for you, but it’s also the only way to truly respect your reader. Think about it: Spending 6-12 hours of precious time reading a book is a real commitment, especially when we have so many other things vying for our time and attention. I want your reader to feel that her investment of time and finances is well spent on a beautiful, clean, easy-to-read book.
But maybe even more than that, it’s about what I want you to feel! I want you to feel as proud and confident in your self-published masterpiece as you would if you were being published by one of the big houses. After all, you’ve put enormous time, energy and resources into creating this book, and you’ll need to put similar resources into spreading the word about it. Cutting corners on quality is not going to make the road any easier.
Imagine what would happen if everyone involved in the world of DIY books were to make this same commitment to professional excellence? Self-publishing’s bad reputation would turn around lickety-split.
This is a future I want for you, for me, for all authors, and all readers. Please implement the antidotes above and become part of the solution!
I wish you all the best. Remember we can only get better and it can only get better.