Independent authors have a mixed reputation. With big publishing houses no longer serving as gatekeepers, deciding who to publish and what works will be published, the market trend is towards self-published, independent authors.
Publication by a big name doesn’t guarantee quality — as a recent conversation with a friend regarding the infamous “Fifty Shades of Grey” revealed, a book widely regarded in literary circles as filled with unprofessional writing and countless technical errors — not to mention shallow characters and the glorification of what many people consider abusive behavior towards women.
Even so, ask most people if they expect great literature from a big name publisher or an independent author, the perception remains to side with big name publishers.
After interviewing authors for consideration for this blog, certain errors do seem to come up over and over again. Let’s look at them and how you can avoid them in your own writing:
1. Grammar/punctuation errors
There is a reason why the advice sites tell authors to hire an editor — or at least have a friend go through manuscripts with a fresh set of eyes before publication. Editing yourself is HARD. People miss errors in their own work that others will catch. Looking at the 1st edition of “The Great Succession Crisis,” my own struggles with this are pretty clear. That edition was far from perfect.
Fortunately, some very kind souls gave me constructive feedback reviews which I listened to. The result: in January 2013 I released the revised edition.
Let me be clear: errors are normal. The difference between a professional and an amateur (in my humble opinion) in this print-on-demand publishing world is what the author does about errors once located. Do you let miss-spellings, grammar errors, and/or punctuation issues persist, or do you edit and resubmit once you find mistakes?
Professionals want their work to be as absolutely error-free as possible and make the edits.
2. Poor cover art
Not everyone is a graphic artist or has great visual instincts. But most readers can spot stock book covers (such as those created in cover creator programs) a mile away.
Your book cover is the very first thing a reader uses to determine if your book is worth reading. It’s your critical first impression. If it looks like you just slabbed some text over a generic image, odds are really good potential readers will not take a second look.
3. Over/under pricing
Pricing is hard; it’s taken me a fair amount of trial and error to figure out how to price my books. But as a rule, the extremes look bad. That is to say, if you offer your digital book for free or 99 cents (special, limited promotions not withstanding), people are going to often times assume it’s not worth paying for at all. Unless your “book” is a very short work, DON’T DO IT!
Likewise, don’t price your book outrageously. A digital book of less than 600 pages selling for more than $20 (I’m going extreme here) comes off as arrogant and not worth buying. In fact, the poorest reviews I’ve ever seen on a digital book were for books priced well above and beyond normal expectations.
4. Poor book descriptions
Your book description is the second piece of information potential readers see when looking at your work. Book descriptions ARE HARD as I’ve discovered from personal experience, especially if your book falls into more than one genre at the same time or involves a particularly complex story. At the same time, your description needs to be clean and professional. This is not the time to show off your fluency with colorful colloquial language. When people see grammar errors, spelling errors, and colloquial language in a book description, the inevitable conclusion is the rest of the book is of the same character.
5. Publishing before your work is ready.
Is your story compelling and interesting TO OTHER PEOPLE? Have you researched your setting and other details thoroughly? Do your characters make sense? Are your details accurate and believable.
Writing is not about you; it’s about your readers. Publish quality work others want to read.
Remember: you are your brand.