Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Team Every Self-Publisher Needs

Recently I was asked if I'd read someone's book and perhaps give a review or blurb for it. I rarely agree to do these things, but for some reason I agreed to do this.

The book promptly arrived in the mail. As the publisher at Moonlight Mesa Associates - Western Book Publisher, I'm always interested in how well layed out and formatted a book is, so that's one of the first things I inspect. Alas, the book in hand was not done at all correctly.

But undeterred, I began reading. After five pages I stopped. I could see the author had a good story and, given assistance, I had no doubt he could do very, very well at telling his story. But almost immediately it became evident that the author had failed to have a "team."

For starters, the most important person on an author's team is the editor...NOT A PROOFREADER. There is a world of difference between an editor and a proofreader. Please believe me about this. An editor need not cost you thousands, and even a great editor may miss some corrections, which is why some editors choose to go through a manuscript again after the first round of corrections are made, especially if the manuscript had lots of mistakes. Well, it quickly became all too obvious that the author of the book I was reading had not used the services of a professional editor. On the first page alone the word "such" appeared five times in as many paragraphs, and the following pages were riddled with problems.

An editor does not just check for spelling, punctuation, etc. A good editor is a critical reader and watches for passive voice, point of view shifts, word choice, unnecessary wordage, sentence structure and variety and many many other things. Sometimes editors even check on historical accuracy and other detail relating to the story. For example, if the story is a Western, do the bad guys/good guys use the right kind of guns for that time period? We actually employ a historical editor when needed.

Moving on, the second member of a self-publisher's team should be a PROFESSIONAL COVER DESIGNER. Covers sell books, pure and simple.  Ever heard the term, "a picture is worth a thousand words"? Please. Graphic artists are not expensive. Some will work for as little as $50!! Find a good cover designer and treat them right. Using a  personal photo or one a friend took for a book cover just doesn't make it in most instances.

Third, an author needs a good printing company on his or her team, preferably one that has a wide distribution system in place. Vanity presses and subsidy presses will tell an author how they sell books on their websites and all these other glorious things, etc. etc. but they usually do not walk their talk the way an author expects. A rare few do.

Finally, it is so helpful if an author can hire a marketing specialist, even if only temporarily. For most self-publishers this is just not affordable, and I completely understand that. But at least buy some good books or read some good articles on how to market a book. There are over 6,000,000 titles on Amazon, and even more Kindle titles, so the odds of a book being "discovered" and making it big without professional help are rather remote. Mind you, it's doable, but....

As for layout - if doing the interior layout of the book is what an author wants to do, that's certainly acceptable. However, the job cannot be done using Word unless one has the professional version. Sorry. There are other programs out there that can be used, and I even own one. I just wish I had the time to learn it!

Anyway, to get back to the gentleman who asked me to read his book...it has potential to be a fine book, but it desperately needs PROFESSIONAL EDITING, a PROFESSIONAL COVER DESIGNER, and proper layout. I cannot endorse a title that is just not done as perfectly as it could be. Anymore, every book has an error or two, but more than that is just not acceptable.

As a publisher, I consider our editor-in-chief, our cover designer, and our printing house/distributor to be vital to the success of our books and sales. Most of our books are edited several times: once they are done in-house,  they are sent to the editor-in-chief at least once, sometimes twice, then they are proofread three times before they are uploaded for printing. Often, we must re-upload because of tiny errors that pop up that are invisible until the printed book is in hand! Drats!

Have I, as a professional publisher, always followed my own advice? Regrettably, no. And those few times I don't, I truly do regret it!

Becky





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