The time has finally come. You’ve just typed “The End”, and now your great masterpiece of a novel is finished. Time to upload that sucker onto Amazon and hit the publish button. You’re on your way to becoming a literary legend!
Whoa there, Next Greatest Living Author Ever. Get your cursor off that publish button. I hate to tell you this, but you’re not even close to being finished. There are three more steps that you absolutely must take before you hit the publish button. These steps are crucial to insuring that your book is a quality product that readers are going to want to buy. Not taking these steps is the equivalent of giving birth, then leaving that newborn on your front steps and shouting “All right, go out there and make your parents proud!”. You wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing to a baby; why would you do that to your book? Your book that you slaved over, that you poured your heart into for days, weeks, maybe even years. Your words deserve so much more than that, so take the time to polish before you publish.
So, what are the three steps you need to take before you hit the publish button? To put out the best book possible, you need Editing, proper Formatting, and a good Cover Design. We’ll go over each of these steps briefly today, and in more detail in future blog posts.
Let’s start with the most important of the three steps, Editing. Your book needs to be readable, not just to you, but to your readers as well. Putting your book through the editing process will ensure this. Editing is so much more than correcting spelling errors. A good editor will help your sentence structure, let you know what your crutch words are, and make sure that the book flows. Think your skills are up to par and that you can do without? I’ve got two words for you; plot holes. Even the best writer in the world needs an extra set of eyes to go over their manuscript. Editors are worth their weight in gold, and quite possibly the author’s best friend.
Now that your manuscript has been whipped into shape, we’ll move on to the next step in the process; Formatting. “I want to read a book with no chapter breaks and no table of contents!”, said no reader ever. Your eBook needs to be properly formatted for every platform you intend to sell it on. It needs to be tested on multiple apps and devices, to insure that it reads the way it is supposed to. A poorly formatted eBook is one of the best ways to net yourself a 1 star review and lose a reader. Your print books deserve the same treatment; they need proper margins, readable text, and headers on appropriate pages. You don’t want to break the formatting rules here, especially if getting your book into brick & mortar stores is one of your goals.
Last, but certainly not least, is Cover Design. The saying may be “You can’t judge a book by its cover”, but the reality is that we all do just that. You need a cover that is readable, attractive, and conveys the message of your book. A cover that attracts potential readers and entices them to learn a little more about the story inside. This is not the area to try out kooky fonts, or use your children’s artwork (no matter how cute you may think it is). Many eBook platforms will give you free access to a Cover Creator, but I would strongly advise you against using it; the cover you’ll end up with will be generic, boring, and will scream “HI, I DID THIS MYSELF AND I’M NOT AN ARTIST OR DESIGNER!”. This is not the message you want to put out to potential readers. Unless you’re a graphic designer or an artist, cover design is an area best left to professionals.
Now it’s likely that several of you are yelling at me through your computer/smart phone screen, “Dawn, I’m an indie author! I don’t have the money to take these steps, and I still don’t think I need them. Why can’t I just publish my book the way it is?”. Because, dear author, your readers are not guinea pigs. They’re people who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of life, and lose themselves in a great story. Give them an inferior book, and you will lose them forever. Maybe one or two of them will give you a second chance, but that’s a big maybe. There is an even greater chance that your disenchanted readers will tell their friends and family, as well as leave a bad review; now you’ve lost even more potential readers. Don’t let this happen to your masterpiece – polish before you publish!
Next Friday we’ll get into the nitty gritty of editing, and why it is one of the most important steps in the publishing process. I’ll also throw out some tips for the author on a budget. Stay tuned!
Dawn Marshall is obviously not a writer. She is, however, the resident Book & Graphics Designer at Sudden Insight Publishing, and a big fan of indie authors. You can find her design work and read her smarmy tweets at dear23.com.