NOTE: This article is for self-published authors or those planning to self-publish!
Okay – a few things need to be said to the aspiring authors (those who plan to self-publish) out there. If you want readers to take your work as seriously as you do there are a few things you have to do …
- Get a professional cover or at least try to make your cover look good. Pixelated artwork, garish colors, and cheesy fonts will not attract readers. Readers may even pass your book over because of it (even if it’s the greatest thing ever written). The fact of the matter is that readers DO judge books by their covers. I know this from personal experience. Some of my early covers were absolutely dreadful. One of them was from a traditional publisher even. Bad covers happen – but make sure you’ve done everything humanly possibly to avoid a cover disaster.
- For all you NF writers out there: There’s a HUGE difference between writing articles/essays/chapbooks and writing books. I know this because I’ve written articles, essays and chapbooks as well as a few books. Just sayin’…
- Use a professional font on the interior file and keep it consistent. I know the Edwardian Script or italics or whatever other pretty font you love looks great to you. But for a reader it’s a nightmare. Stick with Arial or Times New Roman for non-fiction and Garamond is about as fancy as you want to get with fiction. If you use a strange font, people’s eyes will get tired, they’ll get annoyed, and they will quit reading.
- Margins in printed books are justified. Period. (With eBooks it doesn’t matter.)
- When formatting for print don’t forget headers and footers. Front and back pages often won’t have headers or footers.
- Just because you wrote it and published it doesn’t mean anyone is going to read it. Audiences have to be built. I know I’ve said this time and time again, but it requires repeating. This is the thing most noob writers just don’t seem to “get” no matter how many times you explain it. People won’t buy it just because it’s available! Never expect your books will be the exception to this.
- Again, and I’ve said this a million times, too : Don’t think you’re going to write one book and be able to retire off of it. This also means you shouldn’t count on writing as a second income or even a supplemental income. Few writers actually make a living writing. I know, I know — this coming from someone who does make a living writing. But it took me 20 years of seriously submitting and treating my writing like more than a hobby to start making a living from it and gods only know how long that’s going to last. I’ve paid my dues and done a lot of time. My writing income is the culmination of 20 years of blood, sweat, and tears. Sure – you might be an overnight success but don’t count on it. Keep your day job and start a savings account. You’ll probably make more in interest than you will writing.
- It’s tempting to put the cart before the horse. Resist. If you’ve never actually finished writing an entire book you probably shouldn’t be telling people you’re writing a book or start marketing said book. Wait until you’ve written it and it’s ready for revision. THEN tell everyone. Why? I have met numerous people in the past two years who woke up one day and said, “I think today I’m going to write a book.” They start writing with big hopes and dreams (usually accompanied by a fantasy of what being a writer entails). Many of them look at writing as a “get rich quick” scheme. So they get to work. It takes them months. They “labor” over their MS. Then they ask if you want to read their MS. You’ve been gearing yourself up for it since they’ve been working on it for months, after all. You get it and start reading only to discover it’s twenty-two pages in 14 point type and it’s completely lacklustre and trite. Yet they’ve already announced to all their friends on their social networking sites that their “book” is coming out later that month. Lots of congrats and kudos get passed around. Then you have to be the asshole who points out, “Umm, this is a short story, not a book.” The difference being at least forty-five-thousand words or so. And they’ve just promised everyone a book they clearly can’t deliver.
- Writing is not easy. It’s real work. Which, if you find yourself in the position of #8 above — you should know exactly what I mean. Thinking you’ve written a novel only to discover you’ve just written a short story can be a huge let-down because it makes you realize that in order to get a novel of at least 50K (which is a short novel), you need to multiply your short story by 8 or 9 times that. Which means you also need to multiply the time it took to finish that 6000 word short story, most of which is likely unusable for the final novel anyway. Ouch.
- Writing takes a lot more effort than writing a few thousand words in a rush and uploading it to the nearest eBook site. You have to edit and revise. Put it through critique. Hell, hire an editor if you can afford it! Sure, even if you self edit your work it may not be 100 percent free from typos and there may be grammar mavens who catch a grammatical faux pas or two, but you can at least try. For example, in English, not all nouns are capitalized. It’s not, “I grabbed a Fork from the Kitchen.” It’s, “I grabbed a fork from the kitchen.” It’s amazing how many native speakers do this bizarre capitalization thing. I know in other languages, like German, they capitalize all nouns like that, but this isn’t Germany. I’ve seen three books in the past month with this problem. All written by native speakers of English.
That’s enough ranting from me for the day. Those writers who didn’t know this stuff (which is evidently quite a few judging from what I’ve seen recently) – you’ll thank me for telling you this some day.
Thanks for reading! 🙂