Guess what? Last week Publishers Weekly reported that, according to Bowker, over 1 million books were self-published in 2017. You may ask yourself what this means to authors and potential book buyers?
Ten years ago, when I stopped working in-house and became an independent publicist and business owner I was introduced to the indie-author market. There had been a swelling of this part of the market to which I and others in NY traditional publishing were unaware. It was alarming to find that a significant portion of the titles that were being self-published, were of substandard quality. One of the reasons for this was the plethora of inexpensive online book services that made a lot of money on DIY projects by aspiring writers. The quality of the printing, the interiors, the jackets were often terrible. Clearly there was a lot the indie author population needed to learn, and a network of bloggers and newsletters began to spring up to teach them the ropes. But even with the resources that are available today, I still see a lot of titles that have quality issues and these problems will make it difficult for a book to compete in today’s marketplace. With over 1 million books out there every year, appearance is at least 50% of the marketing effort.
Since I really dislike seeing books that look “self-published”, I’m going to share the beginnings of a list of telltale signs that I run into all the time, and some ways authors can avoid them.
1. A glossy jacket when it should be matte and a cover image that looks like a cheap template.
Narrative fiction and non-fiction should have a matte cover in paperback. It looks wrong to have a glossy cover, in my strong opinion, and it doesn’t help sell the book. To research this, go to your local bookstore and look at what is on the new in paperback tables. Also, have a designer do your jacket. Don’t use the templates provided online because a) you are likely to produce a jacket just like a bunch of others already out there; b) it will look like what it is; and c) you get what you pay for especially when it is free. Visit websites for indie authors, especially the Independent Book Publishers Association, which has resources you can check out for different publishing services. You can even call them on the phone!
2. Print is too small for the page or is printed in courier font.
Whatever you choose, please understand that courier font is not acceptable for a book unless it’s a narrative device. Almost anything is better than that including the old standard Times New Roman. Also, if you print using an online service get a copy or proof first to see what the type looks like. You don’t want to publish a book that half of your market (over 40) can’t read because the type is too small. I’ve seen it happen.
3. Printing your book straight from a word doc is not a good idea.
It looks like the book is “word processed” and not designed properly. I believe some of the online publishers have interior formatting help that can give you some design options if you can’t pay for a professional. If you can spend a bit of money, I suggest finding someone who does interior design in InDesign.
4. Empty rear jacket.
The back of the jacket needs to have a bar code, a brief author bio, a quote from a credible source (if available), and a brief snappy piece of selling copy. Again, the local bookstore is a great place to do research. Just because you are self-publishing, doesn’t mean you don’t need to meet publishing standards. Ebook sales are declining, so the presentation of your print book is going to make a difference.
5. No Library-of-Congress number
Do you want libraries to have access to your book? You need a “PCN” number, which you can obtain here and it’s free. All you need to do is send a copy to the Library of Congress when your book is ready.
I will continue to add to this list over the next several months. I hope sharing my observations as we all continue to navigate the indie market will be helpful.