Get Your Premium Membership

Self-Published Books Need A Professional Appearance To Court Success

by Kae Cheatham
Not long ago, I read a self-published book produced by a printing company, where the author was required to furnish not only the manuscript, but the layout and cover. The cover was the best part of this book. The story had potential (although erratic and overwritten) and was compelling enough that, out of curiosity, I finished it. I have read esthetically-rough fiction from traditional publishers, but those at least had a professional layout and had been scrutinized by a copy editor. This one--not.

I have no gripe with the concept of self-publishing, but if a writer wants a book to be taken seriously, some basics have to be considered. Liberal use of Strunk and White (Elements of Style) is a must, as well as referring to Chicago Manual of Style. Be certain punctuation is correctly rendered. Three periods (...) does not an ellipse make. Ellipses are not followed by any other punctuation ["What do you mean…, you have to go?"]. Uppercase letters should rarely be used for emphatic dialogue ["what WE did, did NOT cause what happened"]; description before dialogue should not end with a comma. [Green eyes betrayed her, "I'm sure you do."].

A copy editor would have caught ninety-eight percent of these errors, as well as the character names that changed mid-scene.

Regarding layout, the text alignment in a professional book is justified, with widow and orphan control, usually with 11pt type and type kerning so lines of text have uniformity. Quotation marks and apostrophes must be consistent throughout the text, not curly marks to start dialogue with straight apostrophes in contractions. A disregard (or ignorance) of these basics is what I see most in self-published books.

Self-publishing has a lot of benefits, especially to the environment. With traditional publishers, if they have a print run of 3,000 books, 2,000 of them can set in a warehouse for six months and then end up in a landfill. Most self-published material is print-on-demand, so less paper and printer ink is used. But if an author wants to do more than give away his self-published book to friends and family, the book must have a professional appearance, regardless of the story.

When someone has plans to publish more than one book, having a good product is especially critical. Marketing and hype might sell a decent number of a poorly-produced book, but once the dearth of editing and layout are realized, the reader might not want to chance another book from the same source. More than 5,000 books are produced each week by self publishing. That makes competition stiffer than ever for a reader’s attention. To produce a book correctly is more time consuming, but highly cost effective and can give the edge needed to make a book stand out. Using a professional copy editor and investing in a good text layout program, will result in a finished product on par with traditional publishers.

Book: Shattered Sighs