Friday, July 24, 2009

Self-Publishing—Ten Great Tips to Make Your Book Shine

We self-publishers fight a lonely battle, finding readers for our wit and wisdom. We write alone, and now we sell alone and search for ways to market our work. How do we entice readers to open their wallets?

Those questions are often premature. Before asking how you’re going to cope with all those book orders, you need to make sure you have a quality product. So here are ten tips to make your book, fiction or non-fiction, the best it can be.

#1 Use a spell-checker, but only as a first line of defense. Then you look for misspellings the spell-checker won’t catch, such as then/than, to/too/two, tail/tale, or its/it’s.

#2 Read your manuscript critically, as though you weren’t the author. Some things to check include complete chapters, well-organized paragraphs, complete sentences, and accurate punctuation.

#3 Be consistent. If you capitalize a word once in the text, chances are you always want to capitalize it. Decide whether you want one space or two at the end of a sentence, and stick with it. Never change your font or type size without good reason. If your work consists of more than one file, be sure that every file is formatted identically.

#4 Get honest, competent critiques. Leave your mother and spouse alone; your family has better things to do than fawn over your work. Avoid critiques from anyone who has an emotional stake in making you happy, because that isn’t what you need. The Internet Writing Workshop (http://internetwritingworkshop.org) is an excellent source of constructive, informed criticism.

#5 Use your judgment. Even good critiquers may give you conflicting advice. Remember that it’s your project, so the final decision is always yours.

#6 Refer to a style manual such as the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the most widely accepted guide for standard writing.

#7 Make a style sheet. A novel or other large manuscript can involve lots of small stylistic decisions by the author. Keep a pad of paper with a running list things you don’t want to have to keep looking up. For example, a cartoon I liked showed a bank robber writing a note and asking the teller, “Is holdup one word or two?” Think of words you often misspell or don’t know how to capitalize, and write them correctly on the list.

#8 Follow your publisher’s guidelines religiously even if they don’t insist.

#9 Repeat tip #2.

#10 Review the publisher’s proof carefully. When you receive the publisher’s proof isn’t the time to look for typos; you should have done that already. At this stage, the publisher may even charge you if you fix many of your own mistakes at this stage. Instead, look for their errors. Are illustrations in their proper places? Are pages and chapters numbered properly? Look at every page’s overall appearance. Is each one properly aligned? Is any text missing?

If you follow these simple (but not always easy) tips, I can’t guarantee best-sellerdom for your book, but I can promise you this: Your book will be far superior to the vast majority of self-published books. You will have a quality product.

15 comments:

Michael said...

(1) A book should NEVER have two spaces between sentences. That's a holdover from ancient typewriters and an obvious indicator of a non-professional writer.

(2) A self-publisher should not be receiving proofs from a publisher. She or he should be getting proofs from a printer. If the proof comes from a publisher, the writer is NOT a self-publisher, but is a customer of a vanity press. No one can "self-publish" for you.

Michael N. Marcus
author of "Become a Real Self-Publisher," due next month.

http://BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com

Bob Sanchez said...

Yes, I do use "self-publishing" in the sense of causing one's work to be published. I have no quarrel with your narrower use of the term, but have written elsewhere on this question and defined what I mean.

As to not using two spaces after a period, you're right, except that for most self-published (okay, vanity published...whatever) manuscripts I've seen, the extra space is the least of the problems.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

And ALWAYS hire an editor!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 95% of those who are not traditionally published skip this step and it shows.

And yeah, in the publishing world, Michael's #2 comment above is correct.

L. Diane Wolfe
www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com
www.spunkonastick.net
www.thecircleoffriends.net

Carter said...

Having reviewed several self-pubs (for pay), I can tell you that Bob's advice would make a huge difference to most writers who go that route. I'm continually astonished at how bad the stuff is, when joining a writing group like the IWW would have made a huge difference in very short time.

I know nothing about the process, so the earlier comments may be right, but I wish everybody who self-publishes would read these tips.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Bob, I think these are good tips for any writer - not just self-published ones.

Import2sage said...

Those are really very wonderful . . .
. .

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