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One of my newsletter subscribers subscribers sent me an unsolicited copy of his self-published nonfiction book. He included a note asking me to review it on Amazon.
He didn’t ask me if I’d review it before mailing the book. I wish he had, because it’s not the type of book I read, so I’m not qualified to review it.
But there I was, holding a book that was part memoir, part rant, and all awful.
Much of the content, while important to the author, was irrelevant to the book’s topic. In addition, because there were few paragraph breaks in the text — imagine a book with page after page of text with no white space — it was hard to read.
So I didn’t.
“Did you read it yet?”
The author kept hounding me for an “honest” review, all the while reminding me of how much that review copy cost him to print and mail.
I eventually read several pages to get a feel for his style and content. Then I scanned the rest to confirm that it was a book fueled by a vendetta and not by a need to help others. When I felt confident that I had seen enough to write an informed review, I did so.
I focused on the positives — his passion and topic knowledge — and gave it a three-star rating instead of a more honest one-star assessment.
It wasn’t the glowing five-star comment he expected, so he sent a scathing e-mail about me to his friend . . . or — imagine “Dateline’s” Keith Morrison asking this question — “Did he?”
The author sent his cranky message to me by mistake! Ha!
Quality makes a difference
This author doesn’t understand the importance of quality — in his manuscript, in the finished product, or in his dealings with others.
If you want people to know about, purchase, and read your books, quality counts. It really is that simple.
People don’t tell other readers about books that are “so-so.” But they will do your marketing for you when you give them something worth sharing.
Signs of quality in a book
Whether you plan to write just one book or several, you need:
- A great title (and for nonfiction, a corresponding subtitle)
- An attention-getting, professionally designed cover that’s appropriate for your genre
- Excellent content
- Well-written content (which isn’t the same as excellent content — you can write well, but still produce text that’s useless)
- Text with very few typographical errors and grammar mistakes
- Quality marketing materials (this applies to everything you communicate about the book, from your tweets to your website)
It starts with the cover. There’s that cliche about how you can’t judge a book by its cover, but guess what: We do. And it’s the first thing we see when we discover a book.
Whether it’s a thumbnail-size e-book cover or one showcased on a bookstore shelf, if it doesn’t look “right,” we’ll move along without bothering to read the book description.
What’s more, if the cover looks amateurish, we’ll presume that what’s inside is sub-par, too. Can you take that risk?
If you’re serious about using your book to educate, entertain, influence, or inform, you’ll have to make sure it’s a quality product. Most authors need outside help to accomplish that.
There are all kinds of excellent professionals available to make sure that you’ve got the best book possible — one that represents you and your talents well. Yes, you will have to spend a little money on good talent, but isn’t that smarter than wasting your time producing a book that nobody reads?
Ask authors whose work you admire to refer you to cover designers, editors, proofreaders, and others who can help you take your book to the next level.
You can also use online writers’ forums, your local writer’s group, Facebook and LinkedIn groups, or your social networks to request referrals to trusted professionals.
A few resources for improving quality
I get a lot of e-mails asking me for resources, so here are a few that might help.
- Book covers: I know many authors who have been happy with the process at 99designs. For a more personal approach, consider my cover designer friend Alexander von Ness at Nessgraphica.
- Editing and proofreading help: Use the “Freelance Writer Search” option from the American Society of Journalists and Authors or the Editorial Freelancers Association.
- Ghostwriters: I’m a member of and recommend the “find a writer” resources offered by both the Association of Ghostwriters and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
- Quality marketing materials: At a minimum, you want an attractive website that appeals to your target reader.
Can you do all of it on your own? Not likely.
If you’re a good writer, you probably aren’t a good cover and interior layout designer.
If you’re a good artist, you might not be a solid writer.
Figure out where you’re weak and get help. You won’t regret it.
What services do you recommend for cover designers, book interiors/layouts, ghostwriters, editors, etc.? Please help others by sharing referrals!
(Editor’s note: This article was first published in April 2012. It has been updated and expanded.)
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