Make Your Self-Published Book Look Professionally-Published With These 5 Tips

The goal for any self-published author is not only write an amazing book, but to create a product that can stand out and endure the critical eye of a traditional system.

Your competition are not only other writers but other publishers too. Naturally then, you want to make sure that what you produce is nothing but as good as you can make it. This article will go through five things you must do to ensure your book looks professionally published.

Print Your Manuscript

You might see this as extra time and a waste of paper, but you would be surprised how many additional mistakes you will be able to find. Printing your manuscript out in paperback format (using a recommended type face) will give you the opportunity to view your book in “real life”.

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Reviewing your book this way will allow you to check on things like margins, overall alignment of chapter headings, paragraphs, and words placement (i.e. Are your words getting cut off mid-sentence?). Printing in this format will also get you into mindset of a reader, not a writer. As a reader you will pick up typos, missing words and incorrect word usage than if you were reading off a screen.

Here’s what to look out for:

  • Page Numbers
  • Chapter Headings: are they positioned in the same place every time and numbered correctly?
  • Paragraph indentations: are they consistent?
  • Widows and Orphans: single lines at the bottom the page or parts of lines on new pages.
  • That all Notes and Comments from Track Changes are gone.
  • All Subheadings are formatted correctly and consistently.
  • Margins are all the same.

Beta Readers

By this stage your manuscript should have already been looked over by your beta readers, but it’s recommended to give them a copy of the completed manuscript once your formatting has been finalized.

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This allows you to get one final check-over. It is a far better thing for a trusted beta to spot the mistakes in your final proofs than to release the book into the world for your readers to find: because they will. It can be embarrassing to see reviewers commenting on simple mistakes, and ths can damage your sales.

So make use of your beta readers even in the final stages. The more eyes your work sees, the higher change that any remaining errors, whether grammatical or in your typesetting, will be spotted and corrected.

Blurbs

A blurb is your back cover description. A snippet of story line to get your reader interested. It’s an industry standard that blurbs are 100–180 words in length, so be mindful of how much you are revealing.

Remember, a blurb is not a synopsis. You want to briefly introduce your protagonist and some of what they must overcome. You don’t want to give away the entire plot, nor introduce too many characters. For practice, go to your bookshelves and read the back covers of your favorite books. Try to see how they sparked your interest enough to make the purchase.

Remember Blurbs need:

  • Length: 100–180 words
  • Protagonist: ntroduce them, and create an attachment
  • Tone: this should be the same as in your novel

For more details read our blog on writing the perfect blurb.

Tagline or Testimonial

Finding a suitable tagline can take some brainstorming but it’s worth taking the time to get it right. Your tagline is your ‘hook’ to intrigue people enough to pick your book up and read your blurb.

A testimonial from an author in the same genre as you can also help. It is their stamp of approval and if you’re lucky enough to have such an author interested in your work, you want their praise on the front of your book for all to see. This can help legitimize your work and draw their fan base to yours.

Matte Vs Gloss Covers

There are many schools of thought when it comes to choosing a matte or gloss cover for your final paperback.

Some writers think that gloss paperbacks have a cheap mass market look about them. But depending on your cover design, gloss can actually bring out richer colors in dark designs and reveal more intricate details in the illustration work. Gloss tends to be favorite for non-fiction works as it can enhance cover photographs and is less likely to be handled as much as a paperback.

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Matte covers, on the other hand, provide an aesthetic quality and durability to paperbacks. These covers are less likely to peel if handled extensively and won’t show up fingerprints and scratches.

It’s worth noting, however, that fine illustration work can be hidden and colors won’t be as vibrant with matte covers. Be sure to speak to your designer about your preference so they can adjust the colors accordingly.

Matte covers can compliment the art and provide an added bonus of the sensory experience to book buyers who like soft covers. Once again, it comes down to the personal preference of you, the publisher, but it it’s important to research what is popular in your genre and choose what will compliment your design work.

What Else Can You Do?

As a writer it’s your job to create an intriguing story with memorable characters that readers will enjoy. But as a publisher, it’s as equally important for you to provide the best possible, market-standard product for your potential buyers.

Having a well crafted blurb and an effective tagline or testimonial can hook readers into wanting to read more. Printing your formatted interior before finally choosing effective covers will ensure your book looks great and will appear to both booksellers and customers alike.

What else do you think should be included to ensure a book looks at home sat along side a traditionally published book?

 

Image Credits: Manuscript by Seth Sawyers (Flickr). Reading by Shelly (Flickr)

8 Things You Should Know About CreateSpace

There’s a lot of information out there regarding the popularity and ease of Print on Demand publishing. None is more easily accessible than Amazons’s CreateSpace. This article will highlight 8 things you should know about CreateSpace

1. Online Checking- Proofing on a Budget

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After loading all of your files into CreateSpace and their team has checked their compatibility, you have the option to order a paperback proof copy. Proofing is an extremely important step in the publishing journey, but if you’re operating from overseas you might not have the time or the money to order a paperback.

CreateSpace now have the option of an online checking system, as well as the opportunity to download a PDF version. Writers have the chance to review their books in their manuscript layout and ensure all of their formatting, margins, title pages etc. are correct. If they download the PDF, they can spend as much time as they like checking over it.

2. Extended Distribution- A Word of Caution

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CreateSpace has an option to offer your book out for Extended Distribution. This allows online stores, like The Book Depository, and independent booksellers to add your book to their catalogues. This can be a great opportunity for writers; but be careful. This option will drive the price of your book up not only to your retailers but on Amazon as well.

A 500 page novel that’s usually $15 USD can end up costing upward of $30-$40 with your royalties staying relatively low. Often times it is cheaper for independent booksellers to buy directly from you. This allows prices stay low enough that the exchange rate doesn’t dissuade your potential customers.

3. Higher Royalties through the CreateSpace Store

via GIPHY

The Amazon sites offer a lot of exposure for your new book, but as a writer you will earn higher royalties if you direct your readers to buy directly from CreateSpace store. If you’re advertising or adding links on social media, or on your web site, don’t forget to add a link to CreateSpace as well.

4. Shipping Overseas

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CreateSpace is an American Publisher and Distributer so it is important to note that you have to account for shipping times and prices. If you are lucky enough to have an independent bookseller willing to stock your book, make sure that you are adding the shipping costs into your per-book price while negotiating, or charge separately for the freight. If you don’t, you could end up short changing yourself and irritating your supplier.

When preparing a launch make sure you allow 4-6 weeks for your paperbacks to arrive at your door, this way you will not be left apologizing to suppliers and readers if your freight is late.

5. Free Resources

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CreateSpace has excellent free resources and information about all aspects of self-publishing. They have their own blog and forum for their authors to connect, support, and share tips with each other. They also have some great interviews with bestselling CreateSpace authors who speak of their writing journey.

Writing can be a lonely business, so take advantage of the site to gain knowledge, and to network with other authors.

6. Marketing Packages

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CreateSpace offer a variety of services and resources, but their Marketing Packages (helping to market your book on their platform) aren’t really offering any information you can’t find yourself elsewhere. They offer a basic biography, description and keywords based on information you provide: they don’t actually read your book.

Do your research and write copy yourself that’s going to be just as effective. After all, keywords and descriptions are largely trial and error. Sometimes you’ll have to rewrite both a few times to find what’s going to work best. To learn how to write a great book description, check out our article here. Save your money and put it into cost-per-click advertising, where it’ll likely be more useful.

7. Royalties

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Like its Kindle Direct counterpart, CreatSpace will only pay your royalties in $100 blocks. If you aren’t a U.S. citizen, they’ll send you a cheque through the mailing system. This can be frustrating for some writers, so know that you could have a few months to wait before you see any royalties coming in.

8. Book Descriptions and Amazon Author

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CreateSpace and KDP both give you a product description to complete that will appear on your Amazon product page. If you are using Amazon Author (and you should be) and you happen to change your book description on the Author book page, it will automatically override whatever description you have put into CreateSpace.

To be sure that your changes are correct on all pages, make sure that you update all platforms with the same one. You don’t want your ebook description to be different to your paperback – it will look sloppy and unprofessional.

CreateSpace is a great platform to get your paperback into the hands of your readers and onto shelves but it’s important to know the hidden pro’s and con’s before pressing publish.

What other great tips do you have for using CreateSpace?

 

Image Credits: Editing for the 2nd edition of How To Love Your Job or Find A New One by Joanna Penn (Flickr), Distributed Religion by The Art Gallery of Knoxville (Flickr), B767 by Bernal Saborio (Flickr), Free Daddy and His Little Shadow Girls at The Skate Park Creative Commons by Pink Sherbert Photography (Flickr), Design Blog Sociale – 23 June 2008 – Vitamin Packaging by Robert Ferrell D by SocialIsBetter (Flick), Money by PicturesOfMoney (Flickr), I accidentally brought money to a book sale. by Brittany Stevens (Flickr).

Writing The Blurb – What You Need To Know

Today we’re all about blurbs. Do you write your own, or get someone else to do it? Let’s give you some guidance about what makes a good blurb, and a great one.

Have you ever read a blurb that tells you the entire plot of the novel and you have put it back on the shelves and walked away? This is one of the many signs of a bad blurb so writers take note. Giving too much away, or not sharing enough to entice, can turn readers off wanting to know more. The length of the blurb, introducing your protagonist in an interesting way and using the right tone for your novel genre can make a huge difference in the  final decision of a curious book buyer. It’s difficult for even the most experienced of writers to construct an effective and engaging blurb but being aware of the following will get your head in the right game.

How long is long?

Ideally your blurb should be of about 100-180 words. This is a good word count to aim for as it will fit the back cover neatly in a good size font. You don’t want to give too much away, it’s important to not think of it in the same way you would a synopsis. It is the second base on the way for a customer to purchase your book and your main aim is to intrigue and entice them. Take a look at the below blurb for Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, an epic novel of about 650 pages:

american-gods ‘Is nothing sacred? Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break. Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, AMERICAN GODS, takes a long hard look at the soul of America. You’ll be surprised by what – and who- it finds there…’

107 words is all it takes to give you a taste of what the book is about, just enough to make you curious. It doesn’t give you a blow by blow of what happens and how it ends. Less is more and finding that balance will always take more than one draft. It doesn’t have to be that short the first time round, lean it back with each draft and you will end up with a solid piece of tight prose.

Hello, what’s your name?

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Blurbs are a great place to introduce your protagonist. It’s like meeting a stranger where first impressions always count. This gives your reader a chance to emotionally connect and become attached to them. This story is about them, and if the character doesn’t interest your reader on your blurb than they certainly won’t want to spend the next six hours with them. To use the above example, we quickly learn that the protagonist is Shadow, he was in prison and is now a grieving widow. The first few lines tell you exactly who your protagonist is even if it’s only a brief introduction. You are essentially speed dating your reader, be coy enough to be mysterious, don’t tell them your whole life story and then awkwardly propose.

Setting the scene

Book blurbs are direct and immediate advertising. All advertising has an angle and a target audience. The first very big question you need to ask yourself is do you know yours? It might seem obvious but you might be surprised how many writers don’t. As the cover of your book is a symbolic language tailored to your genre so must your blurb be. Rhythm in your tone sets the scene for your novel and it should be written in the same style and voice as your story. Your goal is to target readers that like your genre and intrigue them enough to want to know more. To jump genres let’s look at Kyra Davis’s 164 word blurb for her chick lit novel Sex, Murder and a Double Latte;

310740Thriller scribe Sophie Katz is as hard-boiled as a woman who drinks Grande Caramel Brownie Frappuccinos can be. So Sophie knows it’s not paranoia or post-divorce, living-alone-again jitters, when she becomes convinced that a crazed reader is sneaking into her apartment to reenact scenes from her books. The police, however, can’t tell a good plot from an unmarked grave.

When a filmmaker friend is brutally murdered in the manner of a death scene in one of his movies, Sophie becomes convinced that a copycat killer is on the loose — and that she’s the next target. If she doesn’t solve the mystery, her own bestseller will spell out her doom. Cursing her grisly imagination (why, oh, why did she have to pick the ax?), Sophie engages in some real-life gumshoe tactics. The man who swoops in to save her in dark alleys is mysterious new love interest Anatoly Darinsky. Of course, if this were fiction, Anatoly would be her prime suspect . . .

An interesting chick lit style blurb written with a thriller twist in keeping with the plot line and tone of the novel, it ends with an emotive hook to grab your attention leaving questions and curiosity.

Quotes and Testimonials

The last thing to briefly touch on is whether or not to have quotes, or a fabulous testimonial, from reviewers as a part of your blurb. There is a rather fine line with this because unless you have someone legitimate who has critiqued your work than it won’t have any leverage. It needs to be a review from a respected reviewing company, like Kirkus, or if you have sent your work to an established writer. Credibility is key. A quote from your mum (unless she is Anne Rice or JK Rowling) will make you look like an amateur.

Round Up

Like all writing, blurbs are not an exact science. It’s helpful to look at the best sellers in your genre and see how they are constructed. Remember to take some time to research and re-draft, it may be the decider on whether or not readers take that extra step.

Use the below checklist to make your blurb awesome:

  • Length: Is it between 100-180 words?
  • Protagonist: Are you doing introductions and creating attachment?
  • Research: Have you read other blurbs in your genre?
  • Tone: Is it the same ‘voice’ you have used in your novel? Are you leaving it open ended?

 

What do you look at first when buying a book? Do you read blurbs? Or do you think they spoil the plot too much?

 

What goes on the back of a fiction book?

You’ve uploaded your eBook to Kindle, and you’re organizing to print a paperback at CreateSpace, so what goes on the back of a cover? A blurb, a bio, a testimonial? Is there anything compulsory? Here’s the rundown of what goes on cover back matter.

blog_blurb_back_layoutThe Water Thief by Nicholas Lamar Soutter: Buy it here

  1. The blurb

The first, obvious, necessity. The blurb is the second step after the cover, for your audience to read up and find out more about your story. I’ve heard of blurbs running up to 400 words, but for a standard 6×9” paperback (and smaller) I would recommend 180 tops, 120 minimum. This gives you plenty of room for additional elements, and leaves you some nice space for the readers eye to travel, instead of it looking compressed.

For more information about writing a good blurb visit: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2010/11/16/how-to-write-back-blurb-for-your-book/

  1. An author biography:

A bio is good. It shares a bit about yourself, and gives your readers an access point to learning more about you. You can share your background, and then follow it with your social media and website links. A bio should be small and to the point, and normally goes at the bottom after the blurb. I’d keep it under 80 words if possible.

  1. An author photo:

This is to go with your bio, and should be a professional photo. If you’re choosing one which is taken from your phone, or a family member, ensure the lighting and composition is good and that you are easy to see.

  1. Testimonials & Endorsements

Testimonials and positive reviews about your book, and skills as an author, do wonders. The more reputable the source the better. You wouldn’t gain any traction with a testimonial from someone who hasn’t published themselves or has no reputation. Choose your sources wisely, but do choose them if you can. Stephen King would be awesome, if you can get him. David Tennant is also acceptable.

  1. A lead in line

Sometimes when you look at the back of a book there’s a single line that is placed at the top of the blurb, to lead into the first sentence. This could be drawn from a line from the book that summarises the plot well, or the overall theme. This could just be a punchy line or something quirky, a line that shares your character with the reader before they open to the first page. A single line works best, but if you find you can’t plump up your blurb and have a lot of space to cover, a couple of good lines works just as well.

  1. Barcode + ISBN

A barcode and your ISBN goes onto the back, bottom half. Sometimes to the left, mostly on the right, not in the middle.

Do I give the barcode and ISBN it to my designer?

In some instances, such as CreateSpace, you type your ISBN directly into their system when you upload your cover, and they will place the barcode on there for you. In others it may be up to you (or your designer) to organize your barcode onto the back. Either way you gotta leave room for it, so don’t fill up the whole back page!

  1. A mention of your other work.

If you are writing a series and want the reader to know of the other titles available, this is a great opportunity. If it’s not going on the back of the book, put it on the inside.

 

None of these points, except for the blurb, is conditional. The blurb guidelines I’ve supplied aren’t even a must-do, but you do have to have some sort of synopsis to entice your reader to read your story. They have to know what they’re getting themselves into!

Do you have any suggestions as to what should or shouldn’t be on a back cover? Seen anything that was truly awful?