This series began with a guest post from Kaitlyn Oruska: Self-published is not Synonymous with Shitty. But as much as it hurts to admit, there are some self-published books out there that lend some truth to this stereotype.
My first two taught me many lessons about what not to do in publishing. My impatience to publish made me careless. There was almost no editing whatsoever (silly me thinking I could edit them myself because I had an English degree…FALSE), random stock photos with no professional cover designer to spruce them up. They are what I now call my “beta books”: evidence of an author who was brand new to the publishing world.
Compared with my most recent books, you can see a huge difference in how far I’ve come (the ones pictured below are my favorite!). I’ve found an incredible cover designer who is also a good friend, a quality editor, and an increase of beta readers (honest betas are so important!).
While there are still a few copies of the originals floating out there in cyberspace (the original publisher no longer produces them, but they are still sold via third-party sellers on Amazon), I’m working on reproducing Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter and Someone You Already Know: better quality editing (I can’t emphasize that enough). Improved covers. Spruced up content. These will be marked as “second editions” and with time, the originals will fade into obscurity.
But the first time I held those books in my hands, I was blind to their faults; kind of like a mom who thinks her kid is a perfect angel when everyone else thinks he’s a spoiled brat with little to no discipline. The first time you see your name on a book cover is pure magic: I felt that high for weeks. Over time, it decreased as sales went from so-so to zero, and I didn’t know why. Friends and family tend to be more eager than anyone to purchase your book, but when you’re trying to appeal to the masses, strangers will not be so forgiving when they see the flaws that you couldn’t. Excessive grammatical errors are a huge turnoff.
My sales gradually began to increase after the release of my third book, this time with an editor and professional cover. Light bulb! Quality sells! Who would have thought.
Lesson learned: never cut corners. Cover designers and editors can be expensive (though I got great deals with mine), but you have a much better chance of earning that money back in sales if your book is actually worth buying (and if you learn the ins and outs of marketing, as discussed in last week’s post). Yes, it sucks to have to go back and start over from scratch. But my readers deserve better, and the stories in those books are my most personal ones by far. I want them read in their best light.
Not every book is “perfect.” Editors are human, too, and I’ve found errors in traditionally published books on multiple occasions. One of the best aspects of self-publishing is the ability to always go back and make changes. One misspelled word the editor missed? I can fix it and have the book back up within a day. Cover needs some revamping? Ditto (well, depending on the designer’s schedule). There is always room for improvement.