The Undeniable Could-Cost-You-A-Sale Truth About Nonfiction Book Publishing

The Undeniable Could-Cost-You-A-Sale Truth About Nonfiction Book Publishing

truth about book publishingAfter conducting 11 case studies with successful book authors (eight of them published so far), I have learned a few simple truths about the world of book publishing. One of those truths is this: If you want to succeed at publishing your own books, you have to spend some money. You’ve got to invest in yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will.

The common theme, after talking to every one of these book authors–whether they publish in the digital format only or publish in digital and print–is there are two main areas where independent authors should be prepared to spend money:

  • Editing
  • Cover design

Every single author I’ve interviewed so far said they spend money on at least one of these aspects of book production, and most of the authors said they spend money on both. As an independent author myself, I’d recommend that you hire a good editor and a good cover designer even if you do everything else yourself.

Why You Should Hire a Book Editor

Don’t go to Fiverr and hire someone to read through your manuscript to find half a dozen misspellings.

Kevin Kruse (case study scheduled to publish in January 2016) said, “When I was young and dumb, I made the mistake of uploading a manuscript that I swore on my life did not have any typos. Within 24 hours of publication I started getting low-starred reviews. Everyone was pointing out the typos.”

If you don’t care about quality, do your own editing. If you don’t care about getting good reader reviews, then don’t worry about the polish a professional editor can give to your book. If you don’t care about getting more sales, then by all means, don’t use an editor. But if you want to be seen as a professional book author who publishes high-quality material, then a book editor is absolutely essential. Be prepared to spend the money.

But I’ll warn you. A good editor is not cheap. Don’t go to Fiverr and hire someone to read through your manuscript to find half a dozen misspellings. Hire an editor who will help you improve your manuscript in every conceivable way.

When I was a newspaper editor a few years ago, we had an extensive process for proofreading every page of every newspaper we published. Today Newspapers was a family of five community weeklies on the south side of Dallas, Texas. As editor of one of those weeklies, I would read each article my writers wrote and then hand it to my managing editor, who also read each article and commented on them. Then we’d give them back to the writers to revise. On production day, each editor would layout each page of the newspaper and print out a proof copy. This required reading and editing each article again. Then, two other people in the office had to read each page, make notes on typos, and sign off. No page was complete until there were two signatures on every page showing that two proofreaders (besides the editor) looked at that page. Finally, the managing editor looked at each page again and the editor would make the changes before sending the newspaper to the press guy. After all that, many weeks I would still find errors in the newspaper after it went to the newsstand.

Its not easy proofreading. Self-editing is near impossible.

One of the things that I pride myself on is being a hatchet man when it comes to editing manuscripts–even my own. Or you might say, especially my own. I leave no letter unturned when it comes to poring over words and punctuation in order to ensure typos don’t get through. But I am only one man. I still miss typos in my own manuscripts even though I am ruthless in searching them out.

Writers have blind spots. You are going to miss typos and errors in your own writing. Don’t think for a minute that you are immune from the same ailment that has plagued every writer since Homer. Invest in an editor so that you produce the very best book you can possibly publish. You, and your readers, will thank you for it.

Why You Should Hire a Book Designer

crappy e-book coverNathan Meunier does his own book covers, but I would not encourage you to do so. Most self-published book covers designed by the author suck worse than a vacuum cleaner. All you have to do is scan the book covers of self-published books and e-books at Amazon and Smashwords to see what I mean.

Contrary to the old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover, the harsh reality is that readers DO judge books by their covers. In fact, the cover is the first impression every reader is going to have of your book, so you might as well make the investment to make that first impression the best that it can be.

The price for a quality book cover varies. You can spend $5 at Fiverr and get a decent book cover, but it won’t be the same as the $299 you spend at 99 Designs. On the other hand, you don’t have to spend $299. I’ve published some awesome book covers for less than $150.

Still, you get what you pay for. Take your time, find the right cover designer for your book, and pay them what they’re worth. You can easily pay $500 for a dynamite book cover, but if you do, make sure the artist is worth that much. Stick to your budget, but spend money on a quality book cover because if readers see your book cover on the shelf at Barnes & Noble or the digital book shelf at Amazon and it doesn’t impress them to buy the book, then it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve saved. It’s money lost.

So there’s the down and dirty on book publishing. If you spend any money at all, make sure it’s on your cover art and editing.

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Allen Taylor
Allen Taylor
Allen Taylor is a freelance writer, content strategist, and award-winning journalist. He is the author of "E-book Publishing: Create Your Own Brand of Digital Books," available in the Kindle, ePub, iBooks, and PDF formats.

2 Comments

  1. Anita Cooper says:

    Allen,

    What’s your opinion on editing and book cover services for short stories? Same as for full length novels?

    • Allen Taylor says:

      Yes, I’d say the prices are fairly comparable. If you want your manuscript to be top-notch and free of errors, you should pay for the services that are going to get you to that quality.