Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Strive for Excellence

This weekend, I was in Tucson, Arizona for the Tucson Festival of Books. There were over 400 authors at this event which had crowds estimated at 80,000 to 100,000 people. In the middle of this event, it is easy to get lost as an author. I enjoyed meeting other authors and learning about their books. In general, I was looking for ways to help others and learn from them instead of focused on hard selling. The event was mostly about exposure and networking.

When you attend such a large gathering, one of the keys is to manage your expectations about what will happen or not happen at such an event. Some authors expect to sell stacks of books at such an event. I did not. Instead, I focused on building some relationships with authors and readers—which is a much more reasonable expectation to actually accomplish.

As I sat in the author room at the Festival, I struck up a conversation with the woman beside me. She had a new beautiful book and pulled it out of her bag to show it to me. I read the title and admired the photo (which she took). Then I noticed the words “Forward by ____” on her cover. I pointed out the misspelling. Foreword is one of the most misspelled words in publishing and because of my experience, it jumped out at me.

I pointed it out to her and she responded, “My editor was supposed to catch such things.” I was unsure what to say because the misspelling was on a printed book or a little late to change without reprinting.

Then I opened the book and the inside pages were set in Courier New typeface. I didn't mention the typeface to her since she was already a bit stressed about the misspelling. How many books do you have on your shelf with Courier New typeface?

I would take a guess and the answer is zero. There are millions of books being produced in many different formats and methods. If you decide to use one of the alternative methods, that's terrific—but make sure your book fits the standards of traditional books. Different is not always good.

When someone reads your book, you want them to focus on the message in your book—not to spin off on a tangent wondering why your book was produced in such a “different” fashion. Ultimately it is the author's responsibility to maintain this high standard.

This week I checked the inside pages of one of Intermedia's books that is about ready to go to the printer. My day job is working as a publisher at Intermedia Publishing Group. If you want to know the details of our publishing program click this link and get a free teleseminar with the details.

I have a number of books in various stages of production. I looked at the Foreword and the word was spelled right but it was only one sentence. One sentence is inadequate for a Foreword. The majority of Forewords in books are about 1,000 to 1,500 words or like a short magazine article. The Foreword needs to have substance and length to fit the standard for books. When I saw this one sentence Foreword, I wrote my author and we made some changes. No one is going to see this one sentence Foreword in the final book.

As authors, it is important to strive for excellence. Will mistakes slip through our fingers and land in the printed books? Yes, you can easily find typos and mistakes in every published book. The good news is these errors can be fixed when the book is reprinted. I encourage my authors to take a book and mark it “corrections” so they can process and keep track of reader feedback. If the feedback makes sense, then let's correct it on a subsequent printing.

Each of us need to push ourselves and our books toward excellence. Our readers deserve our best effort.

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