Sunday, May 17, 2020

How to Fight Publishing Ignorance

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin
Last week I turned in my judging sheets for the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I've been judging this contest once a year for at least five years. The good news is the overall quality of the books I've been seeing are improved. The bad news is that I still receive terrible entries that show publishing ignorance. In many ways I wonder how these books even got produced because they are poor on many different levels. The covers are poor. The interiors are strange. The title of the book does nothing to draw me into the book. The writing is average. The layouts are odd. Yet someone believed in the concept enough to publish it in the first place and then enter it into an awards contest. Each year the judging experience makes me do a bit of head shaking about the publishing ignorance.
Successful publishing is not simple. While I've been in this business for many years, I understand it has many twists and turns. Each book and author has to find their own audience and readers. Yes there are some best practices in the process. As you learn and execute these practices, you give your book the best opportunity to succeed and sell in the marketplace. I continue to learn new aspects.
Here are some ways to fight publishing ignorance:
1. Have high standards for your writing. Excellent writing is the foundation of every book—whether you self-publish or traditional publish. If you can't put it together with excellence yourself, then get some training or hire an outside editor or ghostwriter. If the writing is poor or even starts poorly, it will affect how your book will sell in the marketplace.
2. Use an interesting title. The author is the best person to title their book so put some energy toward this aspect. I've titled many of my books which have been traditionally published. If the title is boring, it will not draw readers.
3. Have a well-done cover. You've be shocked at the poor book covers I saw in this group of books. We judge books all the time by their covers. It's an important aspect of the publishing process.
4. Write an interesting back cover. Several of these books had no back cover (zero). It's a huge mistake because even if you self-publish and speak at an event. People will read the back cover to see what the book is about and make a buying decision. Do you have endorsements from someone well-known. It is work to get these endorsements but anyone can get them with the right efforts.
5. The production details matter. Do you have a logo for the publisher on the spine of the book (at the bottom)? Look at the books on your shelf from Random House or Simon and Schuster or HarperCollins—and follow every detail. Many of the barcodes in this batch of books did not have the price of the book built into the barcode. Even if you self-publish, these details matter.
6. Keep learning and reading how-to books then applying them to your book. Whether you get these books from your library or buy them used or buy them new or borrow them from a friend, read these books and apply it to your own publishing journey.
7. Get to a writers conference and meet professionals. Often it is who you know as much as what you know that will make the tipping point with your publishing. Yes many events have moved to online or been rescheduled but they are still going to happen and are terrific resources.
I have probably missed something in this list but it gives you an idea of some solid steps to take to fight publishing ignorance. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


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