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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

4 Easy Tips to take Your Book from Mediocre to Stunning

I read an article this morning on how a mother goes about telling her 15-year-old daughter she couldn’t write. The premise of this article boiled down to, “You don’t!” Instead, you support her and encourage her to keep working on what she obviously loves. With practice, we all get better.

However, as a book reviewer, I don’t have that luxury. As I do not have a book out there for people to read, I don’t know what it’s like to take and hold my baby in my hands and ask a total stranger to read it and give me their opinion. But I DO remember what it was like to show total strangers my writing for the first time. Let’s just say I was terrified.

Now, I’m the total stranger. Authors come to me asking me for my opinion on their work. I promise to tell people my honest opinion on their work and I contact each and every one of them when I’m done. Nothing is more painful for me than to go back to an author and tell them their work needed well… more work. It is my least favorite part of my job. I much prefer to go yelling from the rooftops that the book I just read was terrific and everyone should read it. 

We have now entered November. During this month, probably more books are created than at any other time of the year. If I had been able to keep up with my reading list, I have no doubt I’d have people climbing all over me in December asking me to read their book. Those weird little novellas penned during what is known as NaNoWriMo. I’ll admit I’m glad at this point my doors are currently shut. Now I have an inkling of how publishers feel every time November rolls around. Do I hate NaNoWriMo? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I’m participating in it. But I know a few things from being a reviewer and I want to share them with you.

When you think you’re ready to self-publish, consider these 4 simple tips: 

1) Make your cover beautiful. In the world of self-publishing, the marketplace is flooded. We DO judge a book by its cover. There are many talented cover artists out there. Hire someone. If you’re not awesome at graphic design, please don’t try it yourself. It will show.

2) Make sure you EDIT the book when you are done. Nothing is more painful than reading a book that obviously would have benefited from such a service. Does it cost money? Yes. But without it, your book could potentially fail.

3) Get beta readers! These are marvelous friends who love to read and are willing to point out the problems to you. If you have a friend who has issues with punctuation and grammar and goes nuts correcting the errors, for goodness sakes, hang on to them! They’re worth their weight in gold.

4) Get your book proofread! I have returned a lot of books to authors over this minor detail. When I take stars away for every 10 typos in a book, and I end up with a negative number, I have to wonder if you even read your own book. You may very well need to bring in someone who has never seen your book before in order to catch as many as possible. There are professionals out there who do this, but sometimes there’s that good friend who will help.

These are simple steps that easily take a book from mediocre and can polish it to a high shine. A lot of writers are unwilling to go through this process because it takes time. You want to see your book OUT THERE! But trust me. Going through these four little steps pays off in the long run. With everyone doing their part, we can show the world that ‘self-publish’ is not a bad word. And then maybe my “I’m sorry” letters can be purely based on the fact the story line was not my cup of tea. I’d like that.


Liz A. said...

Beta readers or critique groups are critical. It's the authors that won't take criticism that end up putting out books that no one wants to read.

Han Hills said...

Great post!
I wondered if you had any tips about finding the right beta readers, and the etiquette involved the beta reading process? I have plenty of friends who are grammar sticklers (thankfully!), but I wondered if you had suggestions about finding those with more expertise in structure and narrative flow, or in one's niche non-fiction topic?

Patsy said...

Good advice. I've read enough books full of typos or with big plot holes to know such things can spoil the reading experience and I don't want to make those mistakes myself. As you say, this all takestime and costs money - I hope you're also right that it'll pay off in the long run.