Welcome back to our new Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.


[ Originally posted: May 2nd, 2011 ]

You’ve self-published a book, and it’s amazing that you’ve dedicated so much time and energy into writing and creating you own masterpiece. While there’s nothing wrong with self publishing, and it’s actually a great opportunity for many authors, you don’t necessarily want your book to “look self published”. That could mean inability of your audience to take your book seriously, receiving horrible reviews, suffering from poor sales performance, or worse.

Here are a few of the 3 “deadly sins” not to commit when publishing your book:

  • Use of cover templates – Templates are often rather dull, at best. Invest your money into really making your cover stand out.
  • Unedited manuscript – Run on sentences, sentence fragments, etc. are all things that can leave a bad taste in the mouth of a reader. We always recommend that you hire a professional editor for your manuscript. No, your sister-in-law doesn’t count as a professional editor. You need more than a fresh set of eyes when it comes to choosing an editor. You need someone who is professionally trained in editing.
  • Non-traditional interior
    • Double-Spaced – A book should NEVER be double spaced. Just because something works great for reports and other forms of communication doesn’t mean it will work the same for a printed book.
    • Strange and/or difficult to read typestyles – You like typing in Script MT Bold. It looks beautiful on screen, but will not look as good in a printed book.
    • Missing headers/footers – Have you ever read a book (other than a children’s book) without a header or footer? Why leave them out on your book?
    • Non-standard page numbering – Make sure your page numbers are in the same position on each opposite page. Also make sure font is consistent across all numbering.
When you hire a self-publishing company, all of these things can be taken care of under one umbrella. However, if you are “going it alone”, it’s important to remember the tips above to make sure you avoid showcasing an unprofessional appearance.


Four and a half years after Wendy’s original post, not much has changed when it comes to the aspects of self-publishing which set the final products at a disadvantage compared to their traditionally published kin.

And look, we’ve all seen a lousy book cover or two in our time.  And with online compendiums like the Huffington Post––what with their readerships of thousands upon thousands––going out of their way to pick on a select few, I see no reason to get in on the finger-wagging here.  But suffice it to say, many self-published book covers don’t look quite as polished and beautiful as those put out by the Big Five publishing houses.  There are all sorts of reasons for this: self-publishing authors are shorter (much shorter) on funds than the average industry juggernaut, or perhaps simply prefer to allocate their funds elsewhere, or perhaps have a poor eye for what appeals to a mass market audience.  Templates are rather dull, but they exist for a reason.  Or a series of unfortunate reasons.

We don’t need to blame our fellow indie authors for the trend’s existence to recognize that we can, collectively, do better.  How?  Well, we’ve written about the virtues of a well-crafted book cover before and elsewhere at length, but suffice it to say that there are quite a few options which will result in a lovelier cover than the one you or I can churn out in a basic word processing program.  More importantly, the time and money and energy you spend on an attractive cover reaps dividends that more than compensate for the expense.

When it comes to leaving a manuscript unedited, however, I must admit that I struggle to see a reason that justifies this decision.  Not because I don’t recognize the limitations of a tight budget or the profound importance of exercising total creative control over one’s own work––I understand that  completely––but because an unedited manuscript poses so many opportunities to lose and alienate our readers, no matter how excellent the content and construct of our work.  An attractive book cover will draw readers in, while a polished and professionally-edited manuscript will keep them invested.  It’s as simple as that.  (And for more of our rationale on this one, check out Jodee’s thoughts here, Rob Mangelson’s thoughts here, and Elizabeth’s thoughts here.)  As self-publishing authors, we can’t afford to lose our readers.

Sometimes, we miss things.  The more people who have eyes on a given work, the less likely it is that any single mistake will be overlooked, which is one reason why paying a professional to edit or at least evaluate your work is such an important idea.  But there’s another reason: Professional copyeditors know the rules.  I don’t just mean the official rules of publication and grammar, but the unspoken rules too.  They know which details are going to distract a reader, consciously or subconsciously, from your book.  They know how to create consistency in the midst of chaos.  All of those little details that Wendy mentioned in her original post?  They are exactly the kind of thing that can hurt your sales, even though they may seem small or insignificant.  Copyeditors are your partners and co-laborers in bringing your book to the world, and it’s in their best interest as well as yours to catch every single little misstep before it becomes a profit-buster.


Whether it’s presenting your book with an exterior as beautiful as its interior, or editing your book’s content, self-publishing today offers all sorts of options to the aspiring author that wouldn’t have been possible just four years ago.  That is good news indeed! 

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

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