The self-publishing industry has come a long way since the early 2000’s. Back then, self-publishing a book carried a huge stigma, but today, more books are self-published than traditionally published, and more self-published books are purchased than traditionally published books. Yet, in many readers’ minds, the stigma still exists because self-published books are so often inferior to traditionally published books.
What can a professional self-published author do to overcome this mindset?
- Don’t worry about your publisher. The vast majority of readers do not care who your publisher is. They won’t look at who published your book when deciding whether or not to buy it. So any fear you have about a stigma that is associated with your self-publisher of choice is unwarranted.
- Invest in a custom cover design. The first thing a potential buyer will see is your book cover. And the book cover is the single easiest way to tell if a book is self-published or not. If asked, most people might not even be able to describe why a cover looks amateurish; but it doesn’t matter – an amateur cover will scream “self-published” to potential buyers and due to that stigma, they may shy away.
- Invest in professional interior formatting. The vast majority of self-published books are purchased from Amazon, and most of them feature the “look inside” element, which allows shoppers to view pages from within the book. The interior of your book is the second way potential customers recognize self-published books. Interiors that are formatted by computers look like they were formatted by computers, and that makes them look like amateur, self-published books. Even worse, it looks like the author doesn’t care about what the book looks like. If the author doesn’t even care what the book looks like, why should a potential reader buy it?
After the cover design, the interior design of your book is what separates most professional self-published books from “free” self-published books. Professional self-published books, like those published by full-service self-publishing providers, feature interior designs formatted by human beings. “Free” self-published books, on the other hand, feature interior designs formatted by computers. The difference, when compared side by side, is staggering. Don’t allow your book to look amateurish and cheap by allowing a computer algorithm to format it for you. Your potential buyers will notice. They may not care who published it; they may think the cover looks great; but without a professional interior, they’re still going to know your book is self-published with just a glance. And, as a result, they’re going to think twice about ordering it.
Fortunately, it’s easy to make your book interior look professional. Nearly all full-service self-publishing providers will professionally format your interior as a part of their publishing package fees. And most will offer you the opportunity of “enhanced” or “custom” interior designs. Don’t pass on this opportunity lightly. While the standard interior formatting offered by most full-service providers is certainly better than anything a computer can do at those “free” places, enhanced or upgraded interior designs typically go one or two steps further – by integrating design elements, unique styles, and customizations to truly make your book one-of-a-kind. The improvement is usually worth the cost of admission.
Page-by-page custom interior designs are best suited for children’s books, or complex literature where the book itself is a work of art, like with some poetry or coffee table books. Rarely does a page-by-page custom design suit a typical black/white fiction or non-fiction work of average length (100-300 pages). The result just doesn’t justify the cost.
When it comes to selecting a standard, included interior, do some research. Look at similar books in your genre and choose a similar style for your book. While a cover should be unique and eye-catching, you don’t want your interior to rock the boat. Give the reader what they expect.
If you choose to enhance or upgrade your interior for a professional format that is more customized to your book and vision, work with your designer closely, and heed his/her advice. After all, this is what they do for a living; they know what they’re doing and their recommendations are worth their weight in gold. If you have a particular vision that contradicts your designer’s recommendations, have a strong, valid reason for going against conventions.
If you choose to publish with a “free” publishing service, format your book in advance and save it as a PDF file. Do not allow their computers to “format” your book for you. That’s a sure way to make your book look self-published and, worse of all, cheap. While formatting a book in Word is acceptable, and certainly preferable to computers, the better alternative is to use design software like inDesign. This is what professional designers use and this is what professional publishers use. Yes, your book’s interior design is that important. Most writers do not know how to design a book in inDesign, which, of course, is why most professional self-published authors use full-service publishing providers.