From the Archives: “There’s a Problem with Your Book”

Welcome back to our 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: March 1st, 2011 ]

Your book published. Your family and friends have bought it. You’re excited…until they call you to tell you there were so many grammatical errors in the book that it was difficult to finish reading. “Oh no, I should have paid for copyediting”. Now you run the risk of “looking” unprofessional in the author community.

Too often authors are faced with the decision to either save their pennies or invest in editing services. They decide to bypass the editing. Fast forward to publication and many authors wish they would have made the extra investment. Even if you have gone through your manuscript with a fine tooth comb and had friends or family look it over, you’re almost guaranteed to find mistakes at publication. As a matter of fact, when you pay for professional copyediting services, the editor normally still has a 5% margin for error. With that margin of error from fresh and professionally trained eyes, imagine the level of error from amateur and familiar eyes.

When asked what they would have done differently when self-publishing their book, most authors agree they would have invested more money into professional copyediting and customizing their book cover.

So, I’m sold on the need for copyediting service, what do I need to know about working with an editor? Here are a few tips/things to keep in mind when you hire an editor:

  • Proofread and spell-check your work before sending it to an editor.
  • Remember that Editors are human and many work with about a 5% margin of error.
  • There are different levels of editing intensity: basic, moderate, and extensive.
  • Basic copyediting typically catches about 70% of errors in a manuscript.
  • As a self-publishing author, don’t focus on what the editor didn’t find, but rather what WAS found.
  • Review your manuscript again after you receive it from the editor to check for errors they may have missed.

If you want to be a successful author, it is important that you take the publishing process very seriously. That includes investing extra money into creating a polished product.

by Cheri Breeding

The topic of copyediting and the professional-grade book is not a new one to us here at Self-Publishing Advisor, but back in 2011 when Cheri first wrote her post it was not yet the standard by which most indie books were judged.  Since then, the industry has evolved, and we’ve written several times to try and sort out what copyediting might mean to the current aspiring self-publishing author.  (You can read those posts here and here.)


Because we tackle this topic on a regular basis, it’s less helpful to rehash those posts than it is to do something a little different: I want to show you the difference between a professionally designed and copyedited book and one that hasn’t seen as much love and care put into its production.

Let’s start with covers.  To start, first let me say that it’s no exaggeration that there are two terribly designed self-published book covers out there for every good one.  All you have to do is look at the templates people are choosing from …

… to see why this is so easily and so often the case.  A professionally designed cover makes all the difference to your book’s impact on potential readers, and all the difference as to whether they actually choose to pay to purchase it.  Here are two neat examples of self-published books I’ve seen recently that I felt immediately drawn to for no other reason than the fact they are beautifully designed:

What I love most about these two examples is that they put the lie to any claim that genre fiction leans easily toward poor design.  Cazanav’s book is billed as paranormal fantasy, and Taylor’s as literary fiction––but if anything, Cazanav’s is sharper, more specific, and more revealing of the book’s content and tone.  That’s a good move!

So, let’s assume you’re sold on a professionally-designed cover.  What happens when you crack the spine and turn to the first page?  Does anything change?  Yes and no.  As Kyle Beshears writes on his blog, there’s real value to investing time and money into getting the exact design you want inside of your book as well as out.  Beshears chronicles his entire journey to self-publication, and points out that his choices––which always involved taking the cheapest option, even if it meant sacrificing untold hours of time and labor for his entire family––is not, in the end, a path worth following for many indie authors.


Just getting the title page of his book to look the way he wanted (above, on the right) was a lengthy struggle.  Paying a little money up front doesn’t just ensure you get the design you want––it ensures you have an active advocate or team of advocates working for you and on your behalf to make sure your book is as beautiful as you’ve always hoped.

On a paragraph-by-paragraph basis, copyediting does for your sentences what a graphic designer does for your cover––which is to say, a copyeditor will whip your lines into shape and help you revise your book into something even stronger, and more compelling, than you could do on your own.  Relying on friends and family to be early readers is a good move, but relying on them to bring the same expertise and incisive vision as a career copyeditor who has been in the publishing industry for years and years is not such a good move.  Copyediting isn’t about changing what you do––it’s about making sure you create the best book possible and shifting some of the burden of perfection and hyperspecific industry insight off of your shoulders so that you can spend more time doing what you love: writing new books!

If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, 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,

Take Your Time Self-Publishing

Many authors I know are anxious to self-publish their book. In fact, many of them choose self-publishing because they can see their book in print much quicker than if they used a traditional publisher. While speed is one of the many perks of self-publishing, I ALWAYS encourage my authors to take their time. If you want to publish a quality, professional book, do not rush! Instead, remember these five tips.

1) Be realistic about deadlines.

It is never a good idea to rush your writing in order to meet a deadline. You will not produce your best work if you are focused on finishing by a certain date instead of striving to write a good book, no matter how long it takes. While it is a great idea to set realistic writing and publishing goals, too tight a deadline can be damaging to the quality of your book.

2) Proofread, and consider professional editing.

No matter how great your story or ideas are, if your book is tainted with numerous grammar, spelling, and style errors, readers aren’t going to take your book seriously. To be considered a professional writer, you need to publish quality work. This means you need to take the time to proofread your book several times, and it is always a good idea to hire a professional editor. It is difficult to catch all the errors in your own work, so it is best to have another set of eyes review your manuscript.

3) Research before publishing.

Choosing a self-publishing company is a big decision. Each company offers different packages, features, prices, and support, and you need to decide which company will best complement your needs and goals as a writer. Don’t just randomly choose a self-publishing company. Spend time researching your options, and pick the one that is best for you.

4) Don’t get too far ahead.

While thinking about marketing and promotion before your book is published is a good idea, don’t get too far ahead of yourself. I don’t recommend scheduling marketing events before you have a book to take with you to the event. Go ahead and create a marketing plan, but wait until your book is ready before doing too much promotion.

5) Just enjoy it.

Self-publishing a book is an exciting adventure. Rather than rush through the process, take the time to enjoy it.

Rushing the self-publishing process will result in a less than perfect book. Take the time to make sure every aspect of your book is exactly what you want. Leave time to allow professional editors and designers to do a quality job, and take the time to enjoy the journey of becoming a self-published author.


ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 25 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps, publishing consultants and marketing professionals; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams and on assisting authors with marketing and promoting their book once published. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

2 Things that Can REALLY Crush Your Book

If your sales figures are low many times it can be due to faulty or inconsistent marketing. Sometimes you just can’t get the word out to your audience. People are ready to read your book, but they have to know it exists. Ideally, you hire a book marketing consultant or try to “go it alone” and hope that book sales are the result of your efforts.

What happens when you’ve come up with the perfect book promotion strategy but no one is buying the book? Many times you just need to change gears. Maybe the activities you have invested your time into aren’t really reaching your target market. You have to figure out where your target market is “hanging out”, go there, and mingle with them. But, that’s not the purpose of today’s post. Today, we are aiming to reveal the two biggest book crushers. If you feel like you’ve tried everything to get people to purchase your book to no avail, you may need to re-evaluate your book and make sure that you’re not committing either of the following critical errors:

  • A boring cover. Books really are judged by their cover. It’s a cliché we use very often here. However, we can’t stress the importance of that statement enough. A professionally-designed book cover can make you stand heads and shoulders above other books on the market (all other things being equal). A boring (read: template) book cover could mean that your book won’t be seen. In a sea filled with many fishes, you have to stand out. If you don’t, no worm for you!
  • Lack of editing. Have you ever read a book that is filled with errors? Doesn’t it make it much harder to not only read the book but also take the author seriously? That book = your book if you choose not to hire an editor.

Either or both of these can kill your book very early in the game.

What other “book crushers” can you think of?

Wendy Stetina is a sales and marketing professional with over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industry. Wendy works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; and together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction, or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Wendy Stetina can put you on the right path.

Your Book WILL Be Judged by Its Cover

Today’s post is by publishing industry expert, Cheri Breeding.

Readers will judge your book by its cover — and quickly. Statistics show that the average person will decide to buy your book within 8 seconds of  seeing your cover. That’s an expensive piece of real estate! It helps you get noticed and is usually directly correlated to sales success.

My book is well-written and packed with intriguing content. Doesn’t that count for something? Of course, but if no one ever sees your book’s content because of a boring cover, how much will that help your sales? Have you ever heard the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”? This is especially true for books. Your cover should be 10x better than the content on the inside. So, if you have AMAZING content, you must have an EXTRAORDINARY book cover.

To put it in another perspective — when you go shopping for clothes, how do you pick what to wear? Do you pick the best-looking shirt? Or, do you blindly choose a shirt off the rack irregardless of looks? If you’re like most people, you choose based on aesthetics. This example was about clothes, but books are no different. People are drawn to things they find attractive. There’s very little attraction to a Plain-Jane cover. People like to see pictures and text intertwined in a visually pleasing way. Some books can get away with text only covers, but the layout must be creative in some way to get people to read it.

If you saw the two covers below (for children’s books), which would you choose to find out more about?

One Wacky Wasp book cover

If you’re like most people, you chose the top book. Don’t you see just how important a “pretty” cover is to your book sales?

A professionally-designed cover is important for online sales, but even more important if you plan to “sell” your book to the brick-and-mortar booksellers. A buyer will also apply the 8 second rule to your book before making the decision to purchase it. They see many books every day. If yours doesn’t stand out, they likely won’t be interested.

Getting a custom cover design is expensive! What if I can’t afford to pay for it? Maybe now is not the best time to publish your book. Continue saving and set aside enough money to do it right the first time. That way, you won’t have any regrets later. Think of your cover design as an early investment in your book promotion strategy as a lame design can affect the overall “saleability” of the book.

DISCUSSION: Did you pass on a professionally designed book cover? How do you think you think your sales have been affected?

Since 2005 Cheri Breeding has been working as the Director of Production for Outskirts Press. In that time, she has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, Director of Production. She brings all that experience and knowledge, along with an unparalleled customer-service focus, to help self-publishing authors reach high-quality book publication more efficiently, professionally, and affordably.