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Indie Authors Watch Out: Readers Are Looking At the Quality of Self-published Books

by Sherrie Wilkolaski

Of the three browsers I regularly have open on my laptop, there are always at least 2-3 tabs dedicated to a page on Amazon, for one reason or another.  Perhaps I’m looking up an author’s reviews, checking in on the Amazon sales rank or want to see what their key words are looking like.  This morning I was doing research on a book called Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet–All on $5 a Day or Less.  I met the author Linda Watson yesterday afternoon at an anniversary party and was interested in learning more about her title.  As I scrolled down to the bottom of the page to look at the latest Amazon forum posts, the first discussion on the list was titled “How to avoid Indie authors” so you know I just had to see what this was all about.

This Amazon discussion was started October 12, 2011 and it is still very active.  When I lasted checked it had 390 participants and 4,206 comments.  This is just one of so many virtual conversations that readers are having amongst themselves about self-published books.  The readers are talking about the poor quality of self-published books and warning other readers to “check the publisher” and if you don’t recognize them, don’t buy.  They want to see book previews and of course reviews and recommendations are important.

Indie Authors Beware!

Yes, indie authors should beware if they aren’t willing to publish properly. There is nothing wrong with self-publishing and publishing independently so don’t listen to those readers, who say otherwise.  We all know that anyone who read John Grisham’s, The Firm enjoyed an originally self-published book.  The author’s success as a self-published author grabbed the attention of a traditional publisher. How can a self-published author combat the wary reader, picking through indie titles looking for a traditionally published read?  So glad you asked.

Here are the top 5 tips to help a self-published title stand up against a traditionally published book any day of the week:

1.      Have your book professionally edited.  If you’re not willing to invest in an editor, don’t bother taking your book to market.  Don’t say you can’t afford it…you can’t afford not to do it.  An editor will enhance your work.  No one can truly self-edit.  I’m not talking about your next door neighbor who is an English teacher or using spell-check. You must hire a professional book editor.  If you don’t know where to go, ask me for a referral or contact Ellie Davis at  Did you know that your first step in the editing process is having an editorial analysis?  It’s about $200 and worth every penny.  It will give you the critique you need before moving on to the edit.  You’ll know if you should go back to the drawing board, or the level of edit it will take to get your book to the next level.

2.      Professional book cover design.  Leave this to a book cover design professional.  Forget using clip art or old family photos.  There is a science to designing a book cover, not to mention the layout and formatting distribution requirements necessary to be listed at Amazon and other online retailers.  You don’t want just any graphic designer.  You want a designer that specializes in book covers.  Personally, I work only with the designers who create bestselling covers.  Why would you want anything less for your title?  The cover design makes the first impression that you won’t ever get a second chance to experience.

3.      Book marketing plan and execution.  This goes for both self-published and traditionally published authors.  If you’re trying to get an agent or find a publisher, you will need a marketing plan.  Have a book marketing plan will be the key to your success, once you have your final product in hand.  Of course you need to follow through on your marketing and promotion, from book launch and for the life of your book.  Again, I know I’m being tough in this article, but I beg you to hire a professional to help pull your plan together.  Call me or find someone else who knows both the traditional and self-publishing markets, and has had success in the past.  They should have the resources to assist with your book marketing campaign.  Plan on investing in a website, online book marketing and PR campaign, and events, and start blogging.  You should start working on your blog even before the book is out, yes this is part of your book marketing.

4.      Book reviews and endorsements.  Acquire your book reviews before the book comes out, no less than 4-6 months before the publication date.  It shows that you are a serious author.  The reviews will also give you the feedback you need to get a grasp on how well the book might sell.  If reviews are not good, you may want to consider going back to the drawing board and push off your publication date.  You will want to continue to get book reviews for the life of your book.  The more reviews, the more potential readers will be interested in reading your book and not checking out to see who the publisher is.

5.      Network.  Authors need to be networking with readers, writers and professionals in their niche, both on and offline.  Blogging and social media will help with the online piece and then take it offline and get connected locally with different writers associations, business group, etc.  Networking can also help with obtaining book reviews, marketing and promotional opportunities.  It is the icing on the cake that will help push a book to the next level; that is if the final book product is published like a traditional house would do it.

Readers know what they want in a book and indie authors should give the readers what they want.  Self-published authors shouldn’t race to the publishing finish line, just to get a book out there.  Take it slow and do it right the first time.  You will then have a book that you can market for life and that readers will enjoy.

Image courtesy of Christa Richert.

Image courtesy of Al Farid.

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