Have you ever bought a self-published book that was a real stinker?

There’s an old saying “don’t do something just because you can”.

Misguided self-importance

People who write books based on their expertise are often convinced they don’t need someone else meddling with their work. They are the expert and that’s that. Unfortunately, they might not necessarily be a good communicator on paper! They are blinked and blind to their droning, rambling, writing style. They don’t have a clue about the exact needs of their readers. They most definitely know best. (An editor would have definitely reprimanded my recipe book friend for ignoring the fact their target UK audience doesn’t live in the US and can’t get the specialist ingredients.)

If someone else gives one of these pompous authors some feedback on their draft and it is a “less than glowing assessment”, they persist in assuming the book is “too sophisticated”, or “too edgy” for them. They will never see it as a dirge and carry on publishing it anyway. Constructive feedback is never seen as an opportunity to iron out wrinkles that are abundantly clear to others, and make the book as good as it can be. It is roundly ignored.

This headstrong and stubborn attitude explains why Amazon is awash with badly written, poorly edited vanity books. This is why it’s so important to never write a book for purely yourself. Always write it to help your readers. Just because the days of the traditional publisher acting as the gatekeeper and maintaining standards are over, you should still set the bar highly for yourself.

Getting rich quick

Never go into being an author because you want to get rich quick on autopilot. Many a budding author has discovered they can get a book produced at around £3.50 a copy, thinking they can sell it for £19.99 as a specialist publication and dreaming of that £16.49 profit margin.

Unfortunately, self-publishing involves many costs besides the actual production cost of the book itself

  • marketing and promotion – someone has to pay for those free samples and competition prize copies
  • Amazon takes a hefty percentage from each sale through them

Retailers expect you to give a big discount of around 60% before they will even consider stocking your book

Newbie authors get blinded by the figures and rush to get a book out there as soon as possible, so they can “start earning”. Book quality inevitably suffers, even if the author knows their stuff. The need for thorough editing, proofreading and formatting is ignored. Getting their book live is all that matters.

Because they can

Just because someone could write a book about a particular subject does not mean they should. Looking to publish something about the latest fad or craze in your industry just to get your name on the front cover, when you know little about it is not going to boost your professional credibility.

Equally, writing a book that doesn’t have a hungry audience eager to read it is another recipe for disaster. You risk looking like a crashing bore, out of touch with the latest hot topics.

You can consider adapting your book idea to suit your audience and your experience, to increase its viability Just make sure you are passionate and knowledgeable about your subject. You’ll never manage to con your readers into enjoying an ill-considered book. Your readers (worse still, your existing customers) will think of you as a chancer, not an expert.

Criticism is never “constructive”

When I have sent my books to be edited, I have always valued the feedback. I would rather know what is wrong whilst I have a chance to fix it, than worry my book is not good enough and start procrastinating rather than publishing. Equally, I would hate to rush, work on my book in my own little bubble, then find out via harsh reviews that I got it wrong!

By not getting feedback on their book in case it’s “bad”, they miss out on this valuable opportunity to make it great – which is of course what they want to achieve ultimately. The thought of sweating over their ideas only to see it mangled and butchered by a “pedantic little so and so” it is a step too far. So they don’t bother.

This is a shame, because by befriending trusted reviewers and editors, you can have a team of people who “have your back”. Editors are usually credited by the author on the copyright page – it’s in their interest, just as much as yours, to make sure you produce a clear, concise and complete book! This is a real bonus. Especially if it’s your first book!

A good editor or reviewer is like a good coach – they might be tough on you, but they can take you from being average to being a champion. Who doesn’t want that! (Even if it does sting a bit when you first find out changes are required!)

Remember, you’re not going back to the drawing board, you are just tweaking and doing everything you can to make sure your book will be treasured by your readers.

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