Don’t Let Your Self-Published Book LOOK Self-Published

This tale of two travelers was written by both Joseph De La Cruz and Simon Vandekerckhove and was published by Graham Publishing Group.

You’ve spent countless hours writing your book – or you’ve hired a quality ghostwriter to assist in the process – and now you’ve chosen to independently publish the final product.  Here’s the thing. Most self-published or independently published books LOOK like they’ve been self-published.  This is the worst mistake you want to make, and there is no reason for it.  If you chose the right book designer or book design group, your book will look and feel like it was published by one of the big four publishing houses.

Yes, it begins with a beautiful and well-designed book cover.  This is critical. Most book covers look like they’ve been put together with clip-art. Don’t let this happen to you.  You want to make a great first impression with your book, and it begins with a killer book cover.

Yes, the interior layout of your book is critical. When a reader opens your book, make sure it blows them away with the professional layout of the interior.

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Why Publish Independently

This imaginative story, Soul Tracker, was written by Nicholas Crabtree and published by Graham Publishing.

Let’s assume that you’ve finished that special book that you’ve been dreaming of writing.  It could be a suspense novel, personal memoir, business book, or book of inspiration and health.  You’ve made the decision to publish your book independently. In this day and age of publishing uncertainty, here is an opportunity to choose your own direction.  It’s important, however, to be as well versed in this growing and vital industry as possible.  Let’s break it down into six important components.

First Component: Avoid vanity presses at all cost. The truth is, there are a lot of these vanity presses that make promises they cannot possibly keep. They take advantage of the fact that you are new to the business and make you feel as if you need them if you’re going to get anywhere with your book.  And what they really do is take a bunch of your money and leave you out in the cold. Do your research. All these fancy marketing packages and sales gimmicks are just that, gimmicks; and expensive ones at that.

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The Publishing World as We Now Know it

Laughter in the Red Woods, a humorous novel by May Kramer, was published by Graham Publishing Group.

Let’s make an assumption.  Let’s assume the you have successfully finished your book. You’ve written that novel that you always dreamed of writing. You penned the auto-biography or memoir that will serve has your legacy.  You finished the business book that will serve as a platform for your speaking engagements.  Now what?

These days, you will hear people saying things like: “No matter what, you will be published. You may publish with a mainstream publisher or you may choose to self-publish. Maybe you’ll choose to publish electronically.  But in all cases, you will have a book out there.”

The message is simple: write a book and plan to be published. The message sounds simple, but the reality is a bit more complicated.

Our suggestion is that you ask this question first: How does the publishing process work for your book?

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Write, Market, Sell – It’s all about the Book

The Amazing Huff, a captivating story about a mysterious benefactor, was written by C. Herbert Locy and published by Graham Publishing Group.

The creation of a book is a process, a wonderful, arduous process.  Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise.  A book – novel, memoir, business book, self-help book, even a comic book – takes time and discipline.  How much time? Lots of writers spend two or more years writing their book. It’s a journey, but one worth taking.

So, now that you’ve taken the journey, it’s time to get down to the business of it all. What does that mean?  It means the marketing and selling of your book. You don’t want to be one of those writers who gets the book done and think they’ve reached the finish line. The finish line is still far out in front of you.

Book marketing is one of the most important pieces of being a successful author. How do you get exposure? How do let your audience – assuming you’ve pinpointed your audience – know that you’ve got a finished product to sell.  And yes, your book is a product. Now you have to get it on the market and let people know it exists.  Just like any product.

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The Art of Book Cover Design

No Return Ticket, a captivating memoir, was written by Andi Crockford and published by Graham Publishing Group.

Never forget the art of it all.

You have written your book.  Whether it is a work of fiction, a business book, biography, or self-help book, it is special to you.  The book cover you design, or have a professional book cover designer help you design, should be just as special to you.  You can rely entirely on the designer to create something amazing, but I recommend sharing all of your ideas with that person.  What does your eye see?  What image from your book stands out to you?  Put all of your ideas into a file called: “My book cover.”

Start early in the process, even when the book is just coming together.

Make sketches. Take photos. Think about colors.  You are going to share these with your book cover designer. Don’t be shy.  Don’t say, “I’m not very creative.”  This is a collaborative process, so trust yourself.  A good book cover designer will welcome your input and take it seriously.

Don’t be shy about looking at other book covers from books in your genre.

You’re not going to copy what someone else did, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find inspiration there.  Go to the bookstore in your neighborhood.  Explore books on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  Takes notes. Have fun with it. A book cover is part of your marketing strategy, so take it very seriously.  It’s all about exposure, and a memorable book cover can draw attention to your book purely as a visual.

Don’t forget who your audience is.

This may sound obvious, but it’s not. Are you targeting men or women?  Baby boomers or millennials?  Are photos best for your cover or graphics?  Whose eye are you trying to catch?

Don’t go cheap just for the sake of going cheap.

Make sure the designer you are working with has the ability to create the images you want or has access to high quality images. There can be a huge disparity between amateur and professional presentations.  Do your research.  Make sure you see plenty of samples of your designer’s work, and do not settle for less than you want.

This is your book.

This is your heart and soul bound up in a book cover that will last for a very long time.  Settle for nothing less than exactly what you want.

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Plan A: Market the Heck Out of Your Book

This thrilling fantasy novel was written by Billy Wright and published by Graham Publishing Group.

You’ve heard the saying: There is no Plan B.  That’s how you should feel about the marketing of your book. Plan A: Market the heck out of it.  If there is a Plan B, it should be: Market the heck out of it even more.

Yes, I know, I’m putting the cart before the horse. First you have to write the book of your dreams.  Novel, memoir, business book, advice, self-help, a book health or inspiration. Yes, that book. It is an undertaking, no doubt about it. But everyone who has ever taken the arduous road to write a book or have a book ghostwritten is overwhelmed with joy and satisfaction when they hold that printed book in their hands. It is a proud moment.

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What Makes for a Beautiful Book Cover?

image of the cover of "The Aftershock"

The Aftershock, an inspirational memoir, was written by Kelli Poles and published by Graham Publishing Group.

The simple answer: one that sells your book.

Okay then, what are the things we can do to create a book cover that helps promote and sell your book?  Let’s find out.

Point One: The View from 30,000 Feet.

Your book cover is designed for one purpose only: to get a potential reader to open your book. Then your writing can carry the weight. The cover and the title are so important – yes, the title is part of the cover, and we can never forget that – and both cover and title have to give the reader of sense of your book’s content without saying too much. A book cover and title have to instill enough in the way of intrigue – even if your book is a self-help book or business book – to get the reader’s attention.

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The Print Book vs. Ebook Debate

Surreal Estate, a story about Palm Beach real estate corruption, was written by Sugar M. and published by Graham Publishing Group.

Here is the truth. There really is no debate. If you are an author and plan to publish your book independently, then you should know the pros and cons of creating a print book and/or an ebook. But know this: you need both.

Print book lovers love the feel of paper.  We all get that. Holding a book in your hand, exploring the cover, and feeling the pages at your fingertips is fantastic. All book lovers know this.      

Ebooks, on the other hand, are easy to read and easier to maneuver. It takes one hand. You can hold it any which way you choose and still see the words. You can change the font size. Heck, most e-readers these days have a built in light feature, which is darn convenient.

A print book can become community property. You can share it with your friends. You can leave it at one of those adorable mini-libraries people are putting in their front yards. Pretty cool.

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Publish, But Publish Smart

Blackhawk cover

Blackhawk, a story about a reclusive guitar legend, was written by Hayden Scott and published by Graham Publishing Group.

Begin with an assumption.  You’ve written a book.  A novel, biography, business book, self-help book.  It’s done.  Now it’s time to publish; time to publish smart.  Here’s some simple, but vital pieces to the publishing puzzle.

  1. Your book is done, but not perfect. No book ever is.  Seek out the best possible editor or editing group that you can. A content editor can make certain your presentation is at its highest level. A developmental editor can advise on flow, pacing, and consistency. A copy editor makes sure your manuscript is as clean as possible. 
  2. Do not underestimate the importance of your book cover. It is a prime marketing tool. It should absolutely reflect your story, your message, your mood. You may be tempted to design your own book cover, but this can be risky. Great book cover designers are few and far between. Know the difference between creativity and clip art, because plenty of so-called designers rely on the latter.
  3. Beware of vanity presses and self-publishing scams. They are running rampant in the industry.  They thrive on making promises they can’t possibly keep, like the promise of a sure-fire bestseller. Do your research. Know the kind of questions you need to ask. Getting your book in print form and ebook form is not expensive, but it has to be done right. 
  4. Only use a printing house that will also distribute and fulfill your books. You don’t have to buy a thousand books and store them in your garage. Print on demand is the new normal in self-publishing.  Again, do your research. Talk to people who have gone through the process, and then talk to some more.
  5. Market the heck out of your book. If you aren’t a celebrity or prominent public figure, you can’t just get your book on Amazon and sit back.  The public is very unlikely to stumble upon your book. Promote your book. Use every guerrilla marketing effort you can. Search out every program that companies like Amazon and Barnes and Noble have to offer.  Work hard for book reviews. Find book bloggers. Send out press releases. Do your research.
  6. Stay positive. Things are not easy in the world of book publishing.  But you are an author. You will be published. Stay aggressive and believe in yourself. Be smart.
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Book Design – Facts and Fictions

The Aware Leader, perfect for effective leader development, was written by Richard Metheny and published by Graham Publishing Group.

Fact: The best book designers and book cover designers make themselves completely familiar with your book’s content, storyline, premise, and message.  If they don’t, find someone who will to commit their time to this critical phase.

Fact: Both your book cover as well as the interior layout of your book will reflect the content of your book.  Rest assured that everything from the font and images in your book to the symbols and colors used on the cover reflect the content.  Any book designer who says otherwise is not worth your time.

Fact: Keeping both the cover and the interior layout simple is your best choice. Complex designs and symbolism may strike you as cool, but most people won’t take the time to understand any hidden meaning before laying the book aside.  Minimalism does not mean boring.  It means understandable. And it can also mean compelling.

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