In chess, the pawn is considered to be the infantry. Its moves are limited, and many players consider it to be a low-value piece. However, when it arrives at the end of the board, it becomes a different piece, usually a queen, meaning it can gain all sorts of power.
Book quality is a lot like that. It’s there in the background and may seem very insignificant to the writer. After all, don’t people care about good characters and a great plot? Of course they do. But if they can’t even get into the book because of poor production quality, then you as a writer lose the game before it even starts.
Like pawns, book quality progresses one step at a time. Here are areas where you need to consider good quality. And for the rest of this post, I describe how to approach quality for both indie authors and traditionally (trad) published authors.
- Book description
Proofing. This first step provides the polish to the manuscript that makes it shine. If you’re an indie author, here’s a couple of tips if you wish not to hire a proofreader. First, you can read it out loud. Yes, the whole thing. Second, you can change the font to a different one (thanks to Don Vaughan for that suggestion). If you’re trad-published, your publisher should hire a proofreader. Still, make sure you get a copy and and that they do a good job. Most manuscripts will have a good markup.
Interior. This is your entire book between the front and back covers. It may seem minor, but it’s got to be right, especially since there’s a page with copyright information, disclaimers, etc (see my post on creating the interior). If indie publishing, make sure you include all that you need (e.g., title page, copyright information, acknowledgements) and that it’s error free. For trad-published authors, your publisher may do some of this but ask you to do other parts. Make sure your galley proof has everything needed.
Title. A good title will invite a reader to pick up the book. Create a good title (see my post on creating titles). If indie publishing, this rests on you, the writer. If traditionally published, you may have less control. However, if you think the publisher has chosen one that doesn’t sit well with you, speak up.
Tagline. Taglines spice up a title if they’re memorable. I have some great ideas on developing taglines in another post. If you are indie publishing, this falls on your shoulders. You can conjure great taglines by inviting others to participate. If trad-published, your publisher will probably come up with the tagline. Hopefully, they will invite you to participate. If they don’t, once more, insist on involvement.
Book description. If the title and tagline hook the reader, the book description reels them in. Indie writers, make it good, but don’t give away everything (see my post on book descriptions). If traditionally published, you may be asked to draft it, and it will be revised by the publisher. When you get your galley copy, make sure it reads well.
Cover. This is the final step, as covers are built on the previous steps and can make or break a book. If indie published, I recommend that if you read none of the other posts I mentioned above, that you read this one and take what I say to heart. If traditionally published, this is a critical step for you, as the publisher will present you with a draft cover. I strong advise that you not sign off on it right away. Instead, listen to your instincts. If it doesn’t seem to fit, make suggestions.
There you have it. Like the pawn, you have progressed down the board through the steps in terms of making a book of good quality. A good proofing, interior, title, tagline, description, and cover will create a great product, one that a reader will pick up. And then the fun begins as they delve into the novel and learn about its characters, setting, and plot.
I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255:
Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”