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It Starts With The Look Before They Open The Book
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You've slaved away on your book and now it's ready to be printed. Finally you can call yourself an author. You have a work of which you can be proud. Or do you?
With the rush to get your work into print, first-time authors can take short-cuts that will cause long-term problems in terms of credibility and sales.
You are the person who created the story, developed the characters and plots and you think it's an interesting read. The mistake that a lot of writers make is that they aren't open to criticism or they do not want to show their work to anyone else in case they are not as enthusiastic about the work.
No matter how great you think your book is, there is one person to whom you should show your work before you even think of getting it into print. That person is a professional editor.
When I worked as arts reviewer for a major metropolitan newspaper, I was often sent self-published works to review. Even though it was against the newspaper's policy to give space to self-publishers, I often peeked between the covers out of curiosity. Just because a major publishing house hasn't picked up the manuscript doesn't mean that the story isn't interesting and engaging.
The biggest problem I found with self-published books was that the sentence structure was awkward, there were spelling and grammar mistakes throughout and the punctuation was all over the place which made it very hard for the reader to work out where one speaker stopped and the next person began speaking.
Another major problem with self-published work is that the author often tries to take on the job of graphic designer as well and, unless you have experience in that area, it's best to leave the technical stuff to the people who know what they are doing. The look and feel of your book is what will attract readers in the first place so your cover design and interior layout are crucial to getting to first base with potential customers.
If you feel that spending money on a professional editor and graphic designer is beyond your budget, I would suggest joining writers' groups in your area. If you work with other people who are trying to publish their books, it is highly likely that they will know editors and designers who will produce professional work but accept a lesser fee, perhaps for an attribution in the book or for placing a link from your website to theirs. Saving money really is all about who you know.
In summary, once you have finished writing your novel and proofed it at least three times yourself, engage a professional editor to polish your work then seek out a graphic designer to lay out your pages and provide suggestions for your all-important cover. Then you will have a book you can be proud to share with readers - a book that looks good, encourages potential customers to turn the pages and eventually buy the book.
No matter how great your story may be, if you have your name on the cover of a badly edited and designed book, your credibility as a professional writer will be in question and it will be hard for reviewers to take you seriously.
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