Self-publishing is easy. Looking professional is hard.
Electronic self-publishing is a sea change in the world of books -- it's shaking up the entire publishing industry. This has both its up sides and its down sides, of course.
Back in the 90s, I was involved in the table-top role-playing game industry (as in: D&D, World of Darkness, etc.) as a small publisher. Essentially, I was a self-publisher. It was a lot of hard work. Financially, it was a disaster. But the experience was valuable.
Self-publishing takes only a click of a mouse, now, but that doesn't mean all your problems are solved. Looking professional has never been easy. Or cheap.
Why is it important? Because "looking professional" tells a reader that this author has put in the work. That they care about how their work is perceived and they care about communicating to the reader. Someone who cares about that probably also cares about the actual story they wrote, and put in the effort to master the craft of writing. They care about telling good stories.
Which greatly increases the chance that the story actually is good. Because one result of the electronic self-publishing boom is the thousands of stories on the market. Which ones are worth reading? How can you tell at a glance?
Here are three at-a-glance clues that the author isn't trying to be professional:
Dull cover art. People judge books by their covers. The cover art is probably the first thing a potential reader will see, so it needs to convey some things immediately. Genre. Mood. Energy. Since we have it at hand, what do you see in Disciple, Part I's cover? Girl, monster, mountains. Darkness, which means danger. But the girl looks determined. She's not a victim.
That's what I wanted to tell a reader, in a glance. What do you want to say about your story?
Boring blurb. This is your chance to tell the reader, in less than 200 words, why your story is interesting. It's not easy. The reader knows absolutely nothing about your story. They don't care about the characters. If you start rambling about your world's politics, or the spaceship's FTL drive, and don't make it immediately clear that there are big problems your sympathetic character is facing -- the reader is just going to click on to the next book blurb.
There are lots of places to learn how to write query letters. That will help you learn to write blurbs, too. It will hurt. Do it.
Poorly written stories. If you make it over the first two hurdles, maybe the reader will look at your sample. This is where you show them your chops. Two main things can go wrong for you here: sloppy grammar/spelling, and bad writing.
Spellcheck helps, but it's a far cry from perfect. Nothing beats an impartial reader with a good eye for grammar and spelling. If you don't have a friend who can do this, hire somebody.
Bad writing… (glances at Fifty Shades of Grey) has its fans. But if you care about telling good stories (and I know you do, if you're still reading this) then you want to master the tools of the trade. You've already put so much work into your story -- give it one more thing to make it the best it can be. Hire a freelance editor after all your trusted betas have helped you revise it. Take the editor's advice to heart, and publish the best story you can.
This self-publisher's plans
I published Disciple, Part I, last year and I intend for Disciple, Part II to arrive April 1st. Part III will follow later this year. I'm taking pre-orders for Part II -- alone, or bundled with Part I -- through Kickstarter. The funds from this will pay for a freelance editor for Disciple, Part II, and the cover artwork for Disciple, Part III.
Monday L will be back to share the playlist for Disciple.
Now, go pre-order your copies of this great fantasy so she has the fundage to do this. Why? Because I'm dying to read the next installment of this amazing story!!