If you follow along with the blog at all, you’ll know I’ve been reading a lot of my fellow indie authors’ work. You should all be following me in that because the indies are the people who really need your support, not the gazillionaire author who writes the same book over and over and just changes some of the character names (lookin’ at you James Paterson).
As I read through these books that all had their own merits, I came up with a very short list of tips for anyone who wants or has written a book and is going to strike out down the arduous indie author path. These are thing we can all work on to make our books better and more readable for the general public. I am, by no means, a professional or expert on anything really (except maybe 90’s pop culture). I’m just an avid reader that knows what works in a book and what doesn’t. You may not agree with some of this, but that’s ok. It’s just one man’s opinion.
**Disclaimer** This list is in no way directed toward anyone specific nor is it meant to be malicious in any way.
Ditch the Thesaurus – This one could be highly debated I’m sure. As writers we all have a little bit of a tendency to show off our inflated vocabularies. But this can be an incredibly slippery slope. Just because you might have a wide vocabulary, doesn’t mean your reader necessarily does. While we can all use a little boost in our vocabularies, there’s a bigger issue in whipping the thesaurus like a work horse. Your characters start to sound unnatural. Think about your character. What kind of person are they? Now think about the words their using. Would that person really say that word? Most times, NO. I’ve literally never heard a teenage girl use the word gesticulate. Just sayin’. Yeah, it’s hard to avoid using the same words over and over, but think about the words you’re using when you want to switch it up. Make sure it’s something believable for the character to say.
Edit, edit, edit – This is a pretty obvious one, but you’d be surprised how common errors are in the indie books. We all don’t have the money to pay someone to edit our books, but that doesn’t mean we should be the only ones doing it. You’ll never catch all your errors. It’s nearly impossible. Your mind just kind of blocks them out. I always have at least two other people check for errors and do it myself as well. Find friends or family willing to do it. They don’t have to be English majors or professional editors. A fresh set of eyes will be able to catch spelling/grammar errors, double words, and funky punctuation. Errors will sink your book so fast it’s not funny. Don’t assume you can do it all yourself.
Research – Yes you should research things in your story to make sure they’re logical, if need be. That’s a given. When I say research I mean think about what your story is about, research the trends and other books that are similar, and determine if you should even write the book in the first place. While a lot of people think that nobody reads any more, the book world is incredibly competitive. Competition spawns clones looking to capitalize Twilight gets big, there’s a million books about brooding vampires. The Hunger Games finds success, there’s a flood of books about teenage girls over throwing their corrupt government. If you want to write something someone is going to read, don’t write something that they’ve already read ten times. Research trends and go against them. Go to twitter and search #MSWL. That’ll bring up so many different literary agents and what they’re really looking to represent. If your story doesn’t fit into what someone in the business is looking for, it’s probably because it’s overdone and they can’t sell it. I know we all want to believe our ideas are unique, but a lot of them probably aren’t. Trust me, I’m not immune to this. I’ve written a few manuscripts thinking they would be the hidden gems of the genre only to find out there are dozens of book exactly like them. That’s life.
Your cover is everything! – We all know the old adage about not judging a book by its cover, but most people do almost nothing but. If your cover looks like someone haphazardly threw it together in photoshop, people will skip right over it without even thinking about it. You want something simple that conveys the overall plot of the story without having too much for someone to look at. The cover for Crossings by Ashely Capes(left) is a great example. It’s well done and, while it might not seem like much, it actually conveys important elements of the story very well. Though I don’t think a lot of money needs to go into creating a self-published book, this is one area I highly recommend spending money on. You can get a decent looking cover for not a lot of money. If you aren’t good at graphic design or photoshop, just find someone else to do it. You won’t regret it. It could me the difference between no one reading your book and success.
If it looks too good to be true, it is – This could have been lumped into the research part, but I feel like it’s important enough that it needs to be its own topic in the list. It’s a disgusting fact of the world that there are countless people out there preying on people to make a quick buck. The indie author scene is no exception. There are tons of vanity presses out there that will either charge you out the butt for their service that’s garbage or will offer free publishing and then lock you into a contract that will basically hold your work hostage. There are too many self-publishing options out there that are 100% that are excellent. I use Createspace, and love it. Then you have people willing to give you “honest” reviews from fake accounts that will say whatever you want them to say, just give them a little money or subscribe to whatever. Trying to make a self-published book is hard work. If you feel like you’ve found a loophole or an easy way in, you’re walking right into a trap that you’ll most likely regret for a very long time. When something comes up that seems like it’s amazing, Google it. Put time into digging around the internet to figure out if what you found is a scam. It might seem like a lot of work and maybe even a little obnoxious, but it’s worth it. It will also help you prepare yourself for future scams. I’ve fallen for some things when I was just starting out in the self-publishing world and, looking back, I want to slap myself for being so stupid.