As authors grow close to finishing the writing of their book they are also often anxious to get it into print as soon as they can. The impulse is easily understandable, however rushing to publication can not only result in a book of lesser quality than the author hoped for, it may actually result in higher costs, and cause the process to take longer than it needed to. Successful self-publishing is not a process of doing multiple things simultaneously; it is a process of following a simple plan one step at a time.
The first step is to lock down the text. Your editing should be completed before you begin to design the book. It is surprising how many self-publishing authors get this step wrong. We have all seen books that have been rushed to publication as soon as the author completed a draft. You can spot the obvious errors in grammar, usage and punctuation that brand the book as an amateur effort.
A problem that afflicts many more authors is that, although they recognize the need for copy editing, they don’t take the time to get some feedback on the book’s content from beta readers, content editors or both. They publish the copyedited text. Only upon review of the proof copy, or advanced review copies by reviewers does the author become aware of structural problems that, if corrected, would improve the book significantly. Making those changes often makes a complete redesign of the book’s interior. This can not only result in added costs, it can delay the ultimate launch of the book. Book design, the second step of the process, goes much more smoothly if the text is fully complete when the designer begins work.
Another often overlooked part of the process is getting permission to use copyrighted material. If your book contains quoted text, images, charts or graphs taken from a copyrighted book you must obtain authorization from the rights holder. Many authors are unaware that images downloaded from the internet may be copyrighted. Song lyrics are a particular problem. “The music industry is pretty vigilant about song lyrics,” says Amy Cook, Writer’s Digest’s legal expert. Using them without permission can result in nasty and expensive legal problems. We often advise authors we are assisting in self-publication to take the time to determine who owns the rights to the material, contact them, and decide whether, after learning what will be required to obtain permission, they want to retain the copyrighted material or make changes in their book’s contents. Obtaining whatever permissions will be required ahead of time can eliminate considerable stress for the author, and save time as the publishing process moves forward.
When all your ducks are in a row – the book has been fully edited, artfully designed, and all necessary permissions obtained – it’s time to publish. But even at this stage of the process patience and thoroughness pay off. Order a proof. Take some time to review it carefully. Have someone else whose skills you trust review it as well. Even the hardest working, most talented authors, editors and book designers sometimes miss an error on the way to the printer. The proof is an opportunity to catch those flaws, so that when the book becomes available in the marketplace it will be the best it can be.