The Down Side of Self-Publishing

Self-Publishing: The Down SideIn recent years, self-publishing has become very popular because online tools have made it fast, easy, and affordable.The real problem with self-publishing is: it’s too easy. Writers looking to save a dime, or in a hurry to get to print, sometimes skip the editorial process which leads to inferior prose, typos, poor punctuation, run-on sentences, structural issues, and generally a bad reading experience. Self-publishing has become this generation’s version of the vanity press.

Everyone Judges Books By Their Covers

Self-Publishing cover nightmaresSelf-published book covers are also usually below par, since self-published writers are trying to minimize their investment by not hiring a professional cover designer, to recoup a better ROI (Return On Investment). A cover is one of the most critical factors in SELLING the book. If a cover looks amateurish, potential readers assume the writing is as well. It may not be, but short of buying the book, what else can they assume? Readers have limited spending budgets and you expect them to take a chance on a poorly designed book, when there are millions of other books out there with GOOD covers?

If you get a moment, Luke Lewis wrote a blog article about hilariously bad book covers on BuzzFeed that takes a few moments to peruse, but the horror (and the humor) will stay with you a lifetime.

Self-Publishing: Are You Good At Everything? Really?

While a writer may be good at the craft of writing, the art of story telling, and the skill of designing a cover that they don’t need professional help with (unlikely, at all three), then there is marketing the book so that it sells well. This is a whole article unto itself. Writing a book is just the first step. Just because you built a baseball diamond doesn’t mean they will come.

Let’s Make Books Great Again

Self-publishing has created a deluge of poorly written and executed books and horrific covers, simply because it is too easy, cheap, and fast. What’s the answer?

  • Hire a professional editor to help…
    • work on the structure of your story – flow, pace, look for repetitive words, too many adjectives, adverbs, purple prose, chapter, sentence, and paragraph length
    • develop the story – make sure the content, conflict, characterization, details, and plot are the best they can be, make sense, are enjoyable and entertaining to the reader
    • proofread your work – typos, sentence structure, word usage, punctuation, and grammar
  • Hire a professional Book Cover Designer – they can also help with bookmarks, banners, posters, and other collateral
  • Hire a professional BOOK marketing consultant – get an action plan for marketing your work: events, signings, launch parties, social media, web sites, author pages, reviews, giveaways, networking

Just because you have a computer, Word, and possibly even Photoshop, does not make you a professional author. Honestly, even getting paid does not make you a professional anything. Professionalism is: producing equal, or superior, product to the best that is out there, in a non-amateurish manner. (I know that sentence is wonky, but think about it.)

A good writer will invest some time in a professional editor, cover designer, and marketing even if it cuts down on his/her ROI in order to have their work seen in the best possible light. Or at all. The quality of the technical aspects of writing shows your professionalism. The quality of the story, characterization, plot, conflict, and ending, quantifies the readers’ enjoyment and ultimately bring them back for a second book.


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About Paul K. Metheney, the Author: Paul was the featured author for dozens of sports magazine articles, has two stories published in a recent anthology, a contract to be published in an anthology coming out later this year, is contracted for a collection of his own short stories, and is working on a much-delayed novel or two. Paul has nearly three decades working in advertising design, print, and graphic design. For the last twenty-five years or so, he has been working in the web design, SEO, PPC, social media, and marketing fields, including writing marketing copy for his client's blogs and social media on various subjects. Oh, yeah. He teaches those subjects as well at the local community college. Paul can be reached at his blog on writing, teaching, poker, travel, reviews, and all things politically incorrect at paulmetheney.com, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

In full disclosure, Left Hand Publishers, besides publishing some of his work, has contracted Paul's company, Metheney Consulting, as one of their book cover design artists and marketing consultants to help assist with author's branding and marketing.

Paul is happily married to his one-time, high school sweetheart, loves riding his Can-Am Spyder motorcycle, sporadically smokes a good cigar, and is an avid poker enthusiast. Paul is owned and cared for by two small Shitzus.

To learn more, visit his web site, dedicated to writing, teaching, poker, reviews, all things politically incorrect, and posts revealing genuine stupidity in the world: PaulMetheney.com or email him at