Self-Published Nightmare
By Crystal Hildebrand

I am a frequent flyer at our local library. If I had a points card, I would be sporting some great library merch by now. The librarians all know me by name (and I them). They know I almost always have a hold waiting, and that I do not leave without first checking out the New Arrivals section. Last week was no exception.

My eyes were quickly drawn to a book I had never heard of before (this is rare, as I pride myself in knowing all new releases and best sellers). In my hurry, I grabbed the book and added it to the stack in my arms.

When I got home, I noticed something odd about the cover; it was off-center. The last letter of the author’s name disappeared around the edge of the case-wrapped cover. Being in the publishing industry, it was my duty to identify the naughty publisher but quickly discovered it was self-published by the author. I was glad for the non-existent publisher’s sake but apprehensive about what awaited me inside the wonky cover. If the front cover was not important enough to perfect, then most likely, the text wasn’t either.

I read the first paragraph twice before trying it out loud. It didn’t make any sense. I skipped it and went to the second paragraph, this one made more sense, but in no way did it relate to the first paragraph. Frustrated, I flipped to the middle of the book, and then to the end. It was unreadable.

I closed the book and stared at the lopsided cover feeling great sympathy for the author. How much time and energy did she spend on her manuscript, trying to perfect it for her readers? How much money did she spend on publishing and printing her book? How many readers would open and close her book experiencing the same disappointment as me? What a waste.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This quote applies to the cover of every book in every genre. Had I noticed the lopsided cover in the library, I would not have picked it up. I certainly would not have purchased it. A professional cover is vital. It’s the reason a reader takes a second look, clicks on, or picks up a book. Cliché words in the title, an over-used design, or an askew image are unforgivable first impressions that can easily be avoided with professional help.

Likewise, running a manuscript through spell-check is helpful, but does not compare to the expertise gained by having a professional editor. An editor does help with spelling and grammar, but more importantly, they fix the readability of the story. Changing the order of words or simplifying thoughts can make a huge difference to the reader’s interest and comprehension.

There are many life-changing stories that deserve to be published, but publishing is not the objective. Reaching people with the message is. Getting a book into the hands of readers is a great first step, and once you do it’s critical that readers can follow and understand the message. Having a professional editor is crucial in having a book enjoyed and understood by others. Proper editing could be the difference between a book being unreadable or a best seller.

About this Contributor:

Crystal Hildebrand is a Publishing Assistant at Word Alive Press. She is an avid reader and writer who enjoys coffee, book clubs, and her sensitive wolfhound. Crystal and her husband of 20 years live in rural Manitoba with their two very busy teenagers.

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