Having had a good look at the market and being an avid reader myself, I have noticed a few key factors that any self-published author needs to have nailed down before unleashing their creations into the world.
Please bear in mind that I am simply approaching this from a buyer's perspective. With memes.
1. The Cover
Every book needs a cover but putting your design skills to the test in MS Word is simply not good enough. It gives an awful first impression and makes your product look cheap. That's right, authors. In case you have forgotten, you are in fact selling a product and people want to pay for quality. They will not part with their hard-earned dollar if your cover looks like it was designed by a 13-year-old for book report day.
Also, do not rip-off covers of popular books because this will piss off fans and make you look lazy. Just don't do it.
Have the title in a clear font. It can be decorative, but it must still be legible. A good idea to theme your cover to the genre is to have a look at popular covers and look at font styles that they have in common. Your name should be in a smaller, simpler font. Sans-serif styles seem to be quite popular.
Keep the background simple, so that the key elements pop and are not lost in the noise. Often, the most effective backgrounds are plain white or black. Think Twilight. The reader doesn't want to feel that your cover reminds them of the Great Acid Trip of 1979.
Have one key image that draws the eye and is also memorable. Do not clutter the cover with lots of smaller images unless it works with the genre of the book and still has an overall universal appearance.
There is a rule in Photography called the Rule of Thirds. This should absolutely be applied to book covers as it is fundamental in producing a pleasing image. This is useful in determining the placement of your title and central image. The idea is that your canvas is divided into 9 equal squares, showing the key areas for optimal balance of the image. The same applies to designing a cover.
To use the grid overlay on a cover I have played around with, it is easy to see how key lines and features correspond with the grid and points of focus.
I will do another post in more detail on how the elements of photography will help you with cover design. It is a logical approach as photography and design follow the same basic principles of what the eye finds visually pleasing.
2. Get an Editor
Your best friend as an author is your editor. And by this, I do not mean your editor is your best friend. You need an objective outsider to go over your work and suggest changes. Someone who actually does this job for a living and understands writing holistically.
Here is the problem. Most eReaders offer a sample of your book before people part with their dollar. If you cannot capture the reader in your first few chapters with your awesome writing and plotting skills, you will not convert that purchase into a sale. It is as simple as that. People will not buy the book in hopes it will get better. You do not take one bite of a disgusting burger and then try more. Unless you enjoy suffering. And most people don't.
Do not assume your book is worthy of publication once you have finished your first draft. Go back and edit it. Read it out aloud. Edit some more. Then call in a professional.
Next to the cover, your blurb is the most important selling point of your book. It should be captivating and punchy, telling the reader enough about the book without giving anything away.
It is not a place for you to word vomit your plot or summarize your book. It is also not an easy thing to write. That is why you have professional people who do this for a living. I seriously doubt JK Rowling sat and mulled over her own blurbs.
This is the one place where there absolutely cannot be any sort of errors. It is probably more important than the book itself and should not be treated like that aunt nobody wants to invite to the family lunch, but do because they feel obliged to fill that extra seat.
I remember when I was in school we had this really involved English teacher who made us read a book of our choosing and then write the blurb for it. This was a brilliant exercise, as he showed us how to identify the key elements of the story.
You need to introduce your protagonist and also make the reader want to crack open the spine by revealing little tidbits of the plot. Keep it short and true to the feel of your story. Do not mislead readers into thinking your book it something it is not.
You need to go through your book with a fine-tooth comb and ensure that when it is read on any device, it does not have any funny gaps or bad alignment.
Any formatting issues make a reader feel like they have been cheated out of their money, as this reflects on the overall quality of the product.
Are all your indents consistent? Do all the chapter heading match? No unexplained blank pages between text?
Once you have all this in place, you are ready to send your book baby out into the world! Ensure that you are not rushing the process and that you have a quality, polished product!
Please do leave comments and suggestions below!