Things Indie Authors Do Wrong

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So before I start this post, I just want to make it very clear that this is a rant. I’m not talking specifically about any indie authors or books, and what I say does not apply to all of them. I am just going to talk about a lot of “mistakes”, or rather “turn-offs”, that I have noticed in independently published books.


1. Cover Design

So, obviously every book has a cover. I mean, how could it not? It is a book… right?

What I have noticed with indie books, is a lot of authors get pre-made templates to use or watch a few YouTube videos about graphic designing and decide to go ahead and make their own.

Can this work? Yes.

Does this work? Most of the time, sadly not. See, it’s not that the covers are horrible or ugly (I mean, in some cases they are, but that’s not the point), it’s more that the covers are boring or unoriginal. They don’t stand out in the crowd. Nothing about them screams “Pick me up and read me right now!”

I’m going to be totally honest here and tell you that when I buy books (like actually spend my own money to purchase a book), it is either because I 100% am in love with the author and I don’t even look at the cover, or because the cover is so beautiful I can’t leave the store without it.

What can I do to fix this problem?

Why, thank you for asking that totally relevant question.

I think the best thing to do is to stay away from designing your own cover. This is for the same reason we authors have beta-readers and editors: we can’t always see the flaws in our own work.

The challenge with this is having to pay someone to create a cover. It is a bit of a catch 22; you need money for a good cover and you need a good cover to make money. There’s no perfect solution to this, but after investing all that time in writing and editing and such, why not invest a little money into a stunning cover?

If you do decide to hire someone, make sure they are a good graphic designer and have done notable books in your genre before. Otherwise you may as well save your money and take your chances designing the cover on your own. Also don’t be afraid to tell the designer you don’t like the first cover they come up with… its important to be able to convey the feeling and emotions of the book through the cover. That is what makes them so great.


2. Bad Editing

Getting a really good editor can be hard and expensive. I get that. However, that is no excuse for some of the things I have seen in indie books. I mean, I have come across some pretty awful spelling and grammar mistakes (and I mean super noticeable ones… not just little “barely-there” mistakes).

I mean lets be real here: there is no excuse for an author to shift between third and second tense in the middle of a paragraph. That’s just not okay. NOT OKAY PEOPLE. Just had to get that out there. Stick to your tense.

Then of course there are those books where I’m not even sure if the author was sober when they released. There are forgotten characters and plot lines and it just makes me wonder if the book was just written and put out into the world without so much as a proof read.

What can I do to prevent such a horrendous mistake?

Thank you for yet another totally relevant question.

Bad editing is pretty easy to avoid…. as long as you are willing to put in the time and effort. I mean, you could always hire a professional editor (if you don’t mind the cost), which of course is never a bad idea. But if you don’t want to, you could do several other things.

You could:

  • Find a bunch of beta readers who are willing to give you pointers and suggestions (and who preferable have some kind of writing experience or who are avid readers and know their stuff).
  • Join a critiquing group (just remember that means you will most likely be critiquing other peoples work as they critique yours)
  • Let your finished manuscript sit in the back of a closet for a few months then re-read it with a set of fresh eyes
  • Stalk an editor on twitter until they finally agree to edit your book for free
  • Sell your soul to the devil in exchange for a perfectly edited book

Wow. That escalated quickly.


3. Awful Book Formatting

So you know when you open up a book and it just doesn’t look right? That is probably because it wasn’t formatted well. The whole book just feels amateur-ish. It throws the book off, if you know what I mean.

If there is one thing I appreciate most about traditionally published books it is the book formatting. I have to give it to the publishing houses… they have got the page design down to an exact science; it just gives books that extra special “pop”.

I feel like a lot of indie authors overlook how important page design is. A books interior design can make or break the entire reading experience.

Now, I’m not saying that every single indie author should have a design at the beginning of ever chapter or a special symbol between scene breaks, I’m just saying that more often than not the interior of the book just isn’t put together the right way.

Tell me how to make the inside of my book beautiful. I beg of thee!

How demanding of you! But okay, okay, I’ll do my best.

So, I’m obviously not a graphic/any kind of designer, but there are a lot of them out there. If you do decide to hire someone to make a cover, ask them about interior book design. More likely than not they will have experience with that as well and be able to make the pages of your book look beautiful and amazing (and the pages of your book will match the cover).


So there you have it. Rant over (I think). Feel free to share your opinions, and any other “turn-offs” you have noticed in indie books (or published books if you want). Have you ever noticed my book turn-offs?

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Author Q & A- Mary F Allen

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing an up and coming author named Mary F Allen. She is based in New York, and is a book and chocolate lover. She is currently editing her first novel, titled Anam.

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Q: What is the first thing you would want someone to know about you?

A: That I love books and writing. (and of course chocolate!)

Q: How long have you been writing?

A: I have been writing for fun ever since I was a child. Only within the past two years did I realize the passion I have for it.

Q: What inspires you to write? Do you have a muse?

A: I make myself write everyday even when I am not inspired at all. I guess if I had to pick a muse, it would be the characters for my book, lol, they are like imaginary friends who get annoyed when you ignore them!

Q: Tell me about your first novel. What inspired it?

A: My first book is a fantasy novel called Anam. Think Alice in Wonderland meets Lord of the Rings. One of the characters seemed to come into my head out of no where many years ago. I love fantasy books, my inspiration has been all the fantasy books I have read and loved.

Q: If you could only have one type of chocolate for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A: Milk chocolate, no question about it!

Q: What is your favorite book and what do you like about it?

A: Oh gosh, I dont know if I could pick just one. My favorite at the moment is Lord of the Rings trilogy. I love the details the Tolkien puts into the story and how he makes you feel like you are in the middle of the story.

Q: What criteria does a book have to meet for you to consider it a “good book”?

A: For me to consider it a good book, the story has to hold me and make me care about the characters.

Q: If you could meet one historical figure, who would it be and why?

A: It would have to be King Henry the VIII’s sister, Mary, Queen of France. Because I just finished a book about her by Jean Plaidy. The book made me curious about the real woman.

Q: Is there anything else about yourself you want the world to know?

A: That I love animals, talking to people and being by the ocean.

 

You can find Mary on twitter here: https://twitter.com/MaryAWriter

Beginning a Novel

Today marks the day that I am starting my second novel. Unlike when I started my first novel, I decided to do some research before starting this one. It’s hard to understand how confusing a novel can be to write until you are sitting at your keyboard and trying to pants your way though the first chapter. Needless to say, my first novel was a train wreck.

This time around I decided not to be a pantser. A pantser is someone who doesn’t make an outline, and just writes as they go along. I’m not saying that pantsing doesn’t work (it does- just ask JK Rowling), I’m just saying that it didn’t work that well for me. I ended up forgetting about characters and leaving huge plot holes that pure editing can’t fix.

For the past couple weeks, I have been scouring the internet looking for the best ways to go about plot planning. I have never been much of a planner, even when I wrote essays for school. However, I also don’t like editing, so that puts me in a bit of a pickle; how can I write a great book that doesn’t require too much planning or editing?

The solution for editing is an easy one. There are amazing websites such as https://reedsy.com/ that can get you in contact with professional editors, cover/interior designers, and any other service you need. Then, you can negotiate your own price with them first hand. That being solved, the only problem I had left was how am I going to plan my plot?

In my creative process, I get ideas two main ways. The scenes will pop into my head,  or I talk with my older brother/a close friend. So how do I take these seemingly random ideas and put them together to make a killer plot?

The answer for me was a chapter by chapter breakdown. I spent a good three hours organizing all the little notes I made into a sort-of-legible story line, and went from there. It was pretty easy from that point to fill in the missing points and see what needed more developing.

I’m not saying that my plot skeleton is perfect- it is just a skeleton. I still have a lot of work to do on it, and it will most likely change as I go along. However, the way I did it gives me a great deal more freedom than completely planning out my novel. It allows me to change directions at the end of a chapter- or switch a chapter out completely) if I don’t like it. Being a lover of pantsing, I feel like this plan gives me a good amount of space to let my creativity grow, while still sticking to a story line.

Now, I just need to see if my planning works. I guess you can call this a bit of an experiment. So wish me luck! I’ll post an update about it soon.