How Do You Make a Self-Published Book Look Professional?
by Ameesha Smith-Green
Self-publishing can be a fantastic thing. It gives any aspiring author the ability to publish a book without encountering the barriers of the traditional publishing industry. However, self-publishing has a reputation as “the poor man’s publishing” due to the high number of amateur, unedited, and unprofessional-looking books put out there.
If you’re self-publishing and want your book to look as professional as a traditionally published book, then here’s your guide to getting it right.
1. Cover design
We’ll be honest… the key thing in making your book look professional is the cover. It’s the first thing that a potential reader looks at, and whether we like it or not, people do judge a book by its cover. In fact, we’d argue that you should judge a book by its cover because it tells you what genre the book is, who it’s written by, who it’s published by, how much effort the author put in, and so on. It’s also relatively easy to spot a cover that the author has created themselves.
Common giveaways that a cover is homemade include:
- Old-fashioned fonts
- Multiple fonts
- Poor text placement
- Including “By” before the author’s name
- Off-genre colours
- Multiple colours
- Old-fashioned images or poor-quality photographs
- Poorly placed elements such as images
- Graininess or pixelation
As such, we always recommend that self-publishing authors hire a professional cover designer if they can afford one. A cover designer knows what’s on trend, what the genre standards are, and what your readers want. Realistically, most authors don’t know these things, and they don’t need to because they’re writers rather than designers. A cover designer will create a modern, compelling, professional, and crisp cover for you.
2. Content and style
To ensure that you have a professional book, it should go without saying (but often doesn’t) that your book has to be valuable and well-written and meet your target readers’ needs. Some authors are able to deliver this by working with beta-readers to get objective feedback and improving the manuscript themselves. Others need the support of a professional editor.
Common giveaways that a book hasn’t been edited include:
- A lack of structure
- A lack of flow
- Going off on tangents
- Not fully explained
- Too long or too short
- Hard to read
- A boring plot
- Plot holes
- Poor characterisation
- Unrealistic dialogue
- A lack of atmosphere
- Not enough or too many details
If you can afford to, we recommend getting the book professionally edited by someone who specialises in your genre — or at least hiring them to do an editorial critique, so you can edit the book based on the feedback.
Another giveaway that a book hasn’t been worked on by professionals is poor typesetting. This often overlooked area of book production is actually very important. A typesetter or designer will lay out the interior of your book to provide the best reading experience. This might be a complex design that includes images and text boxes, or it might be a simple design with just words. Either way, the typesetter ensures that all of your formatting is on-point, from margins to font size, font choice to line spacing, and so on.
A more obvious reason for spotting an amateurish book is finding typos and errors. Now, we’ll be honest that even the biggest name books from MacMillan and the likes have a typo or two in them. After all, proofreaders are only human. But to ensure that your book has just one or two typos and not hundreds, you should get the book professionally proofread if you can afford to. If you haven’t got any funds to spare at this point, you can ask an eagle-eyed friend. And when it comes to proofreading — the more eyes, the better!
5. Publisher name
How do you spot a Penguin book? The name and the logo, right? As a self-publishing author, you can look more professional with a simple hack. Set up a company with a publisher-sounding name like “Phoenix Rising Publishing”. Add the company details on the copyright page. Create a logo for the company and put it on the spine of the book. Voila!
Essentially, to give your self-published book the best chance, you should hire a team of editors, designers, and proofreaders who understand how to make a book look as good as those that are traditionally published. You can even find teams who have worked in-house for publishers, like us. An experienced, knowledgeable team will help you create a valuable, professional-looking book. You can browse our services here.