Several days ago, I posted a rant about authors who need to remember that they are writing for readers, not for themselves. My words came in reaction to having spend several days judging entries in a writing contest. Now that I am completely finished with the contest judging, I've discovered an even more important requirement. Every author needs a mirror.
A mirror? Why? Well, go find yourself a mirror and take a good, hard look at yourself. Don't worry about a bad hair day, or those bags under your eyes, or the zit on your nose. I'm not concerned with your physical appearance. but WHO you see in that mirror? Start by labeling the image as "AUTHOR." Your are what an author looks like. Now what else do you see? Are you an artist, a printer, an English teacher, a grammar nazi, a photographer, a layout expert, a lawyer, an advertising executive, a computer whiz, an accountant, a glad-handing publicity agent? Can you be all of those things at once? And if you could, what would you look like?
No matter what anyone says about self-publishing, writers need to understand that they can't do it all. In one sense, creating a book has never been easier. But it's also never been so full of dangers. As I worked my way through ten newly published books, I found two from traditional publishers. They were attractive and looked -- "finished." Of the other eight, all self-published in some sense, only one really appeared to be professional. The others had amateurish mistakes -- uneven margins, crooked page blocks, weird cover designs, cheap paper, silly fonts, blurry illustrations, awkward grammar, misplaced chapter headings, incomplete sentences.
The authors had good ideas and good intentions. But they needed to take a hard look in a mirror and realize that nobody can do it all. A great book requires the attention of many people, not just the author. It needs editors, layout artists, designers, and media experts. Yes, they cost money. But they make the difference between a great book and a . . . . book.