Wednesday, November 9, 2011

5 Self-Publishing Tips for Writers (From a Self-Publishing Contest Judge)

Earlier this year, I was tasked with judging a self-published poetry contest. It was a very rewarding experience, and I found at the end that I ultimately had to decide between three or four books that were great. While I judged the final round, I also was involved with one of the earlier rounds too, so I was able to learn some very common mistakes that are made in self-published titles.

Here are my 5 key tips for writers who are self-publishing collections:
  1. Write your bio in the third person. I could probably spend an entire blog post on bio writing (o, wait a sec, I did), but be sure to write your bio in the third person. Just pick up a few books at the bookstore or library to use as a model.
  2. Have a designer design your cover. Of course, this advice is coming from someone who's designed both of his chapbook covers, so do what I say not what I do. Some of the cover designs I saw in the earlier round shocked me--in a bad way.
  3. Use your spine. By spine, I mean your book spine. Populate your spine with information, such as the title of the book and your name as the author. Blank spines will get lost on bookshelves.
  4. Secure endorsements. Take the time to send an early proof to a reader or two and request an endorsement of your book. Use a quote or two (citing the source) on the front and/or back cover of your book. Also, this might go without saying, but reward your endorsers with a complimentary copy.
  5. For more information... It's amazing to me how few writers in the earlier rounds--and even in the final round--did not include ways for readers to continue the conversation with the writer. At a minimum, I feel a self-published writer should include an e-mail address, URL for a website and/or blog, and mailing address. Don't treat your self-published book as the end product; it's part of your writing platform.

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