Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Self-publishers: at least try a little bit harder.

Yesterday, on the SPAN website, I read a very poorly prepared book announcement written by a good storyteller who needs help making the transition to publisher.

The new book is in a genre (Christian "end times" fiction) that I have no interest in. I probably would not have read beyond the headline, but that headline was so terribly amateurish (and so unnecessarily terrible) that I read more and found more to complain about.

The announcement's title is "Times of Trouble a Christian fiction End Times novel."  (Emphasis added)

Author Cliff Ball says he has published six books and has a BA degree in English. Hey Cliff, I'd think that by now you'd know that it's not necessary to point out that a novel is fiction (unless it's it's being compared to a "non-fiction novel" like Truman Capote's In Cold Blood). I realize that  Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls is not Harvard or Yale, but surely some professor must've pointed that out. Sadly, the ugly book cover repeats the reduncancy error.

The book promo is flawed by sloppy writing and grammatical errors:
  • Cliff says "many Americans had known for over two hundred years." Huh? How many Americans live for more than 200 years?
  • Also, "Told in first person point of view, Brian Atwood, our main character, is . . ." Brian is not told in first-person, the book is.
  • "His work involves mostly cyber terrorism . . . ." That sounds like he is a terrorist, not someone who fights terrorism.
  • Brian's faith is tested every day as he deals with a man that [should be "who"] has no morals . . . ." 
On the SPAN site, I pointed out some of the errors and said, "I hope the book is better edited than this promo, and I strongly urge you to re-do the promo before you circulate it further."

Sadly, I then found that the same poorly crafted promo is on Cliff's website, booksellers' sites, and even on the back cover of the book.

The back cover bio tells us that Cliff "was led to the Lord when he was five by his mother." How could anyone who writes such a crappy sentence have a degree in the English language? Could I be five by my mother? Cliff -- or an editor -- should have rewritten this.

Sadly, the book apparently had no editor ("Delaney's" is not the plural of "Delaney," "withdrawal of Iraq" should be "from Iraq," "look-out" doesn't need a hyphen) -- or a designer.

The cover uses a common CreateSpace template. The interior is ugly and screams "AMATEUR." The text is set flush-left, and there are no hyphens, so pages are ragged and jagged. Even if Cliff was too broke or too egomaniacal to hire a designer, a little bit of research could have led to a much nicer book.

The copyright page says that the book was published by Cliff Ball. This is not Cliff's first book. When he did his first book, he should have established a name for his publishing company.

An amateur's book that has to compete with professionals' books has to look professional. It's not difficult.

While I have no interest in Christian fiction (I'm not even sure why it exists) or the "end times," and almost never read fiction, I did read enough of the online preview to know that Cliff is a good storyteller. It's a shame that he doesn't care enough about his words to invest in professional editing and design.


The mission of SPAN (Small Publishers Association of North America) is to support self publishing authors and independent publishing companies as a non-profit trade association. It provides a lot of valuable services to both established pros and newbies. I've been a SPAN member for several years, and recommend it.

Writers often use its website as a venue to announce new books, and perhaps to get the attention of other members, and maybe get them to buy, read and recommend the books.

Since SPAN is an alliance of sympathetic supporters of small publishers, I'd think that someone with a new book to promote would try really hard to impress members.



  1. Why do you keep picking on Christians? Hitler should've burned your hairy kike ass.

  2. Good advice. It's not terribly hard to make a decent-looking book.