The book shown above is not shitty. (How's that for a compliment?) It's not awful or even bad. It's better than many, worse than some and it rates a solid "OK." There are a number of errors that keep it from being "good." An examination of the book leads to important lessons for self-publishing authors.
- The illustration is a dull piece of stock art by Tiero, presumably purchased at Fotolia for a few bucks. There's nothing wrong with using a stock photo or illustration but it's not yours alone, so it's good to customize it.
- The title starts with "14 steps." It's only natural to count the steps shown on the cover, and find that there are more than 20. That's silly.
- The number 14 dominates the cover but it's arbitrary and uninteresting. Heinz is known for its 57 varieties and Baskin-Robbins for its 31 flavors, but 14 has no special significance that I know of. A word such as "vital" or "critical" would have been stronger than a number. (I've used 99, 100 and 1001 in my own titles. Those numbers are more interesting than 14.)
- Most nonfiction books have cover art that is a too-literal interpretation of the title. Maybe someone thought that a staircase made out of books is cute. I don't. A book about infant care doesn't need a baby bottle or diaper on the cover. A book about publishing steps doesn't need steps and books on the cover. I wonder if the illustration led to the title. An all-text cover could have been more of an eye-grabber.
- The author identifies himself as "Mike Kowis, Esq." I assume his real first name—like mine—is "Michael." If he's a well-known jock like Mike Ditka or in show biz or politics like Mike Todd or Mike Pence, the nickname would be OK on a book. On a serious book where the name is paired with "Esq." which identifies an attorney, the informality seems out-of-place and lessens the author's authority. (I am never Mike or Mickey.)
The proper first step in publishing a nonfiction book has nothing to do with either starting or completing a manuscript. The first step actually includes marketing, which Mike leaves for last.
- If you’re writing and publishing a dictionary, your potential market is all of the people in the world who can read the language you are publishing in, or are trying to learn it. The potential audience could be many millions, and your potential competitors may number in the hundreds.
- If your book is about your not-so-famous mother, you probably have no competitors covering the same subject, and your potential audience may be eight people. Or two.
- Most books fall somewhere in between. Books intended to help fisherman, mechanics and corn growers probably have potential audiences in the tens or even hundreds of thousands, and dozens of competitors. Mike has hundreds of competitors—including me.
Mike's STEP 6 is very strange—and very wrong—and an attorney/college instructor should have known better. A "merchant account" has absolutely nothing to do with shipping. A merchant account is an arrangement with a credit-card-processing company that enables a business to accept credit cards for purchases.
Most books are sold by booksellers, not authors, so the authors have no need to process credit-card orders. Mike recommends "finding at least three experts" to review your book. One of his experts should've caught this blooper. (For occasional sales you can be paid through Paypal with no merchant account.)
Similarly, unless you maintain inventory (unnecessary for ebooks and print on demand) and expect to ship out lots of books, there is absolutely no reason to have an account with a shipping company (but it's not difficult to get one). Many authors keep a few books on hand to send as gifts or for reviews, or to sell with autographs. You can easily send them by going to the Post Office (or FedEx or UPS). No account is necessary. You can even give books to the mail carrier who comes to your place or call for a free pickup.
I disagree with STEP 11. I am absolutely opposed to paid reviews. For a positive review to be meaningful it should be written by someone who likes your book—not by someone who's paid to read and review it. If you pay a prostitute $1,000 to go to bed with you and she or he proclaims love, would you believe it? Of course not.
Mike minimized a vital step: securing blurbs. A blurb is a brief chunk of text written by someone who knows something about you and/or your subject and can help you to sell the book. It means much more than a purchased review. You should start seeking blurbs as soon as your text is good enough to be read by others. Mike says blurbs go on the back cover. They can also go on the front cover, in the front matter and in promotional material, including online book listings.
Mike kindly reveals the costs for the various aspects of producing his first book and this one. He spent so much on the first that I doubt that the book made any money. That first book, properly, was a learning experience and his costs were less for the second book.
In the discussion of business names, Mike advises us that "It might be wise to select a name that reflects the value or benefits of your book. For my business, I chose the name Lecture PRO Publishing because it reminds readers of the benefits that you can expect from reading my first book (i.e., you can learn to lecture college students like a “pro” if you read my book)."
I disagree strongly. It's much better to have a neutral name (such as my own Silver Sands Books) that can work with any book genre. "Lecture PRO Publishing" does not relate to Mike's second book. CLICK HERE for advice on naming your publishing company.
Mike asks, "Do you want to sell an eBook? If so, do you prefer Kindle, non-Kindle (e.g., Nook, Apple iBook, Kobo, etc.), or both?"
That's silly. The author/publisher's preference for ebook format is irrelevant. An author/publisher should focus on the preferences and needs of the likely readers, and the more formats the better.
Mike Kowis has provided a lot of useful information for beginning publishers. With a little bit of additional work the book could have been "good," not merely "OK." That's an important lesson.