10 Steps to the Top of the e-Book Chain

With the advance of technology, anyone who can put words into a word processing program and upload a file can post a book in electronic form. Witness the thousands of volumes that appear almost daily on Amazon’s Kindle, to say nothing of the other electronic venues.

With all that competition, how do you get your books noticed? There are any number of ways: social media; giveaways; reviews, etc. Those are all great ways get people to sample your first offering. But how do you keep them coming back for more? How do you make sure they will remember your name and keep buying your books? Follow these 10 steps to take your place at the top:

1) Do not to rush to publication. It’s so tempting to skip that last edit, not send the manuscript out for a final professional vetting and just get it out there. But one of the things I’m finding in reading e-Books is that the ease of posting one makes writers over-eager. They put out their books before the work is truly ready.

This is not happening with just the free or 99 cent books. I’m finding it true with well-established authors, too. One might think an e-Book is considered a poor cousin to the print version, an “Uncorrected Advance Proof,” if you will. The final, critical comb-through has not been done, leaving the reader to navigate a minefield of typos, missing punctuation, incorrect formatting and mis-used words. All of which pull them out of the story. Make your manuscript as picture-perfect as it can be by doing the following:

2) Take your manuscript though a good critique group (more than one is even better). Listen carefully to what others say about your story and your writing. Consider the adage: if one person says you’re a horse, they’re crazy. If three people tell you you’re a horse, it’s a conspiracy. If ten people tell you you’re a horse, it’s time to buy a saddle. (Thanks, Anna!) Let go of ypur ego and do what needs to be done to improve the manuscript.

3) Do the necessary revisions. Every story needs rewriting, most more than once. Work to make each draft better than the one before.

4) Have the “finished” manuscript critiqued again. This will address those nit-picky things that keep your story just below excellent. With this critique, you can hone until the story is truly tight and compelling.

5) Put it away (hard as that is) for at least a month. Six months is better. It’s the only way to gain the distance needed to be able to view it objectively to see if it needs further revisions.

6) Go over it one more time. Distance from the manuscript will help you check for inconsistencies, misspellings, shaky grammar, punctuation errors, etc. Correct anything you find and then…

7) Have it proofed by a copy editor and a concept editor. Hire editors as professional as you can afford. (If money is an issue—and when isn’t it?—try trading editing or proofing services with another writer.) I say two editors because not all editors are equally skilled at both kinds of editing. If you’re lucky, you’ll find one who is.

A copy editor (sometimes called a line editor) looks for typos, misspelled words, wonky punctuation and grammar errors. This is almost impossible to do yourself because, as the author, you know what it is supposed to say and your eye will correct it before your brain registers the mistake. (Trust me, I know. I grew up editing educational manuscripts that authors claimed were “perfect,” and found numerous errors every time.) It’s best to find someone who hasn’t yet read the book for copy editing. Concept editors will check for such things as consistency in character descriptions and characterizations, settings and action, errors in logic, missed words, consistency in story arc, subplot relevance, etc. It’s equally important to make sure Joe’s eyes aren’t blue in chapter 2 and green in chapter 10 as it is that everything is spelled correctly.

8) Format your book properly. Missing line breaks, the absence of indents, and paragraphs that don’t start on a new line can make even a well-written book unreadable. Been there, read a bunch of those. There are special formatting rules you need to know to format a book properly for e-format. If you don’t know them, or don’t know how to do them, find someone who does.

9) Hire a Professional Cover Designer. There is a specific format for e-book covers that includes size and placement of graphics and words. Visibility in thumbnail size is critical. Cover designers are not expensive and it’s well worth the $25—$50 to make sure your cover stands out from the rest.

10) Check your e-Book immediately after it’s posted. Don’t assume because you followed steps #1-#9 that your finished product will automatically be perfect. There may still be issues that need addressing, mistakes that weren’t caught. Price it a 99 cents, send it to two or three friends (as well as yourself), then have them check it thoroughly on an e-Book reader. Note any errors, correct them, then take the book down and upload the corrected version. You can adjust the price if needed once you know you’ve done all you could to erase any errors.

This sounds like a lot to have to do before getting your book into virtual print. But consider this: Say there are two books available in the same genre for the same price. Each are equally good stories. But from the previous work of these two authors, you know that Author A’s books often have misspellings, format problems and bad punctuation. Author B’s books are almost always perfect.

Which one would you want to read? Which would you spend your money on? Which one will rise to the top?

If you want to be at the top of the e-Book Chain, always give readers your very best.