Book Cover Design: Don’t Take My Word For It

Book cover design is subjective. I can share my experiences with people. I can tell them what worked in the past. I can explain what I’ve learned through hours and hours and hours of research and reading studies, and looking at best sellers’ lists and losing myself for countless hours in bookstores. But, at the end of the day it’s still 50% subjective, with a few verifiable research studies tossed in for good measure and a list of success stories that may or may not support using one style cover over another.

The industry does have experts though, and many of them are willing to share their expertise. Chip Kidd is one such book cover designer. For 25 or so years he’s been creating memorable designs, like the dinosaur silhouette on Jurassic Park, and the “wet” look of Augusten Burroughs’ Dry.

Kidd has several very informative videos on YouTube. If you’re designing a cover, hiring a cover designer or managing a publishing project for yourself or someone else, this video is well worth 17 minutes of your time.  I think the information at 2:50 is really important and exemplifies a common issue with self-published covers — treating readers like morons.

Random House also has material about the process of book cover design on YouTube  (Chip Kidd shows up in this one, too).

Another well-known designer who shares the design process he underwent to create book covers is Henry Sene Yee. I thought his cover for Smut was brilliant. His use of Comic Sans on Sam Lipsyte’s book was a great marketing idea.

Lots of good information out there. Take my word for it.Wink

Tips for Formatting Your Book Cover for Lightning Source (or Any Printer)

Print quality isn’t completely controlled by your print company

The files you supply must be created properly, or you’re going to have issues. Some printers will print whatever you send, and don’t check anything. Others, like Lightning Source (LSI) are more particular and more expensive. But you get what you pay for and I think they’re worth it.

You absolutely have to make sure your files are properly formatted. There’s no sense creating a cover in Word (it doesn’t work with the right color gamut) or even the beloved GIMP, which is an awesome software, but alas, it too will not work with CMYK files. You’ll have no problem creating an e-book cover with these programs, but print is a bit more technical. If you’re going to be paying money for print proofs, you might as well do it right the first time.

WARNING: The following contains technical jargon which you should be familiar with (you are the project manager), so I’ve provided links that will explain them to you within the text.

  • If you’re using LSI, you will want to use their cover template generator. It will supply your customized cover template in EPS, PDF or InDesign formats, and your barcode will be in the file (you have to give them your ISBN).
    Color should be CMYK. Some printers will accept RGB files, but they’re still printing in CMYK. This means they’ll flip the color “on the fly” and you’ll be forced to deal with the results. As you can see from my link, they’re not always good.
  • No more than 240% black or color saturation on the cover. Again, some printers don’t care, but if you’re printing with LSI it’s necessary. They will send you a .csf file to use with all your Adobe programs if you ask them nicely, so you won’t have to worry about this, the software will adjust things as you go.
  • 300 dpi for everything. Don’t think that because you enlarged an image it will work. A 300 dpi image that was doubled in size becomes a 150 dpi image no matter how you’ve fooled the software into saying otherwise. So, while you might get by the prepress check, you’ll still end up with poor print quality. I wasn’t able to find a simple explanation of this online, so I created this image. You can see on the middle image that was simply enlarged to 300 dpi from 72 dpi that the quality is nowhere near as good as the one to the right, that was created at 300 dpi. But, as the one on the left shows, 72 dpi is fine for online purposes.DPI
  • Good fonts. Use them. All fonts are not created equal.
  • Make sure to check that your fonts have embedded after you export the PDF. If you don’t, you could be in for some unpleasant surprises when a substitute font ends up in your printed book, throwing off your layout. In Adobe Acrobat Pro you can check this in Files/Properties/Fonts and beside the list of fonts it should say embedded or subset embedded.

Darker Covers Can Cause Problems

  • Putting a lot of ink or toner on a book will mean a longer drying time. Heavy inking/toner sometimes causes issues with the lamination or other finishes not adhering as well (remember, you’re not attaching the coating to the porous paper, you’ve putting it on smoother ink/toner).
  • Denser ink/toner creates a “layer” on the paper and that can crack and peel over time.
  • Then there are “hickeys” which often appear in large areas of solid color and are most prevalent on darker colors. While they are simply a fact of life in printing, since darker colors require more drying time, so there’s more of a chance dust particles will land on the paper and create a “hickey” effect.

Romance Author Pam Crooks Talks About Her Move From Traditional to Self Publishing


…it was nine years before I finally sold to Dorchester. If anything could go wrong for an aspiring author, it went wrong for me. Everything from a lost manuscript (I waited for a whole year on that one), agents who lost interest (three of them), editors who were young enough to be my daughters who moved from line to line and house to house, shuffling my manuscript back and forth, and so on.

 When did you publish your first book?

Pam Crooks: My first book was released by Dorchester Publishing in 2001. That book was Wyoming Wildflower, which is still my mother’s favorite.

How long did it take you to find a publisher who would work with you?

Pam Crooks: Forever, it seems. But all told, it was nine years before I finally sold to Dorchester. If anything could go wrong for an aspiring author, it went wrong for me. Everything from a lost manuscript (I waited for a whole year on that one), agents who lost interest (three of them), editors who were young enough to be my daughters who moved from line to line and house to house, shuffling my manuscript back and forth, and so on. But finally, everything clicked, I found an editor who loved my work, and I sold, bing, bing, bing.

Did you have an agent?

Pam Crooks: I’d had 3 agents who failed at making a sale for me, and I parted ways with all of them. Ironically, I sold to Dorchester on my own. I didn’t get an agent until my fourth book with them.

If so, do you still have the same agent?

Pam Crooks: Yes. She still handles my Harlequin titles for me.

How many traditionally published books have you produced including the first one?

Pam Crooks: I’ve traditionally published 14 books, four with Dorchester Publishing and 10 with Harlequin Historicals.

What book was the most popular?

Pam Crooks: Hannah’s Vow, but not when it was still with Dorchester. When I got the rights back, I self-published the book in 2011, and it went on to make me an Amazon bestseller.

What role did or does editing have in the success of these traditionally-published books?

Pam Crooks: There were some revisions that I made gritting my teeth, others that definitely made the book stronger. It’s all subjective, of course, but when I was with Harlequin, their focus was and always will be on the relationship of the hero and heroine. Sometimes I felt like I was hitting the reader over the head with angst, but it was what my editor wanted, so I did it.

Did you find the series books more popular than single story books?

Pam Crooks: Definitely. Readers love to find out what happens to the characters in time. They want to see a couple happily married with kids. And they love seeing secondary characters given their own stories.

What impact did e-books have on your traditionally published books?

Pam Crooks: Well, I quit writing the traditionally published books. They were all historical western romances, and I was ready for a change right about the time the big e-book wave hit in 2011.

Why did you decide to start republishing some of your traditionally published books yourself? Were these released by you only in electronic format?

Pam Crooks: About the time authors were really starting to hit it big with e-books, Dorchester Publishing was having serious financial difficulties. They began releasing their authors and giving rights back. I’d always felt that Dorchester never gave my books the attention and promo they deserved, and it broke my heart that they were languishing in some warehouse, so I was quick to get my rights back and self-publish. I’ve been happy to give them new life as e-books.

You’ve since started self-publishing your new releases. What prompted you to do this?

Pam Crooks: The speed, the control, the fun of being able to do everything myself. I love having the book available for sale in a matter of hours and seeing the sales each day. When before were authors given the liberty of knowing how much money they were making every day? When before had they been paid every month? That’s huge. Much, much better than getting paid twice a year, and even then, having a good chunk of the money held back in reserve.

The icing on the cake, though, has to be working with my designer on the cover. Once the manuscript has been formatted and ready for upload, it’s the prize for all the months of hard work. It’s the one thing that makes the book real. It’s always a creative adrenaline rush for me.

What was the first book you released totally self-published?

Pam Crooks:  Her Mother’s Killer. It was actually a Harlequin Intrigue that my editor at the time wanted to buy, but the senior editor rejected it. Back then, it was a tough line to get into. Not enough slots for the number of submissions. Too many good books never got bought because there just wasn’t enough room.

Was it available in print and e-book?

Pam Crooks: Yes.

Which sold better and what would you do differently now if you could go back?

Pam Crooks: Her Mother’s Killer earned out in a matter of a couple of weeks, and the cover (which I think is awesome) and the title played a big part in getting it noticed. What would I do differently? I’d probably do more social media. I don’t like spending the time on it, but they say it’s what sells books.

Also, e-books always sell better than print. Price and convenience are what it’s all about.

You experimented with a pseudonym and then went back to your real name. Can you tell us a bit about that and why you abandoned the idea?

Pam Crooks: Since the time I entered the e-publishing world in 2011, the market has exploded. It’s getting harder and harder to be noticed, and an author has to constantly promote herself. In late 2012 and early 2013, I could tell the difference in the market, and it was just too hard (for me) to promote not only my real name but a pseudonym, too.

Because there is such a huge glut of books out there, readers are overwhelmed from the selection. Their eyes glaze over. I found out the hard way that most of them will only buy from an author they know. Plus, losing the opportunity to browse through a book in a brick and mortar bookstore — impulse buying — played a factor as well.

You recently re-released a self-published book with a new cover that is geared more for the romance genre, as opposed to the original, which was more masculine and seemed to be aimed at men and women. Why did you decide to do that?

Pam Crooks: There’s nothing bigger and better than romance in the publishing world. It’s what I’ve always read and always written. It’s what I’m known for writing. Romance readers are voracious, some of them buying 20-30 books a month. They’re online, they’re in book clubs, and they’re in libraries. I knew I had to go back to my roots and make my life easier. Besides, I missed writing it.

Have you noticed an improvement in sales since then?

Pam Crooks: Within hours of changing the categories to romance on a free short story I’d written as part of the Secret Six series, my downloads quadrupled and I was pushed into the top 100 in my category. Review requests for The Spyglass Project sky-rocketed. Sales began to pick up. All of this convinced me I’d made the right decision in going back to writing under my own name in the romance genre. Why did I ever think I should have done anything different?

What are your thoughts on free books or giveaways?

Pam Crooks: I understand the business logic of free books spurring sales of a series, and it has catapulted many authors to bestseller lists. But it took me a long, long time before I ever wanted to give away my own work for free. When I finally did, I had 36,000 downloads and I refused to let myself calculate how much money I would’ve made if all those downloads had been paid at full royalty.

But in the past 9 – 12 months, the effectiveness of ‘free’ has been greatly diluted. There’s been such a huge glut of free books that many readers refuse to pay for one. I heard one reader boast that she had enough free books on her Kindle to last her three lifetimes.

What has been the most successful marketing technique you’ve employed for your self-published books. Is it different for print than e-books?

Pam Crooks: I honestly can’t pinpoint one thing that was more successful than another. I’m convinced it’s a combination of things, trying new ways to keep my name visible on Amazon, everything from switching out keywords and categories and even changing my cover to keep the title fresh. I’m working on building a stronger presence on Facebook, and I’m getting ready to do a big mailing of chapter books to book clubs around the country.  Time will tell if one effort stands out over the others.

Other than doing a couple of print book give-aways on Goodreads (e-books are not allowed in their contests), marketing is the same for both print and e-book.

Do you have more books in the works to be traditionally published?

Pam Crooks: Not at this time.

What are you working on right now?

Pam Crooks: I’m working on Book 2 of the Secret Six series, tentatively titled, The Brewer’s Daughter.

What advice would you give new authors trying to self-publish or trying to get published traditionally?

Pam Crooks: If an author is considering self-publishing, I strongly encourage her to do her homework first. There’s a huge learning curve. I’ve been at this for a couple of years now, and I’m still learning. If an author can afford to pay to have the formatting, etc, done, even better. But if they have to pay for anything, be sure to pay for a professional edit—it’s imperative. Even though it’s tempting, don’t upload the book in too much of a hurry. Have the best product you can make.

Same goes with traditional publishing. Learn, write, revise and then repeat. Make it your mantra.

Can I Fit 900 Words On My Back Cover?

I’ve created approximately 2,000 book covers since about 2000. Most were for print projects, so there was a back cover that required copy. Over the years, I’ve developed a file of information that I send to all of my clients as we’re nearing that part of the project. These are just guidelines, but for the typical 6 x 9 book this is what I have found works best, and what I share with my clients:

BACK COVER TEXT: You have room for about 250 – 300 words on the back cover. Submit it in an unformatted (no boxes, no tabs, no indents, no italics, just plain text double spaced between the paragraphs) Microsoft Word file (.doc) or plain text file.

WHY? People won’t struggle to read your text, so it needs to be set in a comfortable size, with enough space between each line (called leading) that it’s easy to read. You also need to leave a good-sized margin around the text, so people will have a place to put their fingers, and not have to constantly adjust position as they’re reading.

I ask for plain text files because the text has to be imported into InDesign and sometimes text boxes, tabs and other formatting will cause problems. I can always save the file as plain text myself, but if I’m not using the same word processing program or version of it, then that can also cause problems.

LISTS AND QUOTES: If your back cover text contains lists and quotes, you have less room.

WHY? Both lists and quotes use only a portion of the lines they’re on. In the case of some lists, you’ll have only a few words on a line. In addition, lists often require extra space between each line. Quote credits often require a bit of extra space and again, only part of the line is being used. In short: they eat up space. Check out the images at the end of this article for a visual explanation of what I mean.

IMAGE CREDITS: Make sure that you include any credits necessary to comply with the license of images you have purchased to use on the cover. The exact wording will be included in the End User License Agreement (often called a EULA for short), where you made the purchase. If you have an author photo to go on the book, you should also credit this.

NOTE: Image credits can also go on the copyright page, or in the case of a hardcover on the inside flap of the dust jacket.

IMAGES: Must be 300 dpi at full size.

WHY? This is the minimum required for print, but dpi on its own means nothing, that’s why I added “at full size.” If you have an image that is 4 inches wide and 4 inches high at 150 dpi, simply changing it to be 300 dpi will mean you can only print it at 2 inches wide by 2 inches high. If you force the increase to 300 dpi and keep the size 4 x 4, then the quality of the image will deteriorate and it will not print well.

LOGOS: For optimum printing quality these should be submitted in the native EPS (vector) file, with fonts converted to outlines.

BAR CODES: Include your 13-digit ISBN and the price (if you want the price embedded into the bar code). I will make the bar code here to ensure it is formatted at 100% black, CMYK and a vector image.

WHY? Most of that is technical jargon, but it is the only way to ensure the bar code will print properly and scan. PNG images, which many agencies provide, cannot be formatted in the proper color gamut (CMYK) so you’re taking your chances using them or gif images, or a “lossy” image format like jpg. A vector image is the best way to produce a bar code that will scan.

BISAC HEADINGS: If you want your book to have a subject heading for shelving, please find your proper heading here.

Click on images to view at full size.




More How the Cover Was Made

Still a work in progress of sorts, but here’s another cover and all the images it took to create it. I might add this to our new ready-made templates section at eBookCoverExpress. It’s gone through a few revisions since I first posted. No more castle and, at the suggestion of another designer, incorporated the “rule of thirds” a bit more…still not 100% in compliance, but much closer than it was.

You can view other “how it’s made” posts from March, 2012 and Feb., 2011.

These are the images I used to create this cover:

What Sells a Book?

Book covers

I’ve often seen independent authors posting a series of cover images online and asking people to choose their favourite; or they might ask a handful of friends what cover they’d buy. Choosing a book cover with either method doesn’t make a lot of sense. I have been telling my family I’m going to paint my bedroom for the last 15 years, but there it is, the same ugly shade of pink it was in the late 1990s.

My point is that people don’t always do what they’ll say they’ll do. A better question to ask friends or people on forums is “what were the last five books you purchased?” Now you’re researching the books that actually did sell—at least once. You can also get some idea of what sells by searching best sellers’ lists, although Amazons’ figures can be skewed by a sudden bump in sales and the New York Times doesn’t include all books in its calculations. If your book is not in a mainstream genre, it might be more difficult to compare, but even studying books not in your genre will give you an idea of design trends and what people are buying.

Buzz sells books

But does the cover really matter? What motivates someone to actually purchase a book? In a 2009 book buying survey by Verso Digital (US), just more than half of 5,640 US respondents said they purchased books based on author reputation. Forty-nine percent said they bought books others recommended to them, and 45 percent used price as the deciding factor. Reviews influenced 37 percent of book purchasers, artwork played a role for 22 percent and advertising, 14 percent.

This is a quite a change from a 1999 survey by Penguin Books that cited jacket blurbs as the criteria for 73 percent of book purchases, followed by recommendations at 62 percent and price at 57 percent.

While new authors can do little about their reputations just starting out, they can influence other areas. It would appear that particularly for new authors, getting buzz about your book is essential, and if you’ve written a good book, and sell it at a good price, then the author reputation part will quickly follow. And there are case studies that support this theory. Word-of-mouth has been credited with the success of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code; Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold,. Each has sold millions of copies. Two have been made into movies.

Website or blog essential

Online presence was shown as another key factor to book sales and it’s another element completely within the author’s control. When the same respondents were asked what made them aware of books online—especially important for independent authors who often depend on online sales, the number one response was search engine results, with 58 percent of people saying they plugged in search terms to find reading material. Author websites and blogs was the second most popular resource, with a respectable 30 percent; social networks brought particular books to the attention of 20 percent of respondents and online advertising yielded 17 percent of reported awareness about a particular book or books.

The obvious conclusion here is that authors need a strong website or blog that will raise them higher in search engine results and help make them a familiar name to potential readers. This is a topic I’ve researched and written about in the past, and it’s nice to see statistics backing me up.

Is the cover important?

What about the book cover though? There are no current statistics on this, although there is anecdotal data.

In the late ’90s Penguin redesigned covers for its Modern Classics series. Soon after, sales soared in the under 25 demographic.

In the March 2006 meeting of the Association of American Publishers, Marcella Smith, director of small press relations for Barnes and Noble, discussed the remake of the cover for The Little Book That Beats the Market (Wiley, 2005).

In the March 24, issue of Publisher’s Weekly Daily, Smith is quoted as saying the original book jacket was pale blue and featured a dollar sign. After discussing the cover with buyers, the publisher decided to change the book jacket to a more classic dark blue with white lettering, which they felt better suited a traditional business audience. It became a hit and the jacket was credited with the book’s increased popularity.

One of the issues for factoring cover design into sales statistics is that unlike books by well-known authors and those published by large publishers, independent authors are usually doing most, if not all of their sales online. The only statistics available are relevant to print books sold in stores, and they don’t necessarily generalize.

So, do online covers matter? I’d have to say yes. First of all, it’s quite easy to weed out books that are self-published when the cover is obviously amateurish. One can only assume if there was no effort put into professional design, then there probably wasn’t much effort invested in editing, or layout or even research and story development. The cover is a necessary bit of polish, like a well-pressed suit.

Since covers are often only displayed at one or two inches online, a book cover is pretty much at the mercy of good advertising techniques to get the click-through on a page filled with similar books. An easily-read title and strong use of color are going to play a role.

So, while author familiarity is not going to help independent authors just entering the market, they can change this with a bit of work, and not necessarily a lot of money. A good blog and a professional product are all going to work in their favour and make that second book much easier to sell.

Self-publishing Explodes: Good News From Around the Globe

Self-publishing is becoming “mainstream”, with new figures revealing the number of do-it-yourself books published in the US has exploded, tripling in the last five years to reach almost quarter of a million titles in 2011. New analysis from Bowker – which issues ISBNs for books published in the US – shows that writers are jumping into self-publishing at an unprecedented rate. The number of self-published books in America grew by 287% to 235,625 books between 2006 and 2011. . .  read full article at The Guardian online


Although self-publishing used to be a sign a book publisher wouldn’t touch the title, it’s now considered a legitimate step in signing a deal with a mainstream publishing house.

Successfully self-publishing shows a publisher you have a ready-made audience and increasingly, authors are using canny self-publishing strategies as part of the process of signing a book deal.

A veteran self-publisher is online marketing author David Meerman Scott, who has so far shifted nearly a million paid books across eight titles. . .  read more at The Sydney Morning Herald


Mystery writer Lee Goldberg, a TV producer for shows such as Diagnosis Murder and Nero Wolfe, says his royalties for January alone were $60,000 — all for eight previously published but now out-of-print novels that he formatted and converted for sale at Amazon. . .  read more at USA Today

Top 5 Questions I Am Asked About Book Design

 1. Why shouldn’t I lay my book out in Word?

Word is a word processing program, not designed to format files for press. There are lots of issues that can and do occur when you use Word to lay out a print project:

  • Sometimes the black text is only at about 90% when printed, so you’re essentially getting a dark gray.
  • Word does not work in CMYK colors, which are necessary for printed books. It works in RGB colors, which are meant for screen viewing. I’ve written an article on color that you can read, if you’d like more information.
  • Word will display fonts that you don’t actually have. If you choose the italic or bold options in Word, the program will “fake” those effects, even if you don’t have the bold or italic version of the font. This means, your PDF will not have the bold or italic effects you want.

Word can be a fine tool—if used properly, to lay out e-books. RGB color is preferred for e-Books of course, and the fonts will change on various devices anyway.

 2. Where do I get an ISBN for my book?

  •  In the USA you purchase ISBNs from Bowker.

 3. Why don’t I need a barcode on my e-book?

Barcodes are the physical scanning codes you see on products that allow scanners to determine the price. E-books are not a physical product, they are never scanned. You should have an ISBN assigned to your e-book, though.

 4. Does it really matter what font I use for my book?

Yes! Yes! Yes! There are many reasons, starting with professionalism, moving through readability and ending with sales that make it essential to use fonts wisely. You don’t want to alienate even one buying customer. I wrote an article a year or two ago for the Independent Book Publishers Association, and have posted an updated version of it on my blog, that addresses one aspect of fonts, that offers information that might be useful when creating ads for your book, and even the cover design.

A few years ago Stephen Coles wrote a great article on book cover fonts for I think it’s still relevant today, and many of my favourites made the list. I recommend you read the whole article, which includes images.

Cole’s top 10 list of book cover fonts:

  • Minion
  • ITC New Bakserville
  • FF Scala & FF Scala Sans
  • Adobe Garamond (one of my all-time favorite fonts)
  • Trade Gothic
  • Electra
  • Fornier
  • Dante
  • Din

 5. Do I really need a website?

Yes! I’ve written about this topic before also, and here’s an excerpt from that article:

I asked well-known agent Andrea Brown of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, if she thought it was important for authors to have an online presence and she replied, “short answer is yes—authors must have.”

That opinion is shared by Gwen Gades, owner of Dragon Moon Press in Alberta, Canada. “Social media is very important, as is author branding. More and more readers choose based not just on a book, but because they have gotten to know an author “personally”.

Large publishing houses, including Random House have an online biography for each of their authors that includes book cover images, links to purchase their books, links to personal blogs and websites, as well as Facebook pages. Harlequin has a similar setup for its romance authors. The Penguin Group (USA) has also recognized the importance of authors having and online presence and have a PDF called Penguin Authors Guide to Online Marketing, published back in 2008 (Google the title if you want to see it).

If you’re a small press owner or self-publisher, you’ll want to spend your time and money wisely, and in today’s market that should be in online promotions where you’ll be able to reach the highest number of people for the least amount of investment.

Where To Find Us

We’re usually pretty busy designing books (I design covers, Gwen designs interiors, Stephanie does e-Book formatting), or web sites (I do the design for authors, Stephanie does all the behind-the-scenes coding) and right now I’m working on a project with a major university, building an online archive and library on their Adobe CQ5 Content Management System (CMS). Needless to say, other things get neglected, like this blog.

We are around though and we love comments and to hear from people. We’ll also answer any questions you might have.

Our main site is Book Cover Express. Did you know we also have a site dedicated to e-Book covers? It’s called eBook Cover Express. Then there’s the Facebook page, Book Cover Designer, and my Twitter page @covergal. We’ve also added ourselves to Stumbled Upon, although I can say I have barely had time to glance at it since putting it up. If you have questions, you can also visit me at All Experts.

We’re also often available to write articles and for interviews.

Editors Are Not As Evil As You Might Think. Honest!


“Thou shalt commit adultery.” That “commandment” was printed in a bible in 1631. The publishers, Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, were heavily fined and lost their printing license as a result. Still referred to as the wicked Bible, the few copies that are still in existence are highly sought collector’s items.

In modern times we have only to look at the $2 million loss Rogers Communications Ltd. suffered due to a misplaced comma to appreciate an editor’s job. According to a Toronto Globe and Mail article, Rogers understood that it had a five-year agreement, renewable for successive five-year terms, to run cable lines across poles in the Maritimes. The agreement began in 2002. In 2005, Aliant Inc., which administers the poles, owned mostly by Fredericton-based utility, NB Power, informed Rogers that the contract was being cancelled and the rates would be increasing to triple the current fee.

Rogers argued that this breached the agreement. In response, Aliant cited the English version of the contract, which said the agreement “shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five-year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice.” Aliant won.

Lack of editing is often cited as one the main reasons many publications will not review self-published books. On the Direct Contact PR site, Paul J. Krupin has collected a list of quotes from reviewers, who were asked if they review self-published books. While most weren’t completely against the idea, several did mention the editing issue.

Colleen Truelsen, former Editor of Valley Community Newspapers, Inc. in Sacramento says, self-published books are fine, “…but too many of them needed a good editor to catch grammar and misspellings. A book with even a few glaring inappropriate words makes me hesitate to tell our readers about it.”

Editing is also one of the reasons author Amanda Hocking accepted a traditional contract with St. Martin’s Press after becoming a millionaire self-publishing her own series of books.

In a March 24, 2011, blog post she says, “Here are the two considerations I made in my decision (to accept a contract with St. Martin’s): what’s best for my career, and what’s best for my readers. (Notice I didn’t say what was best for my wallet).” She then lists the number two reason as “readers’ complaints about the editing of my books.” Hocking goes on to explain she did hire editors, but in spite of their improving the books and working hard, she was obviously choosing the wrong editors, because readers still complained about errors.

Surfing around the various writers’ and self-publishing forums on, it appears many authors believe they can edit their own work, or that editors will try to change the integrity of their messages or the tone of their stories.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” says Dick Margulis, freelance editor and book designer. “A professional editor strives to preserve the author’s voice and to work with the author as a colleague, not to dictate fusty old grammatical rules that do nothing except get the author’s shorts in a bunch. But every writer needs another set of eyes on the text. It’s devilishly difficult to edit your own work and not miss things. I think the reason so many authors have bad experiences with editors is that the editors they think they can afford are not pros. Here’s a hint: a moonlighting or retired high school English teacher is usually not the best choice. Neither is your best friend’s father’s secretary, even if she’s an awfully good proofreader. Editing is a whole nuther ballgame from proofreading.”

And keep in mind that even industry icons such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe had an editor: His name was Maxwell Perkins. He’s credited with being a significant influence in the success of The Great Gatsby.

Graphic Design Resources