Monday, December 5, 2016

Quality Control for Indie Authors



I’ve posted before about integrating my corporate skills into my writing. There was the two-part series I did on Presentation Skills, the post about establishing an author brand, and the one about the Law of Diminishing Returns. Being a self-published author is the same as running my own small business, and I love that I can pull from my past experience.

Today I’m back integrating my two worlds in one very exciting topic—quality control. As an Indie author, all accountability roads essentially lead to me. While I may contract out certain aspects of my business to others, it’s up to me to make sure it’s done right and keeps running smooth.

Here are the most important things you need to keep in your quality control zone.


Content
As I’m Queen of the Obvious, I like to start with, well, the obvious. It’s important to make sure what you write is checked for errors. Spend money on an editor. You want to make sure your work is as error-free as possible.


Marketing Materials
You’ve published your book (or are about to) and are ready to market the heck out of it. It’s important to ensure your marketing materials are error free. Get an extra pair (or two, or three, or more) of eyes on it to make sure you don’t miss anything. I messed up back with the publication of my first novel, Kingston’s Project. I had my graphic designer make me these awesome book cards. 



I approved them and had a box printed up. When they arrived I proudly presented one to my husband who said, “Cool, but there’s an error.” The word planned was misspelled on the back of the card. I was mad at myself for not having him look over the concept before I had them printed and wasting money. (Luckily I was able to cut the cards in half—not what I wanted, but it kept me from wasting money.)

If you are creating a lot of your own marketing materials through sites such as Canva, make sure you have a quality check in place. Grammarly is great.


Author Website
This one is important as it’s likely the hub of your on-line presence as an author. Unfortunately, this one bit me in the butt just this past week. I usually visit my website, carriebeckort.com, several times a week. Last week, instead of seeing my landing page I was presented with ‘carriebeckort.com has expired’

WHAT?!?!?!?!

I had renewed my domain on time and processed the invoice. What in the ho-hay was going on?! Unfortunately, due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I wasn’t as on top of it as I usually am, so I’m guessing it was down for about 3 days. Luckily a quick live chat with my provider got it fixed and back up in minutes. Never assume your website is working the way it should. Check it out regularly.


Social Media Profiles
This one may not seem as obvious. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads—they are managed well and if the site is down, then it’s not just you that’s affected. But that’s not the stuff I’m worried about. I’m actually checking my profiles. I want to make sure my information is up-to-date and my links are working properly. I’ve clicked on website links for authors from their social media profiles only to be directed to an inactive page. More than 90% of the time I don’t take the effort to find the correct site on my own. If the author doesn’t care to keep it accurate, maybe I shouldn’t care to find it.


Embedded Links
To expand a bit more on links, your quality checks should expand to include any link you provide. Blog posts, websites, newsletters—if you embed a link, go to the preview and make sure it actually works. Again, I’ve come across links provided and they don’t go to the targeted site and it’s frustrating.


Content
I know I already talked about this one up in my Mr. Obvious section. I didn’t forget to quality check my post for repeat points. I just want to hit this one again, in a less obvious way.

If you are publishing ebooks, make sure you check your formating on every device possible. I download to my Kindle and to my iPhone. I don’t own a Nook, but I have some close friends that do. I send them an early download version and ask them to do a quick review to make sure it all looks good. Here are two issues I’ve run into on my ebook formatting more than once:
  • Incorrect ‘starting point’—Shattered Angel was giving me a lot of fits with this. It would open up in the middle of my table of contents or in the middle of the first chapter. Since Shattered Angel starts at chapter 24 and counts down, it was critical for me to get the reader to the correct starting point so they weren’t confused (at least not any more than they already were). After a lot of hours reformatting and frustration, I finally got it to work.
  • Odd text formatting—When I check my ebooks, I actually do a fast skip through all the pages on my device. It might sound like overkill, but I thanked my OCD stars after discovering entire chapters in italics.


I use Createspace for my print books, and overall I’ve been pleased with their quality. Of course, the first step in print quality control is to order a proof book. I highly recommend this. I do check the on-line preview, but I also order a print book. The colors of the cover may not be as exact in print as it is online. Maybe that glossy finish you wanted doesn’t look quite right in reality. Maybe the cover dimensions were off a bit and the title is off center down the spine. You get the idea. It’s a few bucks and a few extra days, but it’s worth it.

Another thing I recommend is to spot check the print books you order intended for private sale and book signings. I might not have thought to do this, but before I published Kingston’s Project I read a book by a fellow author who printed through Createspace. Midway through the book I found this page:



I knew this had to be a mistake as it had nothing to do with the book. As a result, I decided to start checking the books I ordered. Basically, I just fan through the pages looking for anything that catches my eye. I haven’t found any errant pages, but I did find these errors on several books:

Books cut incorrectly
Ink blotches







Luckily, Createspace worked with me to replace the books.

I know quality control can be a lot of work. However, it’s difficult for many Indie authors to get visibility to new readers. There is also still a stigma out there that traditionally published books have better quality than Indie published books. As a result, every impression counts. Don’t sacrifice speed for quality. And if quality control is not your thing, then I suggest you find yourself a new OCD best friend!


~ Carrie

6 comments:

  1. This is such a valuable post! Quality control as a self-pubbed author is SO important and while it can feel like overkill, it's so necessary. I had a friend whose short links had expired and she didn't check, which meant all of the back matter in her books was out of date, too. Needless to say, it was an unwelcome lesson learned the hard way.

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    1. Thanks, Brenda! And great point about the back matter in ebooks!

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  2. The rule for indie authors should be that your work looks and is indistinguishable from trad books -- end of story. So yes to everything in your post. You want readers, control your shit.

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  3. Thank you Carrie, this was valuable information! I have a book in the works but I am dragging my feet, I don't know why, most likely it is fear. I read through all your information and maybe part of my reluctance is the dedication involved to move a project from shitty first draft to professional publication. Thanks for sharing your hard earned insights into self publishing. Much appreciated.

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    1. You're welcome, Cheryl! I know how you feel though. I still stress a lot each time a publish a book. I worry I've forgotten something huge or there's some obvious error left in the book. I've created check-lists that have helped me ensure I've checked everything before clicking publish. And just remember - great things can come out of the things we fear the most :)

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