Tuesday, October 1, 2013


With self-published books multiplying exponentially (or so it seems), I’m finding more and more articles and blogs urging writers to do two important things before throwing their book-baby at Amazon.

* The first is to hire a professional editor. As Anne R. Allen expressed it so cleverly, “Kindle no book before its time.” Typos, bad grammar and misspelled words are a major problem driving people to condemn self-publishing and thereby hurting all of us. To say nothing of poor formatting and bad covers. Check out and be sure to read the comments below each one. They’re hilarious.

But I digress.

* The second bit of advice is “Write more books.” I agree that the more books you have available--assuming a reader likes your work--the more sales you will make. But that, too, has a caveat. Just as you need a good cover, blurb and editing, you need a good plot. As I told a writer whose book I was asked to critique, “Your goal should be to write a good story, not Book Number Four.” And the reason for a bad story is often lack of believable character motivation.

Example Number One. I’ve written about this one before. A truck driver with an alcoholic wife, a teen-aged son in trouble and a teen-aged daughter who’s pregnant, has an affair with another woman who gives birth to their child and then dies. So the husband brings the baby home to his wife to raise. Excuse me? This makes sense? Why?

Example Number Two. Four teenagers get into a car accident and one of the girls ends up paralyzed. Many years later, said victim decides to kill, not the teen driver, but...wait for it... her father. Why? Because he was “uncaring” after the accident. Yet he paid for her education, she held a good job, even fell in love and got married. Most people would say she’d had a pretty good life. How does this turn into the need to kill her father?

Example Number Three. A young woman and her brother travel from the U.S. to England to deliver art work to a wealthy Brit whom they’ve never met before. They’re invited to stay the night in his palatial mansion, and in the morning the old guy is found dead. Who’s guilty? One of the relatives who also live in the mansion and have reasons to hate the elderly relative? No. It’s the young American woman who kills him and tries to frame her own brother for the crime. Why? Because when she was sixteen he offered a surfboard to his friend if he promised to seduce her. That book was actually published by a Big-6 Publisher.

Take-away. Hire an experienced artist for the cover. Have your book edited for content as well as grammar. And, finally, write characters with motivations that answer the question, “Why?” without making the reader want to throw the book at the nearest wall. (Which is what happened to Number Three. Crash!)

Anne R. Allen


  1. What excellent advice! And I love "No Kindle before its Time" And that's just got to be the cutest picture of you on the right side of the blog, Phyllis!

    1. Donnell: Thanks for the comment. Also the compliment. My husband complains I look better in pictures than he does. Real life? Not so much. LOL

  2. I love your blog Phyllis! You always give great advice. Those covers were nasty! I've read several books I wanted to throw against the wall. Do you know of a service for both editing, formatting at a reasonable price? Also, where would one go to find good artists for book covers? What should the self published author be looking for when picking out a great cover? Font, picture, color?

    1. Diane: Thanks for your comment. The comment below is from Teresa Reasor who says she has both a good editor and artist, so check with her. I have little experience, having hired only one artist so far. But a good critique group should keep authors from dumb plot mistakes.

  3. Excellent advice, Phyllis. And I've been very very fortunate that I have a wonderful editor and cover artist. Very professional and both truly want the books to succeed for my sake and theirs.
    Teresa R.

    1. Teresa: Thanks for the comment. It's great that you have a good editor and cover artist. I've asked Diane, whose comment is above, to contact you, because I'm still new at this.


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