RedRoom.com asked members to write of their publishing missteps, so I wrote the following and decided to share it with my other readers as well. We can all learn from it.
My first book, Write In Style, was very successful, and my publisher's distributor, Simon & Schuster, got my book into libraries across America as well as into bookstores and Web sites around the world. I loved seeing it for sale on sites in India and Australia, and I basked in the glory of having sold a book to a traditional publisher. All that said, the profits on a traditionally published book are so small as to be laughable, so I decided to self-publish my next book, Ask the Book Doctor: How to Sell Your Writing and Beat the Competition, which was an amalgamation of some of my "Ask the Book Doctor" columns that appear in newsletters and Web sites for writers around the globe.
The plan was good; I did not need an ISBN number or distributor, because the book would not sell in bookstores, it would sell only wherever I spoke, and I would reap all the profits.
Selling a book in person, though, requires that it look good enough to buy. My publishing misstep was that I accepted an offer from a foreign printer who wanted to exchange design and printing services for my consultancy services. I agreed and spent hours consulting with the printer who wanted to learn how to bring its services to America. Although it did not implement my suggestions right away, I wasn't concerned, so long as I gave the company good advice.
When my books arrived, beaten and battered from their trip from overseas, the printed and trimmed book cover looked nothing like the design I had accepted online. The back cover was barely legible, with thin white letters on a red background. On the front cover, the title almost fell off both sides of the page. How could I sell a book in person that had no physical appeal? No matter how good the content, the cover sells the book in the end.
I learned not to scrimp on design and printing when you are self-publishing. I found a local designer and printer and all has gone well. I donated the ugly books to a company that needed giveaways. As a free book, it still had appeal, because the content was very educational, but I could never have sold a single copy of the book with its hideous original cover.