Does it matter who publishes your business or self-help book?

Let’s stop kidding ourselves: self-published books under a cool-sounding publishing company’s name probably do not fool anyone these days.

self-published books

Does the interior of the book look attractive and inviting to read?

Today what matters is that readers get full value for money with a book that looks, and is, professionally produced and published – not necessarily by whom.

Self-published books have come a long way since vanity publishing days

The last thing you want your book to be associated with is anything remotely connected with the vanity publishing ethos of print 5,000 copies of it as it came in unedited, send the books in boxes to the customer, bill them for a lot of money and disappear.’

But what about ‘confessing’ that your book is independently published, as Amazon now refers to it?

Assuming that you have had a good job done on the design and production of your book, inside as well as the covers, you’d be perfectly within your rights to say “so what?

Readers of business and self-help books by now are savvy enough to know the difference between a professional-looking book** and a shaggy one, just by looking at its front cover.

As long as your book looks, feels and reads ‘professional,’ it will be seen as professional whatever publisher’s name appears on the back cover.

If your book is for your business, it should be seen to be part of your business. That means it should pick up on your branding.

And this is something that traditional ‘trade’ publishers will baulk at: if they are going to publish (and pay for) your book normally it needs to carry their branding, not yours.

If you publish independently, you pay for the cost, but also you call the shots.

Quick tip:
Don’t assume that your regular graphic designer can do a book cover. Book covers are fiddly monsters and unless you know why, you can get the design horribly wrong. Best bets are:
1. Get your regular designer to talk to an expert to find out the restrictions
2. Hire a specialist book cover designer and brief them on your branding
3. Get your regular designer and a specialist to work together on your book project

So what name do you put at the bottom of the back cover?

self-published books

Could you tell whether these books have been independently published?

This came up recently with a business book client of mine and we decided that it would be a little pompous and inappropriate for her to call herself ‘BrandName Publishing’ or ‘BrandName Books.’

Aha, I said, but you are planning to issue other materials in the future like podcasts, videos, audio books, printed material and so-on.

Why don’t you call it ‘BrandName Media’ … ? Sounds very professional, isn’t a lie, and gives you a conduit for all kinds of publications as well as further books.

Needless to say you need to register that as a URL and make sure it has a website, or at least that the URL is pointed at your main website. Et voilà. 

**How to judge a professionally-produced book

OK – here is a list of things to look for…

  1. Is the cover attractive and designed so when its image is shrunk down to a small size as it would be on Amazon or other sites, you can still see the key points?
  2. Is the back cover “blurb” (as it’s so patronisingly called) enticing, accurate in spelling and grammar?
  3. Inside the book, are the first few pages devoted to the traditional requisites of publishing data, copyright information, etc.?
  4. Beyond that is there an introduction, a table of contents, and a foreword (perhaps)?
  5. Are these initial pages numbered in Roman numerals, so are not included in numbering of the main text?
  6. Does the interior of the book look attractive and inviting to read, with consistent subheadings and (where relevant) well-displayed illustrations?
  7. Is the main text justified to both left and right margins? Properly produced books are always justified this way. Unprofessional versions are often justified to the left margin only, with the right side “ragged.” And has enough space been left in the inner margins to compensate for the space lost in the “gutter,” at the centre of the book?
  8. In the body of the book, do you see “widows and orphans” — the odd word or two carried over to a next page, or left lurking at the bottom of a previous page? These look awkward and amateurish.
  9. Are there spelling, grammar, syntax and other mistakes in the text? (This suggests poor or little copy editing and/or proofreading.)
  10. Is the text repetitive, disordered, lacking flow and continuity? (Suggests poor structural and line editing.)
  11. Do the cover and inner pages lie flat when the book’s down on a surface? (If cover/pages curl up this can signify poor quality production.)
  12. In the digital/Kindle version, is the text laid out in a good design – or does it just look like an uploaded Word document?


Previously the only way to make your book look professionally produced was to have it published by a known ‘trade’ publisher. Today it’s possible to make your book look just as professional, by using specialist editors and book producers either as a virtual team (you just pay for what you use) or from a publishing services company (you pay for a package plus their overheads).  
There is kudos (and no up front cost) in having your book published by a ‘trade’ publishing house, but the book will not carry your branding.
Independent publishing will cost you up front, but you will be free to ensure your book carries your branding and works hard to enhance your business.

What things do you look out for when deciding if a book is professionally produced?

Please share!