‘People don’t naturally choose the ugly thing’

by Mistina Picciano on September 12, 2014

Karen Roach/BigStock.com
Karen Roach/BigStock.com

I do not profess any skill in graphic design, and I will never be foolish enough to design my own book cover. But I very much appreciate beautiful design. And John McWade of Before & After is a genius.

Today’s blog post from B&A magazine talked about early iPhone 6 photos that appeared on a tech site last Saturday, before Apple’s Tuesday rollout. The accompanying headline and caption proclaimed, “APPLE’S ANNOUNCEMENT RUINED.”

Without the caption, it’s a run-of-the-mill spy photo: amateur photography that’s completely unremarkable except for the subject matter. But the caption, however, implies that the reporter believed that this…


actually competes with this…


As McWade says in his post, the example is extreme, “but it’s a mistake that’s made every day. It’s what yields all those bad PowerPoint demos. Meandering videos. Confusing web sites.

“I’d say that all are the natural result of a designer (or someone) short on time or talent; given a choice, people don’t naturally choose the ugly thing.”

No. They don’t.

Yet, the overwhelming majority of self-published books reflect this same level of hubris. The authors have flung their half-baked work into the marketplace, hoping that readers will overlook the thin plots and cardboard characters. They’re convinced their natural brilliance will shine through their literary darlings, even though they couldn’t justify the expense of hiring an editor, proofreader or cover designer to produce a high-quality end product.

As a reader, I ask you, why in God’s name would I waste my time reading your dreck when my house is crammed full of books that were professionally produced? (And I’m not limiting the adjective “professional” to trade publications.)

Do the work, people. And if you don’t know, exactly, what work you should be doing to prepare your writing for its public debut, find out.

Here are a few starting points for your consideration:

  • Put your manuscript aside for awhile (a week, a month, etc.) and look at it again with fresh eyes. The more time that passes, the more objective we can be in reviewing our own work.
  • Join a writing group, either in person or online, or sign up for a writing workshop. Meet other writers and review one another’s work. Feedback is critical.
  • Hire an editor.
  • Read books on writing craft.
  • Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

Do not publish your work simply because you’re sick and tired of looking at it and you think it’s “good enough.”

When given a choice, people don’t naturally go for the ugly option. And the marketplace already has plenty of attractive competition.


Author Interview: Travis Heermann – ‘Hire a Real Editor’

by Mistina Picciano on September 8, 2014

Travis Heermann
Travis Heermann

Travis Heermann is author of the Ronin Trilogy, The Wild Boys, and Rogues of the Black Fury. He has also published short fiction pieces in anthologies and magazines such as Weird Tales, Historical Lovecraft, and Shivers VII.

After going the traditional route for the first novel in your Ronin trilogy, why did you ultimately decide to self-publish the second book?

Soon after Heart of the Ronin was released as a library edition hardcover, the publisher, Gale-Cengage’s Five Star imprint, announced that they were discontinuing their science fiction/fantasy line. Over the next couple of years, I wrote the second volume, Sword of the Ronin, without ever having any idea how it would be published. I’d had a negative stigma against self-publishing for a long time, so it never seriously occurred to me  to do that. It took a series of negative experiences with small press publishers, coupled with the sheer number of readers begging me for the second book and the massive shifts in the publishing industry for me to venture into the indie world myself. The good news is that it worked splendidly, and I’m now delighted with that decision.

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Iqoncept/BigStock.com Here’s an experiment in public humiliation: chronicling the publishing process, starting with two completed novel drafts – one for which I’m pursuing a traditional publisher and one that I’m planning to self-publish. Following is a quick overview of the two (very different) manuscripts in question: Traditional. A mainstream novel with experimental aspects, including alternating […]

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