What is Quality Management? Better yet, what does quality management have to do with how to write and publish a book?
Anyone can write a manuscript, throw a cover on it, and call it a book. In fact, it would seem that many authors have done just that on Amazon, paying no attention to the quality of the work.
It’s important that authors pay close attention to quality when releasing their message to the world. Critics of indie authors, typically those who are dependent on the many layers of a traditional publishing machine, generally throw their darts at the lack of technical skill of indie authors.
What’s the Difference?
The major difference between traditionally published books and independently published books has, until recently, been the lack of attention to detail. Don’t fall into the easy trap. It makes us all look bad. There are many reasons to decide not to take the traditional publishing route in favor of being an independently published author. Getting through the gatekeepers and beyond the freakishly long time it takes to get published are what I consider the low-hanging fruit of the decision tree.
Those are good reasons to self-publish. But getting past the high standards set by traditional publishers should not be one of the reasons. Readers have grown to expect high quality in the books they read. Fortunately, over the last decade, indie authors have begun paying very close attention to detail resulting in published works that are indistinguishable from those released by the “Big Five” publishing houses. (Or, is the “Big Four” now? Big Three?)
If you simply can’t afford the resources necessary to achieve a high-quality product, my advice would be to wait. Focus on the writing, and find ways to save the funds needed to do it right.
Why Quality Matters when Learning How to Write and Publish a Book
So, what’s the big deal? The content is the important part, right? Well, yes. If the potential reader ever gets that far. For many years, consumers considered self-published books to be associated with vanity presses that released anything if they were paid enough money. Everyone assumed the books would be of poor quality and generally steered clear of them. You never saw those books on the shelves of a reputable bookstore.
Since those days, however, the industry has changed. As they learn how to write and publish a book, authors have taken it upon themselves to work around the bloated and slow-moving publishing houses to get their message out on their own terms. As soon as indie authors started paying attention to quality, publishing houses began dropping like flies. Because big-box bookstores were a captive audience for traditionally published books, they too began disappearing. Of course, the online reader market brought on by the likes of Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and others helped hasten their demise.
Where I live, the nearest brick-and-mortar bookstore, Barnes and Noble, is over an hour away by car. And it’s the only big-name bookstore in the region. Having said all that, it was the traditional publishers that set the standard for quality in the industry and it cannot be ignored. Consumers now purchase books with high expectations. The first thing a consumer sees is the cover—one cover among thousands inside countless categories and genres. If a cover captures their attention, they will pick it up and flip it over (this is assuming we’re at a brick-and-mortar bookstore, of course) to read the back cover. If they’re still interested, they will open the book and skim the Table of Contents and perhaps a little of the introduction and chapter one. If they are looking at it online, they will look at the photos of the cover and use the Look Inside feature if they’re on Amazon.
Where Do We See Quality?
As a performing musician, I often heard that as long as the intro to a song was solid and everyone ended together, you’re good to go. Anything good in the middle is gravy. In a sense, it holds true with books as well. But, while a strong cover and compelling back-cover copy might get the book into the shopping cart, it doesn’t end there. The last thing you want is for the reader to slam the book closed out of boredom or disappointment after the first couple of chapters and put it back on the shelf . . . or worse, in the trash can. Statistically, it happens more often than not.
The secret of writing a good book is the ability of you, the author, to keep the reader’s interest from beginning to end. The front cover must lead the reader to the back cover. The back cover must lead the reader to the Table of Contents or the first paragraph of the first chapter. Each paragraph must then lead the reader to the next paragraph. The last paragraph in each chapter must lead the reader to the next chapter. Ideally, when the reader is finished reading the book, they will want to read more of your work. And yes, with your newly organized writing practice, you’ll be set up to write more books. I have faith in you.
That is why quality is so important. Whether or not you choose to publish your work to the general public, you’re writing it for a purpose. Even if the intent is to share a story with your family, they deserve your respect and commitment to a high-quality product. Let’s give it to them.
For more details on creating quality when you write your book, grab a copy of Project Management for Writers!
Read the other articles in this series to learn more about how to write and publish a book. The first article discusses Integration Management.
Think about what you look for in a book. What screams poor quality to you?