Yesterday I went to the local independent bookstore in my...county...(sigh) and, of course, they have a "Local Authors" section. Since I come from a pretty small area, most of the books were self-published and contained mostly of poetry, guidebooks, and the occasional original novel. Seeing as how I am going into self-publishing myself, I decided to see how stereotypical any of these books were.
Each book I opened was riddled with errors, awkward sentences, and in the case of one guidebook on nature trails, had mismatched captions. Oops.
If you've been following me for any number of months now, then you know that I'm a huge supporter of self-publishing. That said, a lot of the stereotypes that show self-published authors as being inexperienced, naive, and quick to jump the gun are not completely far-fetched. Aside from all the face-palm worthy errors I saw yesterday, there was also the horrible clipart + Comic Sans covers and spiral-bound novels - all costing at least fifteen dollars. The whole table was, while very encouraging to local authors, also a big flag of what probably not to do while self-publishing.
1) EDIT. Hello! Personal editing, betas, hiring professionals...all of this comes back to who you are and your brand. Yes, you as an author offering your books up for purchase, are a brand. Without a house to oversee your project every step of the way it's doubly up to you to do your own editing (including constantly studying grammar and writing trends) and to get others to help you.
2) Design. We're not supposed to judge books by their covers, but we do. While getting the perfect picture may not be feasible, it's still in your power, if you're overseeing the design and giving the okay of your jacket, to make sure the font is readable and placed in an appropriate place. If you just suck at design, then it may be time to bring in a professional or even a friend with a background in design.
3) Pricing. This is a lot harder to mediate when it comes to print, because you have to pay for your own costs incurred, but I saw a couple of original fiction books yesterday, less than 300 pages, selling for over $20 - paperback. I wouldn't pay that much for an author I love in paperback, let alone a total unknown that didn't even edit.
I want to see other self-published authors succeed just as much as I want to succeed at it myself...which is why all the tough love today. There definitely is a stigma against self-publishing out there and these are a lot of the main reasons why. Obviously I do not know these authors, but I get the sinking feeling that a lot of these errors and issues are a result of jumping the gun to get published as quickly as possible. I love you, authors, but no story is awesome enough that it doesn't need some good editing and further attention paid to it - and no story anymore deserves the horror that is Comic Sans.