If you’ve been thinking about writing a book, you already know that it can increase your authority and credibility. But no one talks about the flip side: If your book is poorly written or produced, it can hurt your credibility.
Credibility Means Getting Your Facts Straight
The most obvious way to lose credibility is to just plain get something wrong. If it is a minor detail, and it’s the only thing wrong in the book, you’ll probably get a pass. But if the book has a major factual error, a flawed premise, or there’s a series of small errors, you’re cooked. A major factual error or a flawed premise says that you’re not smart and therefore not someone who should be a leader. (Unless you’re a politician, of course. IQ does not seem to come into play in American politics.)
A series of small errors shows that you’re careless. Think about the word careless. You don’t care enough about your reader to give them the correct information. You don’t care about the quality of your work. You’re saying “My book isn’t important enough to me to put in the minimum effort to get things right.” Small mistakes add up and say a lot about you and the way you work.
A large factual error strikes at the very core of your credibility. It looks like you don’t know what you’re talking about. All of your other material is now suspect. The reader no longer trusts you. That is a huge loss.
Yes. Spelling and Grammar Count
Your teachers were right: Spelling and grammar count. Again, a few misspelled words in a 40,000+ word book will not kill you. There will always be typos. But the whole point of standardized spelling and grammar is so ideas can be communicated clearly. People shouldn’t have to be code breakers to understand your information.
This is one of the most easily rectified problems and a step that is largely ignored by the “just slap a book up there” marketing crowd. If you’re putting a book out to increase your credibility and position yourself as a leader in your industry, you need a professional editor. Most traditionally published books go through a series of readers, copy and line editors, senior editors, admins and friends – and there are still typos. Running your book through Word’s spelling and grammar check won’t do (for starters, it doesn’t catch most homonyms). Neither will having your teenage daughter who is “good in English” proof it. A professional editor is not cheap but they are worth every penny. (And no, that’s not a shameless plug. “If you need an editor, email me: Barbara@BarbaraGrassey.com” is a shameless plug.)
Books are Judged by Their Covers
And pretty girls get asked to the dance. Fact of life: Looks matter. There are literally millions of books on Amazon. There are thousands of books in a bookstore. You need a professionally designed cover to hold your own amongst the competition, if not stand out. Professional cover designers know what fonts jump off the cover and are easy to read, they know what size the font should be to be effective, what color combinations work well together as well as suit the material, and – something that we amateurs don’t think about – how to ensure the cover will look good when reduced to an Amazon thumbnail. They know how to lay out the back cover, where the ISBN and bar code need to go, how to center the text horizontally and vertically, where a picture will be most effective, how to make the darn spine text actually center on the spine(!) and the list goes on.
An interior layout designer will make sure you don’t have headings at the bottom of a page or weird splits in paragraphs. They make sure the right justification doesn’t make your sentences stretch out like a concertina. (OK. I get points for using concertina in a sentence.)
They can also add visually stimulating details at the start of chapters or in the header and footer. Breakout boxes, side notes, creative uses of fonts for emphasis, a small graphic flourish, all of these are subtle reminders to the reader that this is a professionally produced work, not some hastily slapped together, homemade piece of junk.
Writing a book takes time and commitment. Why go through all that effort just to shoot yourself in the foot in the home stretch? Take the time (and yes, spend some money) to do this right. You are writing your book to increase, not kill your credibility. Your reputation is on the line. That’s your name on the cover. Make sure you are proud to have it there.