10 Questions before publishing a book

Charlotte Miller

Updated on:

What should you keep in mind before publishing a book? At Writers of USA we know that publishing a book is the last step of a long and arduous process. And before reaching that step you will surely have doubts. Don’t worry! We are here to help you and to review with you the steps that come before publishing a book, such as the quality of the cover and the manuscript. We’ve been working in the world of self-publishing for a long time and we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Luckily for you, we have identified several factors that can determine the success of your book.

In this blog we propose 10 questions that you should ask yourself before publishing a book. Once you are able to answer all of them with confidence, you will be ready to hit the publish button on Writers of USA!

What should you keep in mind before publishing your book?

  1. Is your first sentence convincing?
  2. Is your plot consistent?
  3. Any Plot Twist?
  4. Do you always use the same narrator?
  5. Does time work in your favor?
  6. Does the final sentence leave you wanting more?
  7. Is the structure well defined?
  8. Is the cover attractive?
  9. Is the title redundant?
  10. Does the synopsis capture the reader’s attention?

Remember that in Writers of USA you can publish your book for free in a couple of steps. As easy as you read. Create an account now (or after reading this article) and publish your book.

1. Is your first sentence convincing enough?

A good cover fulfills the role of seduction at first sight. An attractive cover will catch people’s attention from the vast amount of book offerings out there. If this first step is successful, the next thing that will happen is that person will open your book, and therefore the first sentence is essential. A well-written and captivating sentence will add even more appeal to your book.

We can use this first sentence from Franz Kafka as an example:

“Someone must have slandered Josef K., because, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested one morning.” – The Trial, Franz Kafka

Kafka’s work has persisted over time for many reasons, but one of them is his great ability to write a most captivating first sentence. Kafka wastes no time delving into his narrative world; rather, he tries to drag us into it from the first moment. The abruptness with which we are immersed in this very dramatic scene is probably reminiscent of what the protagonist himself must feel when he wakes up one morning, and is suddenly arrested.

You should keep the following in mind: try to understand the emotions of your readers and make them ask themselves questions that they will only be able to answer if they continue reading. In this example, Kafka takes advantage of a common fear that many people suffer from: being unjustly accused and arrested. This simple phrase raises several questions in the reader’s mind, such as: “Who is Josef K.?”, “What has he done?”, “Is he truly innocent?” “Who is arresting you?” And if the narrator is right, “Who slandered him, and why?”

You could simplify the first sentence even further, as Andy Weir, (who is also a self-published author, by the way) did in his book, The Martian:

“I’m really screwed” – The Martian, Andy Weir

This phrase undoubtedly attracts our attention. Not only do we want to know why the narrator is so certain of his situation, but the use of such obscene language effectively awakens the reader’s mind, turning him from someone merely curious to someone actively interested. Short, powerful sentences are very good to start a story. Before publishing your book, make sure the first sentence is a very good hook.

2. Outline your story before publishing your book and identify the most important plot points. Are these points sufficiently developed throughout your book?

Contrary to popular belief, a good twist doesn’t always make a good story. As an author, it is important that you identify the most important points of your story. Make a timeline and mark these points in color – you can even create a color-coded scheme to differentiate between different plot points, or those that pertain to specific characters.

This little exercise will help you visualize your story and identify sections where the most important developments are rare or too frequent. We generally recommend not using more than two main plot points in your book.

We also recommend asking your friends or family to read your story. If you can count on their honest opinion, this will give you valuable information regarding the pace, clarity, and level of difficulty of reading your book.

3. Are there any plot or character twists in your story?

Remember a few paragraphs ago we told you that a plot twist doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good story? Well, that doesn’t mean you should avoid a good turn if you have one.

Naturally, plot twists are not the only determining factor when it comes to memoir ghostwriters a good book. However, they do help capture the reader’s attention and make your book stick in their memory – something that, as a self-published author, should be a top priority.

A method commonly used in literature is to create a character with whom the reader feels identified, who develops sympathy towards him, and then said character does something out of the ordinary or unexpected and at odds with this relatable personality. For example, a bored housewife who is planning a murder, or a chemistry teacher who becomes a drug dealer.

4. From what perspective is your book written? Do you stick with it throughout the story?

The perspective from which you write your book determines how the reader perceives the story. A common problem we see in many self-published books is that the author changes the perspective from which the story is written several times during the book. This tends to confuse the reader and makes it difficult to immerse themselves in the story. There are authors who have tried to incorporate several perspectives into their book (with varying degrees of success), but in general, we recommend that you use only one, unless your taste dictates absolutely otherwise. 

Below we will present several perspectives that you can use in your book. Before publishing your book, review which of them you are using, if it is appropriate for the story, and if you maintain it consistently throughout the entire book.

Third person perspective

Traditionally this is the most used perspective. It is an unspecified identity that tells the reader’s story. Since this narrator identity is not involved in the story, there is no need to provide any information about it.

There are two main types of third-person perspectives:  

Omniscient Narrator:  In this narration model, the narrator is aware of everything that happens in the world, the events, places, characters and their feelings.

Limited Narrator:  As the name implies, this storytelling model offers a more limited perspective on the world. Usually just providing the main character’s own knowledge, thoughts and feelings.

Second person perspective

The second-person perspective is more unique and less used, especially in popular fiction. This perspective serves to turn the reader into a character in the story.

first person perspective

This point of view is for those of you who really want to invite the reader to immerse themselves in the mind of the main character. First person reveals the story from the perspective of said character, who is either experiencing the story in real time, or has experienced it in the past.

The alternative perspective

As mentioned above, this perspective can be very difficult to master. However, if you really want to tell your story from both the first and third person, it is not something that is impossible to do. For example, you may want to tell your story from the third person, but you also want to include entries from a character’s diary from time to time, in which case the alternate perspective can help tell the story.

Be careful with the alternate perspective, as it requires more vigilance – your readers may get lost in the story if the change of perspective occurs too frequently.

5. Is there a good balance between internal time and speech time?

Would you write a thousand-page novel in which you only narrate a period of 5 minutes? Unless you’re James Joyce, probably not. That is why it is always important to consider the balance between internal time (how long the events last) and discourse time (what the narrative discourse occupies). 

Finding a good balance between these two factors is important to make your book enjoyable and easy to read. This means that if you are going to write a story with a short internal time you must hire for the best Book Marketing Agency, you will have to write in a lot of detail and vice versa.

6. Does your final sentence leave the reader wanting more?

As an author, you are the master of your own story. Concluding your book with an open or closed ending is a decision that is entirely in your hands. However, a good ending must move the reader. Whether as a result of surprise, sadness, joy, or any other emotion, your goal is to create a very strong emotion. If you manage to do this, your reader will have created a connection with your characters, so you will have succeeded. You can see your final sentence as a kind of goodbye, and as we all know, a good goodbye will stay with you for a long time. 

7. Does the structure of your manuscript fit your story?

The format of your manuscript acts as a “breadcrumb trail” for your readers. That’s why it’s so important to make sure the structure of your book is clearly established. This is where chapters come into play.

If your story has complex plots, such as alternate perspectives or different timelines, these will benefit greatly from chapter titles that can provide the reader with additional information, such as the name of the character whose perspective is being presented in the next chapter. This will make your story easier to follow. On the other hand, if your story is in chronological order, you can make do with numbered chapters.

Also, it’s worth knowing that most readers tend to read a chapter or two before putting the book away. It’s rarer to stop reading in the middle of a chapter. Therefore, the length of the chapters is also important. Most readers prefer reading shorter, structured segments of text to reading pages and pages of uninterrupted text. In other words, the chapters give readers time to breathe and reflect. Furthermore, creating an atmosphere of suspense at the end of each chapter will undoubtedly make the reader continue reading without stopping. 

Therefore, when dividing your story into chapters, keep in mind that each of them should contain a short story. This means that in principle your first and last sentence of each of them should have the same function as the first and last sentence of your book: keep the reader active and wanting more.

8. Does the cover of your book complement the story?

Let’s clarify something once and for all: you don’t have to be a professional graphic designer to create a beautiful and representative cover for your book. If you decide to design your own cover (and you’re not a graphic designer), remember that less is more. When you’re designing your cover, you want to go for a Scandinavian cuisine rather than a Mediterranean cathedral. A nice image with an elegant font is better than a chaotic image with an exotic font. If you don’t know which font to use for your book, we recommend that you read our blog article:  What font to use for your book? And to learn how to design a cover, we also recommend: « How to design your book cover with Canvas? «

This, of course, is not a rule that you should follow to the letter. After all, you are an author, and thinking outside the box is part of your job. We know that self-published books are judged much more harshly than traditional books, so we recommend emulating the look and feel of a traditional book as much as possible.

9. Does the title of your book appear too frequently in your story?

A good title does not have to be reiterated in each of the chapters. The reader should be able to begin to understand the meaning of the title as the story progresses.

Take for example The Constant Gardener by John le Care. It is a somewhat ambiguous title. What is the author referring to? Surely it can’t be a book about a full-time gardener – especially in the Thriller section. Once you read the book, you will notice that the title is not mentioned in the story. Rather, the metaphor of gardening and what the title means becomes apparent as you read.

Of course, you can also opt for a more accessible title. Keep in mind that this should simulate the mood and feeling of your story. Ideally, it should also be intriguing enough to spark some curiosity.

10. Does the synopsis on the back cover of your book capture a reader’s attention in 10 seconds?

Have you made use of the tips mentioned above? Normally the cover of a book contains a short description promoting the book. It is important to write an exciting and tempting message, this way you ensure that you maximize the number of people who decide to buy your book. Writing this little ad is not as easy as it seems. We advise you to reveal only parts of the beginning of the book, without introducing many characters. Your goal is to interest the reader enough so that they decide to buy the book.

Additionally, if you’ve self-published a book before, it may be much more beneficial to include reviews of that book to accompany your marketing materials. Contact a reviewer (or several) who has reviewed your previous books and send them a copy. If this is your first book, or if you don’t want to add a review, we recommend adding a compelling quote from your story. In this blog article, several book review bloggers offer us some advice on how to approach them to get a review for your book.