Yesterday I attended a webinar about the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) checklist of book standards. IBPA is hoping to change the publishing industry so that all books are judged by their quality, not by who published them. Providing the checklist to self-publishers enables them to produce professional-looking books that won’t instantly be labeled as self-published and therefore inferior. And, promoting the standards on the checklist as the standards to use to judge if a book is professionally published will result in librarians, reviewers, and bookstore buyers ignoring the type of publishing model used in favor of the quality of the book.
You can download the checklist here: http://www.ibpa-online.org/page/standardschecklist (Click on “Download the checklist.”)
Brooke Warner, the publisher of She Writes Press and a board member of IBPA, presented the webinar, which was sponsored by the Authors Guild. Since joining the Authors Guild, I’ve found the organization to be a great advocate for authors, which made me trust Brooke’s opinion on book publishing standards. (I’m new to IBPA, but so far they also seem like great advocates.)
Brooke explained that the publishing industry is an old one, with entrenched standards. If an author wants a book to succeed, the book’s chances increase if it fits in. This might be hard to take for some authors, who want to rebel against standards or produce a unique-looking book. However, in this industry, the best way to succeed is to adhere to standards.
While the content of a book will always determine how it is received, the book’s appearance can get it in the door. When I first self-published, I looked at other books to determine what I should do. This worked for the most part, but there were definitely items I missed. (I’m relieved at how much I did right! But I now squirm to see the mistakes I made.) The checklist will help self-published authors avoid mistakes that will flag their books as unprofessional.
For example, the following items are ones you might not realize are important:
- There is a “half title page” before the title page
- The font on the title page matches the font on the cover
- There is no “By” before the author’s name
- The book is edited following the Chicago Manual of Style, the standard in book publishing
- Margins should be big enough that the reader’s thumbs won’t block the text
- The front cover should look good as a thumbnail, which is how it will appear on Amazon and other websites
- The front cover design should fit in with other books in the genre
- The back cover should include the BISAC subject heading (which you find at BISG.com)
- Blurbs on the back cover should not be from Amazon reviews-the industry in general does not love Amazon
You can download the whole checklist on the IBPA website, here: http://www.ibpa-online.org/page/standardschecklist (Click on “Download the checklist.”) Brooke noted that the checklist is relatively new, and that IBPA welcomes feedback on it.