What bothers me the most is reviewing essentially good books held back by mistakes that take away from the book's impact – poorly laid out, unreadable table of contents, mediocre editing with frequent mistakes (usually by a friend), cheap and ineffective cover art, odd margins (book laid out by someone who didn't understand the printing process), the wrong font, the wrong font size, stream of consciousness writing and last but not least, inappropriate material.
- Editing – You need to work with someone who edits professionally and is willing to push you outside your complacency. They are not there to help you feel good about your writing or tell you how great you are. They are there to help you see what you have written from a new angle and make it the best it can be. This will be a trial by fire, but worth the difficulty of the process. If it's not challenging, they're not doing their job.
- Proper formatting – There is a look to a professional book. The correct margins, font and type size speak volumes. It's shocking how many authors have someone typeset their work for the printer who doesn't understand what a bleed is (you can look it up HERE).
- Cover art - The cover is what readers see first. It's what draws them to pick up your book from the shelf or click on it in a digital store. It needs to be high-quality, done by a professional, laid out with the right margins, formatted correctly and appropriate for your subject. Review a graphic artist's portfolio until you find someone whose style draws you. Wander through the Amazon site in your book's category to get ideas to take to your first meeting.
- Focus – Know your subject. Lay out your book clearly in an outline so you understand what goes in each chapter and stick to it. Cut out anything not on topic. Side stories are fun to share and can be great of strongly tied to what you're saying. But they are not effective in keeping the readers attention or the focus on what you are sharing if they are just side stories there because you like them.
- Get professional feedback – Friends and industry connections cannot give you the hard feedback you need. Be courageous.
No matter what anyone says – there is no substitute for hard work and professional feedback.