DartFrog curates the best independently published books (self-publishers, hybrid publishers and small traditional style publishers). We also publish our own books through our hybrid publishing label, DartFrog Plus. Here are a few keys to determining whether your book will rise to the level of excellence we expect in a book.
Your book should be as polished as a traditionally published book from a major publisher. Many independently published books, especially self-published books, start at a disadvantage, because most people expect them to be sub-par. The professionalism of the binding, artwork, formatting, font choice...all of it matters a lot (the cover especially). If your book presents a solid first impression, customers are more likely to pick it up and take a closer look. If someone can tell a book has been self-published without even opening it, it will never succeed.
Editing is crucial and can't be left to friends or relatives. Working with a professional editor is a must and we can tell quickly when an author hasn't. But even if you do, we also urge you to check your editor's work. If we find more than a few grammatical errors we will require that they be fixed before we can place the book into stores. We are tough on these types of issues because readers are even tougher, but also because bookstores are a professional environment in which your book will be competing against books from the world's most renowned authors and publishers. If your book has more than a few small errors scattered throughout, it will reinforce the perspective that independently published books are sub-par and no one will want to read your book (or the sequel). So, do yourself (and your book) a favor and work with an editor who is brutally honest, sharp and meticulous.
Pacing matters. There is too much competition on the bookstore shelves for a book without excellent pacing to succeed. It needs to grab you from the beginning and keep you. This is another way that an editor can be of tremendous benefit.
When stories lack focus, they get stale quick. This is another way we can tell if an editor has been involved. There's a real discipline to leaving out material that isn't essential to the storyline. If we see extraneous content in a story, or a lack of focus in the storyline, we will reject it, because so too will customers.
Of course, reading is subjective. We all have genres and styles that we like. But at DartFrog, we don't base an evaluation on whether we like the genre, or whether we would want to buy the book in a store. We base our evaluation on whether the story is well constructed, understanding that people have tastes in topics that are different than ours.