To me, that means being professional. And I'm not talking about how you act, though that is certainly important. What I'm taking about is how you approach the publication of your work. If you're an author and you want to self publish, being professional would mean you have a realization that being a self publisher means you ARE a publisher.
Self publishing is not meant to be the cheap way, or the fast way, or the easy way. Not if you're doing it right. Not if you're asking people to pay you for a product. If you're doing it right, it's going to cost you money. You are going to have to pay for editing. That's a fact. Your neighbor or aunt or high-school English teacher is not an editor. And your cover... well, your cover matters. Your buddy who takes really cool pictures, is not a cover designer. A picture of your hamster does not a cover make!
The aforementioned disagreement was when the writer indicated that self published authors don't care--as a blanket rule--about quality. He said he's never seen a self published book cover that could hold water to a commercially published book. Well, I wholly disagreed and promised to show him the light.
See, the self-publishers who take it seriously stand out. The ones who take it seriously have books that could sit on a shelf in a store and you would never know it was self published. They understand the importance of marketing.
Since I tend to focus on children's literature in my blog, I'm going to do so for this post too (that's MG and YA).
First up: I've taken a self published book and grouped it with a couple comparible books published by major publishers. What do you think? Do they fit in with their competition?
Do you know what I see when I look at those books? I see an author who did market research. They looked at the covers in their target audience, and they made theirs compatible, they made theirs fit.
Next up, just a few self published book series that I would add to any list of wicked book covers!
And just so I can punctuate this post with one final flourish, here's a few more...
So, there you have it. There are dozens more, truly, but this is just a small sample of self published authors who. at the very least, care about what their products look like. These books could sit on the shelf of any bookstore or library and you'd never know they were self published. Because like I said, it doesn't matter if you're self or traditionally published. What matters is that you're WELL published.
Design is just one component of that, mind you. Editing is another biggie, but that's a topic for another day.
PS- I will add links to take you to the author sites soon. . .