There are several common improvements or pitfalls, depending on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, of which any POD author should be aware.
As an iUniverse author and reviewer, I have discovered a number of issues that often block a POD author's attainment of perfection. Although I review iUniverse books, I am in no manner affiliated with the company. In fact, iU does not even acknowledge my existence as a prospective reviewer of their product. Presented here are ten, somewhat obvious, book production elements that all authors should consider before submitting their works to the publisher. These things that can only improve the resulting book are listed in the order in which the author is most likely to encounter them.
1. Consider the packages offered, and understand that there is no free lunch. Just because one company charges less up front does not make them the best deal in the long run. Most of the options and higher-level packages offered are not worth the asking prices. The retail price of your book at Amazon should be heavily weighted in your decision, as should the online availability details.
2. If you are computer literate and of an artistic bent, design your own cover. Understand that when the publisher does it for you, they are utilizing an assortment of photos and other graphic elements of which they have on hand. If you let them design your cover, sooner or later you may discover another book with the same photo that is on your book's cover! The presentation may be altered, but it will be the same photo nonetheless.
3. Don't shortchange your book of all the many extraneous elements you have been seeing in traditionally published books all your life. Include a photo of yourself, credits for the cover photo and/or design, Acknowledgements, Dedication, Afterword, Table of Contents, Glossary, Bibliography, etc. In other words, you have written a real book. Make it look like one.
4. Carerfully utilize your computer's spelling and grammar check of the entire document. Believe it or not, I have read iUniverse books, which seemed at least, as if the author had skipped this critical step.
5. Proofread the entire text more than once. The most effective method I have found is to have someone read the text along with you simultaneously. One or both of you must be in the computer document. The second person can be reading a printed copy. The only reason not to use the printed copy is the printing cost. Every author needs a cheap laser printer and a supply of junk paper on hand anyway. Yeah, I know, it's the laser cartridge that costs out the wazoo. That's why I said you can proofread more economically using two computers. Here is the important part: one person reads aloud and the other follows along silently. Only one person, and it does not matter which, is allowed to make changes to the manuscript during the process. You want to confuse yourself silly? Ignore this last rule.
6. Believe it or not, I have discovered that the most prevalent editing mistake made by iU authors is the deletion or repetition of the most common of common words. These are the mistakes that are most likely to slip by the proofing process described in #5. These mistakes are the result of two separate causes, so you want to watch out for both. The first is when the author has, at some point in the creative process, changed his mind about the sentence structure and forgotten to proofread the altered sentence. The second type is the result of the writer just buzzing along at warp speed in his typing, while not noticing that he used the common word twice or accidentally omitted it. My opinion is that our brains just buzz right past these boo-boos when we read anything, and the proofreading (of) our own precious babies is no exception. Here is a brief list of the words of which you should pay particular attention: the, of, have, had, a, an, and, is, was, etc. Get the picture?
7. This one should be obvious beyond belief, but I have encountered it in more than one iUniverse book. Write your name exactly the same way in and on every element of the book, its cover, the promo materials, and all subsequent books! Do you have any idea what not doing this does to the Amazon search mode for your books?
8. Be extremely cautious when you select your title, subtitle, and the way you state your name. If you want to be confused with another book or author, that's your business. If you want people to go straight to your book from Google or Amazon, that's also your business. The point is simply to know what you are doing before you do it. It's always a good idea to run a few practice searches just before submitting your book. This hint is placed late in the process for this reason. If you are Howard J. Smith, you never know when Howard K. Smith might have just released the worst book of the century!
9. Begin developing your promotional materials the day you submit the manuscript. If you have not already begun this process by this date, you are already handicapping yourself.
10. Begin your mailing list, whether by snail or email, as soon as your submission has been officially accepted. Remember that you don't have the luxury of pre-release promotional programs afforded to traditionally published books. The best you can do is make sure that the most potential buyers possible know about your book as soon as you are certain that the publication is a done deal.