Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why (and How to) Self-Publish--Helping Hands

When you take the plunge and self-publish your book, you're going to be doing a lot of things yourself (it's built right into the word). Editing, proofreading, design, marketing--a mistake that a lot of writers make when they begin to self-publish is trying to do everything alone. I'm not saying you have to spend thousands of dollars hiring professionals to do all of these things for you, but in the long run your book will be much more appealing to readers--and you'll be a lot happier with it--if you take the time to seek out experienced help.

An editor will help you by looking at your book as a whole and offering suggestions to make it better. A lot of writers choos to pinch pennies here by asking their mom, neighbor, pastor, babysitter, etc. to "take a look" at their manuscript, but that isn't helping your book get better. Most of the critiques coming from these people are gushing compliments or vague criticisms (either because they can't pinpoint what's bothering them about your book or they don't want to hurt your feelings). In the long run, it's much better for you and your book to get an experienced, professional editor. If you plan on hiring a pro, you can expect something in the neighborhood of $25-30 an hour, or $2-3 per page.* If you have a more personal relationship with your editor, you may be able to work out a discount rate or work on barter.

Where to find Editors:
  • Networking at writer's conferences or organizations
  • has a list of editorial services
  • P.O.D. publishers (i.e. lulu, iuniverse, authorhouse) often have preferred vendors
  • University English/Journalism departments

Spellcheck does not count as proofreading your manuscript. You need human eyes to catch all the grammar goofs that spellcheck misses, and the more eyes, the better. Many writers can get overconfident in their grammar and spelling skills. Hey, I was a state spelling bee finalist in the 8th grade, and I still have other people double check me for typos. I'll look up words I'm not sure about. No one is perfect all of the time. If you decide to hire a professional to proofread your work, expect to pay $1-2.50 per page.* Some editors will also proofread, but don't assume both services are standard.

Where to find Proofreaders:
  • Friends and family (the more eyes the better, but it's a good idea to ask people who can spell their way out of a paper bag)
  • Schoolteachers
  • The Editor resources

Technically, anyone with a computer and some software can create a book cover. Many authors will often skimp on this section by doing their book cover or interior design themselves or hiring the neighbor's kid who's kinda artistic and good with computers. Skimping here is one of the fastest ways to brand yourself an amateur and your book uninteresting. A good interior design makes your book easy to read and engaging. A good book cover design grabs attention, creates interest, and gives you (the author) credibility. A good designer will know or have access to barcode standards, ISBN placement requirements, and how to set up artwork for different printing methods. They also won't neglect the spine or the back of the cover, which are just as critical as the front. You can expect to pay anywhere from a couple of hundred to over a thousand dollars for a good interior and cover design, depending on the length of your book, but if you know the designer personally, you may be able to negotiate a discount or trade.

Where to find a Designer:
  • P.O.D services usually have templates available (but do you want your book to look just like everyone else's? Overused templates can be just as bad for your book as an amateur design.)
  • P.O.D. preferred vendors
  • Network with other authors
  • Graphic Design Agencies (from one-man studios to the big kahunas)
  • Graphic Design Students (caution! check out their portfolio and how long they've been in school. Generally, the closer they are to graduating, the more they've learned.)

Unlike working with the big corporations (or even the small, independent presses), when you self-publish, all your book's marketing falls on your shoulders. You'll be the one making phone calls, sending out press releases, and mailing off review copies. This is the reason why many self-published books hit their limit at 50 copies, and many authors have boxes of books gathering dust in the garage.

Information, Advice, and Suggestions for Marketing
  • Morris Rosenthal's blog (
  • Aaron Shepard's blog (
  • Networking with other authors at writing conferences and in writing organizations
  • Attending book festivals
  • Reading helpful books specifically about marketing self-published books

Krystal Russell is the author of Horace the Tortoise and Lucas and His Long Loopy Laces coming soon from tall tails publishing house.

*Rates from Start Your Own Self-Publishing Business by Entrepreneur Press and Jennifer Dorsey.

1 comment:

MAKARAND said...

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