Introduction: Your Journey from Writer to Self-Publisher
Chapter 1: Relationships with Wizards and Wannabes
The Author’s Due Diligence
A Word about Wannabes
Indications of an Impostor
Resolving a Problem Relationship
Chapter 2: How to Spot a True Editor
Editing Terms You’ll Want to Know
Industry Standards for Editing
Signs Your Editor Is a Professional
What a Professional Editor Is Not
Questions to Ask Your Editor before Hiring
Chapter 3: How to Spot a True Cover Designer
Cover Design Terms You’ll Want to Know
Industry Standards for Cover Design
What Else Belongs on a Cover?
Signs Your Cover Designer Is a Professional
What a Professional Cover Designer Is Not
Questions to Ask Your Designer before Hiring
Chapter 4: How to Spot a True Interior Book Designer
Interior Book Design Standards
Signs Your Interior Book Designer Is a Professional
Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Interior Book Designer
Chapter 5: How to Spot a True Book Shepherd
Publishing Terms You’ll Want to Know
Signs Your Book Shepherd Is a Professional
Questions to Ask Your Book Shepherd Before Hiring
About the Author
Introduction: Your Journey from Writer to Self-Publisher
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz tells a time-honored tale of marvelous adventures and heartfelt truths. Dorothy, the seeker/heroine, makes her way through strange, new lands, forms friendships with those who help and guide her, and discovers in the end the wonders of home and the powers she herself possesses. What a terrific analogy for the world of self-publishing!
As a writer headed into the territory of independent publishing, you may at first feel caught up in a cyclone and set down among witches and wizards. But take comfort in knowing you can form relationships with industry professionals who will accompany you on the journey and help you overcome the hurdles. This pocket guide will also come in handy, as you meet newcomers and try to determine if they are true wizards or just wannabes.
Since the mid-1990s, when the seeds of self-publishing were sown by the pollination of the World Wide Web, I have cheered the growth of authors who published their own works. I am one of them. I began with editing and expanded into ghostwriting, helping individuals, families, and companies to make books of their personal stories. I avidly embraced print-on-demand (POD) technology, the proliferation of blogs that became books, online book-publishing platforms, and the numerous communities that welcomed and supported writers becoming publishers. These trends and more have contributed to the blossoming of the self-publishing industry, and as I learned the lay of the land—and the laws of the land—I began shepherding others through the dark forests to the palaces of publishing. It is a splendid world, full of opportunity, as sparkling as the Emerald City.
Fortunately, we didn’t need to re-invent the wheel. Self-publishing (sometimes referred to as author publishing, independent publishing, or just plain indie publishing) has much in common with its more conventional counterpart, established (“Big Five”) houses of publishing. But while the steps for getting your manuscript into the marketplace as a book are largely the same—self-publishing truly represents a revolution. It empowers authors by providing a yellow brick road to:
Retention of rights
Financial coherence and greater profits
Speedy, direct access to marketplaces
Evergreen opportunities for sales
Your journey from writer to self-publisher has begun. It can be, and by letting this book guide you it will be, life changing.
In contrast—but not in opposition—to conventional publishers, pioneer self-publishers faced a steep learning curve to familiarize themselves with the terminologies, methodologies, and standards of the trade. Mistakes were made, aspersions cast, but today’s self-publishers hold their own against the Big Five. Indeed, more and more indie publishers with a proven track record are securing deals with traditional presses and imprints, and big-name authors like Stephen King are embracing self-publishing models.
As I write this book, independently published books are widespread, respected, and flourishing. A number of professional organizations exist to help educate and guide those joining our ranks. But we haven’t conquered all obstacles yet. Over the course of the past ten years, working with indie authors to bring their manuscripts to the marketplace, I too frequently have heard:
I’ve wasted thousands of dollars on my first editor—and now I’m finding typos and structural problems.
My book is out there, and now I learn that my cover designer didn’t use the “rule of thirds.”
I’m so frustrated because I ordered fifty copies of my newly released book, and the cover looks terrible: muddy and dull.
I’ve done everything my book shepherd told me to do, but I can’t find my book on common e-retail sites, and I’m not getting any sales.
These complaints reflect a troubling, persistent vexation: some of the so-called professionals out there are more wannabe than wizard. Of course, the Wizard of Oz himself wasn’t a true wizard. My point, then, is this: independent publishing doesn’t require magic. But it does require true professionals with specialized knowledge and skills.
A second type of obstacle, originating with the self-publisher, arises from a peculiar conundrum: there is something so familiar about books, editing, and design that many people think they can become experts. Again, I frequently hear comments like:
I self-edited my manuscript, so why can’t I publish without an editor?
I love my ideas for the cover. I just need someone to execute them.
The publishing process is not mysterious or technically out-of-reach. So why can’t anyone do it?
Such thinking invariably leads to huge disappointments because these arguments rest upon the underestimation of the complexity of the self-publishing process. True, publishing is not overly technical, but it is an intricate network of interlocking, interdependent steps—and the technology that is essential frequently changes or requires updates. This is why many authors hire a book shepherd as soon as they finish writing and polishing their manuscript.
So, how does a professional writer learn what they need to know about professional editing, design, and production? There are many blogs, webinars, and websites to help individuals learn, but few want to invest the time and money to do so, especially when they have just finalized their manuscript and can’t wait to see it on bookshelves.
Because most don’t wish to become students of the industry, they hire professionals to help them through the process: editors, designers, shepherds. Yet, circling back to the first obstacle, how do they assess whether the professionals they hire actually possess the knowledge and skill that is required? Many indie authors simply can’t tell the difference between a professional and an untrained, inexperienced wannabe—until costly, sometimes irreparable, mistakes are made.
Wise self-publishers read articles that speak about publishing industry standards and methods, but nothing as comprehensive as this book exists. It is the solution that will help you hire professionals with confidence and with the desired results. With Self-Publishing Wizard or Wannabe, I hope to educate and empower authors to fulfill the maximum potential of their books. That is our mutual goal: to make your book the best it can be. With the information provided on these pages, you will be able to identify, choose, and evaluate the freelancers you hire to assist you.
Self-Publishing Wizard or Wannabe aims at helping writers hire true professionals for editing, designing, and publishing their manuscripts. Chapter One defines “wizard” and “wannabe,” as well as identifies the author’s role in these relationships and what you can do if a collaboration collapses. Subsequent chapters, individually focused on editing, design, and production, will cover:
Distinctions between wizards and wannabes
Terminology used and understood by professionals
Publishing industry standards
Signs of a true professional
Sample questions to ask prospective candidates
Feel free to skip ahead and read chapters out of order; I’ve written each to be comprehensible all on its own. And at the end of each chapter are blank pages where you can keep notes about (1) ideas to revisit or (2) the interviews you conduct. However, some readers—especially those who have just finished writing and don’t know where to start—may be encouraged and enlightened by reading this book in its entirety. Just knowing there are skilled professionals out there to help you can be very reassuring. Self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own.
Prepare for the adventure by reading on! Together we will embark on a journey through the world of self-publishing, where the writer is the hero. Along the way we’ll encounter sage guides, enlightened editors, and wizards of design—all of whom will help you, the author, face the wicked witches of publishing. You will return home, transformed into a self-published author, eager to share your experiences and wisdom with the village.
You have the power to create not only a book you’re proud of but also one that strangers in the industry will admire. Putting your work out into the world is an ambitious journey, yet it will ultimately bring you closer to home, within yourself. It will require courage, heart, and brains—and just as Dorothy experienced, the need for help along the way.