I’ve said it a few hundred times since I decided to become an indie publisher, and I’m sure I’ll say it a few hundred more. Creating a book take a whole team of people. It’s actually a lesson that I learned writing non-fiction books.
I would write the text of the book, something that I was uniquely qualified to do.
Then it would go to an editor who would edit the book. Something he was uniquely qualified to do. Then it would go to a designer, and a printer, and distributor. Each of those people were uniquely qualified for the job that they had, and each of them did it very well.
Relearning that lesson as an indie publisher has been a little harder than I expected. Yes, I made the conscious choice to go indie. It wasn’t because I couldn’t find a publisher. I shopped the book in the early days of the creation process, even got some very valuable feedback and invitations to submit again after I had tweaked a few things. But years later, when I finally finished the book (it looked nothing like what went out in those early days), I finished it knowing that it would not find a traditional publisher.
The market has changed so much that two of the big elements of publishing the book were going to be my responsibility – editing and marketing – so I might as well take the reins and do it all myself. I had a lot to learn, and in this case relearn.
It takes a team to create a book. At minimum as an indie publisher, that’s you (the writer), the cover designer, and an editor. Those three team members cover the most difficult of the basics, and I know no one that’s well suited to do all three. Of course, depending on the budget, an indie publisher may also choose to hire someone who specializes in layout, someone who specializes in marketing and publicity, and even additional editors who specialize in things like story structure and continuity.
Usually, though, the indie handles most of those jobs themselves. Some even go as far as to try to handle the editing and the cover design themselves. Speaking from experience, let me just warn you: don’t do that. Unless you’re some super writer-designer-editor hybrid, chances are that won’t end well for you.
I would also caution you to budget for the best editor and cover designer you can afford (and make affording the best a priority). In both cases, they money that you invest in those efforts will return to you multi-fold. Take this as experienced advice from someone who did one right and one wrong.
I hired a fantastic cover designer (Suzanne Wesley), but not until after I’d hired one that wasn’t fantastic. My covers, however, are beautiful. (You can check out the covers for the Biloxi Series here.) They’re eye catching, and I’ve had people tell me they took a chance on the book because the cover is intriguing.
Then there’s the editing. I did pay someone to edit Biloxi Sunrise. They were not a professional editor. And I took a hit for it. I’m having the book re-edited now, but the damage has already been done. Did I hurt my chances for future sales? Probably. I suspect I’ll come back from it, but even worse than the lost sales for future books is the embarrassment that I feel for not doing it right the first time.
In business, there’s a saying that you should stick to your core competency. That applies to most writing and publishing of all types, too. Do what you do well, and hire someone to do the things that you’re not good at. Sure, it requires a budget – an investment in a project that you believe in. In the end, though, it’s worth it. Your writing will shine brighter and your readers will be happier (and your ego will stay intact) because you recognize what you’re good at and what someone else can do better than you.