Would you walk into a KFC or MacDonald’s and ask the cashier to decide what you want to eat?
Would you pull in at a petrol station and ask the pump-attendant to choose your car's fuel type?
Would you let him decide the air pressure of your tyres and how much fuel to pump into your tank?
Well, would you?
I see too many authors entering the self-publishing process quite unaware of what it is they want, besides 'a book'. What level of quality do they expect if they give only vague instructions to the collection of people that they hire to help them through the various stages of book production?
Will the author’s inspiration magically rub off on their chosen cover designer? (Hired for his low low price.) Will the cover designer miraculously emerge, after hours of coffee-induced concentration from a dark room, with the perfect cover image featuring all the elements the author had imagined in all the right places? This is unlikely.
There is no sympathy (or room) in this industry for the lazy author.
About the self-published author.
The successful self-published author is a rare breed. After choosing to publish independently and share their unique story they willingly invest precious time into their passion and spend hours locked away from family and friends while they pour out their hearts onto paper. They appreciate each word or line of text like a parent admiring their offspring...and they know that that this is just the beginning.
Emerging from the cocoon of indulgent ignorance that the traditional publishing process fosters, the adventurous author now takes on the responsibility to ensure a quality product for the reader. These responsibilities would previously have been handled by a team of professional (and well-paid) publishing assistants.
What is true of the self-published author.
The successful self-published author is brave.
This is a lonely ride where your dream is yours alone; don’t take it lightly or you will wake up at the road-side wondering how you got there. For those making the journey on a part-time basis, you must afford the process the respect it deserves.
The successful self-published author knows what they want.
The self-published author cannot afford to be indecisive or vague during the production stages. Sending the cover designer veering back and forth while you decide over the ideal shade of blue is not acceptable. Respect their time enough to give them clear instructions and direction before they start the work.
The cover, the manuscript, the whole project is your offspring: take responsibility for the quality, or risk anonymity
The successful self-published author understands their commitment to deliver their best work to the reader. Every time you write a word that you intend to publish, you are making the following tacit promise to your readers...
You, the author, promise that this will be the best damn story you could possibly write. This is the best of you. You will not let a single page of the manuscript be published that you are not absolutely proud of. Your words are well-written, the storyline well-plotted. Moreover, you have read and (self) edited your own writing numerous times before handing the manuscript over to someone else to work with.
This promise of quality is balanced by understanding the real possibility of analysis paralysis. Your writing should be the best you can possibly give at a time; HOWEVER, draw a line in the sand where you find you cannot realistically fix much more, and be brave enough to let it go to the next step.
You, the author, promise that your manuscript has been professionally edited to remove all spelling mistakes, story inconsistencies and plot holes. You promise that your work is well researched and with no cardboard characters.
Be smart here: don't make the mistake of hiring an editor based on price. Most editors quote, based on a recommended per-word or page rate. This may be expensive at first, but the amount you are charged for editing will likely decrease over time, if you write on a regular basis and your delivery improves. Having edited your own manuscript a number of times you will also be able to make the editing job an easier (and cheaper) one.
Here is an example of the rate governing South African editors taken from the Professional Editors Group website. Bear in mind that editing is normally the most expensive single cost that an author is responsible for. As a result most self-published authors unfortunately think they can get away with little or no editing. If I could have a cup of coffee for every time a new author tells me that their manuscript is being edited by a friend or family member…
A book is your baby: don’t leave it with the wrong baby-sitter.
- Edit your own work numerous times to reduce the final editing costs.
- Do not be an amateur and skip hiring an editor; your readers can tell.
- Do not hire an editor based solely on their price.
- Know the basic editing costs per word in your respective country. This will help you to prepare yourself for the bill you will need to pay for.
- Pick an editor who has experience in your genre; this will stop them accidentally changing your message or tone of delivery.
- Try to hire an editor who does not know you well, as your relationship might create a biased editing result.
You, the author, promise that the cover's quality is representative of the manuscript it protects. You acknowledge that a cheap-looking cover tells the reader that you as the author don’t respect them enough to hire a professional designer.
It is important to know what you want before you go to a cover designer.
- Do you have examples of other covers you like?
- Have you looked at a number of designers to see what their styles are?
- Have you browsed the covers from the Amazon best seller categories to see what is currently selling?
- Who is your target audience?
- What is your budget?
- Will your cover need a stock photo from an image agency, as these are professional images that are paid for separately?
Don’t expect your cover designers to emerge with a work of art if you have not given clear instructions. They don’t know you as an author; they haven't read your book/s; they might even be totally unfamiliar with the genre. So decide exactly what you need and make sure you convey this to them.
Indecisive authors not only hinder a normally smooth publishing process but can also be charged a premium for doing so. Of the customers I help publish digitally, the ones who have a clear vision of each process and what they would like to see as a result often earn the biggest discounts.
Before you enlist any of the various service providers along the way, have a vision of the result you would like from the process. Carry out some research before the time so that you understand the difference between a MOBI and EPUB file format eBook and in which store each would be published. Understand what cover designs are selling really well on Amazon right now.
This will not only put your mind at ease and help your service providers help you but will also ensure that you deliver on your promise of a great product for your readers.
Self-Publishing Author Resources:
Here are a few popular online resources to help you better prepare yourself for the journey ahead.
- Looking for other blogs about the self-publishing industry? Here is our list of the best blogs for self-publishing authors.
- Enjoy reading on the topic of self-publishing? Read our recommended eBooks on the topic of self-publishing.
- Enjoy listening to podcasts? Sign up to the Self-Publishing podcast, released weekly.
- Looking for an online crash course on the topic of digital publishing and digital marketing for authors? http://digitalpublishing101.com/