When it comes to self-publishing, many authors entertain the misconception that the term means “do it all yourself.” Actually, what self-publishing means is that the author publishes his or her own work instead of going through a traditional publisher.
A traditional publisher employs or hires professionals to massage a manuscript into shape, something suitable for public consumption. Whipping a manuscript into shape entails tasks such as developmental editing, line editing, copy editing, proofreading, cover design, and book design. When an author self-publishes, that means the author is responsible for all the tasks performed by a traditional publisher.
I’ve said ad nauseum that authors should not rely upon themselves for editing. Trust me. I’m an editor and I learned that lesson the hard way. A manuscript benefits from an editor’s objectivity and fresh perspective. Also, editors do different things. A developmental (or structural) editor takes a bird’s eye view of the story and doesn’t concern himself with the nitty gritty details of grammar and context. A copy editor isn’t responsible for detecting and correcting plot holes. A line editor often bridges the gap, but is more concerned with how the author writes what is meant than with either big picture items or correct punctuation. Then we have substantive editors like me who don’t separate developmental, line, and copy editing, giving the manuscript to a holistic treatment. Finally, there are proofreaders who put the final polish on a manuscript, correcting errors before it goes public.
As the author is too close to his or her own manuscript to see its flaws, so, too, is the author is primarily a writer, not a graphic artist or graphic designer. These are much different skills from writing, and few authors do design really well. Just like editing, it’s best to hire cover art to the pros who know the genre, understand the tenets of effective cover art, and have the technical skills to render an appealing image that conveys the genre and the story. If you haven’t noticed, genres tend to have their own distinct design trends and rules. A font you might use on the cover of a horror story probably isn’t something you’d use on the cover of a cozy mystery.
The graphic design aspect of producing a book involves more than filling the pages with text, especially if your manuscript includes charts, graphs, and images. A book designer considers paragraph justification and page justification, widows and orphans, kerning and leading, and more. The juxtaposition of title fonts and body text must be complementary as well as easy to read.
Each of the major components of producing a book–editing, book design, and cover art–involves disparate skills that appear to be related and generally aren’t mastered by any one person, much less by most authors. This means that producing a top quality book demands a team effort. When an author decides to self-publish, the author is responsible for hiring the professionals to do what she or he cannot do or does not do well. Lucky for those authors, the gig ecnonomy teems with feelance editors, designers, and artists.
These professionals don’t work for free. In fact, their combined services add up to a signific.ant chunk of change. Because they don’t work cheaply, traditional publishers only pay authors a small percentage of revenues received from book sales. The publishers have to pay these pros regardless of whether the books they produce sell. If you’re self-publishing, the freelance pros you hire expect to be paid for their work regardless of whether your book generates any profit.
Self-publishing isn’t free. Not really. You can produce a book and publish it without spending any money on hiring the professional services that will elevate your book to the next level, but that doesn’t mean you should. For best results, hire and pay for those services. Yes, you’ll have to dig into your pockets, probaby deeply, so start saving now before you’re ready to hire those pros.
Self-publishing isn’t really “do it yourself.” The author writes the story, but making it marketable depends on a team of paid professionals.
Hen House Publishing provides ghostwriting, editing, proofreading, and book design services to assist independent authors on their
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