Note: My work with new clients often begins with a conversation on the options they have for publishing, the timetables associated with those choices, and the costs. The majority of my clients choose to self-publish for various reasons, among them that they are unknown, their work is simply for their family and friends, or they don’t want to wait to get their work out into the world. I’m following up a two-part series on traditional publishing versus self-publishing with a series on the topics I counsel authors on as they consider which road to choose. This blog looks at the work and benefits of self-publishing your book.
When you are trying to decide whether to seek a traditional publisher for your book or self-publish, consider whether you are in a hurry to bring your book into the world, how much control you are willing to give up, and how important sales are to you.
A traditional publisher will stall your process by roughly two to four years, because it could take a few years to seal a book deal and then a few years to ready that book for market. You will lose control over all aspects of book development—such as cover design and even your narrative; the publisher will likely prevail when there are differences of opinion.
Having a traditional publisher, though, will assure your book finds its way onto shelves in stores and libraries across the country; that is one of the benefits of traditional publishing. There will also be some small measure of promotion from your publisher too, but the heavy work of selling books will be on your shoulders. So, once the book is printed, there is little difference between traditional and self-publishing.
While you will not need to write a query letter or book proposal if you go the self-publishing route, you will need to find an editor and a designer, and if sales are important to you, you will need to brainstorm a marketing plan, which must begin with a solid online presence.
Why do you need a book editor? While many people might think they have done a thorough job of self-editing, a book editor is a must in my mind. We, as writers, see what we think is on the page sometimes, rather than what is there. “I am of the mind” could read as “I am or the mind,” yet, we miss the typo.
More importantly, we are not objective about our own work, and we are too familiar with the story, so we are a poor judge of whether we’ve included enough—or too many—details. We may miss that some passages could be seen as offensive, or that they don’t make complete sense to the reader because necessary information is only in our heads, but not on the page.
An editor can also ensure that you are consistent with specific repeating references and themes. An editor will assure the book is free of typos, cliches, repetition, redundancy, and an editor will also make sure your book adheres to the guidelines of the Chicago Manual of Style.
When I edit a book for a client, in the first read-through, I am doing what I call content edits. Essentially, I am making sure the content hangs together. I evaluate the pace and story flow as well as the organization of a story, and I ensure there is nothing confusing, missing, or overstated and that characters are well-drawn and don’t do or say things I would not expect.
Some manuscripts are ready to be copy edited when they come to me. I read the book with an eye toward catching typos, cleaning up references to proper nouns, and making style fixes. I can find dozens of tweaks in even the cleanest manuscript, and I always have substantive suggestions and recommendations that my clients find helpful.
Your book editor should feel like a partner. You are seeking someone who will pose questions in your manuscript, make suggestions, and be open to your thoughts and responses. The beauty of self-publishing is that you are the boss.
While I might sometimes disagree with a client on the presentation of an aspect of the book, I always listen to why that aspect is important, what the relevance is for the author. I suggest different approaches or some measure of compromise, and when all fails, I defer. I say, “This is your book. I am just your editor.”
Editors at big publishing houses are not as apt to submit to you; they have a bottom line to think about. I have no stake in client’s sales—or lackthereof.
If your editor is also your book designer, as is the case with me, your partnership can continue into the design phase, which begins when your manuscript is fully edited to your satisfaction and that of your editor. If you have hired a different person to design your book, the relationship should also be a collaborative one; your designer should offer suggestions, ideas, creativity—and deference.
The design of a book is a very creative and iterative process, and it is satisfying as you will finally see your story come to life.
I meet with clients before I start a book design to make sure I fully understand the vision each author has for the book’s jacket and to discuss the artwork we will use. Are we buying a stock image? Is the author hiring an illustrator to create a design or providing a piece of art—such as a photograph—that he or she owns? Will there be photos inside the book?
I research fonts and present clients with three to four cover designs with aspects they can pick and choose from, and then I design the inside pages to compliment the cover. I use Off the Common Books in Amherst, Massachusetts, the self-publishing imprint associated with Levellers Press, to print client books.
Depending on the level of content edits required, the availability of the author to accept edits and make revisions after receiving my feedback, and the complexity of a book’s design, I can help an author get a book out in four months to a year.
This means you can have your book out years before a traditional publisher could do so. That’s a big advantage in cases when the book is a memoir an older adult has written, and he or she wants to be sure they are still with us when the title is printed. It is also important when a book is time-sensitive. Last year, I worked with a client on a book that was tied to the election, and self-publishing meant he had almost full control of the pub date.
Let me know if you are struggling with the decision to seek a traditional publisher or go the self-publishing route. I will not sell to you; I will simply have a conversation so that you have the information you need to make a decision that best fits you.
Be in touch today if you’d like!
“Photo by Craig Fear of Fearless Eating.”
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