Are you discouraged by industry experts who insist that self-published authors have to hire pros to prepare a self-published book? I read a lot of material directed at indie authors. Much of the content is written as guidance for new and wannabe writers, and how best to go about the process. Whatever the self-publishing-related subject, most of this advice is, “Hire someone to do it for you.”
In some cases, I disagree.
The hiring decision is about time, money, and inclination
New authors are often working a day job and writing in spare moments, meaning they probably have money to spend but no extra time. However, if you’re working part-time while writing a book, you may have more daylight at your disposal and less cash to throw at a new venture.
I don’t want to write all the time. I like breaks in my writing process. I like to learn new things. So I dabble in other parts of the ebook creation process. So if you’re like me and you have an interest in learning to create covers or format ebook files, explore your interest. If you have the time, temperament, and inclination to do some of the work yourself – aside from writing the book – I say do it.
If you don’t like the results or your trusted advisers nix your efforts as sub-par, you can always hire out the work. So I will add a disclaimer to this post: Before you launch your ebook, find people you trust to tell you the truth and ask their opinion about your work.
Here are common recommendations often made by industry pros. Decide what’s right for you, even if it goes against popular opinion.
1) Authors should NOT do their own ebook formatting
In my opinion, there’s a host of reasons to do your own ebook formatting, and cost is not #1. It’s about control. Changes are quick and easy to make when you format yourself. You can add an excerpt of a your new release to a previous title. You can go back into any file and add a call to action for readers to leave a review at the end. Even the best proofreaders can miss a correction or two – simple to repair when you do your own formatting.
I’ve toyed with formatting using Smashwords’ nuclear method and it does take time, but that’s the direction I’m headed. Is it frustrating at first? Oh yeah. Is it beyond the ability of the average person? Heck no. But like any new skill, it’s not difficult once you learn the process. The question is, do you want to take the time?
Author David Gaughran advocates a DYI ebook formatting method you can explore. And FYI, Scrivener will export your mss to all ebook files, and users say it’s seamless. Here’s another good article about ebook formatting.
2) Authors should hire an assistant – or a publicist, or a website optimizer, or a …
Sure, once you have a library of titles for sale and some money coming in. If your pockets are deep right out of the gate, go for it. Hire them all.
But I think it puts people off when seasoned authors tell newbies “it’s all too overwhelming to do yourself.” Is it overwhelming? Absolutely. Is it impossible to set up your own website, learn about the book promotion process, and tackle these things yourself? No, it’s not impossible. It might take longer to get where you want to go, but if your coin purse is light and you’re determined, you can do much of the work yourself.
In the meantime, tons of books and classes and blogs give really good direction to DIYers. And, as you achieve success (can you say “royalties?), you can always hire out more and more.
3) Authors should NOT create their own book covers
I’ve had some “extra” time this year, so I used it to learn Photoshop basics, then had a go at creating my own branded book covers. Truth? I tore my hair out until my friend Belinda Pollard taught me the simple way to remove white backgrounds from jpg images. (Mwah! Thank you!)
Self-pubbers with self-created covers have won accolades from The Book Designer’s cover awards. So don’t be put off if you have an interest. Read up on the elements of good cover design and give it a go. Your goal is to “brand” your covers, which means create a look you can use with a few element changes on every book.
FYI, one of the most crazy-making parts is finding the right images. Searching image sites can literally take hours. On the other hand, you can stumble across something and put together a design in no time, which happened for me with my 2014 release, Paint Me Gone.
If you do create your own covers, understand copyright law with regard to the images you use in them. Check out Joanna Penn’s great post about creating covers in MS Word. Here’s another about cover design: 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying books.
4) Authors should ALWAYS use KDP Select
Lately, authors are choosing to make 99 cents “the new free.” Free giveaways via KDP Select are not getting the results previously reported, for many reasons. I have no experience with KDP Select, but I do know not being a member will allow you to sell your books on other platforms. And that may offset the $$ you don’t earn from lending in the Select program. So you decide. And while you’re at it, you might want to re-read my post about ebook pricing.
5) Authors must be active on all social media platforms
Ha! Whoever advises this is definitely an overachiever, has deep pockets and pays someone to do it , or operates on little sleep. Yes, you have to have a strong social media presence, you have to be visible, and you have to work at it.
But you don’t need to interact on every platform; you simply need to choose your favorite 2 or 3 social media sites and build a following there. Over time, set up profiles on all of them and try them out, then focus on the sites you enjoy. Keep in mind the #1 reason to be on social media is to drive traffic to your blog. So while you should share blog posts on many platforms, you don’t actually need to spend time on them all. I focus almost exclusively on Twitter and my blog.
Bottom line, if you choose to take on a self-publishing-related task yourself, your product has to be professional quality. And not just to you; your trusted group of advisers need to sign off on your work, as well. How do you learn a new skill? Read about it. Watch YouTube videos. Take a class. Learn via trial and error. Seek outside advice on your works-in-progress from competent beta readers or structural and content editors.
Bottom line, if you’re low on funds, invest in professional editing and proofreading and try doing some of the other tasks yourself.
I’ll close with a quote from Author & Blogger David Gaughran: “A mystique has attached itself to the publishing process. Newbies are told that publishing is hard, that it requires skills limited to the most rabidly entrepreneurial types – despite the hordes of writers from all sorts of backgrounds that are self-publishing. And they are told it’s expensive – despite the huge numbers of self-publishers that have released professional looking books on a limited budget.” Read the entire article here: Publishing is Easy.
Readers, what do you think? Have you created a cover, done your own formatting, acted as your own social media maven, set up your own blog, or anything else? What do you hire out and what do you do yourself?
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