We can’t all be good at everything – no matter how much we wish it were true. Knowing one’s own strengths and weaknesses is the first step toward success no matter what the situation, but never more so than for those hoping to ‘make it’ as an independent author. Putting the best product out there should be a priority, and that sometimes means hiring professionals to do certain jobs.
The most obvious reason to try to do everything oneself is to save money. Even those that use a vanity press will often scrimp on outside editing services, for instance, rationalizing that they can’t afford to pay an editor on top of the publishing costs. Even the ‘Do It Yourselfers’ (such as those using CreateSpace) cringe at outsourcing certain steps in the process. I understand the desire for complete control over one’s work, but with that control comes great responsibility. There is more to publishing that writing a book and then uploading the file. Like any business, there are many elements to be considered. The most obvious areas in my mind are editing, formatting, and cover design.
Outside editing is essential. Period. No matter how ‘good’ one is at writing, we simply will not catch all of our own mistakes. As well, we all need fresh, unbiased perspective on our stories. To use a cliché, sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees and require at least one other set of eyes (or several) in order to make that manuscript sing. As we learned in the last Fellowscript magazine, there are many kinds of editing, and each and every one will ensure the best possible final product.
Formatting is easy these days with programs like Scrivener and others… Or is it? Getting one’s manuscript to look professional isn’t always intuitive and unless you have a lot of spare time for trial and error, you might be better off hiring someone to do it. I remember the first time I tried to format a project using Scrivener. It literally took hours of failed compilations (and much stress!) before I finally purchased a course on how to use Scrivener. I had successfully used Word to format a few projects previous to that, but again, this took a lot of time in both reading how to do it and then trial and error until I got it right. If time is money… you get the picture.
And what about covers? Yikes! Unfortunately, I have seen some very amateur covers that do not take into consideration current trends, have no sense of design, or that have no relation to the content or genre of the book. While readers have become more discerning and are less reluctant to view self-published books as inferior, judging a book by its cover still happens, no matter how much we want to think otherwise. A cut and paste DIY cover isn’t ‘good enough’! Unless one has a strong sense of design, software knowledge, and has done the research, spend the money and get a professional to design the book cover!
I’ve spoken to the top three areas where I think authors may want to hire a professional, but I haven’t even touched on the many other areas like marketing, financial management, accounting, and even web design. These are all vital parts of the business of being an author.
Sometimes it just makes sense to hire a professional to do certain tasks. If the goal is to create the best book possible, it makes sense to spend a few bucks and get professional help. Rather than adopt a philosophy of ‘no limits’ when it comes to doing it ourselves, we should ‘know our limits’ and get the help we need.
Tracy Krauss continues to write relentlessly from her home in northern BC, where she also teaches secondary school Art, Drama, and English. Visit her website for more about her many published books and plays. http://tracykrauss.com -fiction on the edge without crossing the line-