When To Hire An Expert
The journey from a rough draft to a professionally published novel involves many steps, but are you ready to tackle each one? Here’s how to publish a book with all the advantages of a big publisher.
We each have our natural strengths and skills we bring from other parts of our lives to the publishing process, but it’s time ask yourself if there are steps better left to a someone else.
If any of these four areas fall outside of your expertise, outsourcing may be your best option to launch your novel professionally.
• Cover Design
A rough draft is just that, rough. Serious writers will make multiple passes redrafting their story, looking for character inconsistencies, fixing plot holes, and shaping their novel into a tight page-turner. They’ll take the next step and have beta readers mercilessly challenge character motivations and point out missed details. After that last revision, the one where you wonder if writing a book was such a great idea you’ll consider it done.
But it’s not. Your brain is incapable of spotting its own mistakes, as explained in this article from Wired magazine.
Your beta readers are not copyeditors, and you are now blind to grammar errors, missing words, and cringe-worthy typos. The most important investment you can make in the success of your novel is to hire a professional copyeditor.
What a does an editor do? There are different types of editing, and as you expect, they come at different price levels.
Developmental Editors look at the overall structure of your story. They will map your character’s actions to ensure they are always consistent and their behavior doesn’t create unresolved plot issues or open gaps in the storyline. They may advise on the story arc, writing style, voice, and tone. Developmental editors will not correct grammar unless an issue becomes overriding to the quality of the story.
Copyeditors will correct grammar, punctuation errors, misused words, flag character and plot issues that jump out at them, and add suggestions as they edit your manuscript. Typically you provide the full novel in a Word document. Using the Show Revisions tool, the editor redlines the copy, keeping your file intact with all changes and comments annotated.
At this point, you will need to go through each edit to Accept or Reject. Do not mistake this step for proofreading. It is all too easy to make a change that introduces a typo or copy error.
Aside from writing your novel, this is the second most critical part of publishing your book. You can have a fantastic plot, but most readers will abandon a book within the first few pages if they encounter repeated copy errors.
Proofreading is the next to last touch you will have with your manuscript before publication. Before committing your manuscript to formatting and a book launch, it needs a final read-through to make sure all of the tweaks you’ve made didn’t create typos. You want your book to be as perfect as possible, and this is the step that gives you that confidence.
You can hire proofreaders or barter with other writers. At this point, you’re not looking for plot feedback, but rather making sure you’ve created a positive reading experience.
How much do Editors and Proofreaders charge?
The price will vary based on the level of work you select. Most editors offer a pricing tier which allows you to choose the service you need. You should expect to pay no less than $400 for a thorough copy edit, but pricing can go higher depending on word-count. Skilled, in-demand editors may also charge higher rates. No matter which editor you choose or level of service, you should ask for a sample edit first. You get to see how you like the editor’s work style and if the quality of their edits meets your expectations.
Finding an editor isn’t tricky. You can ask for recommendations from other writers, or hire from one of the many freelance sites offering services covering everything from graphic design to virtual assistants. Check out our list of crowdsourcing websites to find the right expert for the job.
Another part of the publishing process you might consider outsourcing is your cover. Depending on areas where you lack resources or the expertise to do it yourself, hiring a professional designer will ensure your cover meets technical specifications and has the polish to compete with novels coming from the big five publishers.
There are different requirements for physical book covers and ebook covers. The design alone should incorporate genre, readability of printed text, and graphic design best practices. There’s a psychology to attracting attention to your novel that will entice buyers to read the synopsis or download a sample. Poor image quality or amateur execution of the cover design can either drive sales or kill its potential success.
Hiring a graphic designer can help you get the standout book cover you need.
Your book will be judged by its cover. When your skills are lacking in this area, a professional designer is your best bet for getting a book cover noticed for the right reasons. Your novel is competing with millions of other books. If you can apply a hierarchy to tasks outsourced, this comes in a close second to copyediting.
If you have colleges or network with other writers, you can ask them for recommendations, or you can try a crowdsourcing site.
These sites allow you to audition the artists. You fill-out a creative brief which includes a synopsis of your book, the specifications for height and width, and file format, and all the details they should take into consideration for a design. Once you set a price for your project, you’ll receive proofs for potential covers from different designers. If you find one you like, then you close the “bidding” and work with that designer. The sites take a percentage of the fee, and the rest goes to the artist.
If your readers are on Amazon looking for their next download for the weekend, and if the cover is blah and the text for the title and author name is difficult to read, they’ll skip over it and go to the next title.
Your novel needs to look the part for it to compete with all of the other choices readers have when they’re ready to click buy.
Whether it’s for a physical book or ebook, you only need to format your book once. If you’re detailed and patient, you can do this yourself. However, if you shy away from advanced formatting features in Word or under-excel at software settings, you may want to hire an expert to do this for you.
Amazon’s CreateSpace, Smashwords, and Apple iBooks use the same Word file, translating it to fit the finished product. The number of words on each page, the fonts used, and the size of the text is designed to flow based on print settings or as flowable text on an e-reader. In-line formatting, which is the natural way most of us write, is not recognized by the conversion tools. Establishing global format to a full manuscript is how you make sure each chapter starts on a new page and, your table of contents appears correctly at the front of your ebook.
If you decide to tackle this task, I recommend Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker. It’s a free download and will hold your hand as you prepare your manuscript for publication. It tackles the most straight-forward of formatting as well as how to include special characters and images.
Summary + Bonus Tip
Investing in your book and your writing elevates your work from hobby to professional author. When your cover is spot-on, the story flawless, and the formatting free of distraction, readers will never notice who published the book, but instead your name so they can look for your next book. Check out our roundup of outsourcing websites where you can hire the skills you need.
Once your book is launched, but you’re still checking the conversion quality, add a prominent line of copy to the description. Stating it’s an Advanced Beta Copy and setting the price at $0 can work to your advantage. If your book is downloaded by a reader before all the final tweaks are in place, they won’t mind the errors so much. They may even feel they are part of an exclusive group getting a free read before it goes mainstream.
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