Write to Self-Publish, Part 3

by Erin Brenner on May 12, 2011

Today we continue our series on DIY publishing, which came out of Steve Almond’s workshop, Viva the DIY Revolution! at Writers’ Day, put on by the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. In part one we looked at reasons to self-publish your book. In part two we discussed how to build your audience for the book and how to hire a print-on-demand (POD) publishing service. Today, we get into the nitty-gritty of really being your own publisher rather buying a package from a vanity press.

I’ll Do It Myself!

As with hiring a POD publisher, you must remember that you get what you pay for. You’ll need to vet and hire all the vendors for the jobs you can’t do or don’t want to do. This affords you a great deal of control over your final product, but it’s also a lot of work (even more than buying a POD package) and has its share of risks.

Before you hire anyone, consider whether you want to use a contract or not. A contract protects both parties in a business agreement. If halfway through a project your editor deserts you, taking your hefty deposit with him, and you have no contract, you have very little chance of getting the promised work or your deposit back.

On the other hand, a handshake or an e-mail is good enough for some people. If your spouse is designing your cover, there’s a vested interested in seeing the work through. Especially if said spouse doesn’t like sleeping on the couch.

I’m no lawyer, but I can say these are a few of the details to include in your contract:

  • Expectations of the vendor
  • Due dates
  • Payments
  • Costs
  • Liability
  • Contingencies if vendor doesn’t come through

You can find examples on contracts all over the Net, but unless you have a good handle on your local laws, your best bet is to have a lawyer draft you a contract template.

Related Articles:
Write to Self-Publish, Part 1
Write to Self-Publish, Part 2
Write to Self-Publish, Part 4

Treat this as if you were hiring someone to care for loved ones. Review the candidate’s resumé, ask to see samples (especially designers), and talk to past clients. Talk to the candidate and ensure he understands your project and you. Make sure you speak the same language—literally and figuratively.

Editing Services

Once you have a completed manuscript, your next step is developmental editing or an editorial review. The developmental editor looks at your book from 5,000 feet. She reads through your manuscript with several questions in mind: Does your thesis make sense and do you follow through the whole book with it? Are your ideas fully flushed out and in a logical order? Are there holes in your topic that would help the reader understand what you’re trying to say? If it’s fiction, do you tell a complete story? Are your characters fully drawn and believable? This editor will make suggestions about improvements that will affect the whole of your book. She may suggest adding another chapter, tackling an important side topic, reordering your chapters, considering your character’s motives, and the like.

Where can you find a developmental editor? In addition to hiring yours truly, you can check out these great resources:

  • Your network. A lot of freelance work is found by word of mouth. Ask people you know for recommendations, then do you your homework (see above).
  • Bay Area Editors’ Forum (BAEF). Search this well-respected organization’s member directory.
  • The Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). You can also search this well-respected organization’s member directory.
  • Advertising. If you haven’t found the right development editor yet, before you do a Google search, try a free or inexpensive ad in one of these organizations that focus on editing:
    • EFA. Maybe the right EFA member doesn’t list developmental editing in his credentials. Try this free listing.
    • American Copy Editors Society (ACES). Although ACES focuses on copyediting, many copyeditors also do developmental editing. E-mail (jobs@copydesk.org) your free job description to have it posted to the job board.
    • Copyediting. You can peruse the resumes for free and pay for only those candidates you’re interest in, or you can pay a little more to put up an ad (Full disclosure: I’m the editor of the Copyediting newsletter.)

When you’re done with the developmental editing stage, substantive editing and/or copyediting comes next. Your developmental editor should be able to guide you on the extent of these next levels of editing you’ll need. In a nutshell, substantive (line) editing looks at the paragraph level of your book, while copyediting looks at sentences and even individual words (I offer both services). Your developmental editor may recommend someone, or you could search as you did before, using the list above. Either way, don’t forget to do your homework.

Design and Production Services

Once you’re pleased with your text, you need someone to design a cover and format the book for publication. You could use one artist for both jobs or hire two different people. There are many resources for hiring designers and production artists, such as:

  • Your network. Aren’t you glad you started building a network before you started writing?
  • MediaBistro (MB). Search the freelancer market for free or pay to place an ad. MB is also a great source of editing help, so you could take advantage of the multiple-posting discount.
  • Freelance Switch (FS). You’ll find lots of artists in the FS directory. It’s free to search and free to place an ad, if you sign up for a free account.
  • POD publishers. This could be where you bring in the publisher to do specialized services for you.

If you’re not totally broke yet, it’s also good idea to have your manuscript proofread at this stage. This editing pass looks for typos, formatting errors, grammar and punctuation mistakes, and other blunders that would be embarrassing in print. Check out the previously mentioned resources.

Let’s Print!

Your words sing, your cover is gorgeous, and you’ve got files ready to go. Now you’re ready to print your book. You might use one of the POD publishers I mentioned last time. All are reputable and can be a good way to go. Just follow the advice about knowing what you’re getting for your buck.

Or check out the Espresso Book Machine. This is total DIY POD. Go to one of the locations, input your files, and in minutes your book is printing! Print as many or as few books as you want.

My Book’s in Print! Now What?

Take a moment to hold your book in your hand. It’s a vision of loveliness, isn’t it? Smell it. Ah, that new book smell! Feel the weight of it in your hand. Enjoy this moment. You’ve worked hard for it and you’ve accomplished a lot.

Done? Great, because now you have to sell the darn thing. Let’s talk about that next time.

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