When I started my own business, the world of self-publishing was just getting off the ground.
At the time there were often telltale signs that a book was not traditionally published, such as:
- The use of courier font
- No front or back matter, author bio, acknowledgements, etc.
- Very poorly designed (or not designed) jackets
- Xerox paper that glowed with a white/gray hue
- At least a half-dozen errors/typos on the first and subsequent pages
- Lack of typesetting and design
These are the things that stuck out the most, and as a result of the obviously poorer quality books themselves, the discrimination in the media against the self-published was considered justified. For a while, I considered starting a publishing consultant business whereby I would act as the Managing Editor. I would walk the author through all of the stages of publication so that the book would look more like, well, an actual book.
Boy did I learn to have an appreciation for all of those in-house managing editors, who must have had minds like traps to keep track of all of the details involved in preparing a book for publication.
Some things they need to keep track of include:
- Bar codes
- Jacket designers
- Interior book designers
- Front and back matter production
- Library of Congress data
- Content editors
- Line editors
- Page count/price of printing
- Paper selection
- Page proofs
- Resubmission of pages after a final OK from the author
- Submission of jacket and manuscript for printing (hopefully so they end up together)
- E-book formatting for multiple platforms
It is an arduous list and honestly, I knew it wasn’t going to be for me as the core of a business. I’m a people person, a media relations strategist, a brand marketing consultant—not someone who is going to love keeping track of the dry details of book production.
But as the saying goes, “someone’s gotta do it” and there are publishing consultants out there who do work with authors through the entire process making sure all of the details are managed. These people know where to go to get the job done, either using their own employees or a group of subcontractors.
If you want to consider hiring a publishing consultant or company there are some things to keep in mind:
- Find out how they charge—is it a project fee or hourly rate?
- Take your list of things you need to have done for your book (like the one I have put together above). Find out how these items are accomplished and what the fees are— are these things a part of the project or will these entities charge their own hourly fees on top of what you are already paying?
- How long will the process take?
- What will you need to do to?
- What projects have they recently completed and can you see some of them?
As with any contractor or consultant you hire (including a publicist), you will want to get as much information as you can so there are fewer surprises. Remember you are new at this and there are no bad questions.
You can also choose to be your own managing editor. For this path I would recommend researching how others have done it by visiting various indie-publishing websites such as the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), the Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLi) or Where Writers Win.
We have come a long way from the days of courier font, and fortunately there are many more reputable resources free and fee-based that will help you take care of you and your book that will give you an advantage when it comes to approaching media, bookstores, and selling online.