In my mind, the real difference between self publishing and traditional is the control factor. Traditional publishing houses own the rights to the author’s book; therefore, they’re in control of everything from how the story is written to who the audience will be. If they want something rewritten to their specification, the author doesn’t have any choice once they’ve signed the contract.
Because of that, many writers decide to self publish. But, does that mean they’re completely on their own, having to learn how to edit, design covers and the ins/outs of formatting? Not necessarily. In fact, it’s just the control factor that's different. Instead of taking on the entire publishing process on their own, they can hire people to assist them. But, the big difference is that the author remains in control. They’re the employer instead of the employee and their vision remains in tact while others are allowed to help bring it to life.
So, which services should a writer hire out and which should they tackle on their own?
To create a self published product worthy of competing in the big leagues, authors want to be sure they hire a professional editor. A good editor should work with the writer from plot to proofreading. They will not only look for the holes and inconsistencies, but the best ones will offer recommendations and solutions to make the story shine it’s brightest, without losing its core vision. Of course, most writers want their story to remain as it was originally intended, but they should also be certain they write a page turning story where their audience gets lost in the prose. Nothing breaks that spell more than boring, unnecessary back story, dialogue that doesn’t fit with the character’s personality, and/or plot lines that are going nowhere, leaving the reader with more questions than answers.
The cover art is the next service that should be hired out. (Unless the author is a professional graphic artist.) Self Publishing has made it easier than ever for an author to get their work out to the public; but the downside is there are also many more books with which they must compete. With a book’s first impression based on the cover art, no writer should squelch on this important publishing decision.
There is some investment involved: either time or money.
But, the recent explosion in self publishing has increased the competition for those pre-publishing services, so it is possible to find highly competitive rates. Like with any important purchase, it’s always best to shop around and/or get referrals. For those services an author may choose to forge on their own, a whole host of free information on how-to self publish can be found.
Are you an author that has published on your own? If so, which services did you hire out and which did you feel you could handle yourself? Did you have to learn a whole new skill set to do it? I'd love to hear your experiences.
I have a dear friend who is getting ready to publish her first novel, and I am one of her Beta Readers.
I have been a Beta Tester for a Beta Launch or Beta Version, but a Beta Reader for a novel? What a novel idea - I love it!
If you are ready to self publish, right before you hire an editor, you might seriously want to consider finding some Beta Readers of your manuscript to ensure the best possible success of your hard work. Before you simply go ask Aunt Martha to read your book, and give her your pile of college-ruled, lined paper filled with your one-of-a-kind, handwritten brilliance, here are some things that might make the experience actually worth your (and your Beta Readers') time:
It is common practice for serious self publishing novelists to ask for feedback before the final stage of publication. Joanna Penn, Self Published Author of two Best-Selling thriller novels and voice of The Creative Penn says Beta Readers are essential to successful publishing. Find Beta Readers and use them wisely; you will be happy you did.Have you used Beta Readers prior to self publishing? How would you characterize the experience - Successful? Painful? Please share ~~Mary Kathryn Johnson
- Choose your Beta Readers carefully - Unless the aforementioned Aunt Martha is a professional copy editor, and can do double duty as editor and Beta Reader, you might want to find five to seven other people who love to read and/or write the type of book you have written. If your audience is primarily one gender, your Beta Readers should be also. Remember, you are asking these people to provide constructive feedback on your baby - make sure you feel their comments will possibly improve your book.
- Provide a format that is both easy and functional for your Beta Readers - I received an Adobe Acrobat version of Clare's book, which allowed me to add my comments by using sticky notes and the like. Joanna Penn, on the other hand, printed a version of her first novel and provided it to her Beta Readers for hand written notes. Whichever you choose, think of the ease of use for your Beta Readers, and be prepared to read your book many times with many comments.
- Give clear instructions and a deadline for your Beta Readers - You are looking for usable feedback, so provide usable instructions. Ask your readers to read as if they themselves bought the book. Have them look for plot/timeline confusion, character concerns, "speed bumps" that make the reader stop and question, factual errors, tone or voice confusion - any comments repeated by two or more Beta Readers tell you that a rewrite of that section is probably wise.
- Be prepared and have a plan for another red pen markup of your perfect baby - Many of us writer-types wed ourselves to passages, dialogue or scenes, and if those are questioned, we fight for our darling tidbits. If only one person questions one of your wedded verses, maybe they just didn't get it, but if two or more people question it...kill it! Which is more important...the success of your novel, or that one brilliant verse?
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