You have finally finished writing your book and you’re eager to see it in print. That’s natural; after all, you’ve invested a lot of time, your heart, and sometimes significant funds (if nothing else, in opportunity costs) in writing your book and want to release it to begin reaping the psychic and financial rewards. Your friends have been “dying” to read it; surely the reading public feels the same way.
Stop and take a deep breath, because you’re not ready to publish — yet.
Just because you’ve finished writing your book doesn’t mean that you’re ready to sell it. There are numerous steps that you need to take before releasing your book. The first two steps, described below, set the foundation for all the other steps you will need to take to help your book succeed.
First, you need to hire an editor and proofreader (they may be one and the same person, or they may be different people). Typically, “proofreading” refers to checking the galleys of a book that is about to be printed against the original text, but with self-published books, it tends to refer to the final copyedit of the book, which involves correcting grammar, spelling, punctuation and usage. Consider also investing in developmental editing, which will give you feedback on such issues as:
- What topics would someone who picks up your book expect you to answer, and have you done so?
- If you raise questions in the text, have you addressed them?
- Have you created a logical structure that a reader can follow?
- Have you established yourself as an authority on the topic?
- Are your main characters well-rounded and believable?
- Does each have a unique voice?
- Does the pace get bogged down such that you risk losing the reader?
- Is your use of language consistent with the period of time about which you write and for your characters?
- Have you created a structure or flow that a reader can follow?
- If you foreshadow events, does that information draw excess attention to itself?
Even if you are a writer or proofreader who has written a book, you cannot edit or proofread your your own book. Someone else must read your book and look for and correct errors.
When you read your own book, you anticipate what you’re reading and don’t notice the errors (for example, did you notice the second “your” in the first paragraph of this section?). Catching these mistakes requires the services of a copyeditor.
It is also hard for the author who knows his or her story well to evaluate if the book has any logical gaps or is missing key information that will keep the reading public from understanding or fully appreciating your work. That’s why you need an objective set of eyes on your book. While it’s helpful to have friends (who will be honest with you) read your book, you still require the services of a developmental editor to evaluate the book, as a whole, and a proofreader to catch any errors.
The expense of having your book edited, proofread, and designed by professionals is well worth the cost.
To find a qualified editor or proofreader:
Search the Editorial Freelancers Association or organizations of writers and editors in your area (in San Diego, there is the San Diego Professional Editors Network: SD/PEN (there are likely to be similar organizations in your area); or
You can also email the author of an independently published book that you felt was well-written and free of errors, and ask for a referral to his or her editor and/or proofreader. (Authors are more likely to refer you to their copyeditor, proofreader, and even book cover designer than they are to refer you to their agents,)
According to the Editorial Freelanders Association, basic copyediting (correcting grammar, syntax and usage) costs an average of $30-40 per hour at an average pace of 5-10 manuscript pages per hour; heavy copyediting (correcting grammar, syntax and usage, plus rewriting confusing sections, and correcting gaps in logic) costs an average of $40-50 per hour at an average pace of 2-5 manuscript pages per hour. Proofreading costs an average of $30-35 per hour at an average pace of 9-13 manuscript pages per hour
While you’re having your book edited and proofread, you can take the next step: have a book cover designed and the text properly laid out.
Despite the message we have repeatedly delivered to our children about the mistake of judging a book by its cover, it is a fact that cover design has a significant ability to get us to pick up a book. You should receive three completely different designs from your book cover designer.
Test the three covers on different people – your friends, yes, but more importantly, your local bookseller. Even if your local bookstore has a policy against selling Print on Demand (POD) books, which is how most independently published books are produced, you can ask the bookseller about the impression he gets from the cover. What genre does he think it represents? Does it look intriguing enough to pick it up and learn more about it? Does it look like it is of the same quality as a traditionally published book?
People like being asked their opinions, and you may get some useful feedback, such as, “That cover doesn’t look professional; I assume the writing won’t be professional quality, either,” or perhaps you’ll learn that the design communicates the incorrect genre. The cover will play an important role in your marketing, so it needs to be professionally designed. Make sure that it appropriately conveys the tone and content of your book.
The following articles and resources will be useful in finding, evaluating and selecting an experienced book jacket designer: http://bit.ly/CreativePenn-BookCoverDesign, http://bit.ly/PositiveWriter-BookCoverDesigner, and http://bit.ly/PageTwo-FindGreatBookCover.
Book cover design prices range from $5 to $4000. With such a broad range, the definition of book cover design requires some qualification. You can pay as little as five dollars for a book cover design on Fiverr.com, whereas some book cover designers (and not necessarily only those who design for traditional publishers) may charge as much as the cost of a good used car. In between there are such options as 99Designs.com ($299), CreateSpace.com (ranging from free cover templates with the ability to upload your own artwork, to $599), and costs that are higher and lower depending on the designer’s experience, talent, and what he can get away with charging.
When considering a designer, look at a portfolio of designs in your genre and see what impression they leave with you. Do you want a book cover designer whose experience is primarily with fiction or primarily with non-fiction? Find out whether he uses stock photos that anyone else could use, or modifies yours in such a way that it will become unique to your book. Make sure that your designer knows the requirements to print your book through CreateSpace, Lightning Source, or whatever printer you will use (specifications are published on their websites).
Also confirm that you will own the design if the work is done for hire. And if you’re publishing only an ebook version of your book, make sure you examine how the cover looks in thumbnail, because that is how it will typically be seen.
Your book also needs to be professionally laid out. If you are skilled at using InDesign software, you can do your own book layout. If not, there are plenty of resources at a wide range of costs. Be aware, however, that layout has a definite design element, including choice of font. Automated programs that merely fit text to a page using a few standard typefaces and taking only margins into account tend to look like they were designed by computer. Designers usually charge a flat fee of around $150-$499; CreateSpace.com charges $349.
You may be worried about ‘wasting’ time while waiting for your book to be edited, proofread and designed but, trust me: you will have no downtime while waiting for these important tasks to be completed as you will have numerous other responsibilities prior to launching your book.