As you go through the self-publishing process, you might find the array of tasks before you overwhelming – design a book cover, get a photo of yourself, proofread the manuscript, format the text, upload the text, pen a cover blurb, write then send out press releases, etc. etc. etc. – and you’re a writer, not an artist, marketing professional, or book publisher. Given this, you’re probably relieved to see self-publishing houses offer such services.
But which of those services do you really need? And are they a good deal?
You probably need some of the services that self-publishing houses offer. Unless you have experience working with publications beyond writing, you simply may not have the expertise to put together a professional-looking book. The good news is that even if lacking such experience, you still can do it on your own by reading guidebooks, such as this one, so long as you are willing to make the time commitment.
Still, you have to know when you’re out of your league. For example, I’ve designed some of my books’ covers and contracted designers to handle the rest. While I can do basic design work, the more sophisticated the artwork, the less capable I was of pulling it off. For those complex projects, I searched out design experts with the necessary skills and software.
But needing some of the services that a self-publishing house offers doesn’t mean you need to purchase them from a self-publishing house. Such houses typically charge more than what freelancers would (Full disclosure here: I offer some editing and self-publishing services as a freelancer.). In addition, many self-publishing houses don’t offer the most personal service; after all, they have hundreds of clients on any given day who need work done, so often templates that don’t best meet your needs are used and little contact with you beyond generic-sounding emails occurs. Further, you probably aren’t getting the best expertise when going with a self-publishing house. Their employees tend to be straight out of college, and while they may know their self-publishing house’s systems really well, ask yourself who you want designing your book cover – someone with several years of experience or someone who started a few months ago and uses a template?
The downside of not going with a self-publishing houses’ suite of prepackaged services is that you now become a general contractor. Finding freelancers requires you to shop around. First you’ll need to identify some freelancers. A simple Google search or going to websites where you can bid for freelancers’ services (such as Elance or Guru.com) is a good way to start. Next, when soliciting bids, you need to clearly state for freelancers what you want them to accomplish for you. Be specific when explaining yourself. Consider asking freelancers to answer a few questions about themselves – such as years of experience, seeing a portfolio, how they charge for services, turnaround time, and references – to help you make an informed decision. Finally, while how every author arrives at a final decision of who to contract always is a personal matter, consider balancing the elements of cost, experience, and meeting your specific needs. In short, don’t make a decision solely based on who’s the lowest bidder. Proven experience almost always trumps cost if you want a quality product.
My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.