To sub-contract or DIY…that is the question


I am a capable person and can learn new skills pretty quickly. On several occasions, I have forced myself out of my comfort zone and researched everything there is to know about an obstacle that has been placed in my path. I have studied a variety of topics, anything from flora and fauna genus to formatting your text through Microsoft Word. What I have learned (at times the hard way) is: just because you can do something, doesn’t always mean you should.

If you have already published, either traditionally or Indie, chances are you have already figured this out. But for those of us just starting out, here are 3 areas of developing your book that, in my humble opinion, you want to leave to the experts.

Editing – Hire someone even if proofreading or editing is something you do for a living.  I can’t stress this enough. It isn’t enough to have your close friend look through your manuscript for typos,  although if you have a limited budget that is a very good start.  Even after going through rounds of editing and polishing, I still managed to find enough corrections in Sea of Dreams to publish a second edition. A fresh set of eyes, or two, will allow you to make your story the best version of itself it can possibly be, and doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank. There are a lot of free-lancers out there who do a wonderful job, organizations such as the Editorial Freelance Association can help you find one to suit your needs. Another thing you can do, is pull out the books by all of your favorite authors and see who they had their editing done by. There may be a chance that they used someone that takes on new projects, and if not, it will at least get you looking at websites that will lead you in the right direction.  Be sure the editor you choose offers to do a reading and comment session on the first few pages of your manuscript prior to committing to a contract.  This will give you a good feel for the person, and let you know if they will provide good feedback for your particular writing style.

Cover Design – No matter what anyone says, books are judged by their covers, so you need to make sure you have one that reflects the theme of your book adequately. If you are a graphic designer, then by all means, have at it and create your own cover. But chances are you aren’t and you should stick to what you are good at. Writing. So, because I am a glutton for punishment, I can tell you that I did take an Adobe In Design class at a community college nearby. Not because I wanted to create my own covers, but so I could wrap my head around the time it takes to develop one.  I highly suggest doing the same, if for no other reason than you will understand and appreciate what you are being charged for the service. Even the most visually simple designs take  a great deal of time and I was blessed to have a very patient teacher who held my hand through the assignments. He was quick to ask if I needed help, and I was so impressed with him and the passion he had for his work, that I hired him to do the cover and formatting for my first book long after the class had ended. We have been working collaboratively ever since.

Formatting – This is one of those things that can be done pretty easily, but if you aren’t comfortable with it, there are a ton of services out there that can assist you at a pretty reasonable cost. I chose to have my graphic designer handle the formatting for the print versions of my books which I feel gives them a more finished look. He is able to add drop caps and chapter break images that reinforce the theme of my series. The formatting for the digital versions I decided to tackle on my own, at least for now. With my background in technical writing and the classes I took along the way, I felt it was something I could handle.  I can tell you that a book by Audra North entitled The Romance Writer’s Self-Publishing How-to Handbook was invaluable to me in those beginning months!  She walks you step-by-step through the process of formatting your manuscript in Word, and does it with easy to follow dialog. If your budget doesn’t allow for hiring someone right now, I highly recommend downloading this book, which isn’t just for romance by the way. You can apply the techniques to any genre. At the time of this article, it is free on Kindle, which means the prices is right as well!

I realize that there are authors out there that have complete creative control over their product and may have also done pretty well for themselves, but I find that for me, I would much rather be spending my time doing what I love. Writing! Besides, in a small way, I feel I am helping the economy by paying someone to do something I am perfectly capable of doing. So while I know I can do it…it is that I choose not to… which frees my time up to do what makes me happy.  I call that a win win!