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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Self-publishing: nuts and bolts

Publishing is a field where you can do a surprising amount of the work yourself, or pay someone a fairly small amount to do it for you. (Compared to, say, how much a car mechanic or a plumber goes for. But that's a whole different rant.)

Of all the aspects of publishing, this is one thing you do not want to skimp on. Despite the old saying, people absolutely do judge a book by its cover. Make your cover artist a major item in your budget.

Where to find one? I went to DeviantArt.com and posted in the appropriate forum. The price you mention will determine the upper limit of the talent you attract -- good, professional artists know what they're worth.

How much? The sweet spot is, of course, those artists who are obviously going to go pro (judging by their portfolio) but haven't yet. When I was shopping around the portfolios, I gathered that the absolute minimum price for the quality I wanted was $250. But I budgeted for $500-$800, which got me some nibbles from professional-level artists. You can go higher than that, of course, which will put you into increasingly higher quality levels.

Cover design
Easier than you think. All you need is a program that can put type on top of your cover artwork. All the type you need is: the book's title, and the author's name.

Use a simple, clear font. You don't want people to have to squint and stare to figure out what your title is -- because they won't, they'll just keep moving. Don't cover the important parts of your artwork with type. Get feedback from someone who doesn't know what your book's title is, if you can.

Do you want me to go on? Just ask.

Photo by Jenny Rollo
Editors, line editors and proofreaders
There's a wee bit more leeway here than with your cover artist. I'm of the opinion that several excellent betas can do the work of an editor -- assuming that you're skilled enough to implement their suggestions well (that's a whole 'nother post, stay tuned.) If you can budget for a freelance editor, do it. This will be as big a line item as the cover artist, in your budget. Possibly bigger.

Your freelance editor may be able to be your line editor, too. What's the difference? Editing on the larger scale involves your story structure, plot, characterization, and such. Line editing is all about your grammar, sentence structure, the stuff in the actual lines of your text. There can be some overlap between line editing and proofreading, too. Technically, proofreaders only look for spelling, punctuation, correct layout styling, and make sure that all the edits on a marked-up manuscript have been done. The actual text is not an issue, for a proofreader. It could be in Greek and I could still proof it. Proofing is harder than it sounds, but it's one of those things people think anyone can do. (You know, like writing a novel.)

If you can afford a freelance line editor and/or proofreader, do it. If you have a sufficiently nit-picky beta reader, English teacher, or friend, you might be able to get away with that. The important part is that you want someone who can be objective and impartial about your grammar and punctuation. You don't want them getting sucked into the story.

Stay tuned for more nuts and bolts...


Ink in the Book said...

I'm really looking forward to this week because before, when I tried to self publish, I just jumped in, head first. So I hope to learns some invaluable advice during the next few posts.
Thanks for doing this!

Jess said...

This is super interesting and answers a lot of my questions about the technical side self-publishing! Thank you for these posts :)

E.J. Wesley said...

Spot on advice. Lots of people aren't really familiar with the costs of self-pubbing, and I think this will help. Bottom line: if you want it to look and read like a professional quality title (you do, trust me), it costs money. Particularly if you aren't able or willing to spend a considerable amount of time learning the mechanics of conversion, design, etc.

Really enjoy this series. :-)

Liz said...

Yep, those would be the two things to farm out. I know I'm hesitant to try a book that's cover looks slapped together. And getting the grammar right is crucial.

Tara Tyler said...

this is great! i judge a self pub book by the cover then the grammar, you can tell who invested and thought their story was worth presenting the right way. seldom do i find a self pub book whose story makes me overlook atrocious grammar! it's distracting (like me never capitalizing...) if i go self, i will give my best effort, just like the meat inside will be well done!