You've seen books for sale on Amazon, you know the ones- the cover designed on Paint, formatting all over the place. An author who's looking to build a career might be the one to press Publish, but they have a team behind the scenes working with them.
Today's guest Savannah Page, author of three novels, is here to share her experience with assembling her own publishing team.
I’m Savannah Page, a Writer.
When Laura approached me about writing a guest blog post pertaining to assembling a team, I jumped at the chance! If there’s anything I’m more passionate about than writing a good book, it’s having a great team in this indie author publishing world.
And that’s just it. I love writing a good book—writing a book. Not editing. Not designing a cover. Not formatting. I love to write. But I’m not a traditionally published author, supplied with a team to help me out with everything it takes to publish a quality book. Opting for this indie route means it has to be all me. Or does it?
My first book, Bumped to Berlin, was almost 100% my doing. I had only assembled half of what is now my current team when that book was released in December 2011. Don’t get me wrong; I am very proud of that book, and I loved writing it. And even more, I love the readers who have enjoyed it, supported my endeavors, and encouraged me to keep on writing, editing, re-writing, and publishing! But I know now that to be the very best I can be I need a team! I need beta readers, an editor…I need to polish and re-polish my work. Because that’s what my readers deserve: The absolute best I can give! What I didn't realize at the time of my first publication was that in order for me to really take my writing career seriously and go after it with sheer gusto, I needed my books to look professional and polished. Indies are up against trad-pubbed authors and other indies who have such books. I had to do my darnedest not to be lost in the shuffle.
That meant I needed to assemble an even greater team. I’d been seeing many self-published books that not only had great covers with stories that rocked (and were formatted well), but they had acknowledgments to editors. To beta readers! They had a full-on team!
With Bumped to Berlin I commissioned my computer- and design-savvy husband to create my book cover. He hit the nail on the head and keeps on doing so with each cover he produces. I’d seen plenty of not-so-great indie covers out there and knew that, as much as I hate that it’s true, books can sadly be judged by their covers. I didn't want my work to be overlooked because of a lackluster cover created by moi, the talent-less cover designer. A great first impression was imperative! So bring on the cover designer!
For those who don’t have a design-y friend or family member who’d love to help you out, there are plenty of indie artists out there who are doing exactly what you’re doing. You've got a $2.99 book out there—bargain-price—and you’re trying to reach out to readers—trying to make a living at your craft. So are artists. I've come across several individuals who offer some quality cover art for very reasonable prices. Look into it!
Then came the issue of formatting. I found out pretty early on that there were people willing to help indie authors format for a nominal price. But I had to at least give it a try on my own. It couldn't be that much harder than managing a blog…or doing planks in yoga. Surely I could learn and do it myself! But did I really have to completely go at it solo, per se?
As in, did I have to follow all of the tips and suggestions I’d gathered from forums and various indie how-to books that instructed how to turn a Word doc into a .mobi file for the Kindle? And. What? Another version for the Nook? I had to stop a minute. I didn't even like Word. In fact, I knew from the start when I wanted to tell my Berlin story that I needed to find myself some serious writing software. Word had crashed one too many times during grad school, genius papers disappearing, then being restored to their less-than-genius states, or sometimes forever remaining lost. No. I couldn't very well start my indie author career that way.
Enter Scrivener. A writer’s best friend! It’s right up there with my backup pen and notebook for plot ideas on the go. Scrivener has so many pluses but the one I’ll mention today is formatting (because I could rave forever about this software). If I was going to format e- books and even paperbacks without commissioning the help of someone, how could I do it as painlessly as possible? And as professionally-looking as possible? I took the time to learn how to properly format a book for various e-readers (and for a paperback version) using Scrivener, and now, with personalized templates, I have no dread or fear when it comes time to format my work and publish it. Scrivener was worth the forty or so bucks it cost and it’s an investment I can’t praise enough!
So half the team down: Author. Cover artist. Formatter. What about the other half that could really help make my books shine? (And possibly get me more sales!)
After a few kind readers of Bumped to Berlin contacted me about my pursuing my writing career, I got to some serious thinking. Many had said that while they enjoyed the book, they thought I had a fun voice, and they hoped to read more from me in the future, they strongly encouraged that I get an editor and a beta reading team. I needed polishing! I’d read the value of an editor time and again in my how-to books, and I’d heard that as great a writer as you think you are (and may be), you absolutely need an editor. While this statement can spark a debate among writers, and while I can understand the tight spot a budding indie author might be in with a minimal budget at hand, unable to think of spending money on such services, I personally cannot imagine publishing without an editor. Never again. Their advice and polishing of my books have been invaluable!
The editor with whom I've most recently worked (When Girlfriends Step Up), Liam Carnahan of Invisible Ink Editing, and my editor of When Girlfriends Break Hearts, Nicholas Ambrose of EverythingIndie, have done exquisite jobs at helping make me more proud of the works I’m publishing. If you want a polished piece, and the opportunity to learn more about your personal writing skills and how you can better hone your craft, seek an editor. I've had both of my When Girlfriends… manuscripts edited on a detailed level for less than $300 a piece by people who live-breathe-eat editing. They really go to town on a manuscript. Worth every penny!
The same indispensable advice and lessons about your writing can be found in your beta readers. I have a team of 3-4 friends who are kind enough to be my books’ first readers. They help me see any holes in the plot, with characters, with development…with everything! As writers, we can be so close to the work that we can lose ourselves in some areas that a beta reader, who is approaching the manuscript with virgin eyes, can spot right away. The more I write and the more helpful input I gather from my beta readers and editor, the more tight my stories get, and I feel I have a better handle of everything. They help me improve as a writer.
While I can’t change plot or alter characters’ behaviors to suit each and every reader’s taste, I can gather my beta readers’ various grammar and syntax corrections, and their smorgasbord of suggestions and right-off-the-bat thoughts. The things they will point out are amazing and make my novels that much better.
It’s an indie author’s world we’re talking about, and there’s no sure-fire way that will work or suit each and every writer. Everyone’s goals, expectations, budgets, and situations vary, and ultimately, I say you do what you feel is right. What you love. I've taken to this indie journey because I want to write and share my stories. It’s a passion to tell stories, and now, with the wonderful ability to self-publish online, I can take a stab at sharing my passion with anyone who wants to listen for a couple bucks (or even for free when my book will spontaneously “Go Free!” on Amazon). With the investment of time and passion that goes into my writing, I figure the investment of a few dollars to make my products as polished as I can is the least I can do for my books, for my brand as an author, and, most importantly, for my readers.
A big thank you to my fabulous team and my dear readers. I thought writing was a joy before…now it’s a fun-filled adventure!
Thanks again for letting me guest blog today, Laura!! It’s been a pleasure and I thank you for your helpful and insightful Blog. Happy writing!