An author wishing to publish their book on their own will need to perform a number of different functions to prepare the book for publication. Most authors are unable, or unwilling to perform some tasks. There are tasks that an author may not have the ability to perform. They wrote a book, but formatting it, designing the cover, converting to eBook format, and so on may be outside their realm of expertise. They need help.
So who can help an author as they prepare to publish their book? In a previous time, an author’s only option would be to submit their book to publisher after publisher until it was finally accepted, or not. The plan was that the publisher would accept the book and perform all the tasks necessary to prepare and sell it.
But times have changed. It has always been difficult to get a book accepted by a publisher, but as the publishing industry has cannibalized itself, with publisher buying publisher, there is even less opportunity for authors to publish the traditional way. This coupled with the fact that self-publishing has become easier and more fruitful for many authors, has led to an increase in self-published books.
Enter the “Publishing Assistants.” A Publishing Assistant is a person, group or organization that has particular abilities that can be helpful in the publishing process. Examples would be editors, artists, illustrators, marketers, and so on. An author might need assistance with the final edit for their book, and so they hire an editor. They might need a cover design for their book, so they hire an illustrator, or a graphic designer. A formatter would help with print and eBook formatting. A book marketer would help to sell the book, etc.
So why doesn’t an author just pay a company to perform all of these services? They can. There are businesses devoted to helping an author prepare for publication. Some are dedicated to certain areas of expertise, and some offer complete packages. This might be a good choice for some authors, as long as they are diligent about making sure that they hire the right organization. But some authors don’t need help with everything. They can perform some of the functions themselves, and may want to only pay for the areas in which they need help.
The internet is full of “experts” offering these services to authors. An author can search endlessly trying to find the right expert. And, once they find someone they’re comfortable with, there still is no guarantee that they will be a good fit for the author or their book. An author should take certain precautions when hiring Publishing Assistants. Here is a list of precautions that they should take when before doing so:
- They should ask to review previous work. A cover designer should have a strong, appealing portfolio of covers that they have designed. An editor or formatter should show excerpts of work that they have done. A book marketer should be able show proof of successful sales for a book or books that they promoted.
- The author should ask the PA to perform some work for the author’s project. Although there might be a small fee involved, it can be worth the cost to ensure piece of mind. For example, the author can furnish an editor with a chapter of their book to edit. Reviewing the results can give the author an idea of the editor’s abilities and style. The author might furnish the chapter to several editors, comparing the results to find the best editor, and the one that best matches their writing style or flavor. Similar efforts can be made for most areas of expertise. Mock up cover designs for a cover designer, sample web pages for a website designer, a few pages worth of audio for an audio book creator, and so on.
- Finally, regarding the financial facet of the process, a Publishing Assistant should offer a contract for their services, and an author should carefully read the contract before signing. The terms should be agreeable to the author, and the author should have spent some time researching costs and timelines of similar experts before agreeing to the terms. Make sure that there is a timeline spelled out in the contract and that there is a release clause if the contractor does not live up to the language of the contract.
The author shouldn’t pay the full amount for services up-front. At most, the author should pay no more than 20-50% of the total cost before the work starts. Although it is always good to think the best of people, it is human nature to procrastinate when the money has been pre-paid and is no longer an incentive. And never leave the cost open-ended. A firm total cost should be part of the contract.
Although the use of Publishing Assistants can take some time, effort and money, it can be worth it, especially considering all the effort that the author put into writing their book. With the help of Publishing Assistants an author can turn their rough manuscript into a gem. They can set up their book to be sold in print, eBook and audio format. They can set up a marketing plan that promotes their book to the world. They can achieve what may be their life’s dream.