I’m a huge self-publishing proponent. Seriously. Knowing what I know now, after doing this for years, I would never make another choice. But, that said, self-publishing does have its downsides, particularly for those new to it.
I like to say (in reference to a lot of things) that you don’t know what you don’t know. That’s particularly true in self-publishing. I did a lot of things wrong when I started. I learned a lot of lessons and the most important is this: surround yourself with a good team.
So who do you need on your team? Let’s take them in order.
You. You’re the core. You’re the writer. Without your words, nothing else happens. Remember that. But at the same time, don’t let it go to your head. Yes, it’s your story, but realize that while you may think it’s brilliant and perfect, you’re probably too close to it. You need help.
Beta readers. These are your first line of defense against bad plots. You want at least three of them. More is not always better. I find that five beta readers is about the limit. Too many beta readers is often like too many cooks in the kitchen. Pick and choose your beta readers carefully. If you can find another couple of writers who are willing to beta read for you, that’s great.
An Editor. Your editor is probably the most important member of your team. Why? Because their job is to pick your manuscript apart and make it better. They’ll find plot holes, flat characters, and poor grammar. Do you really want to release your blood, sweat, and tears out into the world with twenty instances of your when you really needed to say you’re? No. Of course not. Do you want to release a book that your readers will stop reading ten percent in because you’ve repeated yourself ten times in twenty pages? No. So how do you decide on an editor? Interview them. Ask them to do a 2000 word sample edit for you. Get a sense of their style. Get a sense of what services they offer. Do they do a full developmental edit? Just a copy edit? Ask questions and though this is the age of email, if you feel that it’s important to talk to your editor on the phone, ask.
A Cover Designer. People do judge a book by its cover, whether that’s fair or not. Your cover designer needs to listen to you and get a sense of your writing style. How should you pick a cover designer? Well, look at their portfolio for starters. If you write fantasy and a potential cover designer only does non-fiction, they might not be the best fit for you. You should also make sure your cover designer provides some options for revisions. It’s almost impossible to get your book’s cover nailed down in one shot. You want a designer who will give you at least a few revisions. Font, colors, and placement of your title and author name are all important areas you may need to tweak.
A Marketing Manager. Now this role is totally optional. It’s very possible to market your book yourself. It’s possible to do it well. But it is time consuming. Marketing managers (or even author assistants) can create teaser graphics, help you with your Facebook and Twitter presence, and coordinate blog tours for you. If you want to bring in a marketing manager, here’s what you should look for. You want someone who’ll listen to you. You want someone who understands that social media is about building relationships, not selling books. Want a test? Ask a potential marketing manager how to sell books on Twitter. If they tell you that you should be tweeting buy links on a regular basis, that’s not a marketing manager you want.