Self-Publishing Series Part Two: Assembling Your Team

You’ve written your book and after careful consideration, you’ve decided that self-publishing is the right choice for you. All you need now is an editor and a printer and you’re good. Right? Well, not quite. From the outside, the world of publishing looks fairly straightforward. The writer writes, the editor edits, and the printer prints. But there are, in fact, a few more people involved in producing a quality book. Depending on your needs, there may be many more people involved.

Publishing a book is similar to raising a child. You invest your blood, sweat, and tears into its formation, and then send it off into the world with the hope someone (!) will love and cherish it the way you do. And while we’re on that analogy, it takes a village to do this.

In the case of your book, your village consists of some key players: the project manager, the writer(s), the editors, the designer and possibly illustrator, and the printer. You’ll also likely need someone to help you market the thing, but we’ll get to that in a later post. Not every book will need every member of this team, but every book will need at least some of these players.

At Girl Friday Productions, we take self-published books through the same process a book goes through at a traditional publisher. The majority of our editorial partners have done this same work in-house for publishers in New York and around the country. Whether you use us or someone else, industry expertise is absolutely something to look for. People can play fast and loose with terms like “editor,” “designer,” and “marketing expert,” so do your research before signing on with an editorial company.


The Project Manager:

The first thing we do with a self-published book at Girl Friday is assign a project manager. Why? Because book publishing is a complicated business! There are many details to attend to and many opportunities for mistakes. Your project manager is your key ally in creating your book, and is the one who makes sure everyone on your team can focus on their particular job. She will be your guidepost throughout this process and will serve as a consistent person to go to for answers to your questions and support when needed. She will usher your project from idea to writer to editors to designer to printer—and will know when to apply heat and when to take it off. By the end of this process, you may consider your project manager one of your best friends—or at least your most reliable one!

The Writers:

Writers? Isn’t there just one writer? Well, not always. Depending on the project, GFP may begin working with a client after the manuscript is written, but we often step in before this point. Some possible members on the writing team include a collaborator, someone who works closely with a client to help him or her write the best manuscript they possibly can; a ghostwriter, a writer who writes the manuscript based on the information provided by the client; a book doctor, a writer who substantially rewrites or finishes parts of the book the client is not able to finish; or a bylined author, who fully takes on the role of author or coauthor.

A ghostwriter may be employed when a client has a powerful story to tell but realizes it can best be conveyed by a writer with experience in the genre. Memoirs and business strategies are two types of books commonly written by ghostwriters.

A collaborator works hand in hand with a client to help convey the best story possible. An example of a collaboration may be a client who owns a restaurant and wants to write a cookbook. The recipes in the book are the client’s, but the collaborator helps format them in a way that is most enticing to a reader.

Book doctors often come into the picture after a client has completed a rough draft of a book and needs help completing it or substantially revising it. (A book doctor differs from an editor in that he writes or rewrites whole sections of a book.)

We also work with clients to provide bylined, established authors or coauthors. An instance of this may be a local corporation that wants a book celebrating a major anniversary and asks us to find the best author to write the manuscript. In this case, our writer does all the research and writing and works directly with the rest of the editorial team—from start to finish.


The Editors:

An editor is an editor is an editor, right? Nope. Every book involves a number of editors. There are three types of editors all books should go through on the path to publishing: a developmental editor, a copyeditor, and a proofreader.

Your developmental editor takes a big-picture look at your book and finds issues pertaining to organization, continuity, and, for novels, plot and character development. Sometimes called a substantive editor, the developmental editor ensures that the book makes sense and draws the reader through it. At GFP, our developmental edits also include a line edit (at publishing houses, these edits are sometimes separated). This means the editor makes edits “on the line,” fixing wording and correcting syntax or tense issues. She will also edit with an eye toward readability and will make suggestions for improvement.

Once the developmental edit is done, the copyeditor steps in. He is a key member of your team. The copyeditor fixes the text to ensure it aligns with Chicago Manual of Style rules, but he also does a fact-check (could your character really catch a train directly from Oslo to Trondheim?) and, depending on the level needed, does an additional line edit. A copyeditor may also review word choice and stylistic consistency, little things that can make a huge difference.

The proofreader is your next and final editor, and she works with your manuscript once it is in layout—meaning the designer has designed it and it looks like a book should look! The proofreader continues the job of the copyeditor, closely checking the text for any spelling or grammar mistakes, but also ensures that the text flowed properly into design. She will fix widows and orphans, bad breaks, and incorrect formatting.

If you are publishing a nonfiction book, you may also need an indexer. An indexer pulls proper nouns and topics from your text and creates an index guiding the reader directly to the page number. Cookbooks commonly have indices, as do history books.


The Visual Artists:

When you publish a book, it’s not just about the words—it also needs to look amazing. That’s where the designer and illustrator come in.

Your designer is the person who will make your manuscript a book. The designer will create a layout that reflects the nature of your book, and once your copyedit is complete, the designer will pour the text into the layout. The process is fairly straightforward for a text-only novel, and quite complicated for an illustrated book. Depending on your project, your book may go through up to three rounds of design tweaks, called passes or galleys, until it looks exactly the way you want it to. The designer will also work with you to create an eye-catching cover that conveys the spirit of your project.

Not all books require an illustrator, but if you want a custom-illustrated cover—say, for your science-fiction masterpiece—or we are creating an illustrated children’s book for you, your illustrator will be an integral part of your process. The illustrator works closely with the designer and writer to create the best cover or spread illustrations for your manuscript.


The Printers:

Finally, the book is designed and ready for publication. It’s time to push “Go”! Depending on the type of book you are publishing, we may recommend a print-on-demand printer, or we may recommend a traditional printer.

Nowadays, print-on-demand printers are becoming an increasingly viable and popular way to print books. For non-illustrated books or those that only have black-and-white illustrations, print-on-demand is a great option. You can purchase exactly the number of books you need—instead of the minimum quantity a traditional printer requires.

If you are publishing a four-color illustrated book, such as a children’s book or a book of photography, you will want to go through a traditional printer, who has the specialized equipment and expertise to provide custom work. While you can work directly with a traditional printer, the process is less customer-friendly than working with a print-on-demand printer. You may wish to hire a print broker to facilitate the process. This person will help you negotiate fees and quantities with the printer, explain the specifications (for example, what is paper over board, head and tail bands, or Smyth sewn?), and work to pick the best format for your book.

In the end, the term self-publishing may be a bit of a misnomer. You might call it, instead, team publishing. When it comes to self-publishing, finding the right team may just be the most important thing you do.