Authors unfamiliar with the book publishing industry can sometimes stumble on the path to publication by not understanding the definitions and roles of people in editing, production, distribution, and sales. By having clarity on the function and purpose of service companies and freelancers, authors can be smarter about hiring the right help.
Editorial help falls into three broad categories:
- Development and content editing (often leading to revision and big-picture changes)
- Line editing and copyediting (which helps shape the material on a sentence level)
Editing processes should always start at the top and work down. You do big-picture editing and revision first, followed by line editing or copyediting, and then end with a final proofread to catch typos and obvious errors.
It can’t be emphasized enough: not all editors are alike, and not all types of editing should be done at the same time, on the same pass. For the highest quality book, authors should plan to hire editorial help at all three stages.
Book Design and Production
Most authors need these book design and production functions fulfilled:
It’s rare that you can find a single designer who specializes in print book design, ebook production, and website design. Usually, you’ll need one designer to handle the print book (and sometimes even two—one for the cover and one for the interior), and if your ebook requires complex formatting or design elements, you may need to hire a specialist to assist. Then either you or a designer will need to translate or incorporate your book design into your website and digital media promotional materials (such as your social media profiles).
Book Distribution and Sales
This is where a great deal of confusion occurs. Most self-published authors cannot—even if they want to—hire sales help. That’s because there are few or no retailers or sales outlets that accept a meeting to discuss a single book from a single author, especially if that book is self-published. Retailers meet with representatives from major publishing houses to discuss the entire fall or spring list to make the meeting worth their time, not just one book.
However, it is possible for indie authors to get book distribution that equals the distribution of traditionally published titles. By using IngramSpark, for example, authors can make their book available to retailers around the world, at little or no cost. But it’s up to the author to build market awareness and demand for their book that would cause retailers to place orders for the book. A book can be well-distributed, but sell poorly because there is little or no marketing effort. Which brings us to the last category.
Book Marketing and Publicity
There are many types of book marketing and publicity help, leading to the most confusion as to what investment to make. “Marketing and publicity” is a large umbrella term for very different activities, including:
- Copywriting: writing good, persuasive book descriptions for retailers and your website
- Keyword and search optimization: making sure your book is easily found through search engines or retailers
- Pricing: choosing and setting appropriate price points
Inbound Book Marketing (Online)
- Producing an effective author website and possibly a blog
- Creating and sharing podcasts, videos, newsletters, or social media posts to reach potential readers
Industry-Focused Book Marketing
- Review campaigns: sending review copies to professionals or readers who might review your book; possibly paying for professional reviews
- Advertising: Getting visibility to librarians, booksellers, book clubs, and others who work in the book publishing industry
Getting Media Attention or Book Publicity
- Approaching influencers to talk about your book, interview you, or host you at their site or blog
- Pitching traditional media outlets: TV, radio, print
- Pitching online media outlets
Launch and Post-Publication Book Marketing
- Setting up events or speaking at events (conferences, signings, shows)
- Deciding when to have discounts or giveaways after launch
- Evaluating the news cycle and identifying ways to pitch the media again on your book
An author may be able to hire a marketer or publicist who can put together a big-picture plan that encompasses all of these areas and more, but sometimes a budget can only sustain efforts in a couple of these areas. The most critical areas for laying the groundwork for long-term success is product optimization and a strong author website. All other efforts typically do better when those things are at an A+ level.
Before any author hires help—especially if they’re new to the industry—they should list the very specific goals they hope to achieve, and try to match those goals with a professional who has experience in those goals.