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    Monday
    Nov262012

    Must Self-Publishing Authors Be Jacks-of-All-Trades?

    People used to be specialists. But the digital age is making jacks-of-all-trades of more of us every day. The transition isn’t always a smooth one. Nowhere is this more evident than the world of publishing. With the explosion of self-publishing and ebooks more people every day are churning out DIY books.

    Courtesy of ramsey everydaypants under Creative Commons

    People used to be specialists. But the digital age is making jacks-of-all-trades of more of us every day. The transition isn’t always a smooth one. Nowhere is this more evident than the world of publishing. With the explosion of self-publishing and ebooks more people every day are churning out DIY books.

    That’s great because it has opened up opportunities to get their work out there. It’s also bad because a lot of the books people produce are not ready to be out there. The reason is that many of the authors who hear the term self-publishing and immediately interpret it to mean that they will complete each step in the process of creating a book themselves. That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the self-publishing process.

    That’s great because it has opened up opportunities to get their work out there. It’s also bad because a lot of the books people produce are not ready to be out there. The reason is that many of the authors who hear the term self-publishing and immediately interpret it to mean that they will complete each step in the process of creating a book themselves. That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the self-publishing process.

    To understand why, let’s look at what a digital publishing professional, Bob Cohn, editor of The Atlantic’s Digital Edition observed about the magazine business as it shifts online. In a post titled Hiring in the Digital Age, Cohn observed, “Today, everyone is an editor-in-chief.” Digital tools make it possible for individual journalists to do a number of things that were previously done by specialists. Says Cohn, “What we're looking for, I've come to realize, is people who can do a bit of everything: report and write stories; write headlines and deks; select and crop photos; fact check and copy edit the work of others; make charts and graphs; oversee social media; manage outside writers. (And hey, can you do some coding?)”

    Cohn and The Atlantic are finding these multi-talented people with diverse skill sets. If these folks set out to DIY self-publish, they would probably be well suited to the challenge.

    Unfortunately many of the people attempting DIY self-publishing don’t possess the impressive array of writing, design and technical skills Cohn describes. The problem is, many of them forge ahead anyhow and it shows in their books.

    Self-publishers need to understand that self-publishing doesn’t mean that they have to do everything themselves. What they do need to do is understand what it takes to produce a quality book. Sound editing, graphic design skills to layout the book’s interior and produce a cover to draw readers to the book, and the technical tools to do all of these things are essential. Some experience with books and the world of printing and publishing are a very good idea.

    A self-publishing author who wants her final product to be a quality book should ask herself which of the requisite skills she possesses. It’s great to do-it-yourself if she really is a jack-of–all-trades. But, if there are some skills she doesn’t possess she should consider freelancers to assist her in doing the things she can’t. The resulting professionalism of the book ultimately produced will be immediately apparent.

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    Reader Comments (4)

    Biff, I hope everyone considering self-publishing their book reads and understands your last two paragraphs. Few of us can do everything well - but, first, we each do need to clearly understand the tasks that must be completed to produce a "good book" - by whatever publishing method. Then, we know which skills we have, and which we need to "out-source." Thanks for these excellent reminders!! ;-)

    Nov 26, 2012 at 7:04PM | Unregistered CommenterDr. Bill (William L.) Smith

    Thanks, Dr. Bill!
    I think one of the most difficult tasks for self-publisher is to understand that high quality professional services are out there and available to them. Working with freelancers is something most people have never done before, so they shy away from it when it would really make their life easier.
    Biff

    Nov 27, 2012 at 3:52PM | Registered CommenterNan Barnes

    You make some good points. I have, in the past, acted as a judge for an annual book contest. A lack of editorial attention is one of the main failings I frequently saw among self-published authors. Self-published authors have to realize, too, that many POD (print on demand) publishers will insist that their internal layout specs are followed. If not, they will reject your submission until you do get it right. Of course, many POD pubs offer editorial and layout services. The impulse to see your own words in print should never supersede the awareness that a POD pub is in it to make money; from you, the author. They don't care if your book is well edited or well written (and who other than a relative or friend would by a book that is neither?); they make money whether your book is good or bad, whether anyone buys it or not. If you don't have someone with the skills you lack look at your work, you're just throwing money away.

    Nov 28, 2012 at 10:32AM | Unregistered CommenterBrenna Pearce

    Thanks, Brenna,
    Your points about POD are good ones. Unfortunately many self-publishers search the web and find the Author Solutions imprints, Outskirts, Dogear or Publish America at the top of the search results. When they sign on with one of them they face exactly the situation you describe.
    Biff Barnes

    Nov 28, 2012 at 10:40AM | Registered CommenterNan Barnes

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