Publishing your book is an exciting time – there’s no doubt about it. However, you can’t do it all by yourself – even if you think you can. You’ve got to build your book team. But who should be part of it? This blog post will help you gather the people you need to make your book as successful as possible.
Why build a book team?
During World War One, a Chicago newspaper called Henry Ford an ‘ignorant pacifist’. Ford sued the newspaper for libel. During court proceedings, Ford himself was put on the stand so the newspaper’s lawyers could show the world his apparent ignorance.
Throughout, the lawyers asked Ford a number of questions to demonstrate his lack of general knowledge. After a barrage of questioning, Ford became increasingly irritated, tired of having to prove himself.
After one particular question, he leant forward in his chair and pointed his finger at the lawyer, saying,
‘If I should really want to answer the foolish question you’ve just asked me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer any question I desire to ask.
Now, will you kindly tell me why I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge for the purpose of being able to answer questions when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?’
The answer floored the lawyer. Hardly one of an ignorant man.
Why am I telling you this? Because you need to adopt the Henry Ford approach. You don’t need all the answers to publishing and launching your book. What you do need is your own team who can supply the knowledge and expertise you require. A team of professionals to get your book into the best shape possible.
Here’s who you need and when.
Okay, okay, I’m starting with more than one person, but you catch my drift, right? Beta readers are people you’ll approach before you send your book to a professional editor. They’ll give you feedback on the content and the structure, so you can make any necessary changes to your work before your editor looks at it.
Approach people you trust and whose feedback you’d like to receive. But avoid asking people who are just going to pat you on the back and give you a gushing sentence about how brilliant you are. While that’s lovely to hear, it’s not going to help you too much at this point.
You want readers who’ll be honest. Readers who’ll give you constructive criticism… as well as pointing out things they liked.
You don’t need lots of beta readers. Approximately 4-6 should do it. Use their feedback to help make further improvements to your manuscript. You don’t have to adopt all the suggestions, of course, but if something repeatedly comes up as an area for improvement, it’s usually worth considering it.
After you’ve made the changes from your beta read, you’re ready to send your work to your editor. You may feel apprehensive about this, but I promise you it’s a process you’ll actually come to enjoy.
Often, editors will specialise in working on certain types of books, even if it’s just non-fiction. As with any potential partnership, speak to a few different editors until you find one who understands your book and your message. Recommendations are useful here, as you want to work with someone who has a good reputation.
Your editor should take your book through the three stages of the editing process: structural, copy and line editing, although not all non-fiction editors offer structural advice. The less structural editing you need, the better. Another reason your beta readers come into their own.
Your relationship with your editor should be two-way. Improve your book as a team. Try not to be too defensive about your work. Yes, you’ve put your heart and soul into the process, but don’t let emotions get the better of you. An editor is coming at this impartially, which is worth its weight in gold. The more you work together, the better your book will be.
You can learn more about the editing process in this guest post by editor Jessica Brown.
Once you’ve gone through all the editing stages, you may wish to ask your beta readers to take another look, but it’s not essential. You’ll need time to make any revisions your editor suggested and then your book will be in its best shape yet.
Proofreaders are the final pair of eyes on your book before it goes to publication. They’re checking for any small errors. Many editors are also proofreaders, so you could stick with the same person or hire someone else to get another pair of eyes on it.
If your editor also offers proofreading services, they could offer an editing/proofreading bundle for a cheaper cost than paying for the two separately.
People judge books by their covers, as much as they claim they don’t. Your cover needs to get your reader’s attention for all the right reasons. If it looks shite, people will run a mile. They won’t even pick it up. Harsh, but true.
Not all graphic designers are able to produce covers. It’s often an area they specialise in. Again, look for recommendations. Why not check out the covers of some of the indie books you’ve read or seen out on the market? All authors will have at least credited the cover designer on the inside cover, if not in the acknowledgements.
Another option is looking at websites such as 99designs, Upwork or Fiverr where you can find freelancers willing to design your cover. You can also choose an ‘off the shelf’ cover from websites such as The Book Cover Designer.
Try not to do a DIY cover design if you can possibly help it – not even using Canva. It’s tempting but it’s very obvious you’ve done it yourself. If you’re putting together a short PDF ebook, you might get away with it, but even then I’d still try and get some simple graphic design work done so it looks as polished as possible.
If you’re preparing your book for a digital platform such as Amazon, you’ll need your book to be properly formatted. It’s not as simple as uploading a word document. You can format your own books with Vellum software or use the templates provided by Kindle or Draft2Digital, which are downloadable.
If you want to avoid the hassle, you can outsource this process to someone who knows what they’re doing. You’ll find plenty of experienced people on Fiverr who can do this quite cheaply.
You’ll also need it formatted for print too. Only send your book to be formatted once it’s completely signed off and ready to go. It’s the very final stage before publishing.
As well as giving you feedback on the early stages of your book, ask your beta readers to write reviews for launch week. But why not use some of your ‘superfans’ or trusted members of your audience for this role too? I’m sure you can think of a few people. You could also invite people on your email list to volunteer for the role.
Wherever you recruit them from, try to get about ten people. Give them pre-release copies and ask them to write an honest review on Amazon once release day comes.
You can use their reviews on social media as part of your launch week or on your website. Reviewers on Amazon must declare they were given a copy for review purposes, but you see that quite often so it’s nothing unusual.
So there you have it – the 6 people you need on your team when publishing your book. Remember, though, these are busy people, so get in early. Book your editor and cover designer when you’re writing your first draft.
Finally, I know your book is your baby but doing this on your own is a one-way ticket to Stressville. Build a team, respect their expertise and your book will be everything you want it to be…and maybe even a little bit more.
You can find more helpful advice on building your book team in my book, Dare to Write – where I cover the launching and publishing process in detail.