The Only 2 Things Authors Ought to be Doing

by Joel Friedlander on October 8, 2012 · 52 comments

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Part of running this blog is answering questions.

Many of these come from authors who’ve decided to dive into the waters of indie publishing. Spurred on by reading Joe Konrath‘s blog or by stories in the press about the contracts signed by e-book superstars, they are ready to take the leap.

(As an aside, this is already a pretty amazing paragraph I just wrote. Compared to the secrecy, dissembling, misinformation and prejudice that surrounded self-publishing during most of my career in the book trades, the turnaround is as startling as it has been rapid. Okay, back to the story.)

Now, authors are a lot like everyone else. Some are more technically-minded, others less so.

Some notice and appreciate typography, cover design, fine artwork and a beautiful page. Others either don’t notice or just don’t care about that stuff.

As my first boss, Harry Sandler, used to tell me, “That’s what makes horse races,” and I suppose he was right about that.

But There’s a Problem

When authors decide to self-publish, they naturally try to educate themselves, and that’s a very good thing.

They read blogs, buy books on self-publishing, download lots of free information on the topic, maybe take an online course.

Once they start to focus on actually creating a book, they get wrapped up in page margins, which fonts to use, who is the best print on demand vendor for their project, and myriad other details in the process.

Here’s my message for authors who think they have a book that will actually sell: don’t do it.

The Lure of the Process

Maybe it’s because much of the work of traditional publishers takes place behind a wall. It’s kind of the electrical and plumbing of book publishing.

Editors cut and shape manuscripts, designers create one version after another of the book’s cover until it’s right. Coders and typesetters and printers and binders work on creating the physical product that the book becomes.

Who knew what dark arts were being used to turn lumpy, awkward typescripts into beautiful, readable and enjoyable books?

In the belief that they now have to replace every one of the departments at the publishing house on their own, authors get stuck in the swamps of tutorials, courses, e-learning programs, webinars and action plans. How is anyone supposed to make sense of all this?

Of course no one person can be expert in all these fields. Even if you tried, you would be a novice in several fields at once. You know, the first books I designed didn’t look all that good. After all, they were the efforts of a novice, and we all know how those go, don’t we?

Where To Put Your Energy

Okay, here’s the follow-through. After talking to hundreds of authors, helping launch scores of indie books, sitting on panels and writing for several years on these topics, I’ve come to the conclusion that:

There are only 2 things authors ought to be doing: writing, and marketing that writing.

That sounds a lot like advice you might get if you’re a traditionally-published author, doesn’t it? But with a difference.

Just as the head of a traditional publishing house probably isn’t writing the press releases or setting up his blog syndication, you should focus where your work will have the biggest impact.

That means, unless you want to start a side career as a publicist or a blog technician, you should probably outsource all of that work. Everything. Why?

Because self-publishing does not mean “do-it-yourself publishing.” Self-publishing is not about:

  • picking fonts,
  • creating covers in Photoshop, or
  • learning Adobe InDesign.

No. Self-publishing is about controlling the process and the end result, it’s not about doing it all yourself.

Certainly you need to understand what an ISBN is and how to use it, but you might not need to get much more technical than that.

As long as you have a roadmap, you understand the process and where your books fit, and you have the ability to track and control your costs, you can run your publishing company by hiring the “technical” help you need.

This leaves you to write and market what you write. From everything I know, that’s going to give you the best chance for success.

Photo credit: Wiertz Sébastien via photopin cc

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    { 43 comments… read them below or add one }

    Michelle Hartz April 17, 2013 at 8:00 am

    I just came across this article today.

    I’m a self published author, and a full time, staffed, graphic designer. So, not only can I do the interior formatting and the cover design, but I want to. Other than writing the book itself, that’s my favorite part. I don’t want to outsource it.

    Now, outsourcing the editing, sure. I have no problem with that.

    But, I hate marketing. I hate trying to sell myself, none of the things that are suggested in marketing a book are things that I enjoy doing, and I hate the time it takes. So frankly, I don’t sell many books. I take my book to a few conventions that I would want to be at anyway, and that’s where I make most of my sales. My ratings on Amazon suck, possibly because my books suck, but the lack of ratings themselves has to have something to do with it too. I’m willing to live with that, I hate marketing that much. I’d rather be writing.

    So, is it possible to successfully outsource marketing?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander April 17, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Hi Michelle,

    I do hear that from authors pretty often. But if you only do one thing to let people know your books are out there, it will be one more than nothing, and I think that’s a good thing.

    Reply

    Leonard Bustos November 26, 2012 at 3:22 am

    After spending more than a day trying to figure out who to hire to help me, I came across this article which ironically confirmed what I set out to do.

    Here’s my conundrum and perhaps someone can advise me.

    I’ve almost completed my book “How to Attract Women by Mastering Online Dating” – The Baby Boomer’s Edition

    Who should I be looking to hire to:

    Edit and format it for e-book publishing
    Advise me whether I should use photos or Illustrations
    Where to put the photos and illustrations after I decide

    I would be grateful to find any articles on the subject of determining whether to use photos or illustrations and also where the optimum placement should be.

    Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 26, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Hi Leonard,

    It sounds to me like you will need to hire both an editor and a book designer. The editor will take care of editing your manuscript and getting it ready for publication. A book designer can advise you about the differences between using photos and illustrations, and will take care of placing them in the file.

    If you’d like a referral for either of these services, please use our contact form to get in touch.

    Reply

    Nora Esthimer October 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I needed that message. I may need to have it tattooed on my hands. I’m waiting for my Lightning Source account to be activated so my pdf can be uploaded, and for the person formatting the .doc for Smashwords to finish up. The only metaphor that comes to mind is, hanging by my thumbs.

    I could be writing, huh?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 26, 2012 at 11:29 am

    It’s a temporary condition, Nora, once you’re through with all the setup chores, you’ll be free to write (and market!).

    Reply

    Doug October 12, 2012 at 10:45 am

    It’s NOT hard to format and self-publish your own book. Unless you’re a complete techno-phobe, you can do it yourself. It’s not hard (download the free program Sigil), but those that offer these services for hire want you to believe it is. If you don’t want to deal with it, fine. Find someone to do it for you. In my experience, most authors that look at self-publishing don’t have a lot of extra cash. Why spend it on something you can do yourself pretty easily?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 12, 2012 at 11:08 am

    But it IS difficult to create a professional-looking book if you have no idea how do to so. Of course, if you are satisfied with something less than that or don’t have a need to compete with books from people who DO know how to produce a top quality book, then go for it.

    Reply

    Kelly Miller October 11, 2012 at 7:20 am

    There’s great wisdom in your simplicity. Thank you. Sometimes we make things harder than they need to be.

    Reply

    Spike Pedersen October 10, 2012 at 10:27 am

    There is a different dress size on every rack. While everything that is stated above is true to an extent, if you are not considering self-publishing because it’s hard, you are being left behind while the Enterprise is moving away from you at warp speed.
    25 titles on the New York Times list were by Indies. And where are the big six looking today for their best sellers? Toward Indy authors who through self-publishing, have proven they have a winner.
    The big six are not taking on new authors like they were a few years ago because they can pick a winner who has proven out.
    Many of the book designers, and editors, etc., have hung their own shingle and you can purchase the things that just a few years ago, only a publisher could provide.
    I do agree the best thing for your well written book is your next book. Do that. The stakes are higher and the climb is uphill. Just like it always was.

    Reply

    Jaime Buckley October 9, 2012 at 7:34 am

    I think your comment sums it all up perfectly, Joe:

    “Learning how to do something feeds my craving for knowledge. Of course, the more I do, the better I become. I may never become a master at anything, but I feel I will eventually produce a product that looks and feels and reads like the real thing.

    I grew up in a household where people did the job themselves; they didn’t hire someone to do it. We were self-sufficient (a dying breed unfortunately). I learnt by doing: how to shingle a roof, change the oil in a vehicle, replace a brake drum, plant potatoes, knit socks, change a light fixture, build a shed and the many other things that come along in life. Now people hire others to do it or buy the product. Except I don’t. I still have the ‘If I can do it myself, why hire someone’ attitude.”

    –That’s where I come in, as do many of my friends. It’s what makes this website so perfect. It caters to those of like minds, Joe…and I would venture to say you’re seeing there is a desire to BE more like this, even if some don’t know how (yet). This is why so many come here.

    What I take from this article is to take advantage of professional help if and when you can, so you can focus on the most important aspects of the process—making more books.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 9, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Thanks for your comment, Jaime. A lot of the motivation for starting this site and providing all the hundreds of articles on how to “build better books” is exactly what you said, to help authors publish books they can be proud of, and to demystify the process along the way. Enjoy!

    Reply

    PA Wilson October 8, 2012 at 10:37 am

    When I first started I did everything. I didn’t do a great job with some of it and I realized soon enough what I would do and what I would pay for. I agree with Marina, it does take time to find the right people. The work is worth it when you find the right person. I now pay for critique, proofread and covers/marketing copy.
    So, I’m there with only doing writing and marketing. My next goal is to have the services funded from my book sales rather than from my day job.

    Thanks for the post.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 9, 2012 at 10:33 am

    That’s a great aim, PA, and when you reach it you’ll be on your way to a sustainable business from your books. With so many people publishing their own work, it seems to me that that’s the next step for lots of authors.

    Reply

    PA Wilson October 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    It does seem like a long term goal right now, but I’ve met every other goal I’ve set so I’m optimistic.

    Reply

    Tracy R. Atkins October 8, 2012 at 6:13 am

    “self-publishing does not mean “do-it-yourself publishing.””

    That is the quote of the year right there!

    As self-publishers, we love to get down into the throws of discussing and learning the nuance of every part of the publishing business. However, the reality is this; true “renaissance people” are rare. It’s OK to ask for help, hire out pieces of the process and use services where you don’t have experience or time to do it all.

    You certainly have the right to do it all yourself, but you don’t have to if that isn’t what you really want to do. There are options. A TON of options, for everyone and every budget. I pride myself on my DIY spirit and can-do attitude, but I couldn’t accomplish 100% of the entire process from end-to-end on my own. I hired out the work that i couldn’t do competently for a commercial product. I’m A-OK with that. Its reality, we are all human.

    Reply

    Bob Mayer October 8, 2012 at 6:07 am

    The hardest thing we have to do at Cool Gus Publishing is talk an author through the value of working with us (I am NOT recruiting here– we do not take on new fiction and our production schedule is slammed). It takes about 45 minutes talking about the organic nature of the eBook as opposed to the static nature of print.

    We are constantly trying new things. While Select Free has sort of died out, we stumbled across a way to use it more efficiently and with interesting side effects. We will be launching an app with a new company using credit/debit cards with embedded computer chips where you can credit against my eBooks with each person to receive free books (it’s complicated, don’t ask). We basically invented Nook First and sold PubIt on it last year. We’re working on other new initiatives that we will pitch PubIt, Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo and other at NINC and the SelfPub Expo at the end of the month.

    The key to success (beyond good book, more good books,) is to stay ahead of the technology, not chase it.

    Reply

    Diane Tibert October 8, 2012 at 5:56 am

    If I had a choice, I would only write and market, but since I’m struggling to save money for a pair of boots this winter and behind on the phone bill, spending hundreds of dollars on a cover, formatter and web designer is out of the question.

    I agree if a writer doesn’t have a creative bone in their body, they should hire cover designers. If computer software is more difficult than programming the VCR clock for them then they should hire someone to format their book. If they can’t create a simple website on WordPress, then by all means, hire some tech to create one.

    But they must then face the fact that instead of producing a book for under $1000, they are spending several thousands of dollars before getting that book into the hands of readers. For many of us, that’s impossible.

    If I spend a few hours learning how to format—not rocket science by the way—then I’m able to format all my books. The more I learn, the more efficient I become. I now write in the basic format, so all that’s left to do is tweak it to the specifications required for Kindle, Smashwords, etc.

    Saving money by not sourcing out work allows me to spend money on the most important part of a book: editing. Instead of spending small amounts for four or five different services, always looking for the cheapest I can afford, I can bundle that cash and pay for great editing.

    Posts like this one that try to make writers believe that some sort of great mysterious magic takes place behind a publisher’s door is entertaining at best. Perhaps I’m just naïve and a wonderful team of experts that can’t be replaced by a single person and a hired editor does live there, but until I see the light, I’ll think that they are only human, subject to their opinions of what is best.

    That said, once I make a fair living off my books, I’ll outsource some services to give me more time to write, but I agree with other commenters here: looking for the services is time-consuming. In the time it takes me to find a cover designer, I can have a cover created.

    The quote used by a commenter: “only worked from 9 AM until about noon” and had servants! Giggling. That’s a traditionally-published writer who was expected to product a great work of literature only once a year. Unfortunately, that’s not the average traditionally published writer. Most barely made enough to survive, and it hasn’t changed today. Saddling self-publishing writers with thousands of dollars of expenses will keep them poor, too, barely able to survive.

    Reply

    Kelly Langston October 8, 2012 at 6:02 am

    I agree about outsourcing editing. I wouldn’t self-publish without a good editor.

    Reply

    Tracy R. Atkins October 8, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Diane,

    Self-publishing on a very tight budget is a completely different ballgame. It all becomes about choosing your battles. We often debate what we will or won’t do, but in this case, it’s sometimes what we can’t afford to do at all.

    Readers will give little to no sympathy to the author’s situation, unless the books is about that situation or struggle. Typically, the reader expectations are the same for self-pub titles as they are for a large commercial release. This puts a lot of pressure on a “starving artist” who is struggling just to make ends meet.

    On the surface, writing to make some income, even if it’s just an extra $20 here and there, is a noble goal. Being hungry for success is a powerful motivator, especially when you just want to put some shoes on your feet. (Though it is high risk with an often-low ROI) Where to save and where to spend becomes a paramount decision, no matter the skill level. Is that cover important enough to not eat for a few days? How about those printed ARC copies.

    In all honesty, a homeless person could actually write and publish in today’s America. Most libraries have free access to PCs with internet. PayPal can be a buffer for not having a bank account. A motivated person could use public resources to write, draft, self-edit and publish a work for free. Given some dedication to publicity, may even make a few dollars.

    Anyone can learn the skills necessary to make something passable. That is where sites like this one come in to save the day. My print and ebook formatting are all from Mr. Friedlander’s free advice. Following his instructions, I feel that my book is pretty close to what I see on the shelf in terms of layout, format and readability. That bit of knowledge has saved me thousands of dollars. (I AM thankful for it!) The cover design I have took hundreds of hours and went through over 100 revisions, again using free advice. I could have saved a lot of time by outsourcing it, but the challenge propelled me there. Like you, I needed a good editor and that is where a lot of my budget went.

    That’s the wonderful thing about this new order in publishing, the choice is yours. When there is no choice, there are resources out there to help you make something that will pass first inspection. You just have sacrifice time and effort instead of cash. If your back is against the wall, it sometimes becomes a decision to peruse the project at all. But if you want it bad enough and have the patience and persistence, you can accomplish amazing things.

    Reply

    Tracy R. Atkins October 8, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    One caveat I meant to add. A pro will often give you great results on the first set of samples. There is quality to be had, and hiring out for that quality is often a smart business decision.

    But, if you can’t afford it, you can’t. I can understand that totally. (Trust me!)

    Reply

    Diane Tibert October 9, 2012 at 6:57 am

    I understand what you’re saying, Tracy. I should have added that I love creating books as much as I love writing them. I don’t have formal training in anything, but I’ve taken the odd night course in photography and creative writing and learnt through doing. All the images on my covers and websites are mine. I don’t have to worry about copyright issues because of that.

    Learning how to do something feeds my craving for knowledge. Of course, the more I do, the better I become. I may never become a master at anything, but I feel I will eventually produce a product that looks and feels and reads like the real thing.

    I grew up in a household where people did the job themselves; they didn’t hire someone to do it. We were self-sufficient (a dying breed unfortunately). I learnt by doing: how to shingle a roof, change the oil in a vehicle, replace a brake drum, plant potatoes, knit socks, change a light fixture, build a shed and the many other things that come along in life. Now people hire others to do it or buy the product. Except I don’t. I still have the ‘If I can do it myself, why hire someone’ attitude.

    I understand doing most of the work yourself is not for everyone. Some just want to write. Period. Some want to dabble in formatting. Great. But there are a few who love the whole process, taking those words, making them the best they can (with an editor–I’d never publish a book without hiring an editor) and creating a product they can be proud of. I take special pride in my covers and when someone asks about them, I can tell a story about every picture, even the sea horses and anchor on the map in my fantasy novel. All the images are truly Canadian.

    To me, a book is not just my words between two fancy covers; my book is all mine, from shiny cover to shiny cover. And the more I learn, the better it will become.

    Reply

    Kelly Langston October 8, 2012 at 5:47 am

    Joel, you really hit it with this article. The process of writing is surrounded by a thousand rabbit holes of technical details. My habit is to follow each one. As a web developer, I’m intrigued with the technical needs of creating a book, yet the writer in me lets me know it’s the MESSAGE that needs to be the focus. Why is this so difficult?

    Reply

    Kelly Langston October 8, 2012 at 5:59 am

    I am not opposed to farming out work, but I really struggle with the economics of doing that… at least for now. My writing simply doesn’t bring in the money that web development/consulting does. My goal in the next year is to find a way to make writing financially feasible for my family. My first traditionally published book, Autism’s Hidden Blessings, sold well for a first time author … but I’m still in the hole financially when you consider the consulting work I gave up to write it. (It was a labor a love.)

    If I am to continue to write, my family needs me to find a way to make ends meet. That’s why I’m thinking self-publishing for the next one. Joel, your advice in this area is superior to all the rest. Thank you.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 8, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Many thanks, Kelly. I realize that this can be a difficult balancing act, but if you’re looking to a long-term future publishing books, it really really pays to make those books the best they can be. That will pay dividends for a long time. For most people, that means bringing some professionals on board for specific parts of the process.

    Reply

    Marina Sofia October 8, 2012 at 5:03 am

    I do agree with what you are saying (and I know you don’t intend it to sound like a plug for services). The only problem is finding those reliable experts who can do it for you. And I suppose also knowing when to let go. A small case in point: my mother had to give in and get a cleaner a couple of years ago (outsourcing of work). Of course she spent the whole time following the cleaner around, inspecting, nagging, complaining that the work was not quite up to her own high standards etc. Soon that cleaner left. And the next. And the next. So now my mother is either trying to do the cleaning on her own (when she really shouldn’t, for health reasons) or driving my poor father mad to do things PROPERLY.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Good point, Marina, and I’m sorry your mom is having so much trouble “letting go.” As a designer, I sometimes hire other designers, so I know exactly how hard this can be.

    Reply

    Diana Jackson October 8, 2012 at 4:43 am

    So true. I follow your blog regularly Joel. I also agree with Lynn. It takes time to find the right people to do the right job. We cannot do it all ourselves and shouldn’t try. Mind you I don’t think anyone has been brave enough to write clear blog about the financial implications and that’s why, I believe, writer’s try to cut corners. I only pray that the first time through the process is the hardest.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Thanks, Diana. In fact lots of authors chronicle their publishing journey including the costs involved, and there’s also an extensive series of posts here that break down the costs for different kinds of self-publishers: What Does Self-Publishing Cost? A Preview

    Reply

    Bob Mayer October 8, 2012 at 4:26 am

    This is why I have a company. From the very start when I decided to start bringing my backlist out I hooked up with Jen Talty (actually SHE suggested I bring my backlist out back in the wilderness days of 2010) and she took over all the technical aspects of the business. I think the term “self-publishing” is an oxymoron.

    It’s interesting. I focus now on two things: writing and marketing. What a surprise. Anything technical I turn over to Jen and we’re expanding, hiring others to do the mountain of work needed to maintain and produce over 100 titles with 12 authors and growing.

    The best promotion is good product. Better promotion is more good product.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 8, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Well said, thanks for that Bob. I don’t consider “self-publishing” an oxymoron since all that it really implies is an author publishing their own work, but it does seem that people take it to mean “I do everything,” not usually the best course of action.

    Reply

    BettyMingLiu October 8, 2012 at 4:09 am

    Great advice! I will take it to heart. This is inspiration that I needed to read right now. :)

    Reply

    Lynn October 8, 2012 at 3:22 am

    Finding the people to outsource that will do a good job often takes as much work as doing the rest yourself, at least that’s been my experience. It sounds good to say “these are all you should do”, but even when you outsource, there’s a lot of work involved in that process. Then you have to spend a lot of time clarifying your vision, and sometimes the designers still want to do their own thing. Then people you do find often find other jobs after you hire them for one or two books, and you have to start the process over again. Once you learn the process of formatting, 1) it’s not really that hard (or wasn’t for me), and 2) it doesn’t actually take that long. Covers I do want to outsource sometimes, but I think the intimation that it’s not work even if you outsource them is wrong.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 8, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    No, it’s not “no work.” The difference is that once you’ve found and hired a freelancer, you’ll end up with a professional result.

    Reply

    Lynn Blackmar October 9, 2012 at 8:06 am

    I don’t put out non-professional looking books, even if I do it all myself. Just because we’re authors doesn’t mean we’re not capable of being freelance artists and designers, too. But it does depend on the person.

    I’m not saying I’m spectacular as a graphic designer, but I’ve seen professional graphic designers do worse, and like others, cost is a big factor. I’d like to hire some of it out, but it’s not as easy as the article makes it sound, nor should I hire a designer for things I can do myself well.

    Reply

    Gary Dorion March 22, 2013 at 7:57 am

    This is a great article. Yeah, I’m one of those self-publishers who wish I had the funds to source out everything except the writing but, I have to agree with Lynn B., hiring some of it out is “not as easy as the article makes it sound…”

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    But on the other hand, nobody said becoming a book publisher in addition to being the author was going to be easy. I told another side of this story here: Frustrated Self-Publisher Escapes DIY Trap

    Michael N. Marcus October 8, 2012 at 1:43 am

    Good advice for most self-pubbers — but not for all.

    I’m one of maybe seven people in the world who actually enjoy formatting pages, and I would hate to let someone else arrange my words. (I do hire editors.)

    The covers on my first ten or so books were produced by ‘real’ artists, but based on my concepts. My more recent book covers are all mine.

    In a past life, I got paid to write press releases and advertising for others. I can do it for myself.

    In sixth grade I was taught how to make and attach book covers. In eighth grade I was taught how to set type by hand, and I can certainly pack and ship books — but I don’t want to do those things.

    Years ago, my first books were published by Doubleday and a tiny publishing company. I hated the books and my earnings. I’m much happier with what I publish myself.

    My desire for total control might seem like a mental defect (Obsessive Publishing Disorder?). But I’m probably no nuttier than a woman who grows and cooks vegetables, a man who catches and cooks or sells lobsters, or people who build their own bookcases or airplanes.

    I definitely don’t recommend my process for everyone.

    BUT if authors at least try taking a picture, using Photoshop, formatting a page, designing a cover, producing a website and writing sales copy, they might get an appreciation for the talent and time needed to do it well, and will be able to communicate better with the pros they hire.

    Michael N. Marcus
    http://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
    http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com
    http://www.BookFur.com
    http://www.Facebook.com/SilverSandsBooks

    Reply

    Tina Back October 8, 2012 at 8:55 am

    You’re not alone. If you already have some of the tool set needed and enjoy using it, why shouldn’t you? It’s not Obsessive Publishing Disorder, it’s simply Obsessive Publishing of Perfect Books.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 8, 2012 at 11:15 am

    You do have quite an unusual set of skills, Michael, and your advice about understanding the parts of the process so you can be more effective at hiring is great, thanks.

    Reply

    Jaime Buckley October 8, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    (takes a deep breath…)

    I agree with both Michael and Ernie to a large degree–finding my own thoughts in the middle. Like Michael, I have an unusual skill set–and though I love the process now…it was force-fed me over time.

    I started Wanted Hero as a comic…and all through my journey, I was told “you can’t do this” or “it’ll cost you $XK to do that” and I got fed up. I was usually broke…but had basic tools I was willing to use to the best of my ability until something better opened up. It took time, but I slowly learned to do the jobs on my own. It was a lot like what you said, Joe—the first few projects didn’t look so great, but I learned…and people didn’t seem to mind, because they loved the story.

    Now, I’m not saying to put a half-baked product out there. I’m just doing the best I can with what I have. Would I pay someone to do most of this for me? You bet! Once I can afford it. I’m starting to make some money and shake this stigma placed upon our stout and dare I say, brilliant breed. However, I would strongly urge each and EVERY author to learn these skill sets anyway, from start to finish, for one important reason: To avoid being held hostage, delayed or taken advantage of during the publishing process.

    Hmmm. So maybe I was wrong…and I agree with Michael completely…lol. BTW Michael, you don’t have a mental disorder, you have an orderly mentality.

    You should understand these skills so you can communicate intelligently with other professionals. You should have key services and information blogs bookmarked and follow them religiously, IMO. Joe’s website is actually the first button in my bookmark bar…and yes, Joe, I recommend this site (and you) to everyone.

    If you’re forced to walk this path alone (like I was), I would recommend learning the following, in order–not saying I’m right, just a personal suggestion:

    #1) Learn to self-edit. It sucks, I know, but develop self-correcting habits.
    #2) Use the right tools–my top pick is “Scrivener” to write and eBook formatting, “Adobe InDesign” for print. Have to admit, InDesign had a huge learning curve for me, but I can spin a clever book now without asking anyone’s permission.
    #3) …goes with #2 and that’s typesetting. I still have a long way to go, but I’m getting there and I can’t recommend this site (or Joe) enough in this area.
    #4) Cover design. It’s a huge subject. It not only takes skill–it does require some good taste.
    #5) Learn to do your own book trailers. It helps jump start the attention you’ll need.

    Don’t mean to ramble here, but I greatly appreciate all this fantastic feedback and great wisdom, as usual, Joe. My books improve dramatically when I apply what I learn on this site.

    Let it flow and document as you go, that’s what I say. Then again, I’m just the father of eleven kids, what could I possibly know about real life…? (wink)

    Reply

    Ernie Zelinski October 8, 2012 at 1:00 am

    Great article: Great advice. Hard advice for a lot of us to follow.

    Some people will think that you trying to convince authors to use services of others when they don’t have to.

    This quotation is from the late British writer who only worked from 9 AM until about noon and then took the rest of the day off. He ended up
    quite wealthy and had something like 7 or 8 servants attending to him.

    “I made up my mind long ago that life was too short to do anything
    for myself that I could pay others to do for me.”
    — W. Somerset Maugham

    Also add:

    “Success means only doing what you do well, letting someone else do the rest.”
    — Goldstein S. Truism

    Of course, the great fortunes in this world were made by people who knew how to hire the right people and delegate the work to them.

    Someone may ask why not outsource the marketing as well. That is true to a certain point, but a truly creative author can also be truly creative in his or her marketing and out perform the best of so-called book marketing experts.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author, Innovator, and Prosperity Life Coach
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 165,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 8, 2012 at 11:13 am

    You always come up with a couple of great and appropriate quotes, Ernie, thanks for that.

    And I totally agree with you about marketing. Although marketers can be of tremendous help, in the end it’s the knowledge and passion of the author that will get the books selling.

    Reply

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