Ch 5.2 Hiring Your Team (Editors, Cover Artists)
While you can go DIY on everything for your indie publishing business, I don't recommend it, especially once you start to make money and can afford to reinvest in your growing business. While you may be tempted to skimp in the beginning, some costs quickly repay themselves in increased sales (like covers), where others may save you time (like formatting - see the next three chapters on formatting). Paying for services frees up time to write, and creating new intellectual property is the basis of your business, so generally speaking that is the best use of your time. Also: I love supporting other small business types (like myself), so I actually like the idea of paying for services, especially in areas where the freelance folks do such a better job than I can - it's win all around.
Choose wisely where to spend your money and where to spend your time.
Choose wisely where to spend your money and where to spend your time.
(See Appendix A - List of Freelance Service Providers)
Developmental Editing (editing for story content)
Line Editing (editing for craft, sentence flow, fluency)
Copyediting (typos, word usage, grammar)
How Do You Hire An Editor?
Get a recommendation from someone you respect and trust. Ask for a sample (most copyeditors will do a five page sample edit; most developmental editors will give you an example of the type of feedback they provide). Make sure you're compatible (this one is hard, but if you're having trouble communicating even in email, then it's probably not a good match).
Look for an editor that has a professional business website, is up-front about their rates, and has testimonials or other indicators that they can deliver on what they're promising.
Is Hiring an Editor Necessary?
Yes and no. (see below)
I personally think developmental editing is crucial. However, I also think you (generally speaking) should not pay for developmental editing when you're early in your career. I believe you're better off developing relationships with critique partners - partly because there's no way you can afford to pay for all the feedback you're going to need to learn your craft, and partly because doing critiques is a critical part of the learning process (especially early in your career). Critique partners can be developmental, line, or copyeditors, depending on their experience level and skill. And critique partners do not have to be writers (even readers will be able to tell you if a story isn't working for them), but you will get more out of swapping critiques with fellow writers. (Note I said swap - if you ask someone to critique your manuscript, you should be willing to reciprocate.)
Over the years, I've built my Critiquers of Awesome list, and I continue to swap critiques with the amazing people on my list. However, I'm also experimenting this year with a paid developmental editor (recommended via a very successful fellow indie author and her editor). Because my books have done well, I have funds I can reinvest in my writing, and this is one way to do it. Mostly I'm looking to move faster through the revision process, so I'm paying with money instead of time for my editorial services. However, I'm still keeping my critique partners (because they're awesome and provide amazing feedback for my stories), but this will allow me to reduce the burden on them (I tend to write fast).
I don't use line editors. Occasionally my crit partners will do some line editing as they go, but I'm confident enough in my craft to know when a sentence is working or not. However, if you feel like your prose could use some work, or if you're just starting out, I would recommend going to a critique group and have them pinpoint places for improvement, rather than pay for line editing.
For copyediting on my Mindjack Trilogy, I got several recommendations from the Kindle Boards, requested sample edits, and went with Anne of Victory Editing because she did solid work and seemed to "get" my prose - something not to be underestimated when a copyeditor is going through and trying to remove every sentence that starts with "But." For novels, I highly recommend hiring a copyeditor. For my novellas, I have not used a copyeditor, mostly because of the economics, but also because I tend to write clean - I know that the finished product will still be relatively typo-free even without copyediting.
Know yourself: if your writing tends to have lots of typos, please don't skimp on a copyeditor.
Indie authors can (and do) skip editing altogether and still sell books. It's tempting. Readers tend to forgive a lot for a story they like. I keep my focus on delivering a great story (which means developmental editing, paid or unpaid) that's clean enough not to distract readers (which sometimes means copyediting and sometimes not).
Hire someone to create your covers.
I can't really say this strongly enough. HIRE SOMEONE. There, that felt better.
It's tempting to use your daughter/friend/sister-in-law to make covers for you, especially if they have professional level graphic skills. I personally prefer to hire someone not related to me, because if the cover doesn't come out the way I want, I need to be able to say "sorry that's not working for me" and start over with someone else. Most professional cover artists will work with you to get what you want, and will professionally part ways if it's not working out.
How to Hire a Cover Artist
Look first at their portfolio. That should give you an idea of their skills/range. Don't expect your cover artist to create a cover out of thin air. Pitch the concept of your cover to them and see what their reaction is to it.
Get recommendations from other indie authors - you want someone who everyone raves about. (See Appendix A - List of Service Providers) Lots of people hang out shingles and have Photoshop skills, but cover art skills go beyond that into things like understanding typography, visual design, and knowing how to make something look good in thumbnail. Whether you have a contract or just a flat-rate agreement, agree up front on cost and time-frame.
Photo-Manip vs. Original Art
Many gorgeous covers have been made using stock-art (from places like istockphoto.com) - having a great concept and a fantastic cover artist gives you a lot of latitude. However, sometimes, an author may want to use original photography (a photo shoot, say) or illustrated covers. I caution authors against spending more than $500-$600 on a cover, unless you're fairly sure you can recoup the costs. That being said, I'm using original art for my steampunk fantasy romance, because I don't think stock-art will be able to capture what I need for that cover (and I think I can recoup the cost). Fantasy (and middle grade) often use illustration (judging by the covers in the Top 100), so I'm conveying genre as well with that particular choice. Figure out what your cover needs first, then look for the designer that best fits the work.
Books need a good cover to sell. $300-$400 may seem like a lot, but you make that back if you sell even 200 ebooks. Even short stories can justify money on cover art (something I doubted early on). If you spend $50-$100 on cover art, even a 99cent short only has to sell 300 copies to cover the art. A good cover can move those numbers.
Next up: a fun chapter on formatting!
(I'm completely kidding. There's absolutely no fun in formatting.)
Appendix A - List of Freelance Service Providers
Folks I've Used And Recommend
D. Robert Pease - cover design, interior design, formatting
Anne Victory - copy, line editing, proofreading
Steven Novak - cover design
Bryon Quertermous - developmental editing
Sheryl Hart - copy editing
A Little Red, Inc. - macro, copy editing, proofreading, final pass
Mallory Rock – cover design, book trailers, web/promo graphics, world map creation, swag printing, formatting
Kathie Middlemiss (Kat’s Eye Editing) – developmental, line, copy, and final pass editing
Kelly Bradley Hashway – developmental or copy editing
Bibliocrunch (Miral Sattar) – matching service between authors and professional service providers
Miral Sattar – Publishing Manager, formatter
Todd Barselow – developmental, copy editing, proofreading
Alicia Kat Vancil – cover and book designer
Katy Sozaeva – copy editing
Cassie McCown – content editing, copy editing, proofreading
Rik Hall – ebook formatting
Damon Za – cover design
Swift Ink Editorial Services – editing
Stevie Mikayne (Novel Publicity) – editing
Pavarti K Tyler (Novel Publicity) – beta and critique services as well as marketing consulting
Teresa McCammon-Asce – developmental and copy editing
Rana Kelly – comprehensive, line editing, and proofreading
Jenn Waterman (Modern Elektra Editing)– substantive and copy editing
Robin Ludwig – cover design and swag printing
Mickey – proofreading, copy editing, and content editing
Leah Kaye – graphic design and cover artist
Annie Crawford – line and copy editing, certified spanish translator/interpreter
Carol Oates – cover design
Heather McCorkle – cover design
Kara Malinczak – copy editing and proofreading
Yoly Fivas – substantive editor, book designer, formatter, consultant for ebooks and POD
Rachel Bateman (Metamorphosis Books) – developmental, copy editing, proofreading, formatting
Tara Rimondi – graphic artist and cover designer
Anna Howard – covers and author websites (wordpress)
Stan Tremblay – cover design, websites, ebook and print layouts
Dara Rochlin – book doctor
Chrishawn Simpson – editor, proofreader, typesetter, cover designer, typist
Jennifer Redstreake Geary – graphic designer, cover design, marketing materials, websites