When it came time to choose a copy editor for my book Material Value, I selected the editor who wrote, “Whether or not you opt for me as your editor, I’m excited this book will be in the world.” If I hadn’t been satisfied with Ariel’s sample edit, I wouldn’t have hired her, but her comment influenced my decision.
Authors who self-publish must build a team of experts if we want to our books to be indistinguishable from traditionally published books. If we do it right, we can sell hundreds or thousands of copies to readers we have never met. We need editors, cover designers, typesetters, indexers, and other professionals who will make our manuscripts shine.
How do we select these experts? Here are a few aspects to consider:
• Experience – How long have they been working in the field?
• Quality—Does their work meet expected standards for successful books?
• Availability—Can they complete the project by your desired deadline?
• Responsiveness—Do they reply to emails and phone calls promptly?
• Fit—Are you going to enjoy working with them?
• Cost—Is their pricing within your budget?
Choosing based on pricing alone is not likely to work out well. While some editors or designers who are just starting out or are based in countries with a low cost of living turn out excellent work, many do not. After putting in so many hours writing our books, we should invest what we can in hiring the right team.
Review the bio and portfolio of anyone you are considering. Does their list of works include those in your genre or category? Are their interests and passions aligned with your book topic? If you find a good match, the person you hire will enjoy the project and be highly motivated to complete the job to the best of their ability and on time. They can also indirectly help with marketing.
My first stop when looking for an editor was the Northwest Editors Guild. Many metropolitan areas have such guilds and post profiles of editors. Authors can search by type of editing, preferred genres, and more. I filtered the list and selected six editors to contact. I gave them a brief book description and offered to send an annotated table of contents. To those who expressed interest, I sent a five-page excerpt for a sample edit.
All the editors who completed the sample edit caught the same obvious typo, but beyond that, their suggestions were slightly different. Still, I could tell that they all knew what they were doing and any of them would have done a fine job. But between Ariel’s editing style and her enthusiastic response to the book, it seemed like the right match.
Nonfiction books in business, science, history, and similar categories benefit from a comprehensive index. While it is possible to create an index yourself with indexing software, professional indexers have the expertise needed to ensure that the index is as useful to readers as possible.
I discovered my indexer at a Northwest Science Writers Association (NSWA) event. The event featured a table for members to display their recently published books. I approached Judi as she was grabbing a colorful book off the table at the end of the evening. I asked her if she had written it, and she told me she had indexed it. What perfect timing! My manuscript was with my editor and I was looking for an indexer.
As I leafed through the index in the book Judi had brought, I explained my book topic, and Judi immediately said she would love to index it. My project seemed to be a perfect fit for her interest in sustainability. I didn’t hire her on the spot, but I took her card and followed up.
Both Ariel and Judi have gushed about my book and shared it with others. Yes, they have a vested interest in the book’s success because it’s part of their portfolio. Their names are on the copyright page and in the acknowledgments (I advise listing everyone who helped you, volunteer or hired). But since they also share an organic enthusiasm for the book, they feel a greater obligation to help get the word out.
I met Judi again at a recent NSWA event and, this time, my book was one of those on display. She made a point of talking with everyone who picked it up. She has called the book a “must-have for every environmentalist” and writes, “When a bill came up in Congress relating to materials used in Teflon, I used the simple, clear explanations in this book to make the case for passing the bill.”
To all authors out there preparing to self-publish your next book: I hope that you find professional experts who will improve the quality of your book and promote it with authentic enthusiasm.
Julia L F Goldstein is the owner of JLFG Communications, producing white papers, articles, and other technical marketing content for companies manufacturing a wide variety of products. She blogs about materials and sustainability on her website and is the author of Material Value: More Sustainable, Less Wasteful Manufacturing of Everything from Cell Phones to Cleaning Products. Julia leads the Seattle chapter of the Nonfiction Authors Association. Learn more at https://juliagoldsteinauthor.com.
If you like this blog post, you’ll love this book: The Nonfiction Book Publishing Plan by Nonfiction Authors Association CEO Stephanie Chandler!