Investing in Our Stories
By Susan Reimer
The same spirit that drives a writer to take a hybrid or indie approach to publishing can lead to the decision to take on every facet of publishing single-handedly. Writing, editing, formatting, and cover design can be done independently, depending on the writer’s abilities, but there is an argument to be made for partnering with professionals to make the book the absolute best it can be. Investing in outside help will result in a professional product that will appeal to the broadest audience possible.
Life’s most important events often come together with professional help. One person could do it all. But when the load is shared, it’s much easier to accomplish the vision. Accepting some help with life’s big moments—be they weddings, graduations, memorials, or baby showers—is common practice. Many hands make light work, as the old saying goes. People have different skillsets, and we’re accustomed to teaming up to make these events the best representation of a shared vision.
Publishing a book also takes a team effort, whether we choose traditional, hybrid, or indie publishing.
To use another analogy, one does not build a house without consulting some professionals. Maybe you have some skill as a carpenter, but does that mean you would take on the plumbing or foundation by yourself? The same goes for creating a book. As a writer, you have the ability to put words together, to transport a reader to a different world or time, to communicate a message in an unforgettable way.
As important as these skills are to the overall product, you may need to ask a professional in design or editing to take your creation and fashion it into something solid, appealing, and long-lasting.
If our desire, at the end of the process of writing, is to present our writing in the best possible light, we won’t shy away from investing some money to hire the professionals we need to make it shine. Spelling and grammar mistakes not only take away from the quality of the piece but they bring the reading experience to a grinding halt. They rip the reader away from the story and make it difficult for them to reengage with the story. Errors in writing are so annoying that people will comment on them and others will be warned that they exist. It is a sign of sloppiness, a lack of care, even laziness. No writer would want that kind of judgment levelled on them for a simple mistake that could easily have been fixed.
With hybrid and indie publishing, many wonderful advances have made that put the control back in the hand of the author. But somehow along the way, we have accepted the idea that making any monetary investment is somehow a moral failure—that to be truly successful, money should only flow towards us, not away from us. Are our books not worth investing in?
There are two areas that I think stand out in making our books competitive in the marketplace: cover design and editing.
The importance of cover design cannot be overstated. It is the customer’s first impression of your book. It’s what makes a reader pick up the book in the first place. Before seeing your name, before turning it over to read the back blurb, the cover is what draws the eye. It should say something about the story that is waiting to be discovered.
Cover designers are skilled professionals. They are aware of the current trends and can be trusted to bring your ideas to life. These trends are something the average writer may have no concept of. Everything from font to colour to position of images and text and many more things are taken into consideration when a cover is designed. A bad cover can kill your sales. And conversely, many books have been purchased solely on the basis of an attractive cover.
Without investing in cover design, there is little hope a reader will get beyond browsing to actually purchase the book and read it.
If there is one common criticism of independently published books, it’s the lack of professionalism in the final product. It is extremely difficult to not only write a book but take care of the editing by yourself. Unless, and even if, you are a trained editor, finding errors in your own work is grueling. Your eye tends to skip right over mistakes, as your brain knows what you had intended to write and fills it in. An objective set of eyes is needed to go through the manuscript.
This type of help is invaluable. Beta readers are wonderful for an overall impression of the work, but they cannot be expected to function as professional editors. There are many different kinds of editing from developmental, copy, line edits, and proofreading. Every stage is important and cannot be skipped.
In the author/reader relationship, there is an element of trust that must be honoured. Readers trust that authors have dedicated the time and resources necessary to make the book they are holding in their hands the best it can possibly be.
As authors, we trust that our readers will buy our books and hopefully enjoy the experience of reading so much that they tell everyone they know about it. When we abuse their trust by being lazy, by not doing our due diligence, by putting out a substandard product, a “good enough” effort, readers will be understandably disappointed and less likely to ever invest in our writing again.
There is also the matter of our calling to consider. If, as an author, you feel that God has called you to write, then you know He has provided everything necessary to fulfill that calling. He has given you the ability, the talent, the discipline, and the resources you need. He has promised wisdom to those who ask so we can be confident that He will guide us to professionals who will share our vision and work with us to ensure our work meets His standards of excellence. In the end, we do all for His glory, not our own.
For help with editing, cover design, and every aspect of the publishing process, please contact us for further information.
About this Contributor:
Susan Reimer is the author of the Forged in Flames young adult series, its companion book, Penelope, and the children’s picture book, Letters in the Woods. She enjoys kayaking and hiking in her native Northern Ontario, Canada.