Which Self-Publishing Tasks Should You Outsource, and Which Should You Do Yourself?

Which Self-Publishing Tasks Should You Outsource, and Which Should You Do Yourself

Looking at a list of self-publishing tasks, I’m guessing you have soooooo many questions. It’s like, could there be more questions? Was this industry designed JUST TO GIVE YOU MORE QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN LIFE??


*takes deep breath and a short nap. returns*

Really, though, self-publishing is an epically involved industry, and while the process does become easier, it’s still pretty difficult. One of the biggest questions is how much “self” your self-publishing tasks should include, and how much outside help you should get.

Self-Publishing Tasks: As Much DIY As Possible

First, I want to make it clear that this is just my opinion. It differs considerably from many other opinions you’ll find out there – because I like to dance to the beat of my own drum, I guess. And because, people.

Anyway, my opinion is this: You should do absolutely as much as you can yourself.

I’m new to self-publishing, or “boutique publishing,” as it’s known in this rapidly growing industry. I’ve now put out two titles, both in fall 2017, with sequels to both in the works. By the end of 2018, I plan to have a catalogue of eight books.

I’m able to forecast this kind of productivity for a few reasons:

  1. I write for a living and so I’m pretty fast
  2. I learned how to design my own covers, format my own books and only pay for editing
  3. I’m willing to put up with a product that is inferior to one produced by a big publishing house

Expect a Different Product When Self-Publishing

I think it’s really important to acknowledge this point: Self-publishing means a different product than traditional publishing. If you don’t get picked up by a major publishing house, you simply don’t have the same resources.

For Kindle, it doesn’t really matter (although if you don’t get a good cover designer then it definitely does). For hard copies, it matters more, because print-on-demand can’t quite match what presses at publishing houses can do.

Again, I don’t think you should spend any time worrying about that, and I haven’t. In my time on #bookstagram, I’ve seen several people self-publish, first putting out a product that gives away its origins, then getting picked up by small presses. Or they progress from that to working with designers who have the skills to significantly enhance their product.

Outsourcing Self-Publishing Tasks to a Designer and Formatter

For my nonfiction book, I worked with a design team at Archangel Ink. They formatted my book, created a beautiful cover and edited it for an incredibly reasonable price. I was over the moon about the process, and would recommend them to anyone who wants a seamless boutique publishing experience.

However, that price was still in the low four-figure range, and I just can’t afford it at this stage of the journey. Will I use them again? Absolutely; when I’m not so new and my books are selling better.

My belief is that if you feel you can create a cover and have your finger on the pulse of your genre, go for it. I have a design background, so for my fiction book, I went ahead and did it myself. I think the publisher I used before would have made a cleaner job of it (I know they would have, actually), but I decided it was more important to get my work out there than to make it perfect.

I took the same approach with formatting my books. I used this tutorial for the paperback, and Calibre to make the MOBI file (the one accepted by Amazon for ebooks). I won’t lie; this stuff is hard. You may find it more efficient to hire someone else to complete these self-publishing tasks for you.

That said, you can learn to do it yourself. Period.

The Right Attitude About Self-Publishing

I can’t tell you how to feel about various kinds of publishing. For years, the stigma of self-publishing kept me away from it. Eventually, I woke up and realized: Do I want to be in the top .005 percent, or do I want to write for a living? I decided the latter was more important, and I ditched the stigma as well as the belief that I shouldn’t have to/wouldn’t be able to learn the nitty-gritty myself.

Here’s the bottom line: I want to build a catalogue. I figure every book I put out will get better, cleaner and prettier, and so I’m okay with not quite knowing what I’m doing right now.

I see a progression of thinking out there in the world that goes “I want to get published; okay I’ll self-publish but I need someone to do it for me; okay maybe I can learn X but not Y or Z.” Finally, I decided to take it all the way, and now – with the critical exception of editing, which I made the mistake of doing myself on my first novel (story for another time) – I do it all myself.

One last note: I’ve run into several traditionally published authors who actually prefer self-publishing, and have taken their later books to independent presses or put them out themselves. They like the increased control, the reduced emphasis on the promotional circuit and the larger royalties they get from online publishing platforms. So that’s food for thought.

So again, bottom line: I say go for it. You only have one life to live. (Although, if you read my novel, you’ll discover that I actually think quite differently on that point).

Write for a Living

Many people ask me what I do for a day job when they learn about my books. I tell them I’m a copywriter, mostly because that’s the truth and a little bit because I think it sounds badass.

I get my kicks where I can. Thing is, I believe wholeheartedly in the copywriting to self-publishing journey. For me, it’s been a huge step in the right direction to self-publish, but making the leap to first writing for a living was critical. I think if I had remained in the teaching field, I might not have ever gotten the chutzpah or know-how to do it.

Of course, you might be in another field, and that’s okay. If you want to write, though, I strongly encourage you to check out the Free Resource Library (image below!) and experiment with the idea of writing for a living yourself.

Let me know how it goes, and onward!


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