What’s better? To be a jack of all trades or to specialize in a particular skill? Naturally, there are arguments for either choice depending upon the circumstance. Let’s say you’re an athlete and have suffered torn cartilage in your knee; you’ll want to consult with an orthopedic surgeon. After all, they’re experts at what they do. So why is it as authors, we don’t seek out experts? Why do so many of us try to do it all?
Assuming that the writing is in place, let’s examine all of the jobs or tasks that are required to bring a book to market.
Publishing Requires Juggling —
- Cover Art
- Digital and Paperback Formatting
- ISBN Registration
- Synopsis Writing
- Keyword and Category Research
- Distribution / File Uploading
- Marketing and Public Relations
- Social Media
Phew…what a list! Considering that today’s reader has an abundance of choices available to them, it makes sense to give your audience what they crave….more books! Many authors have learned that one of the secrets to building a loyal fanbase is to release their books in rapid succession. Some debate the pros and cons of doing this with a series versus a standalone novel.
Regardless of which choice, series or standalone, how do you keep up with your writing if you’re busy with so many tasks? And if you are taking on all of these responsibilities, are you doing each one justice? Whether we’re talking about graphics or formatting, there is a definite skill involved in each.
Let’s examine three of these tasks in greater details — cover art, formatting, and social media — and analyze what makes for a superior job versus one that is somewhat mediocre as a result of not focusing on only that task.
Can you judge a book by its cover?
We’ve all seen them…the book covers that stand out from the rest and not in a good way. Considering that now there are numerous contests for book cover art that can benefit the writer as well as the artist by bringing attention to your book, you don’t want to attempt cover art on your own for the sake of saving money.
Especially considering that many cover artists create what’s known as “pre-made covers” that can provide immense cost savings. These are covers that aren’t created to your specifications but rather, fit a typical genre such as romance or thriller. Writers will see one of these covers (often times as low as $30 and typically not higher than $75) and use their great imagination to actually pen a scene into their novel that suits the cover image, thereby making it appropriate to their book.
Functional Formatting is Key for Reader Enjoyment —
Many new authors do not realize that proper book formatting requires knowledge of specific softwares that can generate a file format that is accepted by the ebook retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes and more. Furthermore, Amazon won’t accept the same format as the rest. They want what is known in the industry as a “mobi” file whereas the other ebook retailers will accept an “epub” file. As you can see, simply uploading a Word document from your computer won’t cut it, even if you think it’s beautiful with fancy fonts littered throughout your text.
Professional formatting will save the author time because you won’t receive error messages from the ebook store sites. Imagine if you did receive an error message. Would you know where in your entire book to find the problem? And, if you did find it, would you know how to correct it? For this reason, as well as the aesthetic quality that a professionally formatted book can bring to the reader, it’s important to choose a professional book formatter.
In my opinion, professional book formatting should serve three functions: saving the author time, bringing aesthetics and beauty to your words, and providing a level of technical functionality. Clever book formatting will include numerous benefits to the reader experience. Here’s just a few things that can be added to your ebook with formatting:
- Hyperlinks within the text to outbound URLs
- Author social media links
- Link to Amazon’s listing of the book whereby a reader can leave a review
Social Media…Fun and Games or Serious Business?
Let’s face it, social media can be fun. Why wouldn’t you want to spend time on Facebook chatting to readers, tweeting messages on Twitter to other authors, or posting pictures of your adorable pets on Instagram? Because quite simply, social media is a time sucker and if you’re serious about your writing, you need to limit your time online. However, there’s no denying that if you want to sell your books, you need to be visible and have a proven author platform.
How do you do both? As authors, how do we find the time to write our books and use social media? In a word: balance! I write extensively about how to live a creative and balanced life.
It’s a subject I feel strongly about because we all wear many hats. In no particular order, I’m an author, a wife, a mother, a book packager, and a ghostwriter. Trust me, I understand busy. But I also have learned when to back off and ask for help. In terms of social media, I think it’s a great idea to learn a few key lessons from social media strategists and then experiment with how much of this task you can do yourself and still maintain a regular writing schedule and your sanity.
As to answer my initial question, should authors do it all? I think it’s wise to educate yourself. Know how much a cover will cost. Research the different formatting fees. Spend time on social media and see if your tactics are converting to sales. Once you educate yourself, it’s easier to hire an expert because you understand what their job is and you’ve developed realistic expectations.
If you have questions about anything publishing related, I’d love to chat.