Producing a book requires a lot of different roles be played. It needs a researcher, a writer, a proofreader, an editor, a book designer, and a marketer. If you want to self-publish your book, that shouldn’t mean that you have to take all this onto yourself. If you do, not only will you probably make yourself ill, but your book will probably be a bit of a mess.
The first thing any self-publisher should know is that being a successful self-publisher is very hard. Really, being a successful writer is very hard, and self-publishing makes it that much harder because you don’t have the time and resources of a publishing house to back you. However, if you can learn the ropes and hire some good assistance, it is definitely possible.
A good editor is fundamental. Don’t think you can do this yourself. An editor does much more than point out spelling errors, because if they did you could just use spell-check and call it a day. The real service that an editor provides is in structuring your work, telling you what reads well and what you could do without. You might even be a good editor yourself, but no one is a good editor of their own work. You need distance on a project to be able to critique it without bias. There’s nothing more frustrating than reading a book that you can tell has been poorly edited, and people will be expecting this from a self-published work, so make sure you don’t fall into that trap.
It might even make sense for you to hire a ghostwriter, as they can assist you with your research, your writing, and act as a developmental editor, helping you structure the work as you go. This will cut down on time and money, as you will require less of an editor later. A ghost-writer can be a really great resource for a self-publisher, because it will help provide an outside perspective on the work and keep you from getting bogged down in your own head.
Editors and ghostwriters are also industry professionals, so they will have useful trade knowledge that they can impart about the ins and outs of the market. They should be able to help you to turn your project into something that is not only worth selling, but that will actually sell. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just write something that you feel passionate about; it needs to take into account the market into which it is entering, and there are people you can turn to help you do that.
Robin Field holds a BA in English and Linguistics from the University of Cape Town where she is currently working toward her Master’s degree in Linguistics with a focus on gender and game studies.