It takes a village


Although it’s usually only the author who is credited on the cover, a book is seldom the creation of a single person.

If you look along your bookshelf, unless you own a large number of academic tomes, the majority of covers will feature a single name – that of the author. But whether a book is published traditionally, or self-published, there is likely to have been a whole team of people involved in the creation process.

In traditional publishing, the author may be invited by the publisher to write a book or may pitch an idea or a manuscript to the publisher. In the latter case, the author may work with an agent who acts as intermediary and does the actual pitching. Then, once a publishing house accepts the book (which may only be an idea at this stage), they are responsible for providing the other team members: the editor, who will guide the structure and creation of the manuscript, the copy editor and proofreader, who will make sure the content is as correct as it can be, an illustrator, if needed, the layout artist who will design the interiors, the cover design artist… it’s quite an undertaking!

Some writers who decide to self-publish choose to do the whole thing themselves, while others realise that their skill lies in actually producing the content, so they leave the other tasks to the appropriate specialists. If you’re thinking of writing and self-publishing a book, you may want to consider who you’ll bring onto your team.

At the end of the day, you as an author are looking forward to seeing the finished book with your name on the cover. But when you reach that stage, you will realise you couldn’t have got there alone.
General support

Writing can be a lonely activity, so it’s a good idea to find other people to support you during the process. This can include joining a local writing group, participating with other writers on social media or buddying up with someone else who is working on a book themselves and providing accountability to each other. The writers in these support networks don’t need to be expert authors themselves, and they often won’t be writing the same genre as you or targeting the same audience. This means that, while some of them may provide useful ideas, you shouldn’t take everything they say as gospel; it’s more a question of finding a sympathetic space where you can talk about writing generalities than finding practical and relevant support for your specific book.

Content organisation

For more specific support, you may choose to work with a book coach to guide you through the process. It’s important to be clear what role the coach will play: will they act as an accountability partner, provide specialist knowledge of writing and insights into publishing, guide you as you progress, act as editor, copy editor or proofreader, or introduce you to the other experts as and when they are needed? Not all book coaches will take on all the different roles, so it’s vital to understand what help is being offered and how the relationship works.

Often the book coach is involved in developing the initial idea and structuring the book, as well as acting as a sounding board for the author to talk through problematic points that arise. But they may not have much to do with the actual words that are written and may feel too close to the content to be able to edit objectively. So you will probably need to work with a copy editor and a proofreader. Since anyone can now claim these skills, it's important to know what you are paying for and what level of correction is expected.

You may decide that your non-fiction book would benefit from an index. While there is software that can handle this task at a basic level, there are also accredited indexers – they even have their own professional society – who specialise in this aspect of book production.

Writing can be a lonely activity, so it’s a good idea to find other people to support you during the process.
Book design and production

A designer will be needed to layout the interiors of the book to make them as legible as possible. We all use Word, or similar programmes to lay out documents, but book pages have specific requirements. Often a self-published book just doesn’t feel right when you read it: a skilled designer will have worked out the best spacing between lines and paragraphs, the ideal margin widths (more space at the centre so words don’t disappear into the binding!), as well as mapping the pages with running headers, page numbers and other elements that may not seem important but which make all the difference to the reading experience.

The cover art needs to be designed, too. Again, an inexperienced graphic artist may not fully understand the requirements or how a digital cover differs from one to be printed. There’s also a balance to be struck to achieve a book cover that stands out from its competitors while remaining recognisable to the genre.

And if you’re having a batch of books printed, you’ll also probably need to deal with the printer to decide on paper specs – weight, colour, finish etc. – for both interiors and cover.

Content contributors

So there’s a lot of different people involved in the physical production, but there may also be a lot of people involved in the book content, most of whom aren’t paid for their help.

Some authors will need to carry out interviews in order to confirm their hypotheses or to get examples that illustrate their ideas. This can be a great way to garner interest while the writing is still in progress and these contributors may become champions who will help with word-of-mouth marketing when the book is finally published. They may also provide a useful pool of potential beta readers, particularly as many of those quoted will want to approve what is being attributed to them.

Depending on the type of book you are writing, you may need diagrams or other graphic elements to illustrate or clarify particular points. Before you choose an illustrator, it’s worth checking with the layout artist or cover designer to see whether this is something that they can help with. It’s also vital to make sure that there is communication at this stage to ensure the illustrations are provided in a suitable format for incorporation into the final manuscript.

Finally, you may want to ask someone else to write an introduction or foreword. It helps if this person is an expert in the field in which you are writing. The bigger their name, the more visible your book will be.

Beyond the actual book writing and production lies the whole marketing process – website development, social media activity, book launch, press releases… – which calls for an entirely different skill set. If the book is to be a success, these specialists should be mobilised before the book is complete, so they, too, form part of your team.

At the end of the day, you as an author are looking forward to seeing the finished book with your name on the cover. But when you reach that stage, you will realise you couldn’t have got there alone. And that’s what the Acknowledgments page is all about.

There is no such thing as a self-made man. You will reach your goals only with the help of others.
― W. George Shinn

At Tantamount, we offer full editorial services for indie authors and professionals, and our Director, Gwyneth Box, offers author coaching, so why not drop us an email or give us a call on 0798 661 3437 to talk over your ideas?