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Where Should Self-Publishers Spend Money on Services?

In this episode, I’m talking about where current and future self-published authors should be spending their money on services like hiring a designer or an editor. I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about what tasks authors should hire out and what they should DIY. I know a lot of you don’t have a budget to necessarily pay someone to do every single part of the process, but maybe you recognize that there are some places where you might benefit from actually paying somebody to help you out.

So, here I’ll walk you through a decision matrix that you can work through to help you figure out where you should spend money if you are going to hire someone to help with your book. Really, what it comes down to is figuring out what services should you prioritize, where should you spend your money first (and then second and then third), and using the money you’ve budgeted accordingly. This episode will help you do just that!

Learn what services self-published nonfiction authors should spend their money on, especially if they're on a limited budget.


(This is a direct transcript of the episode. Please excuse any typos.)

So questions to ask yourself: what are you good at? So for example, are you really great with design? Do you have an eye for design? Are you actually a designer or is it something that you do and people are constantly really complimenting you on your graphics? Is that you or are you a Whiz at social media marketing? Do you just absolutely connect with clients, either on Instagram or Facebook or wherever your people are and do you really accelerate that or even were you always really good at English in school and do you have a really solid grasp on grammar and writing so you could fall into any of those buckets or none at all, but what I think you should do is at least take a survey of where your talents and where really your strengths lie and then use that to inform your decision on where you’re going to spend money.

When it comes to hiring people to do services for your book. Another question you should ask is what frustrates you or what will frustrate you? Do you, for example, hate dealing with the nitty gritty details of grammar and spelling in that sort of thing? Does that drive you absolutely bonkers or does designing something in canva drive you nuts and you know that you absolutely don’t want to have to work on design? Alternatively, if you hate promoting things and you’re terrible at figuring out a promotion schedule, then maybe you want to hire somebody to help you with your book launch and help you with publicity for your book. Also something you think about. If you really hate technical things or things that require a lot of attention to detail, you may actually want to hire somebody. Format your book for you, and I know a lot of my clients get stuck on this.

They hate either trying to format in word and paying attention to whether it’s a section break or a page break. Things like that. Those nitty gritty tech type of things. If that really causes you a lot of pain and a lot of anxiety, that’s a place where you might want to hire that out. So the first thing that I think you should overall do is figure out what you’re good at and what you can do. And conversely, if there’s things that you don’t really excel at, that’s a good place to consider hiring somebody to help you out in that spot, uh, but also again, if there’s something that just really drives you nuts and maybe you can do it, but it’s going to cause you a lot of anxiety and frustration and negative emotions, maybe you should hire somebody for that as well. And as a add onto that, also consider what takes you a ton of time to do so.

Maybe you could theoretically design your own cover in Canva, but maybe it’s not your strong point and you know that whenever you train, even just create a graphic for social media. You’re in there for an hour. Well, maybe that’s not the spot you want to be in. Or similarly, if you’re totally crunched for time and you know you don’t have the time to write a book, then you might consider hiring a ghost writer or a collaborative writer to help you put together the manuscript of your book. So it really comes down to your strengths, your needs, and comparing those with your budget to figure out where you should hire people to help you out. So that’s in general sort of the framework that I think you should think through. But that said what for most of my clients and just for people I interact with in general.

So in particular, those of you who are self publishing a nonfiction book and in particular that nonfiction book that you want to help build your business. And especially for those of you who are in the health and wellness space or related niches, these are the places where I would really think that most of you should spend money. And I have, again, this isn’t necessarily going to fall true for everybody, but if I had to put together a generalized list, if you’re really twisting my arm, these, this is the order in which I would tell you you should spend your money. And the first place I think that you should spend your money is a book cover design. And I will say that cover designers run the gamut and you can get somebody who’s great and you can get somebody who’s awful, especially on a discount services like a fiver.

It’s really the wild west out there in some ways and you can find really great designers on Fiverr. Conversely, you can get some really terrible designs on fiverr and so just make sure that you find the best designer that you can afford, but the reason why I’m suggesting that you hire somebody to do your cover is that it’s just, it’s really sells your book. Your cover is so important and there’s a reason why there’s that cliche. Don’t judge a book by its cover because people are instantly drawn to or repelled by your book based on its cover, and so it really can be worth it. If you’re going to hire somebody to do anything, to hire a really great designer to design your cover. So that’s the first place of very close. Second is hiring a professional editor. Now if you have a friend who is an editor, then that’s amazing.

If you could trade services or if they could just help you out, that would be fantastic, but even beyond just grammar and spelling or somebody to just proofread your book, a train editor will help you improve the quality of your manuscript, particularly through things like developmental editing. So just real quick, uh, go into the three major types of editing. The first is developmental editing and that is very high level editing, so it’s not even paying attention really to like sentence structure or grammar or spelling or any of that. What it is is it’s looking at your argument and how the book is put together and does it make sense to a reader and is there any place where you need to explain things in a different way or explain them a little more in depth and really looking at the overall manuscript, the overall book, and even a section or a chapter and how can you improve that so that your reader gets more out of your book.

And so that’s that high level developmental editing. Next would come standard copy editing, which does deal with sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, spelling, all of that fun stuff. Really just trying to make sure that what you’ve written in each sentence in each paragraph makes sense that you’re not being redundant, that sort of thing, although a few of those things might get caught by a developmental editor as well. Really the copy editor is getting into the nitty gritty of your book and then the next step would be really the last person to look at your book or the last step which is proofreading and really that is just looking for any sort of typos and in most cases your book is going to whether it your self editing or you hire an editor, usually at least one round of developmental editing if not more, depending on how much work your book needs or how much work your editor is suggesting.

Copy editing. In most cases, you’ll want at least two to three rounds of copy. Again, you could do some of those rounds yourself, but usually just one read through of a manuscript isn’t going to perfect it. It’s not going to necessarily be completely polished and so you’ll want to either allow your own time or a lot your budget to read through that manuscript a couple of times just to make sure that everything has been caught and then again, that final proofreading step will really help to make sure that you haven’t missed anything major and that you’re not letting any big typos fall through the cracks into your final printed book. With that said, as an aside, luckily with print on demand services, which most of my clients are using, it’s incredibly easy to go back and change those little things, especially if you format your book yourself, um, and then also your book format or could do that as well for you.

So again, number one place where I think you should spend money is your book cover design. Unless you are a cover designer yourself, but a close second is hiring a great editor. I do think that even if you can just get a professional editor to look over your book once, you’re going to get a lot of insight and it’s definitely worth your money. The third place that I think you should spend your money is marketing and getting help with the publicity and the launch, and so if you’ve been launching your own products, say you know you have a meal plan or even a course that you’re launching, every so often you do have a good idea of you know what it takes to market something, but books can be kind of unique and this is particularly true. If you really want to make a big splash for your book, the more attention you can get on your book, the better.

And so a lot of that is legwork. It’s contacting people. It’s getting in touch with influencers. It’s your writing pitches to local media outlets, that sort of thing. It can be a lot of legwork and so if you can hire somebody to help you with your publicity, that can help you. Not only have really great strategy, but it can also help you time wise because you’re not having to think through or even in some cases do these things. If you can have somebody take care of some of the publicity and marketing or even creating social media posts for you, then that’s more time you have to spend on things that are important to you and really the things that only you can do. So again, a marketing, different types of marketing you could do. You could hire somebody to help you actually with your book launch and hire a book launch strategist.

You could also hire somebody to help you publicize your book after the launch. So if you’re listening to this and you have already self published your book, well then you can take that book and hire somebody to help you get a little extra publicity or to help you get, you know, a new fresh spin on the book in terms of getting new eyes on it. Just because your book was published months or even years ago, doesn’t mean that you can’t still leverage that to get more attention on you and your business and a strategist in a publicity strategist or a launch strategist can absolutely help you do that. Um, so again, uh, somebody you could also hire would be a social media manager, somebody to help you with the social media outside of the marketing while you’re launching your book or even afterwards. So I’m lumping all of that under marketing and that it would be what I would say would be your number three place to spend money and then the fourth place, I don’t want to discount this, but I would put as number four, the book, interior design and layout, not because I don’t think it’s important, but I think that the first three are going to have a bigger impact on the success of your book.

Then the interior layout that said hiring the right designer for the interior of your book can bake a huge, huge difference. It can make your book look incredibly professional sometimes when, not that if you do it yourself, it’s not, you know, it’ll be okay, but in a lot of cases people can tell the difference between a DIY-formatted book and a professionally-formatted book. And that’s not to say that that’s a bad thing. Like I think the content of your book is more important than the design, but at the same time having a beautiful design can make it look even more professional and it in a lot of cases too. If you have particular types of books, having the right design and even adding in elements where somebody could like write in the book for example. Having those type of things, having the right call outs, having the right figures and graphs that can really enhance what people get out of your book and it can make your book even butter.

It can help you get better reviews and it can just make the overall experience of your book a lot better. And an example of this I would give you is my friend and client Lyn Lindbergh. She worked with one of my close colleagues, LeAnna Weller-Smith on the interior of her fitness book and it is phenomenal and there are pages where people can journal and think about their thoughts and it’s absolutely gorgeous and it really took her book to the next level. So it can absolutely be worth it. And if you want to learn more about that, you can actually listen to my interview with Lyn in Episode 70 of the Blogger to Author Podcast. You can listen to that at bloggertoauthor.com/70. So again, I don’t want to totally discount paying somebody to design the interior of your book. I think it can be really important, but I also think that there are places where if you spend a little bit of money, it’s going to have a little bit bigger impact than the interior of your book. And hopefully that makes sense. All right, so I hope that this has been helpful for those of you who are thinking through where you might want to hire out some help for your book.


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Learn what services self-published nonfiction authors should spend their money on, especially if they're on a limited budget.