Seven Roles for the Self-Publisher

Have been giving some thought to the way a self-publishing writer has to handle the different roles required of them when they make their own work, and had written some notes for this blog post on my white board wall a month or so ago. The white board wall is too crowded, now, which meant it was time to write this entry.

So. If you want to self-publish a book,  your role will change from one phase of writing to the next.

Through the experience of  publishing Hot Mess, I tried to track the different roles I played. Several people asked me about the process of putting the book together, so this blog is my first effort at gathering those thoughts.

So here are the seven roles I’m thinking I’ve identified. I’m assuming the cover design is generally farmed out no matter what, so that’s why I haven’t included it here.

1. Project manager. It’s one thing to sit at your computer and write, or post a blog entry or piece of fiction on the internet. But if you want to self-publish a good product (thereby establishing that people should pay attention to, and for, your work), then the ability to project manage – set schedules and deadlines, balance priorities, multitask, and interact effectively with others – is critical to putting out a professional-quality product.

2. Author. If I have to explain this one, self-publishing is not the field for you.

3. Editor. This one, maybe not so much – editing can be hired out, after all. I guess the point here is more that your book should have an editor and should have been edited. Speaking with a friend earlier today, she mentioned her two biggest complaints about reading self-published material: 1) that there were mistakes in the manuscript she was reading – some quite bad ones, and 2) that often as not the author really did need an editor’s guidance on a story’s arc. It was interesting to hear from her, as a reader, just how deeply this affected her decisions to read certain books over others.

4. Proofreader. Once the story is ready to be published, you need to proofread it. Multiple times. And then ask someone else to proofread it for you. You may have to, at some point, return this favor. Lots of self-publishing seems, to me, to work like that.

5/6/7. Press agent/Marketer/Copywriter. I’m putting these three in the same line, even though they’re different roles, because they’re very tightly connected. You need to be able to write copy that will make people buy your book: its Amazon profile is going to be your biggest marketing tool (we’ve sold more copies of Hot Mess via Amazon than we have any other retailers, on multiple orders of magnitude). Get keywords into your book descriptions. Know the tags you’re going to use. Plan your books far enough in advance that you can start making contacts in communities – whether they be message boards, informational resources, or other communities –  that care about your manuscript’s topic and your message, and then build on those relationships to spread the word both before and after your book’s release. Note that, in my opinion at least, PR and Marketing are two slightly different things – one, to me, is more the act of keeping up a conversation about your product, while the other is the process of actively selling. (Maybe two sides of the same coin. Thoughts?)