I have an acquaintance who is working on self-publishing her first novel. In everything from cover design to editing, her refrain has been, “Why hire someone for that stuff? I can do it on my own and save the money.” After finally breaking down and hiring an editor (after many beta readers told her she seriously needed one), she soon fired the editor because he was, “Too smart. He made me feel like an idiot. Pointing out all my mistakes made me feel dumb.” My response was, “Girl, you want to hire people smarter than you. If they make you feel like an idiot, they’re doing their job.”
Now, I’m not talking about people who talk down to you, or act in a condescending manner. That’s the opposite of helpful. You don’t want a jerk working for you. There’s a difference between a know-it-all, and an intelligent, capable person who knows their industry.
What I’m talking about is hiring people who have expertise that you don’t. And this goes beyond writing and publishing. If I’m going to hire a contractor, I want one who knows all about building techniques, codes, and associated things like permits. If they don’t know more than I do, why am I hiring them? I could do it myself if I knew everything about building. No, I’m hiring them because they know more than I do. That contractor should be able to make me feel like an idiot when it comes to building-related matters.
It’s the same with a cover designer or editor. Technology has made people feel like they can do these things themselves. And maybe they can. Most people can’t, though, at least not to a professional standard. This is something my acquaintance has yet to learn. She’s still living in the, “The software exists, so I can do this myself,” world. She hasn’t caught on yet that there is a lot more involved than just having the tools at your disposal.
My primary job is writing. While I know the basics of editing and can self-edit to a point, I want someone who knows more than me to provide input. A good editor can not only correct your grammar, but also tell you where the story falls apart, spot inconsistencies in plot and logic, and be brutally honest with you when something isn’t working.
I know Photoshop and can manipulate images, but I don’t know everything about what makes a successful cover today. A good cover designer not only knows how to use the tool, he/she also knows the industry and what looks are working for which genres today.
I’m happy to let other professionals handle things for me. Even if I were an expert in editing, cover design, page layout, and writing, I’d still want to have a good team around me because how on earth am I going to have time to do all of that? Right. I’m not, at least not to a quality standard. The attempt would likely make me insane to boot.
Yes, good professionals can be expensive. Hiring great people can take a bite out of your budget, for sure. But it’s worth it in the end. Think about it: If you have a book with a poor cover, or terrible editing, it’s not going to sell well. There will be no income to speak of. But if you have a professional package on the market, your chances of success, and thus income, rise. True, the book may still not sell (who knows why anything sells at all these days), but at least you’re in with a fighting chance. You may earn back your investment and then some. Do it half-assed on your own and you’ll likely get nothing.
So whether you’re self-publishing or going traditional, make sure you have a team of really smart, qualified people around you. Don’t think that you can (or should) go it all alone. That’s the path the frustration and failure. And don’t hire people who just tell you what you want to hear. That’s not hiring smart people, that’s hiring sycophants and will get you nowhere. Find the people who make you feel stupid, in a positive way, and hire them.
(Photo courtesy of geralt)