Non-Fiction Fridays: Self-Publishing Wizard or Wannabe by Mary E. Neighbour
Full title: Self-Publishing Wizard or Wannabe: How to Hire the Best Editor, Designer, or Book Guide.
I must say that I think this book hits a niche in the market nobody else is covering, which is basically how to outsource everything but the actual writing of your book (and yes, you can do that… they’re called ghostwriters). The author goes into a lot of depth about how to find and assess professionals you may choose to work with on your self-publishing journey, covering editors, cover artists, book formatters and book shepherds.
Now… for context, I’ve been self-publishing since 2015. I’ve released more than a dozen books, run multi-author anthologies… and until this book, I’d never even heard of a book shepherd. Which, I think not coincidentally, is a service the author offers in their business.
Here’s my theory on self-publishing. If you want any kind of result that isn’t releasing your book to zero sales and a sales rank languishing in the millions, you need a combination of two things, and those are Time and Money. Some people might say three things, the third being Expertise, but in my opinion you can either buy other people’s expertise using money, or you can put in time to develop it yourself. Even if you might not get to a standard comparable to a professional you can get pretty good, and this is particularly applicable to things like book formatting and the stuff a book shepherd is apparently supposed to do, like buying ISBNs and actually uploading your book to the various retail sites. These are not difficult and you can absolutely do them yourself, with the POSSIBLE exception of non-fiction books that have a lot of graphs or equations. You might need a formatter to help you with that stuff, but I really don’t think it’s necessary for fiction works.
This book is aimed, and will be useful for, people who have Money, because it explains in great detail how to outsource everything to professionals. While it doesn’t talk about pay rates, the levels of expertise the author recommends you seek do not come cheap. Indeed, when you add everything up you might well find you’re looking at the same sort of rates a vanity publisher would charge for a package (but trust me, you’d get a lot less for your money - their editors are not up to scratch and neither are their cover artists). I’m talking mid four figures and up, for context.
Therefore, if your budget is low, you need to make the decision to put in Time. I would still recommend getting a cover made unless you’re really good at graphic art, but you can absolutely get one done cheaply. You should also pay for professional editing if at all possible, but it’s possible to get a decent result by working with critique partners instead (of course, this means you put in Time). But the best investment you can make in Time is reading a good how-to book on self-publishing - I’d recommend David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital - which will honestly give you much of the same information here AND provide the tools for you to do much of the work yourself.
If you have more Money to invest than Time in your self-publishing career and you don’t want to get ripped off, this might be the book for you. Even so, a book isn’t a set-and-forget thing. Marketing and advertising are necessary if you don’t want that rank to languish in the millions, and those aren’t even MENTIONED here.
There’s useful information here, but it does feel like the author has made some things that are relatively simple seem complex in order to convince the reader that they really do need a book shepherd to handle all this stuff for them. And as I noted at the beginning, the author offers book shepherding services… so this whole thing feels like a pamphlet designed to lead you to the conclusion that you absolutely need to hire them to handle everything for you. A conflict of interest? Perhaps. Perhaps it’s just a clever marketing ploy. I do know that I don’t like it. I’m giving this two stars, and I’m recommending that you go read Let’s Get Digital instead. As I’ve said to any number of people who’ve asked me how to get started in self-publishing, I think that book is the best couple of bucks and few hours you can invest in your self-publishing career. And if you can’t be bothered to spend even that much in terms of Money and Time, I’m telling you here and now that self-publishing just isn’t for you.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.