Helping Authors Self-Publish

Ever dreamed of publishing your own book? Need to produce one in-house? I specialize in assisting authors and companies alike produce and publish their dream publications under a wide range of conditions, specs, budgets, and deadlines.



Working with Editors

What can an editor do for me and my manuscript?

Every manuscript can benefit from a thorough editing. Authors become too close to their own writing to see mistakes and weaknesses. An outside, qualified editor will see the manuscript from a more objective standpoint.

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I am concerned about the cost of an editor. I have spell-check on my word processing program; do I really need an editor?

Contrary to popular belief, editors don’t just work on spelling and punctuation. A good editor can immensely improve the quality of a manuscript by seeing problems and inconsistencies that can needlessly undermine the writing. For more information on what editors do, see the next question.

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What are the different types of editors? Which one do I need?

Editing comes in several flavors: developmental, substantive, and copy (or line) editors.

Developmental editors work with authors to develop their manuscript from initial concept or draft through subsequent drafts, often making suggestions about content, organization, and tone by doing marketing analysis. They may also be involved in writing or researching.

Substantive editors focus on improving manuscripts by identifying issues of clarity, organization, presentation, tone, and sequence. They may assist in writing, revising, and querying.

Copyeditors check for grammar, spelling, syntax, word usage, styles, formatting, consistency, and clarity. They cross-check references, art, figures, tables, and other elements as necessary, and may assist with noting permissions needed to publish copyrighted material.

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What should I look for in hiring an editor?

Strong technical skills, an experienced editing background (preferably in the genre of your manuscript), great attention to detail, and a keen eye for consistency are all essential in good editors. A fine editor is an excellent communicator with great listening skills and a knack for being constructively critical but not offensive. (Remember the schoolteacher with her red marking pen?)

Another crucial consideration when choosing an editor is compatibility. Does the editor share your general life philosophy? Does she understand your vision for your book? Will she take a genuine interest in the project? Authors invest enormous emotional and intellectual energy in their books, and the relationship between author and editor often becomes an extremely close one based on mutual trust and respect. It is crucial that you are comfortable with your editor.

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Self-Publishing a Book: The Process

I am interested in using Lulu and other self-publishing services. They offer editing, illustration, and design services. Are they good options?

In recent years, many entities such as Authorhouse, Lulu.com, and iUniverse, to name a few, have sprung up to allow authors to self-publish their work and print their books on demand using digital printing technology. Many also offer editing, illustration, and design services on an á la carte basis, with each service costing extra.

While these self-publishers can do a perfectly adequate job of putting your book together and can be very economical options for authors on an extremely limited budget, they do have two major drawbacks. First, their editing tends to be formulaic and basic, and they use standard design templates, with very little, if any, personalization. Second, their print quality can be noticeably inferior to that of offset printing (which is how most books are commercially printed), especially with graphics and photographs.

That is what I offer—I listen carefully to your needs and work closely with you on refining every aspect of writing, design, and printing to create your dream book, within a vision and budget you define.

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Using My Services

What type of editing do you do?

Although I can do any of the three types of editing defined above, my greatest strengths lie in substantive and copyediting. Although I have worked with many genres, the majority of my book projects have been nonfiction, autobiographies, and poetry.

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What else do you do besides editing?

About a third to a half of my work is editing. I also provide full-service graphic design of both interiors and covers, formatting, layout, art direction, permissions, graphics procurement, digital processing and enhancement of graphics, indexing, ISBN and LOC number procurement, printing coordination, and project management. In short, everything necessary to create a finished printed piece.

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How much will it cost to have my book edited? What if I would like to add design services, graphics, and indexing?

As you might imagine, this varies tremendously, depending on the complexity and length of the book and the shape of the manuscript. I have done book projects ranging from $2,000 to nearly $40,000 that took anywhere from 9 weeks to 3 years. Most of my projects average about 12 to 18 months.

I do charge industry-standard rates for my editing and design work. However, I understand that authors usually have very limited resources, so I discuss with them in great detail what their vision is for their book, as well as a realistic budget. Frequently they cannot afford everything on their wish list, so I ask them to prioritize, and we work out a plan that covers everything they will need for their book within their means. I work for either an hourly rate or a flat fee (which is based on an estimated number of hours it will take to do the project). In some instances, especially in emergency rush-production situations, I have also worked on a retainer basis.

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What can I do to reduce my costs?

The single biggest source of avoidable expense is not having a clear vision of your objectives. It is also always a warning sign when an author does not have a well-defined budget. I spend a lot of time at the beginning of a project asking questions to avoid misunderstandings that could result in redoing work down the line. Major manuscript revisions and changes during layout are also big time and money hogs.

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Can you help me find a literary agent or publisher for my manuscript?

This is not my area of expertise, but I can certainly refer you to resources and provide some basic advice about querying publishers.

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Do you do ghostwriting?

No, I have not done any ghostwriting. While I often do limited rewriting as part of the normal editing process, this is not my specialty.

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I am already working with an editor. Can you work with other editors, or do just the design and layout?

I have happily worked with other editors on books, especially if they were developmental or substantive editors, or even ghostwriters. Frequently everyone involved welcomed the extra pair of eyes to catch things that were overlooked. I can do as much or as little editing as desired; the decision is always up to the client. I am also happy to work on just the design phase as well, although my experience as a trained editor gives me an advantage that most graphic designers do not have in that I can catch typos and inconsistencies during the layout phase.

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What is the typical process in working with you to create a book?

Most printed books contain these raw elements: title pages, copyright page, table of contents page, foreword (optional), introduction, the main body, epilogue (optional), afterword (optional), index (optional), and of course, front and back covers. Depending on the subject matter, it may include graphics in the form of photographs and illustrations.

Typically when I begin a book project, the author and I meet and we talk extensively about the book. The author will discuss its concept, meaning, audience, research, and history. I ask many, many questions intended to find out as much as possible about the author’s vision of his book and to get a feel for his personality, which is vital in helping me envision what the author wants, both in words and design. We also talk about book specs, sizes, printing options, and quantities for an initial print run.

Once I have some working knowledge of the author’s intentions, I sit down with the manuscript and do a quick read-through, without editing. Only when I have completed this stage do I begin editing or design, as I want to have a thorough understanding of the work before I begin.

The actual editing is done closely with the author, with frequent querying, discussion, and feedback. Often concurrently, we also discuss design ideas for the cover and interior. I ask authors to bring samples of books whose covers and layouts they like, so I can get a more concrete sense of their preferences. We discuss color combinations, likes, dislikes. If possible, I may begin collecting and digitally processing any graphics involved, as well as proceed on any permissions work necessary.

At this stage we often have several threads going: editing, design, graphics, permissions. If the author has decided to print his book using a commercial printer, I usually start investigating printers and getting bids at this time.

Once the editing is done and the manuscript is pulled into shape, we are ready for the design stage in earnest. I do several trials to test different page sizes, layouts, fonts, and other graphical treatments. The author then chooses a layout or a combination of traits from several layouts. Once a final design treatment is chosen, then I proceed to create the entire interior of the book, page by page. This is my favorite stage, when I can literally see the book taking shape. Frequently a book is done in pieces; an author may write the introduction or epilogue while I am working on other sections.

Once I have completed an initial layout draft, the author reviews it and submits changes. This may go on for several rounds as we fine-tune the layout and graphics. While the author is proofing, I am often working on the cover design, creating multiple trial layouts and fonts. We do a similar process with the cover as with the interior book design. I will also procure ISBN and LOC (Library of Congress) numbers and barcodes for the book if necessary.

By the end of this stage, we have chosen which printer will manufacture the final book and settled on pricing, paper stocks, etc. After the last round of changes or revisions has been made to the interior and cover, the author and I proof the final book, and I prepare printer-ready files. I typically handle all printing coordination, communicating between the author and printer account representative to make sure all questions are answered and the process goes smoothly.

After receiving press-ready files, the printer generally takes about 10 days to two weeks to produce a proof. Once this is available, the author and I will then thoroughly review the proof and note any final changes as necessary. After making necessary corrections, I submit them to the printer, and we wait for the final product, which is usually shipped two to three weeks later.

Once the final printed book has been delivered to the author’s satisfaction, I prepare archival copies of all the files on CD or DVD for the author, so in the future any printer or designer can work with them.

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I live far away, but I am still interested in having you work on my book. Is this possible?

With today’s technology, working from long distances is not a problem. In fact, I worked with one client who lived across the country, and throughout the entire process, from initial editing to the final press check, I met with him face-to-face only once. He did not even have a computer or a fax, and we communicated entirely via phone and regular mail. He was absolutely delighted with his printed book.

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How do you prefer payment?

If we have decided to do your project on a projected flat-fee basis, I prefer to be paid in thirds: one-third down as a deposit at the beginning of the project, the next third half-way through, and the remaining third due upon satisfactory delivery of the final product.

If we do your project on an hourly basis, I usually issue invoices weekly, with the balance due at the end of the month. I am very flexible, and we can work out a payment plan that works for both of us.

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What software do you use?

I use Adobe InDesign for most layout work, although I do have extensive Quark Xpress experience and can use that if a client requests it. For illustration, I use either Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, and for processing graphics, I use Photoshop. I generally use a Macintosh but I can use the same software on a PC if a client requests it. I have done layout work in Microsoft Word for rare projects when it was required.

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