There’s been an interesting debate on the Self-Publishing Discussion List (of which I am a List Mom) about whether a book packager or book shepherd is of use. My opinion – and keep in mind I do both – is, it depends. (I know I say that a lot.)
The arguments against fall into a pretty clear line: You can learn everything you need to know with the information that is on the Web and in books. I even created one of the biggest websites to help people self-publish on their own: New Self Publisher’s FAQ.
(There’s another argument that says that “elites” are living a “lavish lifestyle” off people who are too dumb not to pay money. Apparently this is the Sarah Palin POV.)
I don’t disagree that there is plenty of material available to the would-be self-publisher/small press owner. Heck, I did it, so it can’t be that hard. But as you’ve seen in my previous posts Autopsy of a Bad Book Cover – Part 1 and I Published a Book. Now What?, things can go horribly wrong for a newbie, even if you are as up-to-date and well-read as you can be. This is still not an argument against do-it-yourself publishing. I learned from my mistakes and now win awards. There’s no reason you can’t as well.
If that is your nature.
The argument for book shepherds and packagers is that these professionals provide a newcomer knowledge leverage. That is, you don’t have to know everything there is to know about excellent typesetting and cover design if you hire the expertise. And it doesn’t preclude your learning as you work with a professional. As a matter of fact, I’d rather work with clients who ask a lot of questions and want to learn about their own business. It keeps me on my toes and ensures that the client is better educated the next time they come by… or maybe they never come back, but they remain friends and recommend me to other would-be publishers.
And it is entirely all right to hire out some tasks – such as editing – and do everything else yourself.
There is no one way to publishing. The only thing I insist with my clients is that it has to be absolutely professional-looking – else why do it? Why hide your brilliant literary (or expertise) talent under a bushel basket of amateurish design/editing/execution?
It’s not just self-interest (although I admit I like to eat). A publishing professional can help you get a jump-start on your book project.
And before you ask, some definitions:
Book Shepherd: Coined by Dan Poynter to consolidate terms such as “book coach,” “publishing consultant,” and many others, this professional oversees a client’s entire project, from manuscript to printing (and possibly on to distribution). Most book shepherds use many different freelancers to perform the tasks needed – and many do not work directly for the shepherd.
Note: Small Press World helps clients with everything from setting up a company, editing, book production and design, print brokering, marketing and selecting a distributor.
Book packagers focus more narrowly on producing the book itself: the editing, typesetting, interior design, cover creation and, in some cases, print brokering. These companies range from large scale “cookie cutter” production to high-end concierge services.
Note: Creative Minds Press provides affordable, but high-style book packaging.