Monday, May 16, 2011

Is Self-Publishing a Collaborative Process?

I spend some time each day reading blog posts by writers and others in the publishing industry.  One blog I enjoy quite a lot is by Nathan Bransford.  Many of his blog posts, at least since I've been following him, are a compare/contrast between self-publishing and traditional publishing.  Because Nathan's first book recently came out, published by a legacy publishing house, his choice was to engage the traditional publishing industry rather than self-publish.

In a recent post, Nathan said:  "Personally, I like the collaborative element of traditional publishing."  He was commenting on the fact that he enjoyed working with his editor and the illustrator and enjoyed the collaborative effort of bringing his book to fruition.

This statement seems to presuppose that a self-published book is not a collaboration.  Self-publishing IS a collaboration with all the same folks you'd work with if you had a contract with a publishing house.

I'm getting my first book ready for self-publication this fall and it is quite a project!  I feel like I'm the General Contractor for my book and I have to hire all the sub-contractors I'm going to work with on my project.  I recently went through the process of choosing an editor who is busy at work on the first professional edit.

I already hired an artist to create cover art (I chose Claudia at PhatPuppy Art).  The process of creating a cover was definitely a collaborative process - back and forth with Claudia as I worked to express my ideas and she worked to translate it into art.

After the editing process is complete, I'll need to hire someone to do the interior book design and e-book formatting.  Again there will be a back and forth between me and the designer about how the interior should look.  What fonts will we use?  Will there be flourishes?  How will we separate chapters?  Where will the page number go?  I've never published a book before, so while I have ideas about what I like and how I'd like the book to feel, I will rely on the professional who has done this many times to guide me and help me create the polished book that I want.

I'll also need to hire a cover designer.   This person will take my cover art and create a front cover, spine and back cover.

In all, I will likely work with three to five different people in the publication of this one book.  It is indeed a collaboration and I agree with Nathan that - so far anyway! - it is a very satisfying process.  But unlike with traditional publishing, I get to choose the people I collaborate with.  I'm steering the project.  My ability to choose is one of the largest differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing.

Having said all this, I am aware that some writers who choose to self-publish do not hire designers and artists and others to help them create a professional-looking final product.  I think that this is changing and will continue to change as self-publishing becomes more common and as there will be more competition amongst self-published books.

What are your thoughts?  Do you self-publish?  What is the process like for you?  Are your books published by a  publishing house?  What is that experience like for you?

Nathan Bransford's middle grade novel, Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow is now available.

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