Publish & Prosper

Self-Publishing is a Team Sport

January 17, 2024 Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo Season 1 Episode 8
Self-Publishing is a Team Sport
Publish & Prosper
More Info
Publish & Prosper
Self-Publishing is a Team Sport
Jan 17, 2024 Season 1 Episode 8
Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo

In this episode, Lauren & Matt discuss the publishing, design, and marketing experts that you may want to help you self-publish your book.

We take a look at hybrid publishers, different types of editors, and interior versus exterior designers. Plus, hear our thoughts on which services are a must-do and which we think you can DIY to help keep costs low, a few suggestions for tools designed to help you with different publishing steps, and some of our favorite self-editing tips. 

Dive Deeper

💡 Browse our list of publishing pros

💡 Read These Blog Posts

💡 Watch These Videos

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [13:43] “When it comes to having a really great cover versus having a well-edited book, if you're going to pay for just one of these services. I've had plenty of examples where my friends will say, ‘hey, I know the cover on this book is like absolute garbage, but the book itself is so good. So just, like, ignore the cover and just go dive right into the book’…No one has ever said to me ‘the writing is trash, but the cover is pretty. So you should read it.’

🎙️ [29:58] “I'm sure I've said this before, and I know I'll say it again. If you wait until the day you publish your book to start promoting your book, you have already missed the boat entirely.”

🎙️ [31:59] “I just don't think it's worth it to pay, you know, an agency or anybody else to really help you with the marketing of a book…we haven't seen many cases where the amount of money exchanged, especially for newer authors, really comes back as a viable return in the way of getting book sales, I think people really are able to make a good go of it themselves these days.”

Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Lauren & Matt discuss the publishing, design, and marketing experts that you may want to help you self-publish your book.

We take a look at hybrid publishers, different types of editors, and interior versus exterior designers. Plus, hear our thoughts on which services are a must-do and which we think you can DIY to help keep costs low, a few suggestions for tools designed to help you with different publishing steps, and some of our favorite self-editing tips. 

Dive Deeper

💡 Browse our list of publishing pros

💡 Read These Blog Posts

💡 Watch These Videos

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [13:43] “When it comes to having a really great cover versus having a well-edited book, if you're going to pay for just one of these services. I've had plenty of examples where my friends will say, ‘hey, I know the cover on this book is like absolute garbage, but the book itself is so good. So just, like, ignore the cover and just go dive right into the book’…No one has ever said to me ‘the writing is trash, but the cover is pretty. So you should read it.’

🎙️ [29:58] “I'm sure I've said this before, and I know I'll say it again. If you wait until the day you publish your book to start promoting your book, you have already missed the boat entirely.”

🎙️ [31:59] “I just don't think it's worth it to pay, you know, an agency or anybody else to really help you with the marketing of a book…we haven't seen many cases where the amount of money exchanged, especially for newer authors, really comes back as a viable return in the way of getting book sales, I think people really are able to make a good go of it themselves these days.”

Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.

Lauren: Hey everyone, welcome back to Publish & Prosper for another episode, and welcome back to my co-host Matt. 

Matt: Thanks. 

Lauren: Wow, I already mumbled that one. 

Matt: Start over, edit. 

Lauren: Okay. 

Matt: You don't have to welcome me back though. 

Lauren: No, I will. 

Matt: But we already did one. I mean, you can, but I don't know if it makes any sense for anybody.

Lauren: Hey everyone, other than Matt, welcome back to another episode of Publish & Prosper. Matt, you are explicitly not welcomed back.

Matt: Keep this one, do not edit in post. 

Lauren: I'm not editing any of this. Inside look at what a Monday afternoon looks like in the Lulu office. 

Matt: Oh man. You know what’s crazy is I really, I truly thought it was Tuesday until you just said that.

Lauren: Time still isn't real. And I don't know if this is a side effect of coming back from the holidays, or the fact that time hasn't been real since like approximately…

Matt: 2020.

Lauren: 2020. But yeah, no, I don't, I have no idea. 

Matt: This was the first year that I took off two and a half weeks right at the holiday. I've never taken that much time off in a row. Not at least that I can remember. Maybe when I was in college. 

Lauren: Same. 

Matt: So it's really weird coming back after having two and a half weeks and you just, Oh my God, like trying to catch up is crazy. 

Lauren: Same. Yeah. I really, I don't often take that much time off without at least having a day or two where I'm like, I'm going to check in or do whatever. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So this is a wild adjustment coming back to this. And then it's also like, you know, we have a hybrid work set up here.

Matt: Yup.

Lauren: And we're in the office at our leisure and working from home at our leisure. And I the last two years was coming in on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And now that we're recording the podcast, I come in on Mondays and I'm still not used to the fact.

Matt: I'm still not used to the idea that you say leisure instead of leisure. It's like you turn British for that one word.

Lauren: I think that it's one of those words that is like I'm going on vacation to the Caribbean, but I'm going on the ride Pirates of the Caribbean. I am doing something at my leisure, but this is a leisure activity or leisurely activity. 

Matt: Wow. Yeah. So what about pecan pecan? 

Lauren: Well, I'm from New York. So it's a pecan. 

Matt: Oh, you don't even know what they are. You're from New York. 

Lauren: Well I don't like them anyway. So it doesn't matter. But there are a lot of things like that. I actually find stuff like that fascinating. One of my favorite fun facts in the entire world is that there are three words, three specific words, that only people from the tri-state area pronounce these words as three different words. Everyone else in the country pronounces them the same. 

Matt: Can we clarify the tri-state area though? 

Lauren: Yes. Sorry. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut. 

Matt: Okay. 

Lauren: So only people from that very specific regional area pronounce the words merry, Mary, and marry as three different words.

Matt: I don't even know what to say. I'm floored for probably the first time in my life. I don't have words. 

Lauren: It's actually like one of my favorite. I could get up on a soapbox and talk about this. 

Matt: I was talking to somebody the other day. I don't remember who it was. Maybe it was my wife and I watching The Amazing Race. Just how hard it is to learn the English language, because words like that, we have words like there - three different spellings, three different meanings - It must be insane to come in and try to learn the English language and have these words that, for Mary or there or some of these others, it's like, why do we need all that? Like, I don't, I don't. Yeah. 

Lauren: It's a great, a great question. 

Matt: I don't think we should go down that path, but at your leisure, feel free to start this podcast anytime you want and we'll take a leisurely stroll down what it means to put together a publishing team. 

Lauren: See, you did it just right. That was perfect. 

Matt: You didn't even need a Chat GPT for that. I did it for you. 

Lauren: Wow, thank you so much. 

Matt: I'm MattGPT. Copyright 2024. 

Lauren: How long have you been sitting on that one? 

Matt: I swear it just came to me. That's how good I am. Yep. MattGPT everybody. 


Lauren: Well jot that down. That was great. Anyway, MattGPT over here just kind of slipped right into the sentence there, the topic of today's episode. So let's circle back on that a little bit. Today we are going to be talking about building a publishing team. What does that mean? Do you want to answer that or do you want me to answer that? 

Matt: I mean, I'd be happy to take a stab at it. Obviously, we talk a lot about self-publishing because we think that's the best and it is, so, all facts aside. But while self-publishing obviously implies you're doing it yourself, and that's one of the best things about self-publishing, is you have total control over every aspect of your book, of the publishing experience. That means there are some responsibilities that are now yours. And that is obviously a lot of the mechanics and logistics that go into creating and publishing your book. Putting together a team, if you will – and team can be used loosely, it doesn't have to actually be a full team – but putting together some resources that you can utilize and lean on to help get your book into the hands of your readers and fans, I think is really what we're talking about here. And by team, we mean editors and designers and a lot of the other people that come into play when you are putting together a really good, quality book. 

Lauren: Actually, that's a perfect answer. Great job. 

Matt: Thanks. 

Lauren: Great attempt. That's definitely what we're going to be talking about here. I want to say upfront at the top. I'm sure we'll remind you of this throughout the episode, but just right up on top here: we're going to be talking about all of the different people, services, resources, etc. that could be helpful to you if you're self-publishing a book. In no way shape or form does this mean that you have to utilize all of them. This is kind of a suggestion. Maybe this is like an a la carte menu, where you get to see all the options available to you, but you decide what you need for your own personal publishing experience. So we're not saying that you need to hire every single type of person that we talk about in this episode, but that these are all of the people and services that could potentially help you on your publishing journey. 

Matt: Yep. And we'll try not to draw it out. 

Lauren: Yeah, I mean, this is us. 

Matt: That’s true. 

Lauren: So we'll do our best. I'm also gonna plug right up here at the top. As we're talking about all of these things, we have a page on our own website that is the Hire a Pro page. If you go to slash partners, which I will link in the show notes as well, you can find a list of service providers we recommend, that we've worked with, that we will suggest our authors and creators work with. If you're looking for…whether it's a full service provider or specific services that we will get into as we're doing this, keep that in mind. 


Matt: So you mentioned full service providers. Can you explain what you mean by a full service provider?

Lauren: When we're talking about full service providers in self-publishing, we're basically talking about a company, service provider, whatever the case may be, that is going to handle all of this for you. And that is all of the self-publishing processes from book editing, book production, cover design, sometimes even your marketing, getting your book set up ready for sales and distribution, stuff like that. 

Matt: So a full service provider is kind of like all the good parts of what you would go with a traditional publisher for, so the editor, the cover designer, the formatter, maybe some marketing and publicity stuff, without all the other BS of giving them your profits, your control, all those other things. 

Lauren: Yes. 

Matt: Is there a name for it? 

Lauren: Other than full service provider? This feels like a trick question. 

Matt: It is a trick question. I think most of us refer these days to hybrid publishers. 

Lauren: Sure. 

Matt: And so what Lauren's describing as a full service provider is often called a hybrid publisher, not to be confused with a vanity publisher. It's kind of a one-stop shop if you wanted to hire a team to help you get your book into the hands of your readers. Most hybrid publishers participate in some form of providing editing for you, cover design work. They'll do things like get your formatting done for you. Essentially most hybrid publishers, good ones, you're going to give them some money, and your manuscript, and in turn they're going to provide you with a published book. And they can help you get it into distribution, if that's what you're after. Some can probably help you set it up to sell it directly from your website. But ultimately it's basically an exchange of money and manuscript for a finished book whereby you should still be keeping all of the rights, all of the control, all of the profits, for the most part. 

Lauren: And those three alls are the reason why you would want to do this. This is – if you're listening to this and you're saying, okay, well, at that point, why wouldn't I just go the traditional publishing route? Someone's going to do all this for me. Like, isn't that the whole point of traditional publishing? And first of all, there are a whole bunch of gatekeepers in between you deciding that you want to publish a book and you actually getting a book traditionally published. So first you got to jump through all those hoops. But even if you do successfully get there, once you turn your book over to a traditional publishing house, they are going to take a lot of that control and they're going to kind of take over. The difference between going with the traditional publisher versus going with a hybrid publisher or a full service provider as a self-published author; you're keeping all the rights to your book. You're keeping all the control over your book and you're keeping all the profits. 

Matt: Yes. Now some will want to set you up with less of a, you keep all the profit model and there's more of a royalty model involved, but that might just mean that they have done more work for the book or they just have a different business model. But honestly these days there's really no reason why you shouldn't be able to find a really good hybrid publisher if you need one that will give you all three of those things and allow you to keep full control, full profits, and then obviously full rights to your work. I do think it's a lot easier these days too to find reputable and good hybrid publishers to work with. And if you have the money, it really is probably the easiest and best way to go, especially for nonfiction creators, but for fiction ones as well, depending on how often you're publishing what your schedule and your cadence of publishing might be. But there's a lot of great ones out there. And as Lauren referenced earlier, we do have a page where you can find a lot of them. There are hybrid publishers like Limelight Publishing, Tilt Publishing, which is a new hybrid publishing company, Gatekeeper Press, Publish Your Purpose. You know, there's a lot of great ones out there and you can find them on that resources page.

Again, just make sure that if there is money involved that you know exactly what you're getting for the price that you're paying. Most of these services, depending on the scope, should run anywhere from $2,500 on the low end to cover some things like cover design and a few others. And if you need full editing and everything else, you could expect to pay upwards of, for a reputable hybrid publishing company, anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000 or so. Anything above that mark, you'll probably want to take a close look at what you're getting for that money. It can get a little dicey out there, so. Just do your homework. There's a lot of great articles on hybrid publishing and what to look for and what to watch out for, but it is a great option. If you have the money, you don't have the time, you've got a finished manuscript or you're close and you really just want somebody to take that manuscript and get it across the finish line for you because you just don't have the time or the skill sets or the knowledge. So we love them. 

Lauren: One more thing I'm going to add too, as you're looking into different hybrid publishers, make sure that you know what services you want them to provide for you before you agree to anything, just so you're clear on like if you really want somebody who's going to handle some marketing for you or if you just need help with the actual book production part and you're going to do the marketing yourself. Those are two very different… 

Matt: That's a great point. Actually, look at the fine print under the quote unquote marketing services. If they just list a bunch of paid Facebook ads, take a hard pass on that. You can do that or somebody else can do that. But if that is their marketing plan, that they're going to throw a few Facebook ads up there for you, yeah, probably not the best marketing partner for you. Look at what they're listing, I think Lauren's right about that one, and just make sure that you're pretty clear on what you want from them. And they're very clear on what they're willing to provide for the price. 


Lauren: Yeah. So full service, everything's handled for you. Really all you have to do is your research and get everything ready to go. What if that's not the path you wanna go? What if you decide instead, I do wanna do this myself, like the whole benefit of self-publishing to me is having the control over this kind of stuff. I want to be able to do this for myself, but I want help with some of the individual stages of the publishing process. 

Matt: Yeah. Like a la carte. 

Lauren: Exactly. 

Matt: Pick and choose. 

Lauren: Right. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: This is the hill that I'm willing to die on - 

Matt: Here it comes…

Lauren: - and will continue to die on forever. If there is one type of service that you pay somebody else for when you are self-publishing a book, it should be book editing. You should hire an editor, at least one kind of editor, to review your book for you.

Matt: Yeah, I agree. 

Lauren: Thanks. 

Matt: I like to mess with you. But I agree. I mean, come on, we say covers sell books and to a degree that's true, but especially for people who are newer to the arena of writing or being an author, your brand, your name is everything. And if that first book somebody reads by you is poorly laid out, grammar is not great context and some of the other things just aren't really where they should be. That's a pretty bad first impression. You can bet that you're probably not going to sell or give away any more books after that one. And so if there is an area to splurge on or max out one of your credit cards for it is editing. And even if you can't afford a developmental editor, which is the bulkier and more complicated of editing jobs, at least get yourself a copy editor or somebody to kind of go through and just make sure that your final manuscript really makes sense. All the I's are dotted, the T's are crossed, the commas are where they need to be and don't need to be, and all the other things that can really make for a pretty poor manuscript if you don't catch them.

Lauren: I always like to kind of frame it this way. When it comes to having a really great cover versus having a well-edited book, if you're going to pay for just one of these services. I've had plenty of examples where my friends will say, ‘hey, I know the cover on this book is like absolute garbage, but the book itself is so good. So just, like, ignore the cover and just go dive right into the book. 

Matt: Great. Sign me up. 

Lauren: No one has ever said to me ‘the writing is trash, but the cover is pretty. So you should read it.’ 

Matt: Unless it's a notebook.

Lauren: Yeah, but that's just me telling myself that the writing is trash inside the notebook that I've already written in. It's fine. 

Matt: Well, I agree with you there. Yeah, absolutely. And I kind of gloss through like some of the types of editing, but you've worked in this particular arena a lot more than I have. So maybe you can give some of the listeners who aren't familiar with the different types of editing just a quick rundown of what they are?

Lauren: Sure. Yeah. There's kind of three major types of editors that you'll find when you're going through a traditional editing journey. The first one is going to be, like Matt mentioned, a developmental editor, who is a person that's going to focus on the overall content of your book. So if you're writing fiction, it'll be the narrative structure of your book. Does the plot make sense? Does it satisfy the story that it's set out to tell? Do the chapters make sense in a cohesive order? Are there gaps or inconsistencies, et cetera? More or less the same for nonfiction, maybe just not the same way that you'd think about it. Even in nonfiction, like your book should have a narrative structure. You should build on ideas in a linear fashion and a developmental editor is gonna look at that for you and say like, ‘hey, you know, in chapter two, you talked about something that I didn't really understand what it was because you didn't explain it in detail until chapter five. So maybe you should move chapter five up before chapter two,’ and stuff like that. So they're gonna be looking at the overall big picture of your book and helping you develop the content of your book into something that makes sense. And this is again, applicable to fiction and nonfiction. 

You're also gonna find line editors. Line editors are gonna do a close reading of your sentence structure. They're not really looking so much at the overall big picture but instead they're looking at the word choice, did you choose the correct words here? Not aesthetically, did you choose the correct words, but like, are you using the correct ‘there’ in this sentence? 

Matt: Or Mary. 

Lauren: Or merry. They're gonna look at those specific details. And then also, again, not your stylistic word choices, but are your sentences efficient, effective? Are you explaining what you need to be explaining in a way that makes sense to people? Could you trim your content down? Clearly, I need a lot of line editing. If you listen to me ramble in endless sentences that never… Shout out to our content manager here who constantly edits me, reigns my crazy sentences in. 

Matt: Paul constantly edits all of us. 

Lauren: And I don't know what we would do without him. 

Matt: Mmhmm. 

Lauren: Last but definitely not least is a copy editor. A copy editor is kind of the last person that's going to look at your book before it goes into production. Because the copy has to be pretty much finalized by the time they're looking at it. You're not making any more edits to the content, the structure, or anything like that. And they are looking at the actual, factual grammatical details of your sentences. You're probably not gonna need to hire three individual types of editors to do those three things if you are self-publishing. It is not, it's not expensive, but it's not cheap to hire three different types of editors. And also a lot of freelance editors will do a combination of these things, depending on what you're looking for and what you need. 

So when you are working on your book and you're looking to hire an editor, consider what details are the most important for you that you wanna have somebody else look at. For example, there might be ways that you can use software like Grammarly to help you with your copy edits, and instead you wanna focus on a developmental editor. Or maybe you have a friend that is going to act as a beta reader for you, that you're going to trade manuscripts and you're going to read each other's books. And that person might be able to work as a developmental editor for you. And so instead, you want to have somebody focus on your line edits and copy edits. Decide what you need. You don't necessarily need all three of these. If you want to learn more about them, there are a couple of Lulu blog posts that I can point you to. I'll link some of the show notes that'll dive a little deeper into those different types of editors.

Matt: Great. 

Lauren: I guess this doesn't really count as an editor, but I'm going to – I mentioned one already, so I'm going to throw it out there anyway too. Beta readers and sensitivity readers are kind of like a newer introduction -

Matt: Yeah

Lauren: - to the publishing industry in general. They're kind of unofficial, but they're basically going to be there to fine tune your content before you get published. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: You know, somebody who's just going to look – sorry, go ahead.

Matt: Well, I was going to ask, can a beta reader be a friend of yours or should you hire somebody who specifically is a beta reader? Because I've been asked to be a beta reader, but it's usually people I know or somebody who is somewhat of a friend, where I think maybe it's very easy to give advice and comments and suggestions. 

Lauren: That's a great question. I'm going to say that a beta reader probably should be somebody that you know personally, whether it's professionally, personally, maybe not someone that you're too close with because it's hard to get authentic feedback from somebody that you're super close with. Sensitivity readers, if that's something that you wanna do, that is somebody that you should hire because there are people…

Matt: Yeah

Lauren: That actually specialize in that. And sensitivity readers are gonna be people that are reading to make sure that your content is as inclusive as possible. Or if you're talking about something that speaks to a specific cultural niche or something like that, then you're representing that culture accurately or whatever the case may be. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: But beta readers, yeah, we actually, I usually recommend for beta readers that you use it as part of your efforts to grow your professional network as an author or content creator or whatever. I think it's a great opportunity to find somebody else who is in your field or in a adjacent field to what you are writing in and say, like, ‘hey, you and I are both working on books right now. I'll exchange with you if you want to and we can both kind of help each other. We can both promote our content to our various audiences. We can plug each other's content in different opportunities that we have and we can kind of help each other out here.’ So that would be my recommendation for how to find a beta reader. If that's something – and I would recommend finding a beta reader because why would you ever want to put content out in the world that no one other than you has looked at? That sounds terrifying to me. I don't post on Instagram without showing somebody and being like, hey, is this weird or is this okay?

Matt: I might have to challenge that one, your honor. 

Lauren: All right, that's fair. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Mostly because I don't care, but that's fine. So yeah, I would say again, this is the hill I'm gonna die on. If you are paying for one thing and one thing only, pay for some editing services. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: And like we mentioned earlier, if you're looking to hire a freelance editor, you can check our Hire a Pro page on Lulu. We also recommend Fiverr. 

Matt: Yep, yeah. 

Lauren: It’s a great, great way to find freelance editors. 


Matt: Yeah, that's perfect. Yeah. That's definitely the most complicated, I think, facet of getting your book ready for publication. The next couple really are, they fall more into the realm of design, and can be a little easier to find someone to help with these things, especially formatting. There's a lot of tools that actually help with that. There's a lot of online tools that you can use like Atticus and some of the others that'll help you format your manuscript into book form. But you can also find somebody to format it for you, somebody who's experienced at it for inexpensive in the grand scheme of things. And it's definitely worth it if you're not very skilled at using something, again, like Vellum, or Atticus, or some of the other tools that exist for formatting, it could definitely be worth paying somebody to format. 

And formatting shouldn't cost you any more than on the low end, probably a couple hundred dollars. And depending on the size and content of your book and what you're doing with the interior, it can go upwards of $1,000, $1,500 at the top end. Any more than that and you should just find a different formatter. Formatting is important. It's not as important as editing, but it's definitely important. 

Once you get that manuscript edited perfectly, formatting basically refers to the way that it's gonna look on the pages. For some people, it might seem like one of the hardest parts, but again, if you've got somebody that's in your corner that's gonna do it for you, it's really not. And a lot of people that are out there doing formatting, they do it so much that it's just old hat to them. Making sure your chapter titles and headers look good and all the other facets that go into that. I would definitely consider paying somebody to do the formatting for you.

Lauren: Yeah, I think out of all of the different steps of publishing, book formatting is probably the one that's most accessible to anybody because there are definitely tools out there to help you. There are guides and resources out there to help you. It is something that if you have the time and the patience to follow the step-by-step instructions that you need to get these things done, you can do it yourself. You're definitely capable of it. The question is, do you have the time and patience? And if the answer is no, absolutely consider hiring somebody. 

Actually, Matt just kind of gave me the segue on this one, too, a little bit. This episode is laid out in the order that you should be considering these services in. Maybe I should have mentioned that up at the top. This is laid out in order. So I guess technically write your book first. I feel like that's…that goes without saying. Write your book first, then consider your editing options. Do not consider any formal book formatting until your book is done being edited. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Because if you make any additional changes to the content of your book, you're gonna have to go back and reformat it. 

Matt: Yeah, and your formatter's gonna hate you. 

Lauren: Yes, whether that's you or somebody else. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So finalize your editing before you start doing any book formatting. Once your editing is completely done, start formatting your book. Once your book formatting is mostly done, then you can start working on your cover design.


Matt: I'll just drop a note here. 

Lauren: Go ahead. 

Matt: Now that we've been doing more of this on a side project, we have found that you can potentially start the cover design process early, for sure, depending on who your designer is and how well they work with feedback and things like that. So you can technically have a cover designer start working on your cover while somebody's formatting your interior, maybe even a little bit sooner. And sometimes that just means you're getting your designer, you know, some samples or some examples of covers that you like, or designing your own little…I think they call them mood boards or whatever, where you'll send your designer some of the colors you like, some design styles, again, some other book covers that you've seen that are really cool, and they can kind of start working that up. They obviously can't finish the cover until these other steps are done, yeah, because they need to be able to calculate spine width and all these other things that go into that. 

Lauren: Yeah, Matt just slipped that really quietly in the end there. If you're wondering why, you're not sure why the cover design has to wait until the formatting and editing are done, it's because you can't design a book cover without knowing the width of the spine and you won't know the width of the spine until you know exactly how many pages the book is gonna be, which you won't know until it's being completely formatted and edited. This makes sense. If there is a number two service that is worth spending your money on, it's probably cover design, especially if you are not great at it yourself.

Matt: Yeah, I agree. When it comes to spending money, and if you're going to do this a la carte and you're really trying to be budget conscious, of course, editing first thing, number one, then if it's a matter of trying to decide which other facet you're going to be able to splurge a little bit, spend some money on, I personally would also go with cover design over formatting, and I would just try to tackle the formatting myself using, again, a tool like Atticus or Vellum or any number of good ones out there. Or maybe even, you know, finding a freelance designer. But I would definitely put that money into cover design if I was very limited on budget, because we all know that outside of your immediate reach and your street team and everybody that you're going to have marketing this book for you, one of the main things that's going to sell this book is going to be the cover. 

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. To that point, too, if you are hiring a cover designer, keep in mind what assets you're going to want from them, because it might be – or it should be – more than just the cover of a book. Depending on what kind of formats you're going to publish your book in. Let's say you're doing a hardcover edition, a paperback edition, an ebook and an audio book. You're going to need four different cover files for those four different versions of your book, because none of them are going to work precisely the same. They're not really interchangeable. Even the paperback and hardcover are not going to be completely interchangeable. So you are going to want multiple different formats of the same cover files. You might also want some marketing assets that you can use in addition to that. So you might say like, ‘hey, I really like the cover design. Is there any chance that I can get some transparent background PNG files that also have just the title on it, so that I can use that as some like social content. So that's something you need to keep in mind when you are hiring a graphic designer, if you're gonna hire a graphic designer to do your cover design; to know ahead of time what assets you're gonna want from them, and make sure that you have a conversation with them ahead of time what they're willing to provide for you.

Matt: Yeah, that's a great point, because oftentimes people forget about that, and they get the book or copies of the book, they start taking their own pictures for social media posting or things like that – and we all know that most of us are not good photographers by trade, especially when it comes to finding the best angles and light for Instagram and Facebook and TikTok. So most designers are able to crank out a few of those for you relatively inexpensively. They already have the art right there. it's just a matter of giving you a few templated mockups and things like that. So that's a really good point. I think the other thing to note here too is just like formatting, if you are trying to be budget-friendly or conscious of what you're spending, and maybe you've outlaid some cash for editing and that was the extent of it. There are alternatives to paying somebody to do a cover. There are some good tools out there that you could use to make your own book cover. Some of them are fairly complicated to use and the learning curve is pretty steep and the price tags can be a little daunting. Things like Adobe InDesign or even Illustrator. There's a cheaper alternative made by a company called Affinity, A-F-F-I-N-I-T-Y. They do a version of Adobe InDesign, it's called Affinity Publisher, I believe. But it's still not the easiest tool in the world to use. If you have a penchant for design tools, that's a great one. Otherwise, Lulu just rolled out its newest cover design tool and it's actually really, really good. We had the crappiest one for the longest time. It wasn't as crappy as Amazon's, but it was still pretty bad. 

Lauren: It wasn't great. 

Matt: Yeah, but we recently put a lot of time and effort and money into having it rebuilt. And our design team did an amazing, I'm sorry, our development team and our design team actually, did an amazing job building a new one, a bunch of cool, new templates and a really great drag and drop tool that's very easy to use to create cool covers. So the point is you can find these tools if you need them, if you don't have the extra cash after paying for editing. So don't be afraid to seek out some other tools and resources for a cover. 

Lauren: Also, don't be afraid to lean on your audience for cover design specifically. The rest of these, you can't really rely on your audience so much. But cover design is actually a great way to garner some audience participation from your fans, followers, readers, et cetera. Even if it's just as simple as saying, like, ‘hey, I've mocked up these two different versions of my cover, one of them is in blue and one of them is in red, which one do you guys like better? I'm gonna have you all vote on it and whichever one wins is going to be the cover that I got with this book.’ People get into that. People love cover reveals… 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Audience participation in cover design, stuff like that. So if you're going your own route on this one, or even if you're working with a designer on it and you want some insight from people, go for it. But this is great social content. If you're looking for help with this. 

Matt: It’s true. It's a lot of great marketing and publicity. Right now it's real popular to publish in public. We know a lot of people who are doing it. And so by sharing your journey with your audience, not only does that help them feel involved, it makes them feel more invested in the process. So when that book is available, they feel even more desire to purchase it and own it. But it also helps you grow your audience as well. So it's not a bad idea to involve your readers and audience whenever you can. And some of those activities like helping with cover, color choices, font, things like that. Yeah, that's a good idea.


Lauren: Which kind of takes us into the next step of your self-publishing journey, which is publicity and marketing. 

Matt: Now, just because of its place in our conversation, this does not mean that you don't do any of it until you've published your book, correct?

Lauren: Oh, absolutely. 

Matt: Okay. I just want to make sure. 

Lauren: I'm sure I've said this before, and I know I'll say it again. If you wait until the day you publish your book to start promoting your book, you have already missed the boat entirely. You should start promoting your book well before its actual publish date. 

Matt: Yeah. And Lauren just gave you a great way to do that. For a lot of people, marketing is a scary thing. Sales and marketing in general is a scary thing, especially for a lot of creators, they just want to write and that's it. They don't want to deal with even some of these things we're talking about, but they definitely don't want to deal with the sales and marketing for a lot of them that doesn't come natural. Or a lot of people in general, really. But there are things you can do like what Lauren said earlier about involving your audience in, let's say, the cover design or some of those other things. There are ways that you can market without being a marketer, to get that book out there into the world before it's actually published. Some people utilize pre-orders, some don't. Pre-orders are another way to generate buzz and get people involved in the idea that you have a new book coming out, but that is also technically a sales tactic…but a good one nonetheless, and still qualifies as marketing. The point here I think is that you really have to make sure that you're starting well ahead of your launch date, marketing and talking about your book and really involving as many people in your circle as you can. 

Lauren: Yes, and that includes if you choose to hire somebody for it. So if you're going to do your own marketing and publicity, great, awesome, good for you. Make sure you start doing it while you're still in the process of getting your book ready to publish. And if you are going to hire somebody to help you with any of those things, you should also be reaching out to them, you should be hiring them before your book is published. Because they can't really do a whole lot for you if you wait until after the book is already published. 

Matt: Definitely. And if they do, it's going to cost you more, probably. I don't know if I would pay somebody to really do any marketing for you. There's a lot of resources out there that you can get your hands on - free resources, things like that - where you can find a lot of cool ways to market your book pre-launch, at launch and post-launch. And those are really the three windows that you have to market your book. And we'll be doing more episodes on marketing. I just don't think it's worth it to pay, you know, an agency or anybody else to really help you with the marketing of a book, unless you're at a stage now where you're pretty advanced in your writing, your audience is fairly large. Because when you go, obviously this is probably going to be a little bit counterintuitive to what people think and probably not a popular opinion. When you go to a publicity agency or PR agent, oftentimes you're going to them because you don't have a large audience or you're not sure how to market or what to do. And you're going to rely on them for their resources. And a lot of them are really good at what they do. They're not cheap. And I just, we haven't seen many cases where the amount of money exchanged, especially for newer authors, really comes back as a viable return in the way of getting book sales, I think people really are able to make a good go of it themselves these days with all the different platforms that exist. A lot of the resources that are out there, and the tools. So I would suggest going at it yourself in the beginning. And then if you get to a point where you're really not able to move the needle at all, you're just really struggling and having a hard time. Then you might want to consider reaching out to some sort of agency or PR firm or something like that.

Lauren: I completely agree. I actually debated a lot about whether or not to even include publicity and marketing in this episode, except that I know it's a question that comes up a lot. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So I ultimately…obviously, you're listening to this, so I decided to include it. It was something for me that I completely agree with what Matt just said. I really don't think it is worth your time or budget to hire somebody to help you with publicity and marketing for your book. 

Matt: And we'll be doing episodes after this one. We'll do one on pre-launch marketing, launch marketing, and post-launch marketing. So you can always keep your eyes and ears peeled for that one as well. But again, there's lots of resources. So, you know, I'd be a little leery of putting money into this upfront. I would really try to make a go of it yourself. Quite frankly, you can also find a lot of really skilled and creative and experienced individual marketers on places like TikTok and Instagram and some of these other places. And even probably Fiverr, you know, maybe they used to work at an agency or something like that. And you might be able to make a go of it a little bit less expensively that way. It's always worth a shot. 

Lauren: Yeah, for sure. I also do want to point out if you're listening to this and you're like, maybe this is another point in favor of traditional publishing is that they have like in-house publicity and marketing teams. Not as much as you might think. Like, yes, yes, obviously there are in-house publicity and marketing teams at traditional publishers, but a lot of the onus of promoting your book still falls on the author, even if you go the traditional publishing route. So this is something that you're going to have to do no matter what. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: If this is something that you are hoping to turn into a career, if this is something that you're hoping to turn into, this is going to be my primary source of income is publishing books, then get used to doing your own publicity and marketing. 

Matt: Yeah. There's just so many tools and other things that are available to you out there right now. It's just, I don't think it's worth it. But like I said, everybody's going to do their own thing and you'll learn from your experiences. We're here to help if you need it. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: Especially Lauren, you can email her directly.

Lauren: Once again, will not be giving out my email on this podcast. 

Matt: Hit me up. I'll give it to you on the side. 

Lauren: Yeah. I'll give out Matt's email right now. 

Matt: Mmmmm. 


Lauren: Okay, that's what I thought. Anyway, like we said throughout this episode, if you want to learn more about any of these different types of service providers, I would definitely recommend checking out our Hire a Pro page at slash partners. I will link to it in the show notes. I'll also link to some blog posts, YouTube videos, and other resources that you can check out if you want to learn more about any or all of the things that we mentioned here, whether it's how to do it yourself or how to have somebody help you out by hiring a professional. 

Matt: Yeah. And just to be clear, you don't recommend that I edit my own stuff? 

Lauren: You specifically? Definitely not.

Matt: Alright. Then I actually learned something today. 

Lauren: Do you want my two favorite editing tips? Do you want to sign off with those, or do you want to save them for another episode? 

Matt: Let's hear them. 

Lauren: Okay. My absolute two favorite editing tips – because I do think that you should self-edit, I think you should hire somebody, but I do think you should also self-edit. And my two tips for self-editing are first to print out a copy of whatever you're editing. So if you're editing a full manuscript, you can always order a print copy from Lulu. Just get like a spiral bound 8.5 by 11. Don't do any formatting to it. Just like get a single copy of your manuscript and hand-edit it, because you'll see things on a page that you might not have noticed on your computer screen. And number two is to read it out loud.

Matt: I co-sign on both of those. I am very analog. Everybody here at Lulu and in the office can attest to that. I keep our printer in very good sorts. So I'm constantly printing out all kinds of things. I just work better when I have it in front of me on paper with a pen in my hand. But I do find that there's a reason for that. It just helps me process it better. It helps me really understand and comprehend what I'm reading and make sure that I'm giving it full attention and being able to make handwritten notes I think really helps with that as well.

Lauren: I completely agree and I can also confirm that Matt does that. But so do I. Matt and I are both paper planner and calendar people. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: It actually gives you the added benefit of you're technically doing two rounds of edits that way, because you're editing your content when you are making the handwritten edits on your paper. And then again, when you go to transcribe those edits from the paper back into your Word Doc or Google Doc or whatever, you wind up making some additional tweaks and changes. And reading it out loud because sometimes a sentence will sound really good when you're typing it out and not really paying much attention to it. And then when you try to read it out loud, you realize you're stumbling over words, or it doesn't make a lot of sense, or you rambled on at great length. 

Matt: Yeah, that's a great point. 

Lauren: In which case you should probably start a podcast. 

Matt: Alright, I think that's my cue to say goodbye. 

Lauren: Thanks for listening, everyone.