Dane Cobain (High Wycombe,
Buckinghamshire, UK) is an independent poet, musician and storyteller
with a passion for language and learning.
When he’s not in front of a screen writing stories and poetry, he can be found working on his Book Review Blog or developing his Website. His debut novella, No Rest for the Wicked, was released in the summer of 2015.
Hi, folks! My name's Dane Cobain and I'm an indie author, and today I'm here to talk to you about something that's close to my heart. You see, one of the good things about the internet is that it's now easier than ever for writers to release their books and to get them out into the waiting hands of their readers, and that's a good thing.
The problem is that this often comes with a corresponding decrease in quality. And it's pretty easy to see why this would happen – after all, many first-time authors think that the hard work is over once they type 'THE END' and finish off their first draft.
I run a book blog, and so I get to see a huge range of different books of differing qualities. And you can tell when someone's simply finished writing something and then released it; likewise, you can tell when they've designed the cover themselves with little-to-no expertise.
It's a shame, because that can be hugely off-putting as a reader. Spelling mistakes and grammar mistakes, in particular, are a surefire way to get me to give up on a book or to give it a bad review. See, some first-time writers will simply finish their draft, run it through a spellchecker and then release it. But that's now how it should be done.
Instead, indie authors need to work with an editor, someone who can provide a fresh pair of eyes and a list of suggestions to help to improve the manuscript. There are two main types of editing – developmental edits, where suggestions are made for where sections may need adding, removing or rewriting, and copy edits, where the editor goes through the manuscript to ensure that there are no mistakes and that spellings are consistent.
In my case, I work with a cracking editor called Pam Harris. Pam is an author herself, and as an American, she adds a fresh perspective to my work. I'm British, and whilst my work does reflect this, I rely on Pam to help me to make sure that my wok is still accessible – she helps me to pick up on cultural references that people might not understand, and to polish the writing until it shines.
Likewise, when it comes to cover design, it’s not enough just to create one yourself, unless you’re a professional graphic designer. And whilst it’s true that you should never judge a book by its cover, people do that anyway – that’s why it’s key to make sure that your cover design is simultaneously eye-catching and an accurate representation of what lies between the pages.
I work with a talented cover designer called S. L. Stacker, another fellow author and creative. We’ll work together to nail down a couple of concepts, and from there we’ll figure out which concept is our favourite and further refine it until we’re happy with where we are. Then we just need to adapt the dimensions so that the cover is fit for both print and for the web.
Of course, I do my best to remunerate both my editor and my cover designer, because like any creative professional, I can’t ask them to give their services for free. That said, it doesn’t have to be expensive, either – ultimately, the three of us work together as a creative team, and whilst I do try my best to pay them for their services, they also appreciate how difficult it is to make any money as an indie author in the first place.
I won’t go into detail about the financial arrangement that we’ve all arrived at, because I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so without their permission, but suffice to say that it includes a mixture of flat fees, royalty statements and free copies of the final book, once it’s gone to print. But that’s the thing about being an indie author – you don’t necessarily need money to put out a quality release, you just need connections and the talent and time that’s needed to edit a book and to create a stunning cover.
It’s an approach that seems to work for me, and one that’s led to four of my books being released at a much higher quality than I could ever have achieved on my own. And there’s no sign of us slowing down – the three of us are happy with our working relationship, and we’ve got plans for it to continue until at least the end of 2017.
I’m grateful for it. No author is an island, and having a team behind me helps me to chase my dreams in a way that wouldn’t be possible without them. Writing this guest post is my way of giving back, but hopefully you found it interesting and/or entertaining too. And if you’re an indie author yourself, be sure to work with an editor and a cover designer – otherwise, your books just won’t be as good as they could have been.