September 17, 2011

Indie Adventures – Part 5 – Bringing in the Pros

New to this series? Start with: Indie Adventures – Part 1 – The Starting Line

This series is titled “Indie Adventures,” and I am going the indie route with the publishing of my novel, but that does not mean that I am doing it all myself. Indie is about control, it is not about who does the work.

So, indie does not mean you have to do all the editing and proofing, create the cover art, typeset the book, format it for ebooks, create your support websites, etc. What it does mean is that you are the captain of your own ship; that you decide what happened with your book at each step of the way.

So, for me, I decided to bring in the pros in two area: Proofing and Cover Art. Why? Because I knew I needed help.


While I could have kept using volunteer resources (and I am going to do that a bit more) I decide it was worth looking into getting a professional proofreader. I had two (very good) reasons for doing this: 1) Writers are notoriously poor at finding their own mistakes–they’re just too close; and 2) I am a poor speller and a messy writer. While I am getting better there is still a lot of cleanup that needs to happen with my text.

Oh, and there was one more reason: In each of my beta rounds, and with each of my readers, new issues were found. To make my book the best I can, it seemed prudent to get someone who does this for a living to take a look.

Finding the Pro: I used Diana Cox, whom I read a guest blog post on Joe Konrath’s site. I emailed her and we were off and running.

Results: Diana was great to work. She took a Word document with change tracking on, made two passes through it, and returned it to me. I spent a couple hours going through her changes (most of which I accepted) and that was that.

She found many (hundreds) of small, mostly grammatical, things. Now, I don’t think my manuscript is perfect and error free, but it is pretty damn close at this point.

Cost: Diana charges $3.50 per 1,000 words. My novel is 62,000 word, bringing the cost to $217. Diana was kind enough to give me a new client discount (I don’t know if she is still doing that), so I paid less, but frankly her rates are very reasonable, and it is very much worth $3.50 per thousand words.

Contacting the Pro: Fair warning, Diana is busy, so if you want to user her contact her as early in the process as you can to get on her calendar. You can email her at, or visit her web page at

Cover Art

OK, this is fun because I can tell this tale with pictures. When I did my first beta round I mocked up a cover for the book. My main reason for doing it is I wanted to make the book “feel” more real. I’m not sure why it was important, but it was.

So I put together a very simple cover using some stock art. I couldn’t quite pull off what I wanted (I was going for the text to look engraved), it was beyond my ability. But it did server the purpose I intended it to. So, here is my cover:

(click on image to see a bigger version)

I knew someone with more skill could do a better job, so on July 4th during a thank-you lunch for my short story Beta Readers (who also read the novel) Peter suggested using Steve Staal who had done quite a bit of work for his wife. Later in the evening they showed my some of Steve’s work and I was impressed. So Steve started with the gravestone concept and proved what talent and skill can do. Check it out:

(click on image to see a bigger version)

A little bit better than my attempt, huh? He’s a pro, you can tell with just a glance. When I first saw the version with the ghost on it I was completely blown away. I sat there saying “wow… wow… wow…” for a good five minutes. It was one of those experiences you don’t get very often in life–having a vision of something and seeing it go much further than you could have ever taken it.

The process was a lot off fun too. Steve and I communicated via email. He would send me a draft, and I would make comments, and he would send me a better version. Great fun.

And covers are important, they are the first thing a reader sees and they need to grab a readers attention as well as conveying important things about the novel. That ghost there is the novel’s protagonist. His name is JJ. Want to hear something odd? Several of my beta readers, when rating the cover, commented that the JJ on the cover looks like the JJ they imagined. Amazing!

Here is a look at the full back and front covers and the spine:

(click on image to see a bigger version)

Finding the Pro: Recommended by a trusted friend who had done a lot of work with him..

Results: As you can see for yourself: Amazing!.

Cost: This cover is done as a work-for-hire (I am buying the copyright) for $500. Worth every penny. I am sure this cover will help sell the book.

Contacting the Pro: You can email Steve at or visit his website at But, uhh, don’t keep him too busy, I am going to need him for upcoming projects.


Going indie does not mean going it alone. When you need help, get it. Your book will be better off for it.  And find a true professional (which I was lucky enough to do in both cases).

Yes, it does cost money, but your book is a product and you need to invest time as well as money to make it the best it can be.

Next up: Producing the Book

Don’t miss: Indie Adventures – Part 1 – The Starting Line,  Indie Adventures – Part 2 – Beta Readers or “How the Hell Do I Know If This Book is Any Good!?”, Indie Adventures – Part 3 – Evaluating the Beta Read, and Indie Adventures – Part 4 – Beta Round 2 (or One More Time for Good Measure).

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Robert J. McCarter

Robert J. McCarter is the author of more than ten novels and over a hundred short stories...... learn more

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