Author Teams: Who's in Your Inner Circle?
Writers work alone, and many of us prefer it that way. We don’t want people looking over our shoulders, we strive for time alone to write, and our ideal is surrounding ourselves in our own fictional world.
Writers work alone… but authors don’t.
If you want quality for your books, you’ll need to reach outside of your comfort zone regularly and enlist the help of others. Your team will be unique to you--a set of people ranging from friends and family to hired professionals, ranging in skills from the literate to the artistic to the economic.
Not everyone needs the same team. Some authors swear by their beta readers, but just as many will trust a single editor. Likewise, some authors actively take part in local writers’ groups for discussion, but others don’t leave the comfort of their own homes.
Let’s start with the familiar essentials of your team that every author has.
Essential Team Members
You might be fantastic at self-editing, and you might even work as an editor yourself. Editing softwares have also risen in popularity over recent years, but the eye of a human editor has yet to be replaced.
You don’t need a host of editors to work with--but one qualified professional will set your book straight in ways you didn’t even realize you messed up, leaving a clean and engaging experience for readers.
In the world of self-publishing, designing your own cover is risky and often unsuccessful. Cover art falls into a specific and demanding category of graphic design, and being able to rely on a skilled artist for work will pay off in books to come, especially if you plan on publishing a series. While not all authors have close relationships with their cover artists, a consistent schedule and frequent communication help.
A Street Team
Your street team is your hype, and these days it’s getting harder and harder to get noticed without one. Usually, these teams are made up of dedicated readers who are willing to review your book in exchange for an advance review copy. You’ll keep them in the loop about your schedule and progress and let them know when and where to post reviews, and in exchange, they’ll build hype and boost your ratings.
Your Email List
You can’t be a full author without an audience. Even if you’re only preparing for your first release, you can start getting signups to your email list beforehand by releasing a sample or a short story related to your book.
On release day, let everyone know about your books, and stay in touch with your readers throughout your writing cycle to update them about promotions, cover reveals, and anything else that comes to mind.
Optional Team Members:
The team members to this point have been necessary and even universally common among skilled authors. But there are other roles as well which, depending on your personal skills, budget, and situation, can be equally important.
Self-published authors have agents as well, though the role isn’t as vital as it is to our traditionally published counterparts. An agent can find avenues for yourself to become better known, and if you are interested in becoming a hybrid author who publishes traditionally and independently, an agent will give you inroads you wouldn’t otherwise have.
Like agents, publicists exist to give you inroads. If the thought of booking your own tours and interviews overwhelms you, you can get a publicist to make the calls and put the dates on your calendar for you. Publicists are not absolutely necessary, and you can still arrange your own appearances, but the simplicity of your work (and the extra time you can spend with your books) can make a publicist a good investment.
A Book Designer
Book layout is much harder than it seems! Many authors, when starting out, have to juggle features like justification, page numbers, headers and footers, and blank pages. The act of setting a book (specifically a physical book) into proper form involves patience and skill. Templates are available, but limited in scope if you want a full job, and software like Vellum takes time to learn. If you choose, you can hire someone to fit your book to a template of your choice or create a new book design specifically for you.
A Writers' Group
Let’s get this clear: the helpfulness a writers’ group depends entirely on its members. Many authors rose to success only after they joined a group of like-minded scribblers and committed to working with them. Other groups will drag you down, burying members under either mindless compliments or endless discussion that doesn’t actually add up to what you need: constructive criticism.
If you find a group that challenges you to improve, that isn’t afraid to insult your writing and point out its flaws, run with it! Otherwise, don’t waste your time.
Beta readers are an optional step in the editing phase that will lend unique sets of eyes on your book before you put it out there. Often these readers are friends and family with no strong experience in the fiction writing field, and they will read your book with a fresh perspective. This will give you a view of what readers think of your writing before you get it out there, which can help you make strategic editing decisions further down the road.
Personal supporters include people in your life who support and encourage your writing. Some writers publish without many at home who support (or even know about) their aspirations, but getting an encouraging word from someone you love can mean the world as you move closer to publication.
Choosing Your Team
The good thing about self-publishing is that you decide who you want on your publishing team and how big you want that team to be. It’s okay if you only have a handful of people to help you out when you first publish, but as you become more established and have more to work with, you might choose to change your tactics and bring more people on board.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on who belongs on an author team! Please drop a comment in the section below or join my Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers for further discussion.