What Happens When You Work with a Publishing Consultant: Interior design, proofs, and metadata

So you’ve finished your manuscript, thoroughly revised it, sent it to your beta readers, applied their feedback, and sent it to your proofreader. You must be done, right?

No. Sorry, you’re not.

Now it’s time to get your publishing consultant involved.

What is a publishing consultant?

I hired Sam Pearce of Swatt Books to help me publish my book, There’s a Book in Every Expert (that’s you!). My book is ‘self-published’, which means I retain all rights to it, but Sam has sorted all of the formatting, ISBN numbers, etc. If you want details of everything that’s involved in self-publishing a book, you’ll need to read Sam’s afterword in my book!

Here, I’m going to discuss what working with her has been like from my end.

Interior design

After I signed the contract to work with Sam, we agreed a date by which I would send my manuscript to her. Once she received it, she started on the interior design for the book.

First, she gave me a questionnaire to get an idea of how I wanted the inside of the book to look. This included questions about my preferred size for the finished book, which fonts I like/can’t stand, and which already published books I like the look of.

Sam took this data and my manuscript and produced three mock-ups for me to consider. She included pages with chapter headings, pages with lists, and pages with just text and subheadings, so I would get a feel for how the whole book would look with the three different layouts.

I then chose the aspects I liked from each and she made a composite mock-up. We tweaked a couple of things after that (spaces between paragraphs to give the reader room to think and font size to make the text easier to read).

When I was happy, she made the first set of proofs.

Why couldn’t I just use my typed manuscript?

You may be wondering why, since I typed my manuscript, I needed any interior design at all. I needed it because a word processed document is not a book.

You want your book to look and feel like, well, a book. You also want it to be easy to read for as wide an audience as possible.

Publishing consultants should know which fonts are easiest for people with dyslexia to work with, for example. You don’t want to publish your book in your favourite font only for it to be inaccessible to a significant portion of your target audience.

Also, consultants understand how to set the margins correctly – you have to allow for binding the book – and how to ensure optimal readability by choosing the right line height and spacing.

I’ve been a writer for a long time and a reader for even longer, and it didn’t occur to me until Sam mentioned it that it’s useful to have spaces between paragraphs in nonfiction books. Having that visual break gives the reader a break to process the information given in the paragraph.

Finally, it’s irritating to read a badly designed book, even if you can’t pinpoint what you find irritating about it. It’s a publishing consultant’s job to help you make choices that will make your book easy for your audience to read!

Reading your proofs

As I said above, after the design phase, Sam typeset the book and sent me the first of three sets of proofs.

She typeset the manuscript as it was after I had made the changes suggested by my editor. The point of reading the page proofs is to make sure the editor’s changes made it into the proofs and to check for other errors. This isn’t the time for major changes like restructuring your book – that should happen before the book is typeset. Waiting to do it later may cause you to incur extra charges for the extra work it requires of the typesetter.

By the time you get to the proofs stage, you’ve likely read your book a number of times. Most of these readings will be on your computer screen, and all of them are likely to have been of your word processed manuscript.

You’ll be better able to spot errors now that your book has been typeset because it looks very different to the manuscript you sent off. However, you still need to print it out. We proofread better on paper than on the screen.

Once you’ve printed your proofs, read them through start to finish and compare them to your final (professionally edited) manuscript. This will take time and energy. I don’t recommend trying to do more than about 20 pages in a sitting because the work requires intense concentration.

So, when you get your proofs back, you need to plan your proofreading time wisely to make sure you get them back to your consultant on time – if you’re late you’ll delay the production of your book.

My proofs were sent in PDF format and I made comments on them for what the typesetter needed to change. When you receive your second proofs, you need to make sure the changes you requested for the first ones were applied correctly. You’ll mark this one like the first and, hopefully, in the third set, you’ll just confirm everything is complete and correct.

Help your consultant help you

At some point, you consultant will ask you for both a short and long description of your book and for metadata, or which genres/subgenres it should be listed under. You need to take your time with these steps because they will influence the success of your book.

Your consultant will help you refine your choices, but you’re responsible for doing most of the work.

Your book descriptions need to be concise, engaging, and detailed. You may think it should be easy to summarise your own work, but you’ll be surprised by how tricky it is to do so in 400 characters or fewer!

The metadata is important because it will help booksellers understand what kind of book yours is. This will help them understand where it fits among all the other books they sell and will help your readers find your book.

Do you have to hire a consultant?

Of course you don’t. It’s your book, you may publish it however you wish. If you decide to go it alone (or must because of financial constraints), you need to allow yourself time to thoroughly familiarise yourself with all aspects of self publishing.

I hired a consultant because I understand how much is involved in self publishing, and I know I didn’t have the time or the inclination to learn all of it. After all, there’s little point in writing a book, if you’re not going to give it its best possible chance of reaching the people who need to read it!

Click below to order my book!

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I help entrepreneurs get their books out of their heads and into print!

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