The 23 Jobs of a Self-publishing Author

November 27, 2017  •  1 Comment

When I started to work on GALÁPAGOS, the book of my dreams, I had only a remote clue what it will encompass. The perfect storm of challenges and constant learning kept me busy and happy.

To summarise the long list of 23 jobs, I would say, "The main task is to be a nice person willing to learn every day". But you are here for the detail, aren't you?

Please note that GALÁPAGOS is a travel guide, so many of the jobs will not apply to writers of another genre.

Photo by Riccardo Annandale on UnsplashPhoto by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash Job 1: The Visionary
Most of the jobs on this list are essential. However, The Visionary is the most important of them all. How do you want the book to look and feel? Author's vision sets the tone for all the activities that come next. Think Big! I wanted to create the best book about Galápagos ever, with modern design, glossy paper, stunning pictures, beautiful illustrations and infographics. I imagined underwater, drone, and historical photographs. I desired to fill GALÁPAGOS with stories of people and living creatures, instead of descriptions of hotels and restaurants. 

Job 2: The Strategist
Down to earth now! All the glossy paper and book-launch fireworks ring spectacular, but it means that somebody will keep busy. Scribbling down a rough plan sounds like a good start. Not perfect nor complete, it should turn the clean sheet of paper into a book on the reader's shelve. Writing is fun. Supply chain management and selling ought to be fun too.

Job 3: The Researcher
All authors should know what they are talking about. The beauty of the internet is that you can find almost anything there. I especially enjoyed automated text recognition on books written in the seventeenth century by Spanish ship captains and translating the text in Google translator into English. All this to confirm an aspect of a story I heard from a local on the Galápagos.

Photo by Meghan Duthu on UnsplashPhoto by Meghan Duthu on Unsplash Job 4: The Relationship Manager
This job has got two faces. The outward-looking ensures that the contributors are happy and deliver. The inward-looking takes care of happiness of the dearest and closest people. Both are challenging, the latter, in my experience, almost impossible.

Job 5: The Writer
Finally, it is the actual job of the self-publishing author. Daunting, harrowing, mind-numbing – nothing else than perseverance will fill the sheets of paper with 66,000 words, or how many you envisaged in your project. Eating the elephant in small pieces certainly helps. Also, and The Chicago Manual of Style are tools to lean on, especially if you are a non-native writer in English.

Job 6: The Photographer Photo by Brooke Lark on UnsplashPhoto by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
For me, this is the joy of making a book. I had some previous experience with photography, post-processing and creating photobooks and I love every piece of the process. Excellent quality of printed photographs comes from experience, sound equipment and efficient use of tools. I utilise the combo of Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop for managing and processing the images.

Job 7: The Videographer
It is not an obvious job on the first sight. However, video-clips recorded once one is out taking images will come more than handy. Your alter ego in the role of the content creator will thank you later. Your camera, mobile phone, or a GoPro would surely tick all the boxes.
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on UnsplashPhoto by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash Job 8: The Drone Pilot
This job is not compulsory. Drone photography requires a significant investment of money and time. Commercial work is allowed in most countries only with permission of respective government's aviation authority. Nevertheless, aerial images still offer an attractive and unusual point of view and will set your book apart. I fly the DJI Phantom drone with a 10 MP camera, and the resolution is sufficient. To stay on the safe and legal side, I also obtained the permission for commercial work from British Civil Aviation Authority.

Job 9: The Scuba Diver
Again, a job to set your book apart. Underwater photography is a niche craft and art. Production of useful underwater photographs is in my experience even more expensive and time-demanding than flying a drone. But it is also a lot of fun.

Photo by Marina Salles on UnsplashPhoto by Marina Salles on Unsplash Job 10: The Illustrator
I knew I wanted brilliant three-dimensional illustrations to depict some of the concepts behind Galápagos geology and climate. An utter lack of talent and skill made me hire a real illustrator. However, being able to work with Adobe Illustrator helped me to adjust maps, label the illustrations and create basic symbols.

Job 11: The Project Manager
There is a good chance, going through all the jobs above, that some of them would need outsourcing. Yes, such as the illustrator's job. At that moment, one needs to provide vision, assign tasks and manage time, money and delivery. It sounds like a corporate job, heh?

Job 12: The Copyright Manager
As soon as the authors use the first photo from the internet, they need to be aware of the copyright. Many images are available in so-called Public Domain and can be used for free. However, it is essential to double check that it is the case. Often, I did not find an appropriate Public Domain illustration. Being a photographer, I expect to pay for the right image. That said, I was surprised how forthcoming the copyright holders are in allowing the use of their pictures. I would advise starting with this job as soon as possible. The identification of the copyright holder and the process of obtaining the permission takes longer than expected.   

Photo by MI PHAM on UnsplashPhoto by MI PHAM on Unsplash Job 13: The Proofreader
Firstly, this is your job. Secondly, you need a trained proofreader to make sure you did a good job. The less time you spend proofreading after yourself, the more money you will pay to the real proofreader. is an elegant tool to improve quality of your text, but it will not catch every mistake. Proofreader was for me the job with the steepest learning curve. Oh, how I hated receiving the corrected text from my proofreader.

Job 14: Page Designer
By now, you should have your manuscript finished. It is time to finally decide on the format of the book, the margins, the grid and, of course, the type. It is a good practice to work on these decisions with the people who will print your creation. There is a chance that they will provide you with useful templates. At least my printer did.

Job 15: The Typesetter
For some elusive reason, typesetting fascinates me. Finding a suitable font for the main body of text, defining the styles of headings fitting well with the grid and making sure that the text flow follows all the visual rules may sound daunting to some but not to me. A good typesetting manual and Adobe InDesign were the perfect helpers to get this job done.

Job 16: The Graphic Designer Photo by Steven Lelham on UnsplashPhoto by Steven Lelham on Unsplash
I can imagine that the best way of dealing with the graphic design from the perspective of a fiction writer may be to hire a graphic designer. Not so for an author of a book full of photographs. The cover design, logo design and pre-print processing such as conversion of images to CMYK colour space and subsequent colour adjustment can be done in-house. I used the combo of Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.

Job 17: The Supply Chain Manager
At this time, you should have finished your book file. Your printer should be eagerly waiting for its upload. Do you know which shops will sell the books? I chose Blurb as my printing partner. I set up a combination of channels to sell the book – my online store for pre-orders, Blurb in the US and also Amazon in the UK and the US. Whatever help they offer, I am responsible for the logistics between these players.

Photo by Goran Ivos on UnsplashPhoto by Goran Ivos on Unsplash Job 18: The Website Developer
I mentioned an online store for pre-orders. It will not develop itself, and unless you want to pay for the setup and maintenance, I suggest you look around for pre-configured internet shops. I chose a simple option of an online store hosted by GoDaddy under my internet domain name. Custom code written in Adobe Dreamweaver plugged the gaps in its functionality. With some limited knowledge of internet hosting and internet, I made sure that Google and Bing know about my shop. With some effort, they should know better over time.

Job 19: The Marketing Campaign and Social Media Manager
I am not sure who said, "If I had last three dollars I would spend two on advertising". Unless you wrote and produced your book just for your closest friends, you will need to tell somebody else than your grandma. There is a good chance that the book will sell amongst your friends because they pity authors like you and me. I am afraid that I needed to speak to strangers and convince them that they can't live without what I have. Mainly to save time I opted for tools like Constant Contact for managing email subscriptions and campaigns, Hootsuite for scheduling social media posts and Feedly to know about all news related to Galápagos.

Job 20: The Content Creator
My marketing manager, me, needed some content for his campaigns. He asked me, the content creator, to produce some. The videos I took with my GoPro out in the wild came handy. I also found some (paid) music on the internet for my promotion videos and thanks to Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, Adobe AfterEffects and Adobe Audition I started creating content that I like. I will get better, I promise.

Job 21: The Salesperson Photo by Olu Eletu on UnsplashPhoto by Olu Eletu on Unsplash
Alright, we have the product, logistics and marketing sorted. Everything is online and ticking like clockwork. Nonetheless, a self-publishing author is a salesperson day in day out. In the beginning, while the whole enterprise is a novelty, every conversation is a selling opportunity. The books need to move from the bookstore to the reader's bookshelf.

Job 22: The Spokesperson
It is a great achievement to publish one's own book. It creates an aura of authority. There is a chance that you did not fake it when you progressed so far. And if you faked it, you should write a book about faking it. The authority feeds the author's image, and the image sells. Public talking about the book's topic helps to sustain this virtuous cycle. 

Job 23: The Blogger
What you just read renders this entry evident, doesn't it? ;-)

Some of the jobs may seem far-fetching. On the other hand, I must have missed some. However long the list is in the end, self-publishing is fulfilling and fun. I already started the job number three working on my next book.

Photo by freddie marriage on UnsplashPhoto by freddie marriage on Unsplash


DJ mathews(non-registered)
I know exactly what you mean. Self publishing gives you control you won't get from a traditional publisher. But
then you have to do everything, from editing (well, you can always get some help with that) to art to promotion.
But once it is done (and hopefully, done well) you reap most of the profit, instead of the publishing company.
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