Four Ways to Know if Your Self-Publishing Contractors are Good for You

For my Self-Published friends – we’ve all had some horror stories! Here’s four ways to find, pick, and work with the best self-publishing support staff people around!

By Daniel Ottalini

What happens when a freelancer and an author work together.
What happens when a freelancer and an author work together.

Hi all! There’s been a lot of press recently about small publishers and self-publisher

support staff – ie formatters, editors, cover artists, designers, small publishers, other freelancers, etc – leaving their hard-working clients in the dust and disappearing with authors’ hard earned money. In lieu of that, I thought long and hard about some ways that authors can tell if who they’re working with is the real deal, or a real stinker.

  1. They have a body of work they stand behind – While I’m never against someone taking their first dip into the contacting/freelance, I’d be nervous about contracting with them to do a large job. Most people just getting into the business offer to do a job for cheaper/free in return for recommendations and/or experience. If you’re not certain, ask for contact information from previous clients, and, if possible, contact someone whose information they don’t provide to ensure a fair representation. Check their credentials – they should have experience in their field, preferably with books/magazine/publishing/design, etc.
  2. They tend to follow routines, timelines, and procedures well – A good contractor will give you an estimated timeline and try to follow that, keeping you updated along the way. In addition, when it comes to payment, they’ll ask for half the money up front, half on completion. If you’re really nervous, why are you using this person? Reliable freelancers/small business people will communicate frequently, be available via phone or email throughout the day, and be able to provide a breakdown of costs/expenses. And most will not ask for the final payment until you are satisfied.
  3. They listen to what you want, and follow through – I make the distinction between listening, and listening and working with you. I will add a caveat here – experts like editors and formatters will often know better than you about their chosen fields. In the end, you may have the final say about whether or not that comma is in the right place, but is it worth a fight? You want to work with your support staff to make the best product possible, not battle over minutia.
  4. They aren’t satisfied until you are – The best contractors are willing to go back over and work with you again and again as necessary. Not always for free, but they’re willing to listen and work with you to fix or make adjustments. In my case, I always find small typos/sentence changes I want after the final edits and formatting have been done. My crew always does a great job being patient and supportive of me, within reason. If you keep finding errors in your final product, maybe it wasn’t really final to begin with, and no amount of harshly worded emails to the formatters will fix it.
What happens when they don't play nice.
What happens when they don’t play nice.

As always, this information will help you weed out the sleaziest of the sleazy, but due diligence on your part is always important. You can’t complain that someone took your money and didn’t give you what you want if you didn’t demand it. If the illustration/cover isn’t to your liking, then why did you accept it? Most importantly of all, your contractors can only polish and help your work be at its best. If it isn’t very good to begin with, all the polishing in the world will not save it. You need good beta readers to help with that. I’ll be following up this piece with an entry for freelancers – how to keep your customers honest and coming back for more!

Do you have anything else smart self-published authors should be aware of? Tips? Tricks? Rules to live by? Share them below! Also, remember to subscribe via the bar to the left, and follow me on twitter and facebook!


Other Great Articles to Check Out

  1. The Steampunk Alternative – A guestpost on Steampunk outside the normal lines
  2. Three Easy Ways to Balance… How Authors can balance their lives and writing
  3. Novellas and the Self Published Author Part 1 – We revisit my thoughts on Novellas and whether or not they are still worth it.

Author: Daniel Ottalini

Author of the Award-Winning Steam Empire Chronicles Series

4 thoughts on “Four Ways to Know if Your Self-Publishing Contractors are Good for You”

  1. Good list of things to look out for. I’d add “5. Ask around!” If an editor lists testimonials, seek those folks out and ask them straight up how it was working with them. Check out forums and such and ask other authors for recommendations.

      1. I’m frequently on the Writer’s Cafe over at and there is a TON of good info from successful self-pubbed authors. They also have a yellow pages for every type of help you might be looking for. Highly recommended.

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