When an author is serious about her craft, she understands the importance of assembling a team to prepare her book for publication and beyond. But what does that entail exactly? Actually getting a professional-quality book to publication can be quite beastly, especially if the content is beyond your basic text-only layout.

Let’s look at what an author should expect from her core team members.


Every author needs an editor. A real editor. A paid editor. An editor who has a reputation to uphold. If you want your grandma who was an English teacher to proofread your document, that’s great. Good job at involving Granny! But you still need to budget for an editor.

A professional editor:

  • Keeps up with the changing grammar and punctuation rules.
  • Puts the welfare of your book first.
  • Has a vetted system in place, such as using Microsoft Word’s tracking feature.
  • Pays for up-to-date software in order to best work with her clients’ documents.
  • Has an area that she specializes in, such as non-fiction, technical manuals, etc.

I started out as an editor. And then I quickly decided that was not for me. I had neither the patience nor the passion. Thankfully, I have found a couple of women who have both, with reasonable prices and great personalities to boot: Susan Stewart at PracticalInspirations.com and Megan Langston at MeganLangstonCopy.com.

Cover Designer

In this age of “I have a cell phone, therefore I am a photographer,” DIY cover design has run rampant. Easily spotted and rarely appreciated, DIY cover design can easily be the death of your book. Be a good enough business person to realize that you shouldn’t go down this path. Of course, there will be exceptions for those of you who are actually graphic designers, but even graphic designers can often be too close to their own work to capture the correct graphic statement.

While my current rates are $400 for a full cover design (front, spine, back), you will find designers whose rates range from $50 – $1500. Are they worth it? Only you can determine that. When I first started doing cover design, I only charged $50 per cover.

Three years ago, this was a cover I completed for just $50.


I was so proud of that cover, but I look at it now, and I’m like, “Yikes.” Not “Yikes! That’s the ugliest cover I’ve ever seen.” Just “Yikes! I have come so far in just three short years.” The above cover is just a stock photo with text added to it on colored bars. I now see this as a very amateur way of “designing” and it is no longer a practice I implement.

Here is one of my most recent covers:


You can see the difference in quality. The “Matters of the Heart” cover was very customized, and I worked closely with the author, Carlie Kercheval, to arrive at the perfect reflection of her content (roughly 8+ hours).

Pre-made covers can also be a great option if you are unable to afford someone to work with you directly. With pre-made covers, you select from one-of-a-kind covers, send the designer your book title and your author name, and then he sends you back your completed cover. TheCoverCollection.com does great work and offers a wide selection.

Interested in reading up on critiques of DIY covers? Check out CoverCritics.com. He has great feedback and other designers also chime in on the comments.

A professional cover designer:

  • Talks through design options with you.
  • Researches other books in your genre to ensure that your cover will stand out without being too outside-the-box. It’s also important to research covers to ensure that your cover does not too closely resemble an existing cover.
  • Works in different programs to help achieve the perfect cover for you. I often have to use Photoshop and Illustrator to perfect individual elements that are then used in InDesign for the book cover assembly.
  • Ensures that your finished files meet industry standard.
  • Is willing to say, “I don’t think this is the right project for me.” You don’t want to hire someone who is just chasing money.

Interior Layout Designer

Can your book be laid out in Microsoft Word? Most definitely. And if you have no other option except to DIY, then Microsoft Word is a great choice if you know how to use it properly and understand that you will face challenges to achieve an acceptable finished file (for CreateSpace, IngramSpark, etc.). But if you are hiring someone to do the interior layout, they should not be using Microsoft Word. The industry standard software for book design is Adobe InDesign. It is built specifically for creating and optimizing a book’s layout.

If your book is not the typical straightforward, text-only format, it is best to have your interior layout designer selected before you begin writing. This will help save both of you time, which will save you money. In Adobe InDesign, each word is assigned a character style. Each paragraph is assigned a paragraph style. These styles can then be given directions, such as “Start chapter titles on the next odd page” or “Use a .25” gap between Scripture quotes.”

This is an example of what a client submitted to me compared to her finished product. All she had to do was type the basic text and notate which image I needed to use. We spent time hashing out her preferred layout, and then I brought the text in and got to work. I did the layout in a much quicker and efficient manner than the average person could do in Microsoft Word. (Heather Greutman of GrowingHandsOnKids.com, Basic Shapes for Beginners: A Hands-On Approach for Pre-Writing Strokes for Preschoolers.

Melinda Martin interior layout designer

To see other examples of interior layout (ranging from basic to very custom), view my portfolio at http://melindamartin.me/portfolio/interior-portfolio/

Even with books that are text-only, there are still lots of great effects that can be added to make your book rise to the challenge of catching a reader’s eye. Just prettying up the chapter header can go a long way to adding some curb appeal to your book.

Zapped by Betty Galvano

As is the case with most designers (or workers in general!), finding one who does quality work, is reasonably priced, and also has good communication skills is difficult. My rates range from $250 – $1500, depending on the complexity of your project. You can research other interior design layout professionals at Reedsy.com. They are also a great source for editors and cover designers.

A professional interior layout designer:

  • Spends time with you to develop the right layout for your book.
  • Ensures that the design is cohesive with your cover art.
  • Is in it for the long-haul. She will understand that updates may need to be made to achieve an error-free upload to sites like CreateSpace and IngramSpark.
  • Plans ahead for the Kindle conversion. Steps and measures can be taken in order to ensure a smooth transition from a print file to a Kindle file.
  • Uses industry-standard software to create your book.

I subscribe to the theory of “See a need, fill a need.” This led me to start a Facebook group called, “Self-Publishing Support Group.” It is a place where editors, designers, and authors can share advice, successes and failures, recommend helpful websites and books for learning more about self-publishing, and provide moral support for one another. It is closely monitored to keep spam away, and the environment is one that is both fun and professional. It is a great place to network, and you can view this thread where self-publishing service providers have listed their businesses and specialties (https://www.facebook.com/groups/selfpubsupportgroup/permalink/841523639309364).

Melinda Martin works one-on-one with her clients to simplify the self-publishing process. She takes basic documents and develops them into professionally styled books.

Melinda is a native Texan, a pastor’s wife, a crafter, and a lover of life! This business was born out of her passion for helping others. Self-publishing doesn’t mean having to do it all by yourself. She’ll assist you every step of the way.

MEAI Members receive:

  • Free 3D MockUp of your book cover (value $100!)
  • 15% discount on all of Melinda’s services

CLICK HERE to contact Melinda and discuss your book needs.