A Who's Who List For First Time Authors

A Who's Who List For First Time Authors, guest post by Marilyn R. Wilson

My writing career started with magazine articles. When I turned my focus to writing my first book, it was with utter confidence that the technical process would be a no-brainer because of my industry experience. I could not have been more wrong. A few years later I stepped into handling author support for my publisher and quickly realized I was not alone in my confusion.

There are many professionals that first time authors need to be aware of as they move towards publication, and each has a unique role to play in making their book the best it can be.  Skip one to save money, and it could really affect the quality. Here's my personal list.

Book Whisperer – I struggled to find a better description for this professional, but failed.  My book whisperer is also my publisher, and my first draft always goes to her for her feedback. Sometimes I reach out even earlier in the process by sending her my book idea and a sample chapter. She helps me clarify my focus, audience, flow, voice, title and more.  If she gives me a thumbs up, I know I'm heading in the right direction.

Editor – Every author needs to find a strong editor to work with who won't hold their punches, but who will respect the author's voice. It's a personal relationship that needs a great deal of trust on both sides, so choose wisely. Your editor is not there to tell you how great you are. They are there to help you step back and see your work as strangers might, to push your writing to even great heights and to help polish your book to the best it can be. While this is usually not a feel-good part of the process, it should be one filled with kindness. It is a humbling experience that involves compromise on both sides, but is well worth the effort.

Proofreader – A proofreader doesn't edit your work. Their job is to catch errors of all kinds, from spelling to punctuation to formatting.  The person you choose to work with needs to be detail-oriented, and the process should happen twice. The main and most important time is before you send your manuscript to the typesetter.  However, a shorter secondary proof should be done after the typeset to catch any errors. 

Typesetter – Always work with someone who has experience.  Typesetting is where the look of your book is determined. I have reviewed books where the font chosen makes my eyes spin; where the typesetter forgot to allow for the trimming that happens after the pages are printed, so the margins were too small; and where they didn't give the right spacing between sentences, making the text hard to read. Any one of these errors means your book will look unprofessional.

Cover Artist – A great cover can help sell your book and a poor one can bury it.  Choosing the right professional to work with is the first step. Look for someone with experience whose overall style is similar to yours. Every cover designer also needs a firm starting place, so you need to offer them a clean concept. If you struggle in this area like I do, try going to an online site like Amazon to peruse book covers in the same category as yours will be. Take note of which ones catch your eye and what colour schemes appeal to you. Most cover artists will take your ideas, create at least three different covers for you to choose from, and then fine-tune your favourite using your feedback.

Good luck on your journey to publication. Despite the complicated path ahead with many highs and lows, I promise you’ll feel nothing but exhilaration the day you finally hold that first print copy in your hands.

Marilyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer, published author and speaker with a passion for interviewing. Her career as a writer began in an unusual way: by answering a Craigslist ad from a NYC magazine. The world shifted when she conducted her first interview—she had found her passion.

Since 2006, she has interviewed over a hundred and fifty people from around the globe, co-owned a local magazine, wrote freelance for others, worked as an editor, published two books and provided author support for her publisher. Her goal as an author -- to give wings to the stories of others and to pay forward some of the many "pieces of gold" received during interviews - bits of wisdom that have changed her life.

Connect with Marilyn: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram


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  1. Thanks for spotlighting my book on your wonderful site. I hope the guest post proves helpful for your writers and authors. I know my first time through I felt very lost. Hoping to expand on this soon for a writer's group I am a part of.


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