The most difficult part of the self-publishing process can be working with a team of freelancers. Finding, hiring, and managing this team takes a lot of time and can feel like a second full-time job. For working writers who want to self-publishing in a professional manner, this is a major obstacle in your path to authorhood. To give you a hand, I’m going to break down some of the basics: who you need, what they do, and how to best manage them throughout the self-publishing process.

team of freelancers

Who You Need and what they do

At the bare minimum, you’ll need a copy editor and a designer. But, if you really want to give your book its best chance at competing with the pros, there are a few more team members you’ll want to consider.

Developmental Editor

A developmental editor combs through your story and tightens up all the big-picture elements. In traditional publishing, in-house editors and even some agents will do some of this work. But if you’re self-publishing, it’s up to you to make sure your plot, characters, themes, and reader experience are on point. Developmental editors help you get it done.


Despite the cliche, everyone knows books get judged almost exclusively by their covers when readers are shopping. The kiss of death for a self-published author is a cover that looks self-published. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma out there and many readers assume that self-published is code for “poor quality.” The first step in side-stepping that bias is having a killer cover.

When hiring a designer, it’s vital to get someone who specializes in book design. Graphic designers and other artists can do a decent job, but there are trends and practices particular to the publishing industry that, if missing or ignored, can turn readers off. Things like genre also affect how your cover should look. Your designer should be able to advise you on appropriate colors, imagery, and typography.

Copy Editor

Yes, you’ll need a separate editor for grammar, spelling, and mechanics. Developmental editors are primarily concerned with the big picture, but will still pick up some technical mistakes. However, it’s important to get a specialist in there to really clean things up. A typo or two can be forgiven (heck, I’ve found some pretty epic errors in traditionally published books!) but egregious mistakes will get you written off as an amateur.


Yes, a proofreader is different than a copy editor and should be another, separate person. The key to rooting out mistakes in the publishing process is getting as many fresh eyes on the manuscript as possible before publication. Books are long and people are human. Things that slip by one person will usually be caught by the next.

The proofreader’s job is to look over the fully laid out version of the manuscript. After the copy editor has done their thing and changes have been approved and integrated, the designer will format the manuscript as it will appear in the final book. Those are the files you’ll send to the proofreader, who will then be checking for leftover grammar and spelling errors as well as misplaced design elements, wonky margins, and incorrect linebreaks.

Managing the Chaos

With your book in so many places at any given moment, the self-publishing process can get super overwhelming. Traditional publishing houses get around potential stumbling blocks by appointing a project manager, the point person for the whole book. This person maintains the vision for the book and singlehandedly shepherds it through all the departments.

Since you’re self-publishing, that person is you.

To help you manage this process, I created a step-by-step checklist that takes you through the entire self-publishing process. Everything you need to keep track of it on it, minus the millions of emails that will flood your inbox. To get your free copy, pop your email in the form below and I’ll send it straight to your inbox!

I’ve written posts about what exactly goes into the process of self-publishing before, but as a reminder here’s the gist:

  • Build online presence/platform (social media, email newsletter, etc.)
  • Choose a pub date (but be flexible based on your team’s availability)
  • Find and hire your developmental editor
  • Find a hire your designer
  • Revise based on DE’s feedback
  • Find and hire copyeditor
  • Get set up on self-publishing service(s) of choice
  • Approve and integrate copyedits
  • Find and hire publicist, start planning book launch
  • Send manuscript to designer for formatting
  • Find and hire proofreader
  • Send formatted files to proofreader (You should probably do your own proof for good measure)
  • Upload final files to self-publishing service
  • Launch and publish!

It’s a deceptively simple list of tasks. There will always be more than one plate spinning at any given moment in the process, and each mistake impacts the success of your book.

You don’t have to DIY

Even though it’s called self-publishing, you don’t actually have to do everything yourself. Remember how I said that trad publishers assign project managers whose sole job is to do all of this for each book? Indie authors can do that too! Sign up to download my checklist and I’ll send you more information about how you can get me as your self-publishing wingwoman.

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Author: Whynott Edit

Hi, I'm Megan! My mission is to help underrepresented writers refine their words, strengthen their skills, and tell the best possible versions of their stories.

If you have questions/comments/concerns about writing, editing, or publishing, or want to suggest a post topic, feel free to reach out to me! megan[at]