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15 Ways (Other than Writing) to Make a Living in Indie-Publishing

Getting books into the hands of readers no longer means having to query and secure a literary agent and then, by some miracle, land a publishing contract with a New York publishing houses. 

Creating a book independently is easier than ever, and much of the negative stigma around self-publishing has vanished as self-published books like Andy Weir’s The Martian have hit it big with readers and with Hollywood.

Over the last decade, ebook publishing platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing and Kobo Writing Life, along with print-on-demand services like Createspace and Lightning Source, have completely revolutionized the book publishing industry.

Increasing numbers of indie authors have continued to find growing success in this brave new publishing world, and an entire industry of freelancers has sprung up to support them. What that means is, if books are your passion, you now have the unique opportunity to make a living in the publishing industry without having to move to New York, or even be a writer yourself.

What follows is a list of 15 different jobs you can do to making a living in the indie-publishing world other than writing.

1. Cover Designer – While many indie authors have a DIY approach to much of their publishing related work, most still turn to an expert (and wisely so!) when it comes time to create the cover for their books. Cover designers work closely with authors to design and create appealing ebook covers, as well as the front cover, spine, and back cover of paperback books. They may also design related marketing images like website banners and social media ads.

Expertise Required: Strong artistic background and skills, experience with photo-manipulation and design, familiarity with fonts and the best practices for their use on book covers, a deep understanding of book marketing principles.

2. Book Interior Designer – Much like the exterior covers, book interiors must also be designed, and many authors look to outsource this process. In addition to typesetting the book (choosing fonts, adjusting margins, etc.) interior designers usually also have the job of converting the manuscript from a Microsoft Word or Scrivener file into the appropriate final publication-ready format, be it Mobi (Kindle), Epub (Kobo, Nook) or PDF (print-on-demand).

Expertise Required: Deep understanding of book interior design principles (i.e. the use of running heads, verso/recto rules, front matter, back matter, etc.), experience with Adobe InDesign and other book design software.

3. Story / Structural Editor – Story or structural editors work with writers to help craft their books. The story editor’s job is to ensure the overall storying telling principles are implemented successfully and the book is structured as effectively as possible. It’s a story editor’s job to spot a chapter later in the book that works better earlier on, or to point out to the author that the opening hook needs to be improved.

Expertise Required: In-depth knowledge regarding storytelling and/or non-fiction standards, structures, and principles. A degree in literature or creative writing wouldn’t hurt, and already being a published author yourself is a near-must.

4. Copy Editor – A copy editor edits a manuscript with an eye for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics of style, along with internal consistency of facts. Freelance copy editors are the most in-demand of all editors because, while not every writer feels the need to work with a structural editor, most authors recognize the value of a copy editor.

Expertise Required: In-depth grammatical expertise combined with storytelling chops and an eye for detail. Membership in an organization like the American Copy Editors Society or the Editors Association of Canada will help.

5. Proof Reader – As the final line of defense before a book is published, a proof reader is on the prowl for one thing and one thing only: typos!

Expertise Required: The number one mandatory skill-set for any proof reader is an excruciatingly close eye for detail.

6. Publicist – While much has changed in the world of publishing, one thing hasn’t: books and authors still require marketing to find readers. As a publicist, you’ll help connect authors with influencers in the media who can play a role in promoting their books.

Expertise Required: When it comes to working as a publicist, your network is your net-worth.  You’ll need a little black book full of bloggers, podcasters, magazine and newspaper editors, and television and radio show producers that you can connect your author clients with.

7. Social Media Manager Every author needs a social media presence, but not every author wants to spend their time designing and implementing an effective social media content strategy. That’s where social media managers can help. This job involves designing and/or curating content, and posting it to your client’s social media feed.

Expertise Required: In-depth knowledge of multiple social media platform protocols, etiquette, and best practices, as well as the ability to design/create social media content.  

8. Author Website Designer – A website is the primary platform most authors use to build an audience, connect with readers, as well as promote and sell books. If you have website design chops, authors could be a great market for you to target.

Expertise Required: Website design and coding expertise, experience with book sales page design.

9. Author Assistant – Many successful authors hire assistants to aid them in a number of tasks. Assistants do everything from email and calendar management to interview and convention bookings and much more. This work can be done in person or as a virtual assistant.

Expertise Required: You’ll need to be collaborative worker able to take direction, and flexible enough to handle multiple different tasks.

10. Event Organizer – Whether it’s a writing festival, a writing retreat, or a full on conference, large scale events can be big business for those with the skills to organize them.

Expertise Required: As the title suggests, event organizing requires major organizational skills, as well as communication abilities, and project management expertise.

11. Researcher – Research can be a time consuming and labour intensive process, which is why many authors look to outsource this work. Author Kevin Kelly, for example, employs a full time researcher on his staff.  

Expertise Required: While knowing your way around a library is a plus, these days most researchers rely on IT knowledge and expertise. The ability to gather and organize facts and data is a must.  A background in academia or journalism will also be beneficial.  

12. Fact Checker – Fact checkers help protect authors of nonfiction books from litigation by confirming the statements and quotes included in their texts are accurate and properly attributed.  

Expertise Required: Much like the researcher job mentioned above, a fact checker needs strong independent research and analysis skills. Sometimes fact checking involves researching printed material, but other times it requires listening to recordings of interview subjects or speaking with the sources referenced in the text.

13. Book Launch / Marketing Consultant – Writing books is one thing, selling them is something else entirely. Many authors without the marketing know how turn to book launch and marketing experts to help them put their latest release on the map and hit bestseller lists.

Expertise Required: Marketing, social media, SEO/Keyword, and other launch related expertise, ability to rally influencers and affiliate partners.

14. Book Trailer Creator – Similar to movie trailers, book trailers are short marketing videos meant to entice readers into checking out a book. While some authors create book trailers on their own, increasing numbers are turning to video production pros who can create slick videos for their books.

Expertise Required: Video production expertise and equipment, along with marketing expertise.

15. Writing Coach – Writing coaches, like none other than yours truly, help authors identify goals, implement systems that promote productivity, and overcome challenges in the writing process. We also provide valuable accountability, community, and emotional support to authors throughout their writing and publishing journey.

Expertise Required: Extensive writing and publishing experience, strong communication skills, empathy for and deep understanding of the struggles writers face, an available library of resources, tools, and exercise to assist authors.   

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