Monday, December 14, 2009

What is a book shepherd? And do you need one for self-publishing?

If you’re an author with a book ready for publication and you’ve looked into self-publishing, and it’s probably become pretty clear there is a lot more involved than just sending your manuscript to a printer and kicking back to wait for the money to start rolling in. In fact, the process is downright complicated—and somewhat frightening.

Fortunately for the novice self-publisher, there are publication consultants who can guide you through each phase of the complicated publishing process. There are advantages to using a “book shepherd” (so dubbed, I believe, by one of the original self-publishing gurus Dan Poynter)—one of which is that it can save you a lot of money in the long run. A book shepherd can keep you from making some of the typical rookie mistakes. Look at it this way: You can spend years learning the self-publishing business on your own, or you can hire an expert to help you navigate the process.

There are different types of book shepherds. Some offer advice on the many aspects of publishing, referring you to experts for the areas they don’t handle. Others provide turnkey service, taking care of filing the necessary forms, manuscript editing, interior and cover design, printer brokering , and overall project management. Others, like us at Self-Publishing Resources, offer either turnkey service or hourly consulting if you want to do-it-yourself.

Working with a good book shepherd can also greatly increase your chances for publishing success. Planning ahead is extremely important, and something that is not always considered. Often, authors jump in to self-publishing without a lot of forethought. A self-publishing venture is a business enterprise, and it should be treated as such. There are myriad decisions to be made, including book title, cover design, printing options, price, just to name a few. And all can have a huge impact on whether or not your self-publishing undertaking will be successful.

There are well over 100,000 book published each year. You can’t wait until after your book is printed to think about marketing and promotions. And even the most well-written, beautifully designed book in the world isn’t going to sell if no one knows about it. Book shepherds can offer advice in this arena as well, often suggesting options for selling your book you had never considered.

The bottom line is that a good book shepherd can save you time, money, and stress, and will give you a much greater chance for self-publishing success.


  1. Sue, nice post. I think the guidance that a book "shepherd" can provide is one of the most valuable contributions they make. When authors think about self-publishing confusion over what to do next can be paralyzing. Having someone to help you step by step to get your project organized and on track is really helpful!

  2. Thanks, as always, for reading, Joel. I find that most clients come to me feeling decidedly overwhelmed, and the feedback I always get is that it was well worth the financial investment to have someone to help them along that complicated path to print!

  3. Sue, I agree with JF's remarks. Like any other specialized industry, self-publishing has its own set of opportuntities and pitfalls. It helps to have a guide (shepherd) to help the new self-publisher navigate the tricky waters.

    Christopher Ryan