Writer Services – Are They Really Necessary?

As you all know, my ‘opus’ – Guns of Perditionis now finished (minus a couple of good edits and some beta reading).

I’m now getting to that most dreaded of tasks; the act of self-publishing. In preparation of undertaking this task, I have been doing some research and have come up with a few questions I’m hoping my esteemed writerly friends might be able to throw some light on, namely;

Writer services; how many and when to use them?

Beta Readers


In ‘the game’ we’ve all heard of beta readers. The poor ‘schmos’ who plunge through the polished draft and provide (possibly) the writer’s first solid feedback on the story. Gems. Absolute gems.

But where the heck does one find these gems? I have heard of people who’ve made friends and / or do tit for tat deals (you scratch my book, I’ll scratch yours). But I’ve also heard of sites where you can access readers, such as Scribophile. The worrier in me wonders about the legitimacy of the people on such sites, and how to avoid potential plagiarism using external sites, so I wonder how you’ve handled the beta reader situation?

For the record, I’m willing to discuss tit for tat beta reading with other writers if you’re at all interested!

External Editing Services


Content editing. Copy editing. Line editing. Are you confused? Because I sure am! From what I can tell, content editing will see someone go through your manuscript with an eye for plot and structure issues, while copy and line editing is more to do with tightening up language and grammar. Writerly friends, chime in now!

The real question is, whether these services are necessary? Did you hire a professional content or copy editor? Or did you do it yourself? Did your book suffer either way for your decision? If you did get some professional help, how did you know who was reputable and what was a fair price to pay for service? I have asked this question in the past and received a ton of varying answers; hoping for more wise words to add to the collection this time around!

Book Cover Services


I don’t believe anyone who says they ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. I know I sure do (though an author’s tried and tested last name sure helps too). With self-publishing taking off, I’ve seen a glut of book cover designer websites out there – from those that allow the writer to choose from pre-made covers, to sites with teams of artists on their payroll, who design something semi-bespoke for the writer’s needs.

What did you do? Did you purchase a pre-made cover or did you opt in for something created just for you? How did you find either option? Can you recommend a great cover artist or service?

External Formatting Services


With the rise in self-publications, and through copious research, I couldn’t help but notice the rise in services offering to help aspiring self-published writers get their books formatted for the various online print services out there.

Again, necessary or not? Did you engage in a formatting service? Did you navigate through the Kindle Lulu Smashwords et al ‘format builder’ by yourself? If you did it yourself, was it easy to navigate or do you wish you’d purchased help?

Which Self-Publishing Platform?


Formatting questions inevitably lead me to ask, which platform do I use? There seem to be number of platforms available, though some appear more popular than others. They all come with copious amounts of research and stories highlighting pros and cons, and each claims to be the superior platforms for a variety of reasons.

Which platform did you use? How did you find the experience? Did you try different platforms with subsequent releases? Is there anything you wish you’d known before beginning your self-publishing journey?

I beseech my learned friends to come forth and share their knowledge, horror stories and triumphs. You may just save a life today with your wisdom (that life being my long-suffering husband’s as I descend into slow, tortured madness over all this and go postal!) – and your experiences and knowledge will likely be well-received by others in our blogosphere. 

Because at the end of the day – being a writer is hard!


25 thoughts on “Writer Services – Are They Really Necessary?

Add yours

  1. I think you have content, line, and copy editing all straight.

    I recently beta-read a manuscript for an author who simply asked for betas in her regular newsletter. Okay, she ‘s an established author, so I’m sure she had lot of people offer, but still, she simply asked.

    For the rest of us, as far as beta readers go, on a gut level, wouldn’t you rather exchange manuscripts with another author instead of paying for the service? It’d be two people emotionally (and time-) invested in both manuscripts. By the way, Jessica . . . I’m not ready for a beta reader yet, but I will be by mid May.

    If you’d rather hire a professional beta reader, I read a beautifully written book that was beta-read (and probably more, not sure) by Kevin Brennan at Indie-Scribable Editorial Services.

    As for the other services, I dunno. You’re further along on this process than I am!

    I hope that helps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Priscilla! I have a draft post for my blog and newsletter asking for betas, but I wondered if there was some other way I was supposed to do it first. This ‘first time to the process’ is daunting as heck hey?

      And you’re right, I’d much rather do swapsies than pay for services. That way both parties get helped out! Thanks again for popping by and sharing your thoughts 🤗


  2. OK, lemme see…
    Beta readers – yes, useful, very useful. Where to find them: friends (real or virtual); offering to tit for tat is excellent (I usually work like that).A beta doesn’t have to tell you what to change (that’s the job of the editor) – they only tell you what works for them and what doesn’t. But if you are lucky, beta readers will not only tell you where your story sags or slows down (that’s their main purpose), but they will proofread your manuscript.
    Pro editor – costly, but especially on longer works, quite useful. The real problem is, the author-editor relationship is one of trust that is built over time. You might stumble on someone that’s quite good at their job, but just doesn’t get you. Where to find them… complicated. Ask other writers in your same genre/subgenre.
    Cover artist – can be very expensive, but the cover sells the book. Depending on your skills on graphic design, you can create something good on your own. I sometimes do.
    Ebook formatting – you can do it on your own: if you can use Office, you can format and convert your book (using the free software Calibre).
    Platform: Amazon still has 80% of the market,so my suggestion is Amazon first, then the other platforms (Smashwords is attractive but their formatting guidelines are hell).
    Hope this helps. Drop me a line if you need more info.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Dave you’re the best!🤗❤️
      Thank you so much for the brilliant reply. No nonsense, honest opinions based on solid experience. I so appreciate it.

      Good news hearing about formatting. I’m no dummy when it comes to computing (I figured out WP, MailChimp etc and have been using MS excel in accounting for years) so I reckon I can have a crack at formatting myself.

      As for book cover, if I tried to do THAT myself, my audience would run screaming or go on a book burning bent. My graphics are that bad. I’ve seen an indie designer who seems quite good…

      Again, thanks so much my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve done a bit of everything. I like beta readers, and it’s always been an exchange of chores. Right now, I’m back in a wonderful critique group that serves the same purpose, but in smaller chunks. I started hiring out formatting when the table of contents got too baffling. As far as cover art, some of the pre-made ones are wonderful, and most of them are one purchaser-one use. I read a few webcomics and came across a fellow who’s art resonated with me. The style fits my stories. Dropped him an email, and he’s been doing my artwork for years, including all the Lisa Burton posters I use.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks so much Craig. A critique group sounds interesting; you’ve known the. For a while so there’s a level of trust among you I presume? You’ve done well to nab the artist you did, I love your colourful covers!
      Many thanks for the advice 🤗

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a lot of questions, LOL. Let’s see…

    Beta Readers
    I don’t use them and never have, but that’s because I work with critique partners who read my work as the story develops. I like catching potential problems as I’m working, rather than waiting until the end to have someone suggest I correct something. If you don’t work with a critique partner, then I do recommend beta readers. If it were me, I’d try to connect with someone and do the tit-for-tat thing. I don’t think a paid service is worthwhile.

    Absolutely needed. I’ve pubbed three indie books and paid for professional editing on all three.

    I designed two of my indie book covers on my own. The other one, I paid for a standard cover from the Book Cover Machine, then paid extra for adjustments I wanted.

    For my indie novels, I did the formatting myself. I’ve heard it’s easier now than when I did it. If I indie pub again, I may hire someone, just to save me the time. I thought the formatting on Craig Boyack’s latest release was gorgeous.

    Good luck, Jess. Don’t rush things to get your book out, but take the time to make sure it’s done right!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks so much for popping by and offering much needed advice Mae! I love the way you say indie publishing too… I’m officially making the switch from self to indie 😁

      If I may ask a follow up question, how did you score yourself a critique partner? Was it just over time and developing networks / relationships? I love the idea of a trusted person you can turn to for critique (so long as they don’t sugar coat it and give you honest feedback).

      I kind of felt an editor was non negotiable. I’ve recently read an indie book where a character’s name changed part way through, then changed back, and all kinds of typos throughout. Very off putting.

      Nope on the design my own cover thing 😁 as I said to Craig, my graphic design skills are non existent! Think I’ll just have to find a good designer or a premade cover that speaks to me.

      Reckon I can give formatting a go myself, or drag hubby in. He’s a bit of a technology whiz. Together we would be able to manage it.

      Again, thanks so much for popping in and sharing your wealth of knowledge. I massively appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m glad to help, Jess! As for finding a critique partner, I’ve always done that through developing relationships online. My first critique partner and I bonded over our love of an old tv show and mythology. We worked together for 12 years before she succumbed to cancer. After she passed, I was lost. I spent two years trying to find someone who I could work with. For me, a CP, goes beyond offering critique on writing. It had to be someone I connected with on a personal level as well. I went through 5 different CPs before finding that perfect fit again. It may take time. You may not even require the level of commitment that I need from a CP, but when you find that perfect fit you’ll know it!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh boy that must’ve been hard for you, losing you CP. Not for her valuable assistance, but the friendship you must have developed over such a long time. My deepest sympathies.

        Thanks for the advice and you’re right, I think it’ll be something that just clicks one magical day 🤗


  5. I think some things can definitely be done on your own once you learn them (formatting). Somethings might be doable on your own, if you have the skills and creativity and genre knowledge (cover design), but it’s probably best to hire help. It’s a steep learning curve, and might not be worth the investment. And some things you really need to hire help. Like editing. Beta readers can help you catch things, but they aren’t a substitute for an editor. (I’m an editor, and I don’t do the final edit on my own work.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Staci 🤗
      I remember you telling me once before you don’t do the final editorial pass on your own works, and that’s always stuck with me. I agree and think it’s the one area you can’t cheap out on.

      I also like the way you’ve highlighted it’s a learning curve. I have to get it into my head this is my first time, it’s a journey and I will (hopefully) have many more books to perfect my skills in this indie publishing business. But, that’s me. I have to get everything perfect on the first take.

      Thanks for your words of wisdom ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ll let you know what I do, and what I wish I could afford. Ha ha.

    Beta reading – I asked on my blog if anyone was interested in beta-reading and got lots of replies. Definitely give a list of areas that you want feedback on, or in most cases, you’ll get a one-liner “I enjoyed it.” Fine, but not super helpful.

    The best thing is a beta-read swap with someone who wants constructive, thorough feedback on their book, so they’re going to give you constructive, thorough feedback on yours. You might approach writers whose work you respect and decide in advance the level of detail. I have two beta-reading swappers that are so good that we ‘re providing some editing services to each other. It’s super time consuming, but it’s free. It took some time to establish these relationships, so be patient.

    Editing services are really important, but they’re pricey. The more work you do on your book yourself and through good beta readers, the less editing you’ll need to pay for. Find a professional and ask for samples to make sure you like their work. This will be your biggest cost.

    Covers! I have professional covers done for most of my books (and eventually it will be all of them). It’s worth it!

    Formatting and platform. This isn’t that hard if you go slow and are patient with the learning curve. I definitely do my own. Paperbacks are a breeze. Ebooks are a little tougher but there are tools out there to help. I use a program called Jutoh, but there are others that come highly recommended.

    I hope this helps!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Diana. I really appreciate you took the time to pop over and give your advice 🤗

      I’ve seen one of your covers over on Deranged Doctor Designs; looks great. I think it really is an area you can’t cheap on. Glad to hear your feedback adds to the overall feeling that formatting is most likely going to be ‘doable’… it’s been a big worry for me.

      Thanks for the tips on betas. I think it’ll be a relationship building exercise with the right person(s) … just as well I enjoy reading and critiquing almost as much as writing!

      Thanks again lovely 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “writing is hard”!! Boy, you’ve got that right! You have a lot of really good input here. I asked for Beta readers in a post once and got zero responses, so then I reached out directly to those that I respected that wrote in the same area, poetry. I reached out half a dozen I think and got 4 Beta Readers. Out of the 4, there were really only 2 that gave me good feedback. It’s hard. Some people are afraid of offending so they are TOO nice. One person rated basically everything as 5 stars…. 😦 So I just scrapped the idea. I’m just going with my gut. Good luck Jess. Hang in there. I know you’ve got a Masterpiece in the works!! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to hear about your bad experience with betas. I kind of expect the same thing but I’ll try it when the time comes just to be sure. And if I knew diddly about poetry, I promise I’d help you out! 🤗


  8. Jessica, I write both YA and romances. At the moment, I have a fantasy YA that I have out with a beta reader but to be honest, I could use another set of eyes if you’d like to exchange stories/whatever you have. I was part of a cp group but it broke up over the last couple of years. I hadn’t had any luck finding someone to look at my story til I ran into one of my former cps. Of course, I’m on the mend from surgery right now and will undergo a second. Don’t know how you are on the turn-around time, but if you’d like to try you can email me at tracikenworth731atgmaildotcom.

    Liked by 1 person

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