Your Book Needs Editing, Design, and Marketing (even if CreateSpace no longer offers these author services)

editing services

When my first self-published manuscript returned from an editor’s desk carved in violent red ink, I learned one huge lesson: a book simply won’t be publishable without professional author services like editing and design.

Several years ago, I wrote a book that I planned to self publish. My company, BookBaby, didn’t have its own in-house editing service yet, so I decided to use an outside firm. The first step was to send them my manuscript. After mailing it over, I remember thinking, “Hey, I’m a journalist. I know my way around a comma. There shouldn’t be too much revision necessary.”

I was dead wrong. Several weeks later, my manuscript was returned with pages carved in violent red ink. My book was hardly recognizable. Every sentence appeared to need revising.

The experience taught me one huge lesson: the importance of focused, professional editing. A book simply won’t be publishable without it.

The same is true of professional marketing and design services that ensure your book can compete in the marketplace. Independent authors lack the resources provided by big publishing houses; investing in these services helps level the playing field.

That’s why Amazon’s announcement that it is discontinuing its author services — the division of CreateSpace that offers independent authors editing, marketing, and design — is a significant development. These are important, necessary investments for independent authors to make. Amazon or no Amazon, skimping on these services won’t just limit your book’s potential, it could render your book irrelevant.


Professional editing is the most important investment you can make for your book. A poorly-edited book will turn off potential readers almost immediately. If your book is riddled with grammatical mistakes, structural problems, or spelling errors, it won’t have a shot at competing with books that have been professionally edited. In fact, self-publishing an unedited book can damage your reputation.

A few years ago, we worked with a preacher from Texas who served as the president of two Bible colleges near Dallas. He rushed to publish a book he wanted to include in his curriculum for the upcoming school year. He didn’t have it edited, and he printed 500 copies.

Once he had the book in his hands, he sent copies to his family and friends. Soon after, he began to get texts saying, “Page 6, there’s a typo.” “Page 14, there’s a typo.” In time, he wished he’d never published the book at all. Luckily, there was a happy ending. He sent the book out for editing, and BookBaby reprinted all of his books.

There simply is no substitute for professional editing. At BookBaby, the first question we ask when someone brings a manuscript to us is: “Have you had it edited?” If an author tells us they don’t have much money budgeted for their book and can’t afford editing, we advise them to print fewer copies and invest the rest of their budget in professional editing. That’s how necessary it is.

Your words are the most important part of your book. Treat them as such.


Another investment independent authors should consider is in marketing strategies and resources. The better equipped you are with tools and strategies to market your book, the more successful that book will be.

One mistake independent authors often make is assuming their book will sell itself. This isn’t the case. All authors need to put in some marketing work. You need to identify your niche and you need to strategize how to establish relationships with your audience. Without putting in that work  —  which might include investing in services or consultants to help you — how can you expect your book to sell?

It’s not enough to make this investment just once, either. Publishing your book is not a singular event , it’s the start of a long adventure. Before you publish your first book (or even before you begin writing), you should create a Twitter account, an author website, and an email list. Once you’ve established these things, you won’t be using them just once. You’ll be building, polishing, and tweaking your use of them continuously. Using these tools is a skill that needs to be sharpened and honed.

This is why we encourage independent authors to learn how to market themselves and their books. There is not one blanket strategy or solution that works for everyone; yours will have to be built to meet the demands of your individual market space. Authors backed by traditional publishing houses are doing this stuff. You need to do the same.


In 1964, when United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart described his threshold test for what constitutes “obscenity,” he famously said: “I shall not today attempt to define [obscene] material … But I know it when I see it.”

The same threshold can be applied to book formatting: You can just tell when it’s been professionally done. And for independent authors attempting to compete with the big players in the publishing space, meeting that threshold is absolutely necessary.

Book design is an art form, and it encompasses more than just cover design.

At BookBaby, our designers turn what would normally just be text on a page into a pleasing reading experience. We do this work purposefully, considering what type of colors, textures, typography, and placement is appropriate for each book based on the genre and story.

Books designed without this level of artistry or care are going to prove less attractive to readers. Because the ultimate truth is, yes, people do judge books by their covers. This is perhaps even truer for readers looking for books on Amazon. On Amazon, authors have milliseconds to attract the attention of potential readers. If you don’t have your act together on the front of your book, you’ll miss out on a lot of readers.

At the end of the day, your book is a reflection of you and all the time and effort you put into making it. It is your legacy, and you don’t want your legacy polluted by something you’re less than proud of. Treating the editing, marketing, and design aspects of the publication process as seriously as you did the writing is the best way to ensure you are proud of your final product.

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Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and President Emeritus of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self-publishing service provider. After a successful career with companies including Mattel, Hasbro, and Pinnacle Orchards, Steven joined AVL Digital in 2004 as Chief Marketing Officer, leading the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. The native Oregonian was tapped to lead BookBaby, the company’s new publishing division, in late 2014. BookBaby’s growing book-printing operation is located outside Philadelphia, PA, and employs over 100 book-publishing experts across the United States to meet the printed and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Steven retired as brand President in 2022 and continues to contribute via weekly emails, industry guides, and posts on the BookBaby blog. He’s in the process of relocating full-time to southern France in early 2023. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to


  1. I certainly agree on the need for a professional edit. I self-published my memoir, using a ‘full service” publishing company. I bought their “professional” edit, and book design. I’m like most authors, I seek an editor, because–I just miss too many things, even mistakes that I know are there. Here’s my question. Despite the costly edit (approx. $1500), I got a poor job. Friends and acquaintances pointed out numerous errors. But, Since the final proof OK was all on me–when I said OK, I guess I accepted responsibilities for the missed editor errors. Which doesn’t make sense–that’s why I went to a pro edit in the first place. I don’t have any recourse?
    I don’t want to pay again to have an editor, edit my already edited book. What’s an author to do?

  2. When I decide to have my book edited, am i paying for someone to read it, or correct it, or both. The reason I ask, is this. My thoughts are as such,, what if I only need a dozen lines restructured, and a dozen words spelled incorrectly, corrected? How am I billed if this is the case? I guess I am relatively confident that 90% of the grammar is intact and that maybe the punctuation is too! How will I be billed?

    • Really good question.
      I suggest you edit your own ms until you are reading through with no obvious errors. Spelling, punctuation, continuity etc all Ok.

      Then you must decide. a) Are you publishing for pleasure or; b) are you publishing for profit with a view to a career? If pleasure, pay for a read through by an editor with a proven record. Get a price up front and judge by the results.
      If you are profit driven – and you truly believe in your ms – invest in an in depth analysis and full edit from scratch again. It’s not cheap, but your book will be on sale for a long time. You will need to try a few editors before finding one you can work with long term.
      Good luck.

      • I would add that you are paying your editor to read and evaluate the ENTIRE manuscript. Every sentence, every word has to fit and flow and be correct; that takes time, expertise, and keen attention to detail. Often an editor will double check a word spelling when they remember that they saw that same word used ten chapters ago and thought it was spelled differently. There is often a lot of double-checking and reviewing of their comments and queries to you in the margins, to be absolutely sure they are communicating with you effectively. They will establish a unique Style Guide for your book to organize all their decisions about word usage, abbreviations, etc., not only for their own use but to communicate with you about their editing decisions. Consistency of word usage is of paramount importance.

        Editors don’t charge by how many errors they find. They charge by the time and attention your particular manuscript needs. In a case such as yours, they would most likely agree with you that your manuscript does not need “heavy” editing and will charge for a “light” edit (unless you are grossly out of touch with your writing skill). So in that sense, you might not pay as much for a good edit. But you would still be charged for their time in evaluating every word, agreeing beforehand that they will be doing said “light” edit. However, all editors can tell you about the time someone brought them a manuscript that “didn’t need much editing” and then found out that it had serious, major organizational flaws or other problems, and the writer was clueless. The editor would then need to inform the author about this. And if the writer agrees to invest in the editor’s skills and time, the editor would increase their fee accordingly, perhaps significantly.

        The bottom line: “Editing” is the entire process and set of skills that a professional editor brings to your book, not the result of using such process and skills. Finding those dozen phrases to restructure or those dozen misspelled words takes every bit of expertise they possess and time they spend doing it. And that is how you will be charged.

  3. Another edit? Really? Yes, Steve, you are right on. An unpublished manuscript always fairs better under the watchful eyes of a seasoned editor. I’ve been working on my first novel for several years. I had a few author friends read the rough drafts, “It’s just not where it should be yet,” Back to the drawing board. Finally done, I thought. Until, I found a content editor. Now, I’m at the end of the final revision..getting ready to send it to a Book Baby COPY editor. Reading it out loud is an eye opener. I believe I actually have a good book. Thanks for sharing.


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