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Self-publishing doesn’t really exist. 

You can’t just sit in a cabin in the woods alone and emerge with a published book in hand. You certainly can’t come out of that cabin with 5,000 physical copies of a well-edited book with a beautiful cover. 

It’s rare to find someone with all the skills required to turn an idea into a physical book, and it’s impossible to give yourself a second opinion. 

Every writer needs an editor who doesn’t know what you intended to say. They can look at what you actually wrote and ask, “Is this what you meant to say?”

Many of us also need cover designers, formatters, web designers, assistants, and more. You probably don’t need all those people because you can do some things yourself. For example, if you take my free course on how to build a website, you may not need a webmaster. If you’re an editor yourself, you may not need as much editing, but even editors know they need to hire another editor to edit their work.

You will need some help. 

good book cover can mean the difference between dozens or thousands of sales. Ideally, you already know a professional cover designer and editor. But what if you don’t?

Where do you find publishing professionals?

You could check the job board, where you will find dozens of editors and half a dozen cover designers who can help.

But did you know there is an online community called Reedsy, where thousands of professional editors, cover designers, marketers, ghostwriters, and PR professionals are available for hire?

What is Reedsy?

I recently interviewed the cofounder of Reedsy, Ricardo Fayet, to find out. 

Thomas Umstattd, Jr.: What is Reedsy?

Ricardo Fayet: Reedsy is a network of publishing professionals available for hire. Authors can search our site for any freelance professional they might need throughout their writing career. For example, if you’re looking for a developmental editor for Christian romance, you can search for exactly that, and you will get a list of profiles. 

Through the freelancers’ profiles, you can review their work experience and the books they’ve worked on. Then, you can contact up to five of them to check their availability and rates and finally hire someone if you want. 

list of services offered by reedsy

Thomas: I like Reedsy much better than hybrid publishers. Many new and aspiring authors search Google for “how to self-publish,” many hybrid publishers, who bid for clicks, get authors to pay a lot of money for their services. 

Hybrid publishers like Westbow and Author Solutions say they’ll give you an editor, cover designer, and marketer. The problem is that you don’t know who those people are or whether they’re any good. 

They might be good, but they’re probably really cheap. The less Westbow can spend on the editor, the more money they make, and they charge you a lot.

Reedsy, on the other hand, allows you to select your own editors and cover designers. You can search their directory of 2,000 editors and find one who is a good fit for you and your genre. Then, you can contact those professionals, ask about the cost, and decide whether the editor is a good fit for you. 

Reedsy puts the power in the hands of the author. 

Reedsy puts the power in the hands of the author. 

Thomas Umstattd, Jr.

All those editors are bidding against each other. You’ll get a better editor for less money through a platform like Reedsy.

A hybrid publisher will triple or quadruple the cost of the editor, charge you the inflated price, and pocket the difference. By avoiding that hybrid publisher, you’re spending less money for an editor that you picked. As an independently published author, that’s great news.

Ricardo: That was exactly our model when we started. No other company was doing what we wanted to do. All the options were hybrid and vanity publishers who charged huge markups. Authors didn’t know which editor, designer, or marketer they’d be paired with.

On the bidding side, we try to limit it a bit. Authors can only contact up to five professionals for a given job on the marketplace. We do that to maintain some equilibrium. If everyone was able to bid, we’d have a bidding war or frenzy that would drive prices down, but that wouldn’t be a healthy ecosystem for professional freelancers or authors. 

We are different from other marketplaces because we try to work with the best publishing talent. We get a lot of applications because freelancers listed on Reedsy tend to get a healthy amount of work, but we’re very selective about who we list. We accept less than 5% of the professionals who apply to be listed on our marketplace.

Those experts and professionals have decades of experience and get clients of their own outside of Reedsy. We need to ensure they can keep their fair prices and that their pricing works with our platform.

For example, you cannot come to Reedsy expecting to get a cover design for $100, but you can get quotes from different designers and pick the one that sounds best to you.

Thomas: In every market, a company can take one of three market price positions.  


A company can position itself as the cheapest possible option. In the marketplace space, that’s probably If you want the cheapest possible book cover, somebody on Fiverr will make you a cover for $5.00. 

Is it any good? No.

To be fair to Fiverr, it has higher quality designers who will create a $100 book cover for you. You can get good book covers there. 

Some websites also offer book cover templates that someone may customize for you.

Middle Price Point

Upwork is probably in the middle of the market. Any freelancer can create an Upwork account. You can post a project, and freelancers can bid. It’s a huge marketplace, and you’ll have potentially hundreds of people offering to edit your book.

You can sort through those people based on price and other specifications and choose who you want to work with. 

Upwork is a good platform, but it’s a bit overwhelming. You could staff a whole marketing agency through Upwork. They target American companies and help them source international talent. If you want to work with somebody from Bangladesh because the currency exchange rate is strong, Upwork acts as that middleman, helping you connect with someone in Bangladesh. 


Reedsy positions itself in the quality position of the market. They offer a curated list of publishing professionals. Reedsy has fewer professionals listed, but they’re vetting people and connecting you with high-quality professionals who produce high-quality work.

Ricardo: Yes. That’s our main differentiator, and it comes with a guarantee. Since we vet the freelancers on our marketplace, we’re 99% sure that whomever you hire will do a good job, and you will be happy with their work. If you aren’t, we have project protection in place through which we will mediate disputes.

We usually involve third parties to assess the deliverables and decide whether there’s any reason for a refund, whether partial or full. 

We’re on the higher end of the market in terms of prices, but you get the safety and additional assurance we provide with the protection.

Thomas: You’re on the higher end of the market, but you’re still cheaper than a hybrid publisher

A hybrid publisher is the worst of both worlds. You’re paying a premium price, but you’re not getting a premium product. If you were thinking of publishing through Westbow for $10,000, you will want to reconsider. For $10,000, you could hire an editor, a designer, a publicist, a marketer, a ghostwriter, and a web designer through Reedsy for less than $10,000 and get a much higher quality product in all those areas. 

What is the vetting process for freelancers at Reedsy?

Thomas: Let’s say I’m a professional editor who wants to be listed on the Reedsy marketplace so I can get clients through Reedsy. How do you find out if I’m any good?

Ricardo: You would sign up as a professional, and we would invite you to fill in your profile. This profile is our primary tool to decide whether to list you. It’s like a LinkedIn profile but optimized for the book industry. 

In your profile, you’d include some text about yourself, and then add your work experience. If you’ve worked with any traditional publishers, that would be important to include because we put a lot of emphasis on that.

Next, you list all or most of the books you’ve worked on. You can indicate exactly which services you provided on each book. 

Then, we assess whether your profile meets our criteria. Our base criteria are a minimum of five years of experience plus experience working on at least five to ten books. Those are the minimum criteria, so that alone usually won’t be enough to land you on the marketplace.

Having traditional publishing experience gives a strong signal. If you don’t have traditional publishing experience but you have worked with high-selling indie authors, that’s a strong signal. Similarly, if the books you worked on have done well or they’re highly reviewed, that’s also a good signal. 

We look at all of those indicators and then run a few background checks through a third party to ensure that the person is who they claim to be.

Thomas: The focus is on industry experience. You’re primarily looking for people who have been doing this for a long time, preferably in traditional publishing. Secondarily, you’re looking for people who are already successful. 

Reedsy is not the platform for recent college graduates with great ambitions and no experience.

You’re not administering practical testing like, which tests editors on the Chicago Manual Style, where editors who pass get a badge based on how well they scored on the test. 

Instead of testing, you list people with a track record of success and years of experience in publishing. 

Ricardo: Correct. There’s no test right now. Reedsy is really only for highly experienced professionals right now. 

What advice do you have for somebody who’s never worked with a professional before?

Thomas: How do they choose from two dozen qualified professionals? How does an author get the best work out of that professional? 

 Ricardo: It’s easier on the design side because you can see the covers they’ve created. Authors can usually quickly decide which designers to contact because they can flick through the images and portfolios to see which style they like.

On the editorial side, it’s more complicated because you cannot evaluate the deliverables they’ve made for others. You certainly cannot flick through them.

Once you have those editor profiles, take the time to go through them. First, read the profiles quickly and try to get a sense of their expertise and preferred genres. By going quickly through the portfolio, you get a sense of which genres they’ve edited most.

If you’re looking for a Christian fiction editor, you might get 50 results. It’s possible that 30 of them have edited only two or three Christian books. The rest may have specialized experience at a traditional Christian publisher for ten years.

Look for editors who specialize in your genre. They will know the market best. They’ll know what tropes work in your genre and what tropes are needed, and they’ll be able to do a better job.

After you’ve narrowed it down to the editors specializing in your genre, try to get a sense of their editorial style. Their editorial style might not be evident in their profiles. 

You want to know how they convey their feedback. Some editors offer tough love, while others sugarcoat the feedback. Authors will prefer one style or the other. Knowing what kind of feedback you need and what kind you can stomach is important.

Then, look for an editor with whom you feel you will have a little bit of chemistry. You will be working on something that is personal to you. They will offer some criticism on your manuscript, and you need to be able to take it well and get on well with that person on a personal level.

Obviously, price will also be a factor in that decision, but most editors of a similar level of experience charge similar prices. 

Thomas: Once you narrow it down to three editors, I recommend hiring those three editors to edit one chapter of your book, and they all need to edit the same chapter. Most editors offer to edit one chapter for free, but I recommend you pay them for their work. 

The Novel Marketing method is to do your research, pick three, pay them to edit a whole chapter so they’re giving you real paid work, and then compare their work. You’ll see who caught which issues and who gave the most helpful feedback. 

I also recommend you read at least one book on editing so that you have some knowledge of how to make this decision. If you’ve never read any books on craft, you may not even be able to tell which editor is better. That’s an indication that you’re not ready to hire an editor. 

If that’s your situation, you need to read books on the craft of writing and get a better sense of your voice. If you don’t know what your voice is or don’t have a clear writing voice, you won’t know how to protect it when interacting with an editor.

Once you know your voice, when you get your edits back, you can see where the editor is either changing your voice or clarifying it. 

You want to hire an editor who can clarify your voice. 

Who do you recommend as an editor?

Thomas: People often ask who I recommend, but I rarely give out names. Just because someone was a good editor on one book doesn’t mean they’ll be a good fit for yours.

To offer a sports analogy, just because one football player is a good quarterback doesn’t mean they are a good defensive tackle. 

To use a European example, just because somebody’s a good goalkeeper doesn’t mean they’re a good forward. In fact, it probably means they’re a terrible forward. The skills you hone to be a good goalkeeper differ from those you need to be a good forward. Sure, some skills are the same, but if you’re staffing your team, you don’t want a forward guarding your goal. 

The key to knowing who to play where is hosting tryouts. 

Whether you’re a coach, author, or small business owner, you need to host tryouts for your candidates.

In America, we put way too much emphasis on the interview.

An interview tells you if somebody is personable, but it doesn’t tell you if they’re good at their job. To find out if they’re good at their job, hire them for a fixed amount of time, perhaps as a freelancer, and observe their work.

You don’t interview a goalkeeper to hear about how encouraging his mom was when he was playing soccer as a child. You have them stand in front of a goal and block shots from your best player.

Tryouts will cost you a little more money and will be more work for you, but a tool like Reedsy makes it easy to find those three choices. For a little extra money and work on your part, you’ll be able to find the best editor for your next book faster. 

You’re building your team, and once you win a game with that team, you don’t start again from scratch. You bring your best players from the previous season into the next season. 

If your cover designer for your first book wasn’t so good, you can choose a new team member for your next book. Over time, you’ll build a professional team. 

Ricardo: When you’re looking for a publishing-related team member, the idea is to incorporate them into your team for the long term. Long-term working relationships make a huge difference in terms of comfort and the quality of the book. 

Over time, you’ll develop a working relationship, and your editor will be able to recognize your voice. 

Most authors I know who publish several books each year have their editors lined up and contracted before they write the book. The author contracts to deliver the book by a certain date, and the editor or designer agrees to return the deliverables by a certain date. 

If you write in a series, you definitely want the same cover designer to do all the books so that the series is properly branded. Any reader who comes across any book in the series should be able to tell by looking at what series it belongs to. You can only achieve that if you have the same designer doing all the covers in your series. 

Finding the right person is crucial. It takes time and can require some extra money, but it’s worth it in the long run. 

The only caveat I would add is for developmental editing. Many editors won’t offer to do a sample on one chapter, even if it’s paid work. Developmental editing or editorial assessment is usually done on the whole manuscript. It’s hard to understand the character arc by reading one chapter. The editor can point out issues that don’t work well in chapter one, but they can’t comment on the whole arc or plot of the whole book. 

Some editors can share developmental edits or assessments of books they’ve done in the past, with the agreement of those clients. If they’ve worked on a book in a similar genre, they can share their assessment with you, and you can compare apples to apples and see whether their editorial style corresponds to what you’re looking for.

Thomas: Another approach you could potentially use even earlier in your career is to have them edit the reader magnet you’re developing to build your email list before your first book comes out. 

A short story is a great trial run. Somebody who may not want to edit your first chapter may be willing to edit a short story because it allows them to show their developmental editing. 

That may be even better than hosting your tryouts on a sample chapter. The downside is that you’re hiring multiple editors for a short story you’ll be giving away. The cost may be a bit higher, but the process will let you see how they edit the beginning, the middle, and the end. 

If it’s your first reader magnet or short story, feedback from additional editors may be really helpful. Different editors will point out different things. Each will be helpful in their own way, but one will win the competition, so to speak.

Part of the reason it’s worth paying for is that you benefit from their developmental feedback, which will help you get better faster. 

Plus, that feedback is given in a safe context. That short story is just going to live on your website. It’s not going to be published on Amazon. It won’t be permanent. You can change it down the road. You could take an entire reader magnet through the Reedsy process as a trial run to help you become a more experienced independent author. 

That way, when you are seeking to hire an editor for a real book on Amazon, it’s not your first time.

Ricardo: Absolutely. Even if you don’t hire several people for the short story or the reader magnet, the process gives you a first trial. If you don’t like the editor or designer you hired for your reader magnet, you can hire someone else for your book. You can basically burn a bullet before you publish your first book in your series.

Thomas: My dad says, “Success is a poor teacher.” The inverse of that saying is that you can learn a lot from failure. But failure can be expensive, particularly when that failure is with a full-length book.

Going through the process of working with professionals and spending money on a short story lessens the consequences of a failure if it happens.

Obviously, we hope failure doesn’t happen, but there are benefits to failing early and cheaply. For example, an edit on your 10,000-word short story will be much less expensive than an edit on your 100,000-word book.

If your story is fundamentally broken, it’s better to find that out at 10,000 rather than at 100,000 words. 

How does Reedsy make money? 

Thomas: Everyone wonders who pays for these platforms and whether they’ll be in business next year.

Ricardo: Our business model hasn’t changed since we started ten years ago. It sustains us, and we will be in business next year. 

We charge a fee on both the author side and the freelancer side, and both fees are 10%. If you hire an editor for $1,000, we will charge you, the author, $1,100, and the editor will be paid $900.

We’ve been a self-sustained company for a good five years now.

Thomas: That’s an interesting approach. Specifically, I like that both the freelancers and the authors are your customers. 

Sometimes, these platforms only take money from freelancers, and it’s seemingly free for authors to use the platform. When that’s the case, the platform is more interested in keeping the freelancers happy than keeping the authors happy.

This balanced approach is important because your goal is a healthy ecosystem and long-term relationships. You’re not treating freelancers as a disposable commodity, which is kind of the Fiverr approach.

Reedsy treats professionals like professionals, which you must do if you want to list top-tier folks. Top-tier editors don’t necessarily need a middleman. They could get new business from their current clients without paying you the 10%.

To attract a top-tier editor, you must treat them like a professional and say, “I know you’re getting your own clients, but we can bring you some additional clients that will help fill the gaps for those lulls between jobs.” Plus, Reedsy helps settle any disputes.

At the same time, you’re collecting money from the author, which means you’ll treat that author well. This is a Thomas-approved business model, and I’m glad you’re profitable with it. 

Ricardo: Thank you. We try to be as fair as possible.

How do you handle communication between freelancers and authors?

Thomas: Upwork and Fiverr have a communication portal where all the communication between the parties is handled inside the platform. Do you offer that, or do people communicate however they want? 

Ricardo: We have a portal for communication and a portal where they can share files. Any files they share in the communication go automatically into the file section, so it’s a bit more organized.

We have the portal to help us settle any disputes. If there’s a dispute at any point in the process, we need to be able to investigate all the communication, deliverables, and files. If some communication happened off the platform via email, we’d be missing key elements of information, and we have to trust both parties to send us everything. It’s an additional hassle.

The basic rule is that we do not allow any exchange of contact information before you hire someone. Once you’ve hired someone, you can exchange anything you want. However, if you communicate off the platform, off Reedsy, then you forfeit your right to your project protection. If a dispute arises, you’re on your own. You deal with it with your client or freelancer, but we won’t mediate because we don’t have access to all the communication. 

Thomas: That makes sense. The appeal of communicating through the platform portal is that it allows the company or the mediator to figure out who’s being unreasonable or who’s not doing their work. You can’t mediate fairly if you don’t have full access to that information. 

How is working with a publicist or a web designer from Reedsy different than working with an editor or cover designer?

Ricardo: Working with an editor is a longer-term collaboration. You may have to hire them early on in your process. The best developmental editors on the platform are booked out for three to six months. 

 Other professions don’t require as much lead time.

You’ll probably be working with an editor for over a month. With a publicist and website designer, you’ll probably work together for longer periods as well. 

For longer contracts, the freelancer will invoice you per hour and per month through the Reedsy platform. You need to agree clearly on what they will do for you. 

It’s not so different at the end of the day. It will be a bit more recurring in terms of work. 

Should I hire a publicist or a marketing professional?

Ricardo: We added publicity to the platform first and marketing after that. Unless you have a very strong feeling as to why you need a publicist and not a marketer, 99% of the time, I recommend looking for marketers rather than publicists. A publicist will pitch your story to the media. They may potentially pitch blogs or influencers, but their contacts are usually in the media.

It’s very difficult for a self-published book to gain access to those media outlets unless you have a very timely book with a strong story that you know will greatly appeal to traditional media.

If you’re looking for avenues to drive sales to your book or create a launch strategy, I would look for marketing help rather than publicity.

 Thomas: Yeah. Publicity is generally for authors who have experienced some success. Once you have some credibility, those traditional media outlets are more likely to look at you. 

Is influencer marketing, guest blogging, or guesting on podcasts more the marketer side in Reedsy, or is that more of the publicist side?

Ricardo: There’s a gray line between the two. Some people on the publicity side will do that, but you will find people on the marketing side who also do it. 

I’d recommend looking in both places. If you’re looking for podcasts in particular, just type in “podcast” as a keyword on the marketplace. It will search for profiles and return freelancers who mentioned podcasts in their descriptions. You can do the same thing for “influencers,” and you will find people who do influencer marketing campaigns.

Now, as a cofounder of Reedsy, this is not in my best interest, but I will tell you that if you’re looking to get booked on podcasts or collaborate with influencers, you’re better off doing that work yourself. Having someone reach out to those people on your behalf isn’t necessarily more effective unless they already have strong relationships. 

Few publicists and marketers have those strong relationships at this point. They will simply put a list together and email those people. You’d probably have the same success rate doing it yourself, so if you don’t have time and need someone to do it for you, that works. But I don’t think it will necessarily increase your chances of getting booked. 

For pitching influencers or podcasters, it probably makes more sense to hear from the author directly.

Thomas: I completely agree. I get pitches from PR people all the time, and they almost never do any research. They’ll rarely adapt the pitch for my podcast to help me figure out whether the person they represent would be a good guest on my podcast. They rarely even bother to find out that my podcast is for marketing books.

I finally put together a course on How to Get Booked as a Podcast Guest. It helps authors identify podcasts they should reach out to and teaches them what to say.

One author who took my course also had a PR firm her publisher was paying $10,000. After taking my course, she booked more podcast interviews using my method than her PR firm did. Other authors have had their virtual assistants follow the method laid out in the course, and they have had about the same results, but it’s far cheaper than hiring a PR firm.

If you’re looking for a virtual assistant to help you book podcast interviews, check the job board at

I don’t see our job board as competing with Reedsy because I don’t charge anything for posting on the job board, and I guarantee nothing. Reedsy offers a satisfaction guarantee. They will mediate a dispute for you. My approach is, “You’re an adult, and it’s a free country.” Do your own due diligence. I’m not promising quality, but I’m also not charging anything. It’s not a revenue source for me. 

You can book your own podcast and blog interviews for a fraction of the price of hiring a PR firm or even a virtual assistant. 

To learn more about booking your own interviews, check out the following episodes:

PR professionals cut their teeth on traditional media and don’t understand podcasting. They don’t know how to find out which podcasts are popular and which aren’t. My podcast host directory is often better than some directories PR firms use. If you’re a Novel Marketing patron, you already have access to the podcast host directory.

What advice do you have for an author who is hesitant to publish independently because they’re afraid the quality will suffer?

Ricardo: Quality will not be an issue with the professionals listed on Reedsy. You won’t need to worry about it because the same people who used to work at big traditional publishers are now available to hire directly through Reedsy.

What if I publish my book independently and it doesn’t sell?

Ricardo: That’s a legitimate worry, and it can happen, but you’d have the same worry if you published your book traditionally.

Most traditionally published books don’t sell a ton of copies.

Thomas: I interviewed Jane Friedman about the Penguin Random House trial. The trial revealed that 16% of traditionally published books don’t sell over a dozen copies. Being traditionally published is not a guarantee of success. 

To be fair, the most successful authors in the world are traditionally published. Traditionally, published authors sell millions of copies, but traditional publishing success is not guaranteed. It’s a risk either way.

Ricardo: Regardless of which publishing route you take, you’ll 

 have to learn a lot about publishing in general. But for indie publishing, you’ll have to learn about editing, design, publishing, and marketing. That may sound tedious at first, but if you think you can enjoy the learning, I recommend you go for it. 

I’m in the indie publishing scene, so most authors I know who do well are indie-published. It’s rewarding to have control over creative and financial decisions. 

Many authors have stories about a traditional publisher slapping a cover or title on a book that the author doesn’t think belongs. Some authors have stories of publishers who have branded or described their books in a way they’re not comfortable with. A publisher holds all the power over the design, editing, and marketing decisions. If you’re not comfortable with that, I definitely recommend indie publishing.

Thomas: If you’re tempted to pay a hybrid publisher, and you’re about to spend $10,000 or $20,000 with a company that will “make it easy,” I urge you to consider a company like Reedsy instead. You’ll get a higher-quality product at a lower price. 

If you’re an indie author but you’re not sure if you need Reedsy, you don’t technically need it.

Many authors find professionals on their own. However, working with professionals through Reedsy on your short story will be a great education for you. 

If you’re working on your first book, you should not work with freelancers whose first project is your book. It’s a mistake many first-time authors make. 

When you’re an established author, releasing several books per year, you can save money by working with first-time freelancers who are just getting started. At that point, you know exactly what you want and can help bring those professionals on board. Experienced indie authors are doing just that. It’s a great way to save money and help a freelancer develop in their profession. But you don’t want to use that approach until you’ve published a dozen books.

For your first few books, you owe it to yourself to surround yourself with professionals who know what they’re doing.

Even the back-and-forth chitchat of the editing process will help you learn. Reedsy is a great platform to help you do that. 

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