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  • Susan Stoderl

What I Would Do Differently | Part 4: Too Much Benefit of the Doubt


I've had two major fiascos because I gave too much benefit of the doubt to people I hired.


The first was getting a proper cover design made in a timely matter. I gave extremely detailed descriptions of the characters and their personalities, as well as submitted several examples of designs I liked. The designer spent two months and over six redesigns, and none of them come close to representing the book. Since I needed it, I ended up getting my money back, but I should have done it after three times, not six. It was too late to find someone else, so I designed the cover. My designs work well for my blogs and social media but are too static for a book cover. A true illustrator can bring life into it. A design shouldn’t have noticeable technical errors and only need tweaking. I think the cover did not help my sales at all, although at least it wasn’t embarrassing. I have gone to a different company and hope this will not happen again.


The second fiasco was getting the narrator for the audiobook. Her sample recording on the company website was impressive, but when her audition recording arrived, it sounded like an AI had recorded them. The speed was wrong, and she emphasized the wrong syllable. That happened with each retake. I knew better, but I wanted her to succeed because of the timbre of her voice. From directing operas, I knew that when someone auditions, it’s apparent from the beginning whether they’re right for the part. I couldn’t even listen past the first minute. I wanted both the cover artist and the narrator to do well, and this is not the time to be forgiving. You want them to nail it and anything less is unacceptable. I axed that deal sooner than the book cover, but not soon enough. I missed releasing all formats at the same time. The company was gracious and found some new narrators. The second time around, I identified two narrators I wanted to hear. Each gave a professional good audition. The first was adequate and good, but the second woman was close to perfect. I listened to the whole five-minute sample smiling and saying “Yes!”


Now I will relaunch everything with the audiobook. New covers will be added to the paperback and eBook. I believe things will improve this time. There’s a big learning curve in self-publishing!


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