Remember those services I spoke of last time, the ones traditional publishers provide but you can contract out for? I advise you to do so.
I just spent the better part of four days coming up with a book cover and these past weeks have been filled with the reading and re-reading of the manuscript until I (and my wife and her mother) are nearly blind. If you want a polished product, hire people who are good at these things to do them—-it may cost a few bob but the peace of mind will be worth it.
I, however, am not contracting out these services for one very good reason: I’m an idiot (no, that’s a second reason) it is all part of the experiment to see if my efforts can match and surpass the published book.
If I were to do this again I would at certainly consider getting someone else to do this part of the job. The cover art isn’t as difficult as the editing-—all I need to do is mimic the first cover and re-learn how to use my twenty-year old software and then spend a long weekend sitting at my laptop sweating and swearing. But editing is a heart-breaker.
The problem is, it is the single most important thing, that bit of the book that separates the "Indie" publisher from the six guys. It has to be perfect, or as near as possible, but getting it right is so, so tedious. Reading over and over and finding different mistakes each time. With my first self-published book, I did hire a professional proof reader. And I proofread it myself, several times. But when it finally ended up with a publisher, they found more errors. And when we sent out review copies, a reviewer found some more. And now that I am talking up this new book (More Postcards from across the Pond, coming out in early May, tell your friends) a fan of the that first book told me she had found errors in it, as well. So I sent her the manuscript for this one to proofread.
That will teach her.