Avoid the Spork

At some point, either on a road trip or on a wrong-turn detour to somewhere, out of love for fake cheese, or just lack of better options, most people have eaten food from a gas-station convenience store. As a cost cutting measure, most of these places conveniently provide utensils, a napkin, and perhaps salt and pepper in one sealed package to prevent people from mindlessly grabbing by the handful more than they need. Also, in case someone needs both a fork and spoon, but to avoid the cost a supplying both, these establishments offer the “spork”—part fork, part spoon, but mostly not as good as a real fork or spoon.
 
“Spork-ing” also happens in the business world. Job descriptions posted with vague titles searching for a jack-of-all-trades who is probably mediocre at each skill. In the publishing industry, and self-publishing specifically, spork-ing aspects from production to marketing is rampant and usually results in an inferior product.
 

A traditional publishing house is a one-stop shop since a design team, editorial staff, the marketing force, and distribution department are all under one roof. While one company might be working on the book, there are many people with various expertises handling the parts they know best. When an author hires his or her own staff, usually consisting of unaffiliated freelancers, the desire to save money can lead to unwise spork-ing. Beware of the following examples:
 
1. If someone professes to be a designer and also offers to edit the book, question whether this person is a competent book designer (not all design is the same) or editor. Many of these sporked designer/editors will produce a finished-looking, laid-out product that in all ways resembles a book, but have not edited the book as an editor would (i.e., thoroughly considered the organization of the content, checked for consistency across chapters, ensured clarity and a targeted message to an audience, etc.) or designed the book as a book designer would (i.e., made the interior and exterior design appropriate for the genre, used technologies that will be eye catching from a bookstore shelf, etc.).
 
2. If someone is a web designer who offers to also write the content for the website, make sure to get writing samples and check their web design portfolio for quality design, SEO-friendly coding, and diversity. People can have multiple skills, but be sure that the expert designer is also an expert writer. It’s not impossible that a writer is also a designer, but this sporked professional might only be able to recreate one design over and over or only knows an antiquated form of coding that is no longer compatible with search engines.
 
3. There are some scams based on spork-ing. Some literary agencies will tell authors that they have been “accepted” contingent upon the book undergoing a rewrite, but only through their trusted affiliate, which is actually part of the same company. This is not to say the book didn’t really need a rewrite, but these companies make money from charging for editing services, which they got through the promise of literary representation. In this case, neither the editing nor the representation is bound to be any good.
 
Sporks seem to have value by offering a two-for-one, low cost option. However, how well can a person eat soup or cut a steak with a spork? A spork can get the job done, but typically not as well, with less efficiency, and in the end, a fork or spoon is usually still required. Save the money that would be wasted on a spork and hire an expert from the beginning.

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