Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Cost of Being an Indie Author [Rant]

"Don't make your own covers. Hire a graphic designer."
"Don't proofread yourself. Hire an editor."
"Don't depend on free books. Buy advertising."
"Don't format your books yourself. Use a professional formatting service."

There are a lot of people who advocate hiring out services if you're an indie author. I've seen other indie authors actually get angry at the idea of not paying for these services. They outright state that if you're not hiring someone to make your covers, and edit your manuscripts, then you shouldn't be self-publishing at all. They've even said that self-published authors who don't use these services are hurting the industry as a whole.

So what are you supposed to do if you're an indie author who simply can't afford these services? For example, pre-made book covers can cost $25-$50. Custom-designed covers can cost $100 or more. Editors can easily cost $300 for a 350-page book. A PR campaign can cost thousands.

To me, claiming no one should be able to self-publish without hiring out is as bad as traditional publishers who say you shouldn't self-publish at all. Worse, you're an indie author trashing other indie authors. The whole point of self-publishing is to remove the gatekeepers from the industry. When you start saying that editors and graphic artists are required for indie authors, you're setting up a new gatekeeper for the industry.

I also don't think these services are fool-proof. I've seen "professionally" designed covers that look crappier than mine. I've seen "edited" novels that still look like they're written by a fifth-grader. I've also seen best-selling novels that have crappy covers (Twilight) and bad editing (50 Shades of Gray), so obviously success is not all about covers and editing.

At some point, I plan to hire graphic artists to design my book covers, and editors to proofread my work. In the meantime, I do everything I can to make my novels as good as they can be. However, if I want to release my novel with every other word a typo, and a cover that's just the title written in Comic Sans, that's my right. It's up to the readers to decide if that's a book they want to buy.

What do you think? If you can't afford these services, should you self-publish at all? Have you paid for services to improve your work and what's it done for you? Let me know in the comments.


  1. Most of the self-published authors I know pay for at least one of those services. I'd say the marketing ones are the biggest money-hole though. Critique partners can certainly help with editing. (Although even with three great critique partners, my manuscripts still come back from my publisher with a lot of requested edits.)
    Certainly your latest cover rocks, so I wouldn't worry about that aspect!

    1. Glad you like the cover. I actually enjoy some of the design work. As for critiquing, I think that's a great option. Right now, I'm with Scribofile, and I've used Critters Critique in the past. Plus, I'm trying Wattpad to see how that works.

  2. I understand where you are coming from. I got into a comment argument with another author once because she was mad at me for selling my books for what she considered to be "too cheap." She said I was part of the problem that is killing the publishing industry as a whole. Really?

    I design my own covers, I have peer editors help me with the book interior. I don't intend to hire that stuff out at any point. I am not shelling out money for things I enjoy doing on my own. If I ever strike it rich, I might subcontract the marketing duties. I suck at marketing.

    1. I agree, Jessica. As you can tell, I have a huge problem with indie authors telling other indie authors what to do. If I want to sell all my novels for 99-cents, that's my business. We all can't hold ourselves responsible for the entire industry.

      I agree on the marketing. I wish I could handle someone a bunch of money and let them pimp out my books.

  3. Yeah I think I've ranted about this on my blog before too. It's self-defeating for most indie authors to shell out thousands of dollars for covers and editors and advertising because you're probably not going to make that money back. The people who usually say you need all that stuff are those who've been successful, those traditionally published, or those who operate the kind of business they want you to spend money on.

    I saw the latest indie success story is called "The Bet" and it hit #1 this week over a lot of traditionally published books. The author's selling it at 99 cents, versus up to $12.99 for traditional publishers, so obviously you can have success on a shoestring budget, though it's still unlikely.

    Anyway, I like to think I do a better job with my books than my "publisher" did on A Hero's Journey, though I got help from Rusty Carl on the cover.

    1. I agree with you about the people who are either already successful or sell book services. Those are the ones who preach the loudest


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