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.
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