@#*&$it – Self-Publishing Does NOT Have to Cost You Anything

Stop Sign stop misinformation about self publishing stop-940898_960_720
Stop with the nonsense already!

Okay people, I’m going to rant. I have had it with all these articles lately – some from people who are in no way qualified to be writing them – TELLING authors how EXPENSIVE it is to self-publish. Well, that’s a crock of …

If there is one way to get me riled up, this is it. Scare tactics. Holier than thou BS. Seriously, people. JUST. STOP. Stop trying to frighten new authors. Stop writing articles with ONLY worst-case scenarios. Stop claiming that authors have to go to conferences or get interior “book design” or that they have to pay for every service under the sun. One of the best things about being an indie is that we can learn how to do most everything ourselves – FOR FREE. If you have the ability or desire to pay for everything, good for you. That doesn’t mean that’s how it HAS to be done. In fact, most indies I know do everything themselves. FOR FREE.

Editing is the one place where an indie should spend money. It’s impossible to edit your own work. But it doesn’t mean you actually can’t get it done for free – some editors will trade work. (I once traded an editing job for six book covers…) If you don’t have anything tradeworthy, you can still greatly reduce the cost of your editing through the use of Alpha and Beta readers. So that’s not going to be an astronomical expense. If it is – then you’re being taken advantage of – and don’t do it.

Sure, you can also spend money on book promotion, if you want. Sites like BookBub (if you’re lucky enough for them to accept you) are on the absolutely high end of the cost spectrum. Sites like Choosy Bookworm, KB&T, and many others are much more affordable. And, of course, *cough* Indies Unlimited, Book of the Day, ReadFreely, Reading Deals, and so many other sites offer free options for getting your books in front of readers. So, even with book promotion, you can still manage to find free ways of doing it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Here are some items that I’ve recently seen people claim are going to cost an author, but you can, in fact, do yourself FOR FREE. I do them for FREE, and most of the IU staff does as well. That means: YOU CAN DO IT FOR FREE, TOO!


Proofreading (through Beta and ARC readers)

Book Cover

Book Video Trailers

Contests (submitting to)

ISBNs (free through Createspace)

Newsletter Services

Blog Tours


Book Reviews

FREE. Free. Free. Free…. ALL of them, FREE. Argh! Yes, we teach you how to do them for free here – and guess what – Indies Unlimited is free! That’s why I have the world’s slowest internet – because I don’t make a dime off this blog. It’s FREE. There are other sites that also offer advice on all this stuff for free. The Smashwords Style Guide is free. Why is all this stuff free? Who knows. Because we can, I guess. Because “indie” is a community, not an “every man for himself” industry.

So please, don’t take all these articles that tell you how expensive publishing is to heart. Yes, there is a wide range of costs related to the industry, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay. In fact, when it comes to getting published, my new slogan is – If you have to pay, run away. Do your research. Learn how to spot a scam. Decide if you have more time than money. If you have more money than time, then by all means pay to have services done for you. But if your situation is the reverse, learning how to do formatting, make book covers, and more could end up not only saving you money, but giving you another way to earn money if you get good enough and can start offering those services to others.

Don’t be discouraged. Chin up! Smile. A smile is free, too. Be indie. Be proud. And don’t let these people get you down. If you see an article telling you how ridiculously expensive it is to be an indie, take the link to this article and slap it into their comments. I’ll be glad to go a couple of rounds with them. Just remember who’s got your back. We do. You’re welcome.

Author: K.S. Brooks

K.S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer, and photo-journalist, author of over 30 titles, and executive director and administrator of Indies Unlimited. Brooks is currently a photo-journalist and chief copy editor for two NE Washington newspapers.  She teaches self-publishing and writing topics for the Community Colleges of Spokane, and served on the Indie Author Day advisory board. For more about K.S. Brooks, visit her website and her Amazon author page.

101 thoughts on “@#*&$it – Self-Publishing Does NOT Have to Cost You Anything”

  1. Great article, Kat!
    I’d love to get everyone’s opinions on editing costs, especially since I’m looking for one and the prices I’ve been quoted are … WHOA!

    1. Editing is something I have paid for with some good results. I’d be happy to send a quote if you’ll send me your email address or some other way to contact you so we can talk.

    2. Just last week I did a survey of the IU staff on COPY (not structural) editing costs for an article I wrote for the Indie Author Day blog (should be running next week, I think…) and the costs ranged from $200 to $500 for a normal-length book, and one said $900 for a 100k+ length novel.

      1. Hi Kat, how are you? Been a while! 🙂

        Now, I love your post above, but I have to respectfully disagree on one point: editing costs. When you look at the actual hours that go into a full copyedit, $200 is an insultingly low figure (as is $500). I charge as little as possible and yet try to balance that with my own survival, so my fees are on the low side for good professional copyeditors, and I charge $0.02 per word for that level of editing (so an 80,000-word novel manuscript would cost $1,600). And like I say, that’s on the low side. It’s a respect thing: editors hope that authors will respect themselves enough to have a proper edit done (as you say, it’s possible that a developmental edit can be avoided through the use of trusted and talented alpha and/or beta readers, or via a critique group, but you really can’t avoid copyediting), and authors need to respect the rights of editors not to starve to death, lol. Paying less than minimum wage would not be cool. And I say this (as you know) as someone with a foot in both camps. Excellent post, though. And apologies for all the parentheses in this post. Could use an edit, probably. 😉

        1. Good to see you here, David. 🙂 The numbers I got were from the IU staff – what they paid – and I’m sure that their stuff is impeccably clean before it gets to an editor, allowing for a much faster edit. Here are the numbers I got:

          Author# Cost
          1 $350
          1 $250
          3 $900 100k+ words
          5 $200
          5 $500
          7 $200
          7 $400
          TOTAL $2,800
          Average $400

          That’s where I got the numbers. I don’t know the length of the books – some are obviously shorter than others – but I know they weren’t epics (other than the one noted at 100k+ words).

          And no worries on the parens – I hear BigAl loves them. 😉

          1. I get email updates about the latest IU articles, although certainly not often. But I’ve whenever I’ve seen one, I’ve noticed and read some excellent pieces about the nuts and bolts of writing recently. Pieces by Lynn Cantwell and Melissa Bowersock spring to mind. I wish I could contribute more often in the comment sections, but as usual I’m trying to hang on and survive, which takes up a lot of time.

            Speaking of which, so you don’t think I’m whining unnecessarily (as opposed to necessarily), I did some rudimentary math out of curiosity (and since my math skills resemble my ballet skills, please double check, lol). So, I took the average of your figures above ($400) and I’m somewhat arbitrarily using an 80,000-word novel. Okay, so going by the standard 250 word per page, that’s 320 pages. Now, I’ll use a very generous rate of 8 pages per hour. That would be an extremely strong MS with few errors. So that’s 40 hours. Which, if I’m not mistaken, means that editor is working for ten bucks an hour (or $7.50 if the page per hour rate is six)! See what I mean?

            I have no idea why there are editors who charge these low figures, but I’m assuming they have some other form of income (which would make it quite unfair of them to be undercutting their fellow professionals—an editor of all people should value editing, after all), or indeed how good a job they are able to do if they’re not even aware of reasonable industry-standard editing costs.

            I mean, we’d all agree that everyone deserves a living wage, and that editing is an exacting and highly skilled service. It’s not an exact analogy, but I wouldn’t take my car to the mechanic and throw him a twenty for his trouble. A better analogy would be the mechanic around the corner who would accept said twenty. Would you really trust your brakes after he’s worked on them? 😉

          2. I only take my car to my dealer. 🙂

            I hear what you’re saying. I just gathered the numbers, and that’s what I know. I trade for editing, so I wasn’t able to contribute to the numbers myself.

          3. Yeah, no worries, Kat. I largely agree with your post, but I felt the need to stand up for those editors who work conscientiously and charge fair rates. And that’s certainly not everyone; as with everything, authors need to beware the slipshod and the fraudulent. Check your editor’s bona fides! I think I wrote a guest post here once on that theme—the kinds of things to look out for in an editor. I appreciate the chance to bat this back and forth. 🙂

          4. Absolutely! I always recommend asking for a sample edit. That’s the best way to find out if the editor is a good match, and if they actually know what they’re doing. A good editor is worth his/her weight in gold. 🙂

          5. Yes, a sample edit. That’s probably the very first hurdle an editor should clear and is essential for so many reasons, but primarily for establishing trust and determining the level of edit required. Also, does the editor demonstrate flexibility in terms of the style manual and dictionary used? I could probably create a lengthy list of possible questions, some of which wouldn’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer but would indicate what type of editor you’re dealing with. Ha, maybe I should write another article!

          6. That would be a great article. Would love to see it. The other side, too, is that doing a sample gives the editor an idea of how bad of a train wreck the writing is, and gives him or her a chance to run away from the project if it is going to be a nightmare.

          7. Right! It definitely works for both parties. I’m always surprised and a little puzzled when some editors won’t do a sample edit.

            I’ll think on it, and see if I can carve out some time for such a post. 🙂

        2. Hey, David;
          Just wanted to chime in here, since I was one of the authors who contributed to Kat’s numbers. My last book was an 80,000 word travel book. I had been working with the same editor for seven books and had a great relationship with him. When it came time to talk about editing this last book, I realized that his fees would have been about $1,700 for the project. By the time I added in the cover, proofreading and formatting, I would have been around $2,200 to produce the book. It set me to wondering if there was a better/more cost-effective way to do it.
          I went onto Upwork for the first time and wrote an ad that I thought would likely receive no responses. To wit: “Looking for a line edit on an 80K travel book for $350.” I received 32 offers in the first few hours. Of course, not all editors are created equal, so I asked for a thousand word sample edit I purposely salted with different errors. This allowed me to eliminate 29/32. I was surprised that the remaining three were not only competent, but were willing to work for that price. Of the three good ones, one stood head and shoulders above, so I hired her.
          It was a great experience. She provided an excellent, thorough edit and delivered it ahead of the deadline we had agreed on. All for about one-fifth of what I would have otherwise paid. With 51 reviews on that book, not one has mentioned the dreaded “This needed an editor.” 🙂
          I enjoyed working with her so much that she has already edited another travel book for me and will edit my next fiction when I complete it in July.
          I never tell someone that they shouldn’t spend $1,600 to edit a book, because I realize that’s a decent hourly rate. However, as an author/publisher, I have to do the math. That book would have needed to sell 1,000+ copies just to break even under the original scenario, which would have consumed almost all the first month’s sales. Instead, it only needed 400 sales to earn out, and crossed that line ten days after release.

        1. In my experience, a copy editor corrects errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar, style and usage, but also very long sentences and overuse of italic, bold, capitals, exclamation marks and the passive voice.

          1. The boundaries between the various levels of editing can blur, but yeah, basically, I’d go along with that. Copyeditors love their style sheets so we can ensure that (for example) “well-meaning” is hyphenated every time (if it is). Or how “split second” isn’t hyphenated as a noun but is as a compound adjective. That’s the kind of close scrutiny copyeditors will perform. Italicizing unfamiliar foreign words or phrases, but checking the dictionary to see if they’re more familiar, and then making a call on whether to leave them in roman. Rendering “5:00 a.m.” as “five a.m.,” in accordance with whichever style manual has been agreed upon. Knowing that “T-shirt” is capitalized and hyphenated. Spelling it “toward” in US English and “towards” in UK English (but permitting the author their idiosyncratic choices too). I could give thousands of examples. But essentially, copyediting is all trees and twigs and leaves, while developmental and substantive or stylistic editing tend to be more forest-focused.

            Here’s a decent breakdown I just Googled at random.

            The reality is that many freelance editors nowadays, working with self-publishing and indie authors on a tight budget, will do a kind of hybrid of copyediting and line/stylistic editing. Certainly none of this is black-and-white!

  2. I generally don’t for any of those “services”. It’s just a matter of learning how to do it, then doing it.
    The exception is I pay for ISBN numbers, bought 2 blocks (I have a lot of books).
    And the times I did pay – especially for promotion and book review scams, um services, it was money down the toilet.

    1. Sorry to hear you got caught up in some scams, but glad to hear you figured out that’s what they were. So many don’t, and so many repeat the process.

  3. Now, you see, that is what makes you such an awesome lady, KS – thank you for spelling it out once again that Indies only really need to invest money in editing, all else can be done with the investment of time. You’re aces, KS!

  4. Thank you for this! Like you, I’m really tired of articles saying you have to pay thousands to self-publish. Interestingly enough, most of those articles seem to be written by people who actually have no idea how to self-publish.

  5. Well done. Yes, “some” of us will choose to pay for “some”parts of the process – but this sets the record straight on what the real costs are when so many sites are quoting sums much higher than these. We CAN produce a quality book without paying exorbitant fees.

  6. KS I agree with everything you have said… I’m published both traditionally and through my own Imprints … Four Series in four genre strong. The reason I decided to distance myself from Traditional publishing, and to certainly avoid the scaremongers, is that I wanted to learn my business … I did not want to continue with the games of delay and uncertainty. I have to agree with you, and simply add … for newer authors out there … learn your business … this is incredibly important in this era of AMAZON. Learn your craft of writing, and the business of producing books/marketing. I believe you will find not only is it not that difficult … but there is a real kick waiting for you, when you realize you are in control of your work and don’t have to wait for the next shoe to drop … the next unfulfilled promise. Create and Manage your own work … it is very doable and a rewarding experience. Cheers…

  7. All true, although some of us were not born to be our book designers and I think we may ill-serve ourselves if they try. (I should probably raise my hand on that.) I would also suggest that unless you go into the perfect hungry niche, you might as well know you’ll need to fund some promotions to get any traction. If it makes you feel any better, that’s true of most traditionally-published authors who aren’t already a success, too.

    1. That’s so very true, Sandra. I was traditionally published in 2001, and I know lots of other authors who have been, too. And we ALL had to do our own marketing. It’s just how it goes, unless you’re a big name like Stephen King.

  8. Yup. One of the great things about self-publishing is having your book how YOU want it. Or, in my case, how I want it.

    I agree with Sandra Hutchison about book designers. I don’t do my own. But artistic talent that is keen to have a project on the go and/or something to go on its CV is not hard to find. I found my new designer through my local art college.

    1. Yup, there are plenty of ways to find artists. I do many of my own book covers, but some I hire out, and some I trade for. It just depends on the complexity of the cover and the level of talent needed. Finding a designer through the art college is just wonderful! Great idea. 🙂

  9. This is great info. Thanks. The other thing that annoys me is the number of articles that incorrectly say that converting your document to publish on KDP is complicated/impossible unless you have programming knowledge, etc. That’s just not true. It is simple but you have to have a clean document and it can be time consuming if you find errors in your book’s Kindle version. I felt like a sucker after I bought a book on Kindle formatting. It was confusing and worthless.

    1. True that, Rebecca! It sure can be done. I’m glad you just bought a book instead of forking out a ton of money to have someone else do it for you. I think you learned a lot faster than most! Congrats.

  10. Great article, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. In keeping with the spirit of encouragement to those who can’t afford any or all of the services out there, I offer this list having to do with the production side of things:

    For Production Work, here is what I DO NOT pay for:
    Cover Design (I get free help from artists and designers, then I do the rest using FREE Paint.net)
    Interior Layout (I use FREE Scribus to produce my Ingram and Createspace interiors and to produce the needed pdfs for both the interiors and the covers.)
    Epub Layout (I use FREE Sigil for the epub creation, FREE Epubcheck for checking and validation)
    Mobi Layout (I use FREE Calibre to convert Epub to MOBI)
    VSDC Free Video Editor (for making/editing book trailers, podcasts, etc.)
    Free Crimson Editor (for editing web pages and programs)

    Although the above were free of purchase cost, I DID invest “sweat equity.” I expended time and effort to learn about how to do things, and to learn how to use the above software. That part can be frustrating, but ANYONE can do it. Just takes some determination, some patience, and a willingness to learn.

    Let Independence Flourish!!

  11. Thank you for posting this! I have a series of paranormal non-fiction books out. Have done everything myself in producing them – writing, editing, covers, formatting, a wee tiny bit of promotion. Was able to take my family of six on a week-long Hawaiian vacation recently from the royalties. Yes, you can do everything yourself. It may take a little learning, but the money saved is well worth the time put in.

    1. Congrats on your success, John. I do warn people against doing their own editing, though. A fresh set of eyes on a manuscript is always a good idea. I think, once a writer is well seasoned, it’s okay for them to self-edit as long as they get alpha and beta reads, but otherwise… Your Hawaii trip is something we can all aspire to!

      1. I totally agree with you that a fresh set of eyes is a necessity. I’ve done professional editing in the past and I still can’t see many of my own mistakes. I actually have a family member help me with the editing, so when I said I do it myself, I meant I don’t pay someone. (Unless you count taking my spouse out to dinner.)

  12. Thank you for this, Kat. A couple of years ago Create Space gave me a price of roughly $1,700 for both digital and print versions. This didn’t include editing, for which I’d already paid someone to do. I’d have to go through the checklist again to see the breakdown of everything, but it caught me off-guard. I didn’t go for it because what meager income I earn as a freelance technical writer goes to these nasty things called bills. Regardless, I’m sure you have a few thoughts on this.

  13. Thank you for dropping a Smart-bomb of truth on the current wave of deceptive blogs/articles/forum posts that claim we have to spend lots of money to make money in this business. I’ve noticed that many of these tend to be written by (surprise) people who just happen to offer the type of services they claim are a must-buy. Go figure.

    Sure, there are specific services that can be beneficial to those who don’t have the expertise in certain areas (like cover design), but overall I agree it doesn’t have to cost you anything.

  14. Great article, Kat. Something else that we Canadians can get free is ISBNs, so we can publish under our own company name without that extra expense. I agree with Bruce that often these articles are written by people who offer those services. I contacted someone whose blog I have followed concerning editing charges. She informed me I would have to pay around $3000.00 – and that would be in US funds. Converted to CDN would add approximately another 36%! Definitely not in my budget as a pensioner. And I enjoy doing the prep work of formatting, cover design etc.

    1. That’s outrageous. I’m not sure what kind of editing could be that expensive. Even the developmental editing estimates I received for an average size book were under $500. Glad you are savvy and didn’t bite, Diane! 🙂

      1. Yeah, my developmental editing costs are lower in reality than my copyediting costs. It simply comes down to how many hours each process will take. A developmental edit is such a different beast and can vary so much, but I agree it’s generally a lower actual figure than a full copyedit since it’s not painstakingly going through each and every word and every punctuation mark, capitalization, hyphenation, italicization, numerals, fact-checking, etc., for consistency. Unless it’s a 150,000-word manuscript, however, I also agree that $3,000 is fairly expensive, although I know some highly experienced and skilled editors who charge that… or more! Frankly, though, some of them deserve it. But if you’re going to shell out that kind of figure, make sure you vet that editor thoroughly, see if you can contact authors who’ve worked with them, that kind of thing.

  15. Excellent post and yes! I’ve had a few discussions about this subject lately, mostly with people who’ve read these articles and insist self-publishing is too prohibitive to consider. I will continue to pay for copyediting, though. For me, it’s definitely worth the cost. (And I’m not just saying that because I’m an editor.)

    1. Thanks, Laurie. And yes, absolutely, I’ve been talking a lot lately about editing being the one thing indies NEED to hire out. Hopefully that message will get through to people. 🙂

  16. Good on ya, Kat.
    So true. Pay for editing if you can, but everything else is doable for the beginner.

  17. Good, refreshing post! Another bullet point to consider adding to the list: Advertising with AMS (Amazon Marketing Services). I started experimenting with AMS ads for my series of historical fiction novellas last November, and while I made some early (and costly mistakes), I’ve got it pretty dialed in now. There is a learning curve, to be sure, but once you get the hang of it, you can MAKE money, not spend it, on this marketing activity. I’ve been in the black with my series opener for more than three months now, and that’s with a $0.99 ebook. Successful AMS ads can: generate sales, generate a significant increase in Reads (if in KU), and increase overall visibility. It doesn’t work for everyone (nor in every genre), but it’s worth taking a serious look at. It’s worked out for me so far.

  18. Thanks for this. As a new author this is pretty helpful to know. The is a lot of conflicting information out there on self-publishing.

    I may pay for work on the Cover, but I have buddy that has some art school friends that help out with that process. He might have a good editor too, but I think that one might be a bit trickier since I am writing Epic Fantasy and it will be anywhere from 100,000-150,000 word.

  19. Here’s the breakdown as of 10/23/2015:

    Product Sales Price Quantity Total Price

    Custom Cover $399.00 1.00 $399.00
    Custom Cover: Additional Cover Concept $99.00 1.00 $99.00
    Custom Cover: Additional Cover Image $79.00 1.00 $79.00
    Custom Interior $349.00 1.00 $349.00
    LCCN $25.00 1.00 $25.00
    Marketing Copy Essentials $249.00 1.00 $249.00
    Simple Kindle Conversion $79.00 1.00 $79.00

    It comes out to $1,279, which is the 2nd quote, minus the editing services.

  20. Why haven’t I discovered you before? Everything you said above has been ringing in my head since I began Indie publishing a year ago. I thought I must be wrong as I was a mere beginner. I’ve bookmarked this site and will be catching up. Finally, someone who isn’t trying to make money from other author’s insecurities.

  21. Go Kat! You should get riled up more often. 😀 And yes, we can do most of it ourselves. And you don’t have to be the most technical nerd in creation; most of us are just prepared to /learn/. And that’s free too. 🙂

  22. I agree that self-publishing can be done for free or for very low cost–I’ve seen plenty of friends do it this way. I pay way more for cover and interior design than most indies. I pay for a copy edit and am thinking of paying more for editing in the future, as I’d like to get my editor involved at an earlier stage with some developmental input.

    My total costs per book are around $1,500 and I could easily foresee this rising to $2,500 or more in the future. Most of this goes on the print version, where I make almost no money–I see print as an investment in the future that’s currently supported by ebook sales. The one area where I spend no money at all is in ebook formatting, as I do this myself at the html level rather than use Vellum–this just happens to be the way I like to do it, and I don’t want to use a formatter as I like to be able to make changes quickly myself. I also spend an increasing amount of money on marketing and services that help me become more efficient.

    But here’s my point: my expenses, whatever they are in a given month, are business expenses. Apart from the period when I was concentrating on writing the second and third books rather than marketing the first and had to borrow money from our savings to fund the print versions so that I could get them done early, I’ve stayed in profit throughout–and the money I borrowed was paid back as soon as my book sales picked up. The seed money for my business came from my own savings, and the money for the first print book came from ebook sales. The reason I can now think of spending more money on some aspects of production is that my profits are growing fast. I’m reinvesting much of that growth in my business and take only a small pay check for myself.

    So yes, if you want to go the free route, I’d cheer you on. But there’s nothing wrong with spending money on self-publishing if you do it with a business mindset and an eye on long-term profitability.

    1. Hi Jane, thanks for your comment. Congratulations on all your success! My issue here isn’t that authors should NOT spend money on services. My issue is that people are telling authors that they HAVE to pay, and the costs they are throwing around are usually worst-case scenario costs meant to intimidate authors (a recent article I saw quoted $6000 per book!). And yes, I agree wholeheartedly that being an indie author is a business. That’s a great mindset which I recommend to everyone when I’m giving free self-publishing seminars at libraries. 🙂

  23. Totally agree with @Richard Lowe.
    Buying my own ISBN numbers is a “must.” For some (not all) books I even file a copyright.
    Heck, these books are my babies.

    The ISBN identifies the publisher. Createspace can be my printer, my distributor and my warehouse, but my company is the publisher.
    If an author seeks media coverage this pays off big time. Not being published by Createspace looks more professional.

  24. Keep 2 things in mind

    1: You get what you pay for. (Take what you will from that statement)
    2: Publishing is a business. Understand the risks that come with printing, distribution and returns. Not to mention marketing..

    One more thing:

    Just because you can write a book and make a file doesn’t mean someone will hand it to you for free in physical form or place it in a prime marketplace for sales (for free).

    Understand market standards!! If you don’t understand the business you are running “free” will undoubtedly turn it’s ugly head.

    I have seen several self publishers go under in my line of work. EDUCATE YOURSELF!
    Publishing is not easy – it can be a full time job if you plan to be successful.

    Lastly – to comment on CreateSpace specifically – physical retailers will not carry your book if done with CS. They do not offer retailers standard discounts or returnability options. Most major retailers require standard market discounts. (But obviously Amazon will still carry your title – as Amazon owns CS) you didn’t understand that last statement, PLEASE do your research before jump into this business.

    You CAN be successful. Research everything, call people and ask questions.

  25. You CAN do lots of things for free.

    Is it always wise?

    No. Not if you want to make money.

    There are at least two reasons to pay a pro (or at least a semi-pro) to do certain things. One is to do a better job than you can do yourself.

    Covers are the best example. You can create an acceptable cover for free, but unless you are already a graphic artist, “acceptable” doesn’t stand out and get people to buy your book over all the other books they see.

    Another reason is, if you are already making money as an indie author, your writing time (and mental energy) is more valuable to you than, say, time designing covers or proofreading.

    Professionals leverage the skills of others by paying other professionals to do things well, and spend time doing what they do well themselves.

    1. Exactly. This is why I stated, in the 7th paragraph of the article: “Decide if you have more time than money. If you have more money than time, then by all means pay to have services done for you.” The point, though, is that there are articles running rampant right now telling authors they have to spend $6000 to get a book published – when this is not the case. I’m looking forward to the day I can afford to hire everything out. Until then, though, at least I can do the majority of it myself.

    2. Of course, there is always bootstrapping.

      With my first three books, I paid for covers for all of them and a copyeditor ($800) for the first book. The money I’d put aside for publishing expenses went out a lot faster than the income came in. The copyeditor had taught me my most common errors, so I used that knowledge and AutoCrit, along with multiple ways of reading the second two books and keeping a copy of CMOS handy to check anything I wasn’t certain about.

      After I’d finished writing drafts of three novels in a new series, I realized I’d have to wait years to be able to afford any professional services before publishing. I used beta readers, although mostly for developmental issues, not copyediting. I read articles on cover design, learned how to use Gimp and put simple, yet effective covers on those three books. The sales earned me enough money to hire a cover designer to do new covers for all of them this year.

      I’ll probably be hiring a copyeditor going forward. From profits on sales.

      The great thing about being an indie is that you aren’t stuck with the book you first publish. You can always make it better, republish, and relaunch. And have a lot of fun in the process.

  26. I was sorting through my inbox last night in an attempt to cull out as much as I could when I came across an article that I deleted after skimming through it. The topic was that real authors never self-publish. That was followed by countless reasons why it is a bad idea. Obviously this was by someone who offers some services to authors for a healthy sum of money. Just another reason why your article is so important, Kat.

    1. Thanks, Diane. I give quite a lot of FREE (lol) seminars at libraries about self-publishing. Most of the people taking them are readers who also want to be writers. I always ask them if they check the publisher before purchasing a book. None of them do. So, no one really cares WHO actually publishes the book, as long as it’s a good book. 🙂

    1. A seasoned writer certainly can self-edit, BUT a fresh set of eyes, as in Alpha and Beta readers, is always needed, IMHO. Too many times authors trap what they want to say in their own heads – myself included – even after having written over 30 titles. So I’m grateful to those who can look over what I do and catch what I miss. While I know some of us no longer use editors, I know the ones who don’t still rely heavily on Beta readers. And I think that’s very wise.

  27. Of course you can do it yourself. But can you do it yourself at a professional level?

    Without meaning to be rude, your book covers look like you did them yourself. Now, if you’re getting the sales you want, there’s zero problem with that. But professional covers *do* drive sales, and do-it-yourself covers scream amateur.

    No one should pay for anything they can do themselves AT A PRO LEVEL. If you can’t, then accept that your choice may have consequences.

  28. While more seasoned indies can do a lot for free (I format my own books), I believe it is an equally bad idea to let new authors believe they can do everything for free – without the caveat that they need to spend the time to learn it all first. That can take longer than writing a book. Beta readers are a great idea, excellent ones are not as easy to find, and it’s a rare few that will be good enough to coach new author on craft to the level a first book needs. Yes, I agree indie publishing can be as close to free as the sweat you’re willing to invest, but not everyone can or should do it that way. $6,000 is crazy, no doubt, but no investment for a new writer is even crazier.

    1. Hi Liz, I agree that just because someone CAN do it for free doesn’t mean they SHOULD. And the tools are out there to teach – but the author has to be willing to take the time to learn.

  29. You are absolutely, 100% correct and I’m so glad someone brought this to light. My daughter and I have been indie publishing since 2012. We do everything ourselves from cover design to editing to figuring out which way to go next. Neither of us have had any special schooling or special training. We study the market, edit each other and use our best judgement for covers and descriptions. And we’re doing just fine, thank you very much. So, buddy up with someone who loves books and words and reading as much as you do and GO FOR IT! Thanks for the rant!

  30. And don’t let anyone feed you the horsehockey that it’s impossible to edit your own work either.

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