Monday, August 6, 2012

What Indies Should Pay For...And What They Shouldn't

Everyone's self-publishing these days, and the ebook market is booming. Lots of indies are cracking the bestseller lists and making a name for themselves. There's opportunity out there...and wherever there's opportunity, there are people who prey upon it. Self-publishing isn't free, no matter what anyone says. Some things, you've got to pay for. Some things, you shouldn't pay for. Learn how to tell the difference, and spend your money where it's going to matter most. 

What Indies Should Pay For

Some things cost money, even in self-publishing. When it comes to creating a book that you're trying to sell to the masses, there are some things you're going to have to buy...and some things that maybe you should buy. 
  • Copyright. Where you're writing your book matters. Make sure to look up the copyright requirements for your current home country. In the United States, for example, you have to pay to register your copyright. Always do this before you publish a book!
  • Editing. Lots of authors are bad at editing. I personally am atrocious at spelling. It takes a lot of work and time to edit your book, which you must do quite thoroughly before you publish. You may want to consider hiring a professional editor if you know you're terrible at it and you can't seem to find the time to do it. If your time is more profitably spent at other tasks, in other words if hiring an editor won't lose you too much money, consider using a paid service.
  • Cover. Not artistic? It's okay, lots of writers aren't. If you can't seem to create a book cover, or don't know how, you might want to hire an artist or graphic designer. You can find ebook designers everywhere, but if you're looking for something specific it's always an option to place a free classified ad on Craigslist.
And What Indies Shouldn't Pay For...

Turning a manuscript into a full-fledged book is a tedious process that takes a ton of time and care. During the journey, you're going to see advertisements and maybe even make contacts who offer to make things a little easier for you. But some things, indie authors should be doing for themselves.
  • eBook formatting. Learning ebook codes and formatting a manuscript so it becomes a readable ebook is a long and frustrating process. You need special software, you've got to convert files and once you start adding a Table of Contents and images into the mix you're just tormenting yourself. It's certainly a lot easier to pay someone to format your book for you, but it's a waste of money. It can save you only a few hours at most, and ebook formatting is something anyone can figure out for themselves (I know, because I can do it and I can never figure anything out).
  • Book trailers. Plenty of indie authors have book trailers for their books, awesome 1- or 2-minute videos designed to pique the interest of potential readers. They look great and they carry a certain cachet...but that doesn't mean you should spend any money on them. To be frank, book trailers don't really sell a whole lot of books. They're cool, they're a fun extra and they help show that you're serious about what you do, but tons of sales probably aren't going to come flooding in because you posted something on YouTube. Professional book trailers are expensive, and you can create your own using free images, software and video clips. Maybe your trailers won't look pro, maybe they take a long time to make, but they'll do until you sell your first million copies.
  • Reviews. Yes, you can pay for reviews. Kirkus is the most prestigious, but there are tons of other review sites and companies out there that want your money in exchange for their opinions. My advice is don't do it. It's an unnecessary expense. With hard work and time, you can scour the Internet and find tons of book review sites and lots of bloggers who are perfectly happy to review books for free. They get free books to read, indies get reviewed and everyone's happy. When money and favors start exchanging hands, the whole thing becomes a little tainted. One honest review from an enthusiastic reader is worth 20 reviews you paid to get. Save your money, and spend your time instead to get truly heartfelt reviews.
Spending Your Money

Self-publishing is a business, and in any business you're going to find lots of people who want to cash in. You'll be approached by blogs offering promotional services, tantalizing ads for big lists that you can't see unless you pay for them, tons of opportunities that could be reached if only you pay a little money. Sleep on it first. Find out exactly what they're offering for your money, and take the time to get online and see if you can achieve the same thing on your own. Chances are, you can. Indies exist because they learned how to do everything themselves, so don't be quick to pay for something that looks like a great opportunity. There are lots of ways you can create your own opportunities, and lots of reasons you should save your money for other stuff. 

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  1. You should never pay for a book review. Do some homework; you'll find plenty of reviewers who write reviews just for the love of writing in their particular genre. You also receive free promotion from bloggers! Check it out. I'm a reviewer who blogs for the love of historical fiction. For free. Ask around, check it out on FB and Twitter. DON'T PAY!

  2. Great post, I totally agree. Pay for what you know you can't do by yourself, and what you can learn or work a long amount of time and do it right, dn't pay for that. I'm wondering, what about Marketing? What should indies pay and not pay for? Is their any services that are really effective yet cost some $$?

  3. Loving this list! I've self-published in the past, so I found myself nodding a lot while reading this. I hadn't done any e-publishing then, though, so thanks for the heads-up about ebook formatting, if I ever self-publish again!