I’ve stated this before, but I am a big proponent of professional services when it comes to self-publishing. It is one of the reasons (among others) that I am still unwilling to pursue that avenue at this point in time. Given the current state of publishing, I strongly suspect I’ll head down that road before too long, but right now, I’m not. The reason for me is simple. I don’t have the resources to properly invest in it.
There are writers out there, many of whom have likely already made money selling their own work digitally, who will state that you don’t need to make this investment. They didn’t, and they’re making money. Likely, this is true. I don’t doubt it all actually. It is possible to put out a decent product without having your work professionally edited, copyedited, and to have a professional cover done. If you are happy with decent, and you’re making money doing it, then by all means, have at it and best of luck to you. I wish you every success. For most, this success will not happen.
Why? Because the book fails to live up to certain standards put out there by readers. They expect a certain level of quality. If they get it, they’ll buy more. Happens in business all of the time. Do it right and people will keep coming back. Books are no different. Now, while professional resources will not do much for the actual talent of writing a great story, they will go a long way toward making what you do create, the best it can possibly be. For me, this is and should be the minimum requirement for publishing a book. It should be the best possible book you can put out there to consumers. You owe it to yourself as a writer to do so. Self-publishing is a business. If you’re going to start a business, you should be willing and better be able to invest in it.
At a minimum, this requires three things: editing, copy-editing, and cover art. I did a bit of poking around just to verify my casual observance of costs to invest, and I came up with the following (relating to full length fiction manuscripts). Note that these are ballpark numbers to give an average idea of what we’re looking at here.
Cover art: $75-250
So, you’re looking at $2500-$3500 to invest in your work. This isn’t chump change. There are no guarantees of return on investment. Actually, there’s a good chance you won’t. A lot more goes into it than just putting out a good book, but that is the minimum of where you have to start. You want to put out 3 books a year (which is a reasonably doable number)? You’re looking at $6-10,000. This is one major reason why writers with previously published backlists of books have a significant advantage in getting into self-publishing. If you’re just starting out, you’re looking at a big investment.
Self-publishing is a lot more than just slapping 80,000 words down on the computer and tossing it up on Amazon. Some think it’s little more than this. This group of writers will never be successful. If you’re lucky enough to know people in the industry who will cut you a break on such services, you’ve got a leg up. Fact is, the vast majority of writers out there do not have the needed skills in editing/copy-editing/cover art to do it on their own at a professional level. Some writers are good editors. If you are, then you might be able to save yourself some time and money, but good editing is tough to come by and to learn well on your own. Just because you can write a great story, doesn’t mean you’re a good editor. It’s nearly impossible to do your own copy-editing. It’s just too difficult to get the mental distance from your work to see all the errors.
So, if you want to do it right, if you want to make yourself look good from the start and give yourself a greater chance at success, be willing to invest. Save. I’m sure with some work you can find more cost-effective services from quality providers. It’ll still cost. If your work isn’t worth that, then save yourself a lot of headache and don’t do it. I’ll be saving and situating myself as best I can before I make that leap. It’s not any easier than traditional publishing. Anyone who has run their own business will tell you that, and never forget that self-publishing is actually a business that you are running. On your own.