Self or Independent Publishing: There Is a Cost to Do It Right

Far too often, when an author tells me that they plan to self-publish the reason is so that they can keep all the money.   I’m not saying that money shouldn’t be a factor, but it shouldn’t be the only factor.  Would I like to make more money on the books I write for the school library market?  Sure.  But could I get my work into school libraries without the publisher?  No.

Writers who are considering self-publishing also need to realize that in addition to getting all of the income they will be incurring all of the cost.  For whatever reason, a lot of new writers seem to think that they have to pay a fee to get various retailers, including Amazon, to carry their work.  While that’s not the case there are several others expenses the independently published author faces.

First is editing.  Even if your critique group is amazing, you are going to want to pay for editing.  A top notch editor will help you identify the places that need more work but they can also help you find inconsistencies or repetitive points in the story.  I suggest the latter because I just finished listening to a book by a big name author.  There were several sections that repeated earlier text word-for-word.

Second is editing.  Seriously, you can’t emphasize this enough.  In addition to what I consider “big picture” editing, the things I discussed in the preceding paragraph, a good copy editor will catch spelling and punctuation errors.

Third is design.  Very few people should design their own books.  Me?  Nope.  I shouldn’t do it.  When I do try to do design work, I can tell it is off but now why or what to do to fix it.  Being able to point to a vague problem isn’t enough.  Someone needs to lay out the interior of the book and also do the cover.

Fourth is design.  Do I seem to be repeating myself? Like editing (listen to your editors!), good design is vital.  When I reviewed books for our local paper, I could sort four cases of books into two piles – traditionally published and self-published. Every once in a while, I would put a poorly designed traditionally published book in the wrong pile.  But I never misidentified a self-published book.  Again, I could never put my finger on why I could tell, but I could.  It is a lot like trying to pass of carob as chocolate.  Thanks but no.  I can tell.

The tools needed for individuals to design their own books have come a long way.  My friend Marella Sands does the design work for Word Posse.  I would let her design my book in a heartbeat. She may be self-taught but she is that good.  Me?  I still shouldn’t do it for myself.  See my note above about being able to tell something looks bad but now how to fix it.

Nathan Bransford recently published a post where he went into the specifics costs of self-publishing.  In addition to my own pet peeves discussed above, he discusses marketing and publishing.  Read his post here.