The Indie Files, Part Nine: What Now?

Have I reached the end? Really? Wow. When I started this series over a year ago, I knew it would be multi-part and it would take a while. I knew I would leave stuff out. I had a feeling things would change halfway through.

I’ve covered editing, artwork, metadata and back matter. I’ve covered reviews and marketing. I even covered the money angle. But there’s so much to publishing these days that this series could probably go on in perpetuity and I still wouldn’t cover it all.

The decision to self-publish is not, I repeat, NOT something you should take lightly. When it’s done properly, you’re ponying up over a thousand dollars of your own money with no guarantee you’ll make it back. If you’re one of those people who has that kind of money lying around, I envy you. There are days when I think maybe I should have waited or saved money toward the costs before jumping in, instead of trying to pay as the expenses came up. To give you an idea of how much I spent on Fracture, here’s the breakdown:

$585 – content edits

$380 – copy edits

$275 – a ten-pack of ISBNs

$170 – one week, 20 stop blog tour

$60 – NetGalley spot

$40 – cover reveal

$100 – images to use for cover and graphic teasers

$50 – giveaway

$35 – copyright registration

Total: $1705.00

If I were to pay someone to format the book for me, I would have had to add another $50 to $100 to that total. If I have to pay someone to format the book for print, that’s an additional $150 or so. I bartered for my cover and provided my own image, but if I hadn’t, a good cover can run around $150 or more.

There were ways I could have saved some bucks. I didn’t have to purchase my own ISBNs. I didn’t have to pay for content edits. But so far, I feel that every dollar was one well spent. Yes, even the ISBNs.

You might take a look at that list and figure there are certain things you can skip over to save. There’s no longer any need to purchase your own ISBN, not when online retailers no longer require it and CreateSpace will provide you with one for free. But your ISBN is part of your metadata – if you use a free one, you’re not listed as the publisher, your distributor (like Draft2Digital) is. It has the potential* to add to your online searchability.

*I say potential because frankly, when I do a search for a book online, I’m looking for the title or the author. BUT. A librarian or bookseller may use it to find additional books by that publisher. You need to consider everyone who’ll be searching for your book, not just Jane Doe Reader.*

You could skip content edits. In fact, some day I hope to be able to do so, because that means my craft has come far enough along I can rely on my critique partner and beta readers to gain the feedback to close the plot holes. But for your first couple of books, I strongly recommend you use a content editor. Even though the notes I received for Fracture were minimal, they were impactful enough to make it worth the money I spent. And don’t get me started on the notes for Hidden Scars. I am so very, very glad I used an editor on that book.

I cannot tell you the amount of penguin flapping I’ve done over the last three months. There have been highs (each time someone adds the book to Goodreads) and lows (learning that Amazon rank means very little, but we’ll cover that depressing topic some other time). I had second, third, and tenth thoughts.

And I have learned a ton. I learned I need to plan better – I did content edits, copy edits, and review queries for Fracture over a two month period. With Hidden Scars, I’ll have more time. I (somewhat) got over my fear of asking stupid questions to get the answers I needed, even when sometimes the person answering treated me like I was a moron of the first order for not providing all the necessary information to answer the question properly (yes, that happened, and it happened recently).

If I could give anyone thinking of self-publishing advice, it would be this: beyond the importance of hiring an editor, setting deadlines is key. The larger your reader base gets, the more they’ll expect from you. If you go into your first venture with some vague thought of publishing a book yourself, you run the risk of it either a) taking a long time or b) looking sloppy and unprofessional. I can’t tell you how much it bothers me when an indie author promises a book within a certain time frame, or worse, makes no promise, and then I’m left waiting for months on end without any clue as to when the book will release (and I should note this is not exclusive to self-pub authors. This has happened recently to a few traditionally published authors whose books I enjoy and it irks me just as much).

So that’s it. That’s the basics of self-publishing. I know I’m repeating myself, but I cannot reiterate enough that this is meant as a starting point. Do your own research, ask those questions, and remember that not everyone lands on the best-seller lists the first (or even fifth) time out. Got a question? Sound off in the comments!

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