Monday, June 23, 2014

The Self-Pub Diaries Part II: Paying For It

I’m going to give all the posts in this series cheeky double entendre titles. Because I feel like it.

Today’s post is about Paying For It. For self-publishing your book, that is.

And unless you’re a multitalented tech genius, you’re gonna have to pay for stuff. Sure, you could just put up your Word file on Kindle Direct with a photo you took with your phone for a cover. You could… but please don’t do it, okay?

When you decide to self-publish, please be aware: yes, this route will give you unprecedented freedom, but... not to sound like a bad action movie, freedom has a price. A publisher (even a small e-only publisher) will do your editing (at least crappy editing) and give you a cover (at least a crappy cover someone’s cousin put together in Photoshop. I know not all small e-only publishers are like that but just roll with it, I speak from very unfortunate experience, okay?).

If you’re indie, you have to get it done yourself. And that means, that’s right, paying for it.

The number one rule of everything on this list is BOOK IN ADVANCE.  As much in advance as you can manage. As soon as you know your blurb/title/release date/what you want for your cover, BOOK IT. I was insanely lucky that my top pick of cover artist was available within the month. The other artists I contacted were booking for October. This was in May. Draw your conclusions.

So here’s who you will need to book (as much in advance as humanly possible):

1. Editing.

Depending how experienced you and your CPs are, you might need more or less editing. I've heard urban legends of absolute geniuses doing ALL their editing by themselves to a sparkling result (*cough* Leah Raeder *cough*). Most of us are not Leah Raeder and need at least one round with a professional. I don’t think you need to pay for a content edit if you have good CPs/betas, but if after your betas are through you still have doubts—or the feedback was contradictory and varied widely—you might want to consider it. The good news is, a lot of editors offer it as an add-on to the more thorough edits for only $50-$100 more. If you have total confidence in your manuscript, I’d still recommend using a proofreader to catch the typos your eyes skip over because after 1,276 rounds of edits you’re too close to the text.

Hiring an editor: there are tons of great editors in the YA/NA writing community, and a lot of them are also writers, authors, interns at literary agencies or even editors at publishing houses. And don’t hesitate to ask for an editing sample and/or references and/or whatever it takes to give you confidence in your choice!
And for god’s sake, ASK FOR THE TURNAROUND TIME. Actually, this is true for EVERY OTHER ITEM ON THIS LIST. ASK FOR THE TURNAROUND TIME and plan your other stuff accordingly, trust me, or you’ll be doing a lot of this

And this

And possibly this.

2. Cover artist

Forget diamonds, a cover artist is the indie author’s best friend. I’d say BOOK IN ADVANCE but I don’t need to repeat it one more time, do I? Look at portfolios. Be realistic about your needs (if you want custom digital cover art and your artist specializes in photo manipulation, it’s kind of silly to request they create a digital painting for you from scratch. There are others who specialize in that sort of thing. Contact them.) Also, most cover artists work with stock photos from the big sites (Stockphoto, Bigstock, Dreamstime, etc). This means they might not find that perfect likeness of a redhead with an elaborate koi sleeve on her right arm and a labret piercing. Some do offer custom photoshoots but that might cost a little more.

Your cover artist also does the teasers, for which you might need to purchase your own stock photos. Your cover artist also does blog tour banners, ads, and headers for social media sites. See what I said above? 

3. Formatting

To epub/mobi for Kindle and B&N, a separate specially formatted Word file for Smashwords. And if you’re also planning on releasing a paperback via a site like CreateSpace, typesetting! There are very specific instructions for formatting both your manuscript and cover for CreateSpace. Unless you have free in-house labor or a computer-savvy friend who owes you, you might need to outsource that too.

If you're not computer-savvy and attempt to do your own formatting anyway, it might result in this. 


A traditional publisher also provides your ISBN. If you’re reading this blog, I shouldn’t have to explain what an ISBN is, but when you self-publish via Amazon you are assigned an ASIN—which is NOT an ISBN. You don’t need an ISBN, but it’s nice and professional to have one. If you publish via Smashwords, they give you a free ISBN or you can buy a custom ISBN from them. NOTE: this is for US residents ONLY! So if you’re Canadian like me, this is something you also need to think about in advance.

And those 13-digit suckers aren’t cheap. $125 for one on Bowker, ten for about $295. And you need a separate one for EVERY edition of your book. One for Kindle, one for Smashwords, another one for paperback. So that ten package isn’t sounding so bad.

NOTE: Canadian residents, there’s a way to get ISBN’s for free through a good old-fashioned government agency. The catch is you have to register and that means your address might be accessible in the agency’s database. I haven’t figured out whether just anyone can access it and find out where you live, and until then I’m paying for my ISBNs.

5. Promo

If you have a huge following and a platform in the writing community, you might be able to do it all by yourself. Anyway, in this day and age even trad authors are expected to do self-promo. And if, like me, you’re not the most socially apt and have trouble getting yourself noticed, you might want to pay for a blog tour. It’s easier in that the organizer signs up blogs and manages dates—all you have to do is write the posts and provide giveaway items.

How much should you expect to pay? That varies on your needs (how many formats? E-only, e-first, or e and paperback?), your choice of cover artist, and how many rounds of professional editing you think you'll need. However... contrary to popular belief, self-publishing is not an excuse for poor quality. And your book baby might not be something you want to economize on. Just, I don't know, switch to boxed wine for a couple of weeks.

Just kidding. Never switch to boxed wine. 

So this is it for this week! Next time: Asking For It, where I’ll talk about asking other writers and bloggers to give you free promo and blurbs for absolutely no reason and without getting anything in return. Which sounds kind of insane, but then again if it were obvious I wouldn’t need to post about it.


As always, you can follow me or my NA alter ego on Twitter. Or add my NA contemporary on Goodreads!


  1. hm hmm hmm!! I plan on self-publishing. My goal is to do so before the end of this year. I'm still doing heavy edits. I honestly had no idea so much booking in advance had to take place. Very useful information here, and I will start looking for editors and such in a month. oh the pressure!!!

    1. Tell me about it! If you don't mind me asking, what's your genre?

    2. oh.. Idk if my first comment went through.

      So I used to say, "Paranormal Romance." But people are like, "You can't use 'Romance' because of how your story ends!" Now I'm like, "Uh..YA/Paranormal...." haha :x
      But maybe it's changing a bit. I am doing some big revisions and am adding a whole new concept that was not originally planned. Maybe after the draft I'll have a better idea haha. I still want the romance throughout the book....despite the end lol

    3. Hehe, you can call your book whatever you want, romance, YA, etc. It doesn't need a HEA to be romance and it doesn't have to be formulaic to sell. I stayed away from New Adult for a long time because I thought it was all cookie-cutter, and sure, the cookie-cutter stuff does sell. But the beauty of being indie is that you can take a genre or trope and make it your own, write the book YOU want to write.

      Good luck!