I have started writing this blog post several times only to delete it and push it aside. However, after several conversations with individuals who are seeking to join the publishing industry, my readers, friends, as well as other authors, I decided to move forward with the post.
When you tell people that you are a published author, more than 90% of them are instantly amazed and want to know how you got your book published. You share this knowledge and the conversation usually ends with them commending you on your achievement. The person then walks away, but if you’re like me, you may feel like you didn’t give them the complete truth of the ins and outs of the publishing industry.
Welcome to the other side of the game.
To me, the other side of the game represents the part of the publishing industry that people don’t see. Believe me when I say that writing the book is the fun part. However, after you write the book, the hard part begins. This is the part where you try to decide which route you’re going to take to being published.
You can self-publish, sign with an independent publisher, or get a literary agent and try to sign with a major. In the beginning, my first choice was to self-publish. However, there was one problem with this plan: I couldn’t financially afford it. To be honest, there are probably tons of writers out there now who are in the same situation. When you self-publish, you are your own bank. You fund everything, from the editing to the publishing of the book and marketing.
Now, most of us are aware of how much discretionary income we’ll have after bills are paid. I usually put gas, food, and hair services in this category since this is where my discretionary income generally goes. With the job that I had from 2007-2010, I was lucky if I had between 60-80 bucks left after bills were paid. Let me add that I got paid every 2 weeks.
To me, the idea of self-publishing seemed to be at the end of the tunnel. I knew that after I finished my book, the next step was finding an editor. The first editor I contacted had a very reasonable rate, but I just didn’t have enough discretionary income to pay for the editing. Yes, I could save, but it would take me forever and would create a financial strain.
To further illustrate, let’s do some basic math. A novel may be 227 pages single-spaced or 295 pages spaced at 1.5 lines, but most editors require the manuscript to be double-spaced. This takes the page count up to 440 pages. If an editor charges, $3.00 per page for copyediting then you are looking at shelving out 1320.00 in editing. Generally, half of this you will pay for upfront and the rest you will pay at the completion of the project.
Personally, I believe that the bulk of the money that you spend if you choose to self-publish should go towards your editing. However, spending $1320 in editing does not seem feasible for a person who only has 60 or 80 bucks in discretionary income. If I was still at this job and tried to save 30 bucks out of every paycheck (and let’s say that I had 80 bucks left in discretionary income), it would take me almost two years to be able to pay for the editing. I also would only have $50 left to go towards gas, food, etc. Speaking realistically, how many people would be able to survive on this? So far, most people have told me none.
If you are self-publishing, you have to think about more than the editing. If you are able to come up with the funds to pay an editor for your book then you also have to think of the funds associated with getting it published. Since I have some graphic design skills, I don’t have to pay for anyone to design my book cover or format my book. I save $$ in that area and just have to worry about the fees associated with getting it published and marketing.
Marketing does not just apply to self-published authors, but to everyone who is publishing a book. However, if you are a self-published author, all of the marketing is coming from you since you don’t have a publisher backing you. Now you have what I call free marketing which is: word of mouth, social networking, and the web. You then have the marketing that costs: virtual book tours (the ones I’ve found range from $50 – $150), advertising on sites (can be as little as $5 to in the thousands), reviews (some people do charge for book reviews while others do them for free like many book clubs, however this is considered as a charge because you have to send a free copy of your book which will not be returned), and of course book signing events.
You have to be financially prepared to handle all of this if you want your book to be successful. If you’re not financially prepared then you have to do the best that you can, which some people will not understand. Published authors generally know what to do to market their books because there is a wealth of knowledge on the internet with tips, but we don’t always have the financial means to do them. I say this for all people who have low discretionary incomes.
Here’s another example: You can write down a list of every book festival that you want to attend, but you also have to think about the cost of the table, how you are going to get there, gas, and if you need to get a hotel room. There are some ways to cut the costs like sharing a table and room, but it is still pricey depending on how far you’re going.
Now here come a couple of suggestions that I usually hear after this rant…
-Why don’t you get an English student to copyedit your book for way cheaper?
-Stop eating out, buying clothes/shoes, going to the movies, etc. to save more money
– Why don’t you take out a loan or ask for financial help from family and friends?
To the first, I will say that this is an option, which may work for some people. I, personally, would like a more trained eye, but this may work for some writers to cut costs. Next, when it comes to the luxuries of life, these will be the first things I would cut back on. However, there is only so much cutting you can do. There are still some things that you have to pay for just to keep up your physical appearance. For example, do not wear shoes with holes in them just because you’re trying to save for a book- by all means, buy a new pair!!!!! Last, in terms of a loan from friends and family, yes, you can do it, but I would be very skeptical to do so. I mean, I’m not asking for money to pay my rent or to keep my lights on, but to go towards a book. I put wanting to be a “published” author into the category of a want and not a need. Now if you know someone who wants to be in the publishing industry then teaming up with this person is beneficial. On the other hand, you may just know someone who just wants to help. To this particular point, I say, to each his own.
In the end, I want to share a very important phrase that I learned from singer Kelis, “scared money don’t make none.” What this means is that in order to see success we’re going to have to spend money and make sacrifices. Nevertheless, you still have to take care of home first. Yes, you may have a book that you’re trying to promote, but you still need a place to lay your head. If it takes you a little longer to put out a book then so be it. At the end of the day, you’ll get there and that is the greatest accomplishment.
I am planning on self-publishing my third novel and am feeling every effects of the financial part of this industry. Still, I am going to keep my head high, save my dollars until I have what I need to put out The Ace of Diamonds. I encourage all of you struggling authors to do the same!