You’ve written a great book. You’ve queried agents and publishers but have gotten no takers. Your beta readers love your book. You love your book. Even a few of your rejection letters declared it to be a good book but they just aren’t looking for (insert genre) at this time. So, do you sit on it and wait? Or do you jump into the world of self-publishing and become an indie author overnight.
Amazon has made publishing easy because they’ve changed the way books are seen and sold. But there’s a big financial catch. If you are going to go it alone, you’ll need to do your homework and prepare your bank account for the hit it’s going to suffer.
First, some backstory. I’ve always been an indie author. With my first book, I sent out query letters in hopes that I’d get that magical email that said, “Yes, please let us publish you!” After lots of rejections, I got that email. But then I learned how much control I’d be required to give up, so being the hardhead that I am, I turned to Amazon and self-published. That was back in 2010 when anyone with a professional cover, website, and social media skills could garner sales on Amazon.
Fast forward to today. It’s not so easy now. Books by indie authors are oftentimes indistinguishable from traditionally published books. The covers are professional, the writing is well-edited, and the formatting is up to industry standards. Self-published books are no longer a joke. They are a viable option. They win awards. They create buzz. And sometimes, they get noticed by traditional publishers. I call it the YouTube effect.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Publish yourself. Retain control over your vision. Make lots of sales. Maybe get noticed by one of the big publishers. In all likelihood, only one of those four things is going to happen. You’re going to publish. And you’re going to watch your sales rise when your friends and family purchase your book…and then nothing, followed by a trickle of sales. Usually.
The hard truth is that you are competing against thousands of books published weekly, maybe daily. How do you stand out? Social media. Promotions. Word of mouth. Reviews. And a willingness to talk about your books with strangers—all the time, anywhere, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you or them.
I just ran the numbers for this year. Granted I am promoting a catalog of previously published works along with my newest releases, but damn! I’ve spent twice the amount I’d initially budgeted and it’s only September. My promotion cost includes; printed material (bookmarks, posters, handouts, business cards), Facebook and Amazon Advertisement, various promotional sites on the internet (many I’d never use again), and paid review services (which do not violate Amazon’s policies) for the books. Other staggering costs include; the editing of two books by a professional, purchased art for covers (thank the gods I have the skill set to design my own covers), proofs, and a physical book inventory for book signings. What’s not included are the smaller costs; folding table, tablecloth, frames and easels for posters, book display stand, rolling cart to safely transport the books, cost of gas to the event, and a 10×10 pop-up tent. Basically, I’m a walking bookstore at this point.
Without throwing figures around, let me just tell you that my book sales are only a quarter of what I’ve spent this year. And my experience is typical. Thank goodness I don’t write and publish with the goal of supporting myself. I doubt that will ever happen. No, I write these books and share them with readers because I love the stories. And I love to write.
So my writing friends, if you decide to become an indie author be aware that the professional editing and production costs are only a third of what you will spend. And check out the marketing page on my website for a list of free Facebook promotional groups for authors.