In his 2013 Book Publishing Industry Predictions, Smashwords founder Mark Coker included this warning for aspiring writers: “In the self-publishing gold rush, more money will be made in author services than in book sales.”
All independent writers need to remember this advice as we head into the new year. We asked How Much Should Self-Publishing Cost? in November and received a wide-range of responses. Indie authors can pay everything from nothing to $50,000 in an effort to publish their work.
Here’s more from Coker: “With the shift to self-publishing, writers must carry the publishing burdens once borne by traditional publishers, such as the cost of editing, proofing, book production, packaging, and distribution, as well as backoffice tasks such as accounts receivable, accounts payable and year-end tax reporting … With this burgeoning demand for professional publishing services, thousands of service providers will open up virtual author services shops in 2013. The challenge for writers is to procure the highest quality services at the lowest cost. Plenty of scamsters and over-priced service providers will be standing by to help.”
Coker also included two tips for keeping your self-publishing work at a respectable cost. Here is his first tip:
As I write in Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, pinch your pennies. As a self published author, you’re the publisher. You’re running a business. The lifeblood of a business is profit, because profit generates cash. If you run out of cash, you go out of business. Since profit equals sales minus expenses, and sales are difficult to predict and often minimal, it’s important to minimize expenses. DIY as much as possible, especially when you’re starting out. Invest your sweat equity (your time and talent) first. If you can’t afford editing, barter for editing, and leverage beta readers. Once you start earning a profit, then carefully reinvest. Never borrow money to finance your ebook publishing adventure. Never spend money you need to pay the mortgage or to put bread on your table.
When you hire professionals (cover artist, editor, proofreader, marketing pro), hire the professional directly, so your money goes straight to them, and not to some author services firm who will farm the job out to someone then mark up the fee several-fold. At Smashwords, for example, we have a free autoresponder email service called “Mark’s List,” where I maintain a list of low-cost ebook formatters and cover designers (send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org), with prices starting around $50.00 (that’s all!). You’re hiring the freelancer directly. We don’t get a referral fee, listing fee, commission or kickback, which means you’re getting the service at-cost, as low as possible, and your money goes directly to the service provider you choose. Most of the service providers are fellow Smashwords authors.
You can read some of Coker’s previous predictions at these links: