Last year after parting ways with a literary agent I greatly admired, I began looking into Indie Publishing. My critique partners egged me on—they knew about the interest at Random House and New American Library my books had garnered, and how the Wall Street meltdown had put publication of many debut novels on hold.
So I took the plunge after reading posts on a zillion Indie author blogs.
If you’ve just completed your first novel and are new to the world of authors, here’s the good news: there are precious few cutthroat novelists in this tribe. Most writers arrive in the world with a chewy, nougat center. They’ll offer advice and tips. If you join groups on Facebook and GoodReads, if you tweet and connect, you’ll receive a wealth of useful information. You’ll also make friendships worth cherishing. In that vein, I’ve decided it’s time to write this post.
I released the e-book of my first novel Treasure Me, in April, 2011. The paperback arrived in November. In several weeks I’ll release both versions of The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge then follow up soon after with my third novel, Second Chance Grill. Needless to say, I’ve learned a great deal about Indie Publishing.
A side note: this isn’t my first foray into self-employment. In earlier incarnations I owned a public relations firm and helped build several companies. If publishing your debut novel represents your first attempt at financial independence, plan to work harder than you ever dreamed and enjoy your successes like never before.
Without further ado, the numbers:
Cover art: Yes, every cliché you’ve heard is true—people will judge your book by its cover. Unless you’re preternaturally gifted in both graphic arts and storytelling, plan to spend $300 to $800 on cover art. You can easily spend more. Select a graphic artist after previewing the gallery of completed jobs on her website. You’ll save money if you choose a designer whose finished works mirror what you have in mind for your page-turner.
E-book Conversion: Anywhere from $100 - $350 depending on the number of versions you request. Bear in mind that if you seek review on book blogs, one blogger might request epub for Nook while another wants Kindle formatting.
Paperback publication: My advice here is based on all those years building companies and freelance writing—I never seriously considered using anyone but Amazon’s subsidiary, CreateSpace. Why? I worried that Amazon’s mysterious sort protocol favored CreateSpace books over the competition, lifting those paperbacks to the top of the heap for easier reader preview.
No, I can’t prove this actually happens. But if I were lucky enough to stroll Amazon’s corporate offices in Jeff Bezos’s shoes, I’d certainly be tempted to favor my subsidiary’s paperback releases. In addition, I knew the quality of CreateSpace books was high—I didn’t want to release a paperback that “looked Indie.” If you decide to use CreateSpace, plan to spend approximately $400.
Publicity: Sure, you can handle this on your own. Consider: if you’re a one-book wonder, you’ll never build a backlist. If you don’t build a backlist, you’ll never earn a living in this field. No, I’m not saying your novels are a sure gateway to financial independence. But it is possible—if you continue to produce stellar fiction that draws an ever-expanding readership.
You’ll easily spend as much time promoting your books as writing them. If you plan to hire PR help, plan to spend $20 - $40 an hour for a qualified professional.
Website: This isn’t a “must-have.” Many successful writers work from a blog to build a following and sell books. My website won’t go live for a few more weeks—it was continually lost in the shuffle as I completed Tree. If you do make the leap, plan to spend $800 to $4,000 for website design.
If some or all of these numbers discourage you—chin up. Consider publishing in phases, with an e-book first. Build a social media presence long before your release date. Do whatever you can to minimize costs as you proceed.
If you have questions regarding this post but don’t wish to comment publicly on my blog, send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll help in any way I can.