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Risking Your Money

A recurring theme of this blog has been risk-taking because, well, writing and self-publishing a book is a big risk. When you put a book on the market, you put your very self in danger. You are opening yourself to public critique and criticism the likes of which most professions never see.

But wait! As if that isn’t enough, there’s more! You also risk your money.

Publishing is a business; writing is an art.

Or you should.

One of the things I’ve learned in this journey is the benefit of doing things right, or as well as I can possibly do them, in order to present myself as a professional. I do not want anyone to look at my books and say, well, that was obviously self-published. I want them to learn that it’s self-published and feel surprised.

Let’s face it: there are very few things you can control in the self-pub biz. You can’t make people buy your book and you definitely cannot make them like it, but you can maximize your chances.


  • Good writing: This comes at the cost of your time and effort. When you are finished with your novel, ask yourself if it accomplished what you wanted. If so, proceed to the next step.
  • Good editing: I admit I am biased, but I believe it is crucial to hire a copy editor. I’m not talking about a friend who is good at grammar or even a slew of beta readers. I mean someone who is trained in editing and has knowledge of your preferred style guide. You cannot prevent people from complaining about the subjective aspects of your novel, but you can at least keep them from saying that it was full of grammar errors. Grammar errors will kill your chances because, like it or not, bad editing hints at a lack of professionalism. I’d expect to pay at least $250 for a good proofreader. Minimum.
  • Good covers: Unless you already know Photoshop or want to learn, I strongly suggest putting money into a cover artist. Your entire book package should show your professionalism and your desire to provide a full reading experience, and that starts with the cover. Look at what the big houses put out and strive for that. If your cover looks like an untalented preschooler’s art project (*winks to VA-Y*), then people are going to suspect the same shoddy work and attention to detail on the inside. I’ve made my own covers so far, but the art for Absolute Liability cost $100.
  • Good marketing: Social media is free, but I also suggest purchasing sponsorships and ad space on occasion. Yes, that means money. Over the past year, I’ve spent $645 on marketing both Charlotte Collins and Absolute Liability. This money came out of my profits, and it paid for itself in sales and visibility in spades. Also, $180 of marketing money is dedicated to the launch of Death Benefits in January.

I know you don’t have piles of green sitting around. Neither do I. But look, if you are serious about the publishing business–and it is a business–and want to maximize your chance of success, you should consider investing as much as you can. This is your dream, after all. Do it right!

If you expect a reader to risk their money to buy your book, you should be willing to do the same to sell it.

3 thoughts on “Risking Your Money

  1. I suppose I should factor in the cost of good coffee into the “Good Writing” category.

    I admit that I have completely lucked out here because my Dad is an actual editor for an actual publisher (though not one that does any YA fantasy or JA fiction). So I have beta readers for story editing and the big bad editor for the big bad editing . . . however, if I didn’t have a family connection I would totally hire someone. I know I am not perfect. No matter how many times I go over a manuscript there will be errors I miss. I find errors in traditionally published books all of the time, and they’ve got slews of people looking at those . . . so I want to reduce errors as much as possible, and a trained pair of eyes is the best way to go.

    I cannot agree with you more on art. People! Hire someone! There are lots of really talented artists and designers out there. Not all of them charge an arm and a leg, there are plenty that are reasonably priced (although, and I speak here as the wife of a graphic designer, please do not, not, not insist that they work for less money. Hours and hours really do go into providing designs for customers and graphic designers often end up making sweatshop workers look overpaid). But cover art is so important. It’s the first thing your readers see! You wouldn’t show up at a job interview in an outfit you sewed the night before, especially if you had never sewed before in your life!

    Ok, I think I am about out of soapboxes now . . .

  2. Interesting post! I will say I really do enjoy making my own cover art, even though I have no graphic design experience, and I figure all of the hours I’ve put into learning how to use Gimp are going to pay off in the long run.

    I’m intrigued by the idea of sponsorships, although I don’t have the cash for it yet.

    I absolutely figure the cost of cups down at the cafe into my business model! Getting out of the apartment and into someone else’s space (and someone else’s playlist) is my biggest expense!

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