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The Honest Inside Scoop or the Pros and Cons of Indie Publishing by Jessie Harrell

(An introductory note: my comparison focuses on self-published Indies, not Indies who use independent publishers, i.e., small houses.)

I know. Many of you are new to the world of Indie publishing and it looks pretty rosy.  The news loves to tout Indie turned best-selling authors.  Indies are making their own to-die-for covers.  And best of all, Indies are making money now and not having to wait years for their first book to see the light of day.  Plus, you have full creative control of your story. It sounds glorious, right?
Let me be the first to stand up and tell you that Indie publishing is wonderful.  On many different levels.  I braved the waters because I knew my book was ready and I knew the market for mythology would pass me by if I waited for a traditional deal.  And I was right.  If I hadn’t jumped when I did, Destined may never have seen the light of day.  And for that, I will forever be grateful that I chose Indie.
What I didn’t know about — not really — were some of the cons that come with being Indie.  So before you make the leap into Indie waters yourself, here are some considerations to weigh carefully.  (If you don’t want to read my detailed explanations, you can skip ahead to the end, where I have a chart.  I recommend reading through this though, so you can make a fully-informed decision.)
First, let me be clear, I’m not talking about the “stigma.”  Haters gonna hate, right?  But even the perception that Indie equals inferior product is rapidly falling away.  There are some people, though, who will not feel successful unless their book is produced by a traditional publisher.  If you fall within that category, then read no further.  This is a personal choice and no one here will judge you for feeling that way.  Truly.  You will not be happy going Indie because it will feel like a compromise to you.  It’s not worth it.  Step number 1 in being Indie is to embrace it.
Con #1: Time.  Don’t tell me, “Well, even traditional publishers put you on deadlines and you still have to do your own marketing.”  That’s 100% true.  BUT — when you’re Indie, you’re it.  You are in charge of every aspect of your book business, because that’s what it becomes: a business.  You have to account for your income and expenses (including those all important tax write-offs!). You have to hire your designer, editor, and formatter (if that’s not something you’re equipped to handle yourself).  You have to decide which channels to sell your book through, decide if you’re going to have a paperback version, and which POD company to use.  You have to promote your book, which is not only the social media you typically think of, but advertising through other channels like Kindle Fire Department and Facebook, as well as setting up blog tours.  
Are you starting to get the picture?  The reason you get such a small percentage of royalties with a traditional publisher is because they are paying people to worry about most of those things for you.  With Indie, you keep everything you bring in, but you work for it.  If being Indie is a second job for you (like it was for me), be aware that the business of Indie publishing will start to gobble up that time you used to use for writing.  It can be consuming.  In my mind, this is the biggest con of being an Indie author who also has a day job.
Con #2: Money Up Front.  Remember earlier when I said you have to hire your designer, editor, and formatter?  Did you catch the “hire” part there?  Yes, I’m talking about an outlay of funds.  Money coming out of your pocket before you make dime one.  Before going Indie, consider whether you can afford to make this investment in your book.  It is an investment and you cannot skimp on these areas if you hope to achieve success.  
For example, unless you can create a professional looking cover (like the lovely Chelsea Fine or Heather McCorkle), you should never undertake this task yourself.  The cover is the single-biggest piece of advertising your book will have.  It’s your novel’s calling card.  I’ve heard of great designers who will do a book cover (not spine or back for paperbacks) for $99.  That’s the floor.  You can go up to several hundred dollars, plus the cost of buying your stock art.  If you want custom photography, you can add several hundred more dollars to the price tag.
Editors are another area that you truly don’t want to skimp on if you’re trying to distinguish yourself as a professional Indie (and you are, right?!?!)  Your beta reads and friends are great, but they are not a substitute for a professional.  Neither is spell check.  To avoid falling prey to the inevitable reviews complaining of pacing, inconsistencies, or even just typos, you are looking at at least another couple hundred dollars.
Finally, e-book formatting is not as easy as it looks.  Lots of Indie authors will tell you it’s doable and I’m sure that it is — with time.  Since I found time was already in short supply, I also hired someone to format my novel.  That’s typically another hundred dollars.
Of course, in addition to paying these folks, you’ve got to find them and manage them.  You can add that to the list of time-draining activities associated with being Indie.
You’ve also got to buy your ISBN and copyright.
Con #3: Blogger Support.  (Please don’t be mad at me if you’re one of the awesome bloggers who fully supports Indie authors.)  But the vast majority of bloggers have been overrun with requests from Indie authors to review their novels and have had to turn them away entirely. If you’ve done your work and created a professional novel, you will probably have some bloggers reach out to you and ask for a review copy.  That being said, most of your own requests for reviews will likely be turned away.  And since blogs are one of the biggest ways of spreading the word about your novel, not having full access to these channels can be frustrating, if not problematic.  The good news is that many bloggers will agree to do a cover reveal or host a spot on your blog tour even if they don’t do a review.  While not as powerful as a good review, space to share your novel is worth taking!
Con #4: Marketing Reach.  Not only are you doing all of your own marketing as an Indie, but you likely won’t have the same reach as a traditional publisher.  You won’t have a 3x life-size poster of your book cover up at BEA.  You won’t have cross-author or cross-title promotion coming from your publishing house.  You likely won’t be in a brick and mortar store.  You likely won’t have a big launch party and multiple signings at local bookstores.
Con #5: Standing Out.  This ties in with marketing reach.  There’s a reason you’re hearing so much about Indie publishing these days.  It’s because it’s working for a lot of people.  Meaning, a lot of people are trying it out.  Even best selling traditionally published authors are throwing their hats into the Indie arena.  Rising above the masses in Indie is becoming increasingly more difficult.  Although you will get tips for how to do this in other parts of this conference, just know that you will be one of millions out there.  Getting noticed in the absence of a traditional publisher’s marketing reach is difficult.
Con #6: Learning Curve.  I almost forgot this one, because once you have the knowledge, it becomes second nature.  (In traditional publishing, I think this would be non-existent, since your publisher handles these things for you.)  But here are some examples.  Do you know the difference between an .epub and .mobi file?  Do you know which one to upload to Amazon and which one to Barnes & Noble?  Do you know that if you distribute through all channels available on Smashwords it can take weeks for your changes to take effect?  Do you know what Smashwords is?  Do you have publishing accounts with Kindle Direct Publishing, PubIt! (B&N), Kobo Writing Life, Apple and Smashwords?  Do you know if you’re going to use CreateSpace or  Lightning Source (or another) printer for your POD copies?  Do you know the price and quality differences between the two?  Do you know how to buy your ISBN?  Do you know whether you’re going to establish your own company for publication (like I did with Mae Day Publishing) and how to go about that? 
You get the idea…
So that you don’t think I’m a total Debbie Downer, let’s talk about the pros of Indie publishing.
Pro #1: Timing (not to be confused with the “con” of time).  Do you hate sending out query letters and waiting?  Do you have a story that is in a “hot” genre right now and you’re afraid it will pass you by if you have to wait for a traditional deal?  Well, in Indie publishing, you control the timing of your release.  You want it out in time for Valentine’s Day?  Done.  That’s totally within your control.  In fact, you control all aspects of your book sales.  You want to lower your price for a weekend promotion (and do it spur of the moment) and raise it back up?  Totally your call.  
And here’s another beautiful thing about timing in the Indie world.  Not only can you do it faster than in traditional publishing, but you can do it longer.  You don’t have to worry about losing your shelf-space in a brick-and-mortar building because your sales aren’t happening fast enough.  You don’t have to worry about being back-listed.  Time is on your side.  In our virtual world (which is where Indies thrive), you can leave your novel on sale for as long as you want.
Pro #2: Publishing Prolifically Through a Long Career.  Which brings me to another important “pro” of being Indie… you thought being back listed was bad?  What happens when you don’t earn out with your traditional deal (which happens ALL the time)?  I’ll tell you: publishing homicide.  Your career is dead in the water.  Not so with Indie.  If your first book doesn’t catch on fire, you write another.  And another.  Who’s going to tell you “no”?  No one!!  And when one of those books finally gets a little traction, you’ve got a stable of other titles already waiting for your adoring fans.
Pro #3: Earning Money.  I know I listed money under the “con” column already, and it’s true that with Indie, you have an initial outlay of money that you don’t with a traditional deal.  But to move money into the “pro” column, you’ve got to look no further than the fact that you keep a much higher percentage of what you make.  (I’d say you keep 100% of your sales, but that’s not entirely true.   Depending on the price you set for your novel, your e-book royalty rate will be between 35-85%.  Companies like Amazon pay only 35% if your price is $.99 or less but offer 70% if you price above that.  Smashwords offers the highest royalties, but your customers are less likely to find you there.  (Compare with traditional publishing, where a typical royalty is 8-12%.)
Now, let’s be honest, there are many, many Indies out there who struggle to sell a few e-copies a month, so their percentage may not amount to much.  But you’ll also meet many Indies who are supporting themselves quite nicely of their stable of novels.  Series and serial novellas tend to really be the key to large earnings, but you’ll hear more about that later in the conference.  My point is, as an Indie, you can put out a novella every month (it happens!) and keep the bulk of the profits from all of those sales.  
Moreover, it’s common knowledge that advances are on the decline.  While you may get a little money in your pocket up front (after paying your agent), unless your meager royalty “earns out” your advance or you strike gold and see film rights or have the next best-selling series, your advance is likely all the money you will ever make on your novel.
Pro #4: Control.  As an Indie, no one gets to tell you how to re-write your story.  No one gets to tell you when your novel comes out (as I mentioned in timing).  No one gets to assign you a cover you don’t like.  You have full control of every aspect of your novel and if you’re a control-freak person (like me), this thought makes you anxious.  Plus, if your novel doesn’t fit into a traditional genre, that’s also not a problem, because you get to control how you market and distribute your book.
Pro #5: Rights.  As an Indie, you keep all of your rights.  World rights.  Audio rights.  Film rights.  You’ll likely give these, or most of these, up if you sell your novel to a traditional publisher.  That being said, your chances of getting International or film rights are pretty limited if you Indie publish.  And a note of caution: Indies are often approached by foreign companies inquiring about translation rights.  And that sounds super-exciting, right?  Your novel translated into Turkish!  Just beware.  Investigate the person and company to be sure they are legitimate.  Don’t send over your manuscript without some written agreement.  And if you are approached for translation or film rights, consider hiring an agent or attorney so you don’t wind up on the raw end of a deal.
And where are Indie and traditional publishing equal?  Serendipity.  You’re just as likely to land your dream agent on your first query as you are to be the next Indie best seller.  So much in this business is timing and luck and that doesn’t change, no matter which path you choose.

So, good luck to you all!  I wish you all the best on your path to publication, no matter which route you select.
And, as promised, here is your chart.  And “X” appears in the column that favors the method of publishing.


*********************************************************************************
By day, Jessie Harrell is an appellate lawyer. By night, she’s a wife, mother of two, and author/lover of all things Greek mythology. She’s a native Floridian, frustrated world traveler, unrepentant dreamer, lover of acoustic music and not-so-closet geek. Destined is her first novel. The companion short story, Before, is free on most sites. Her short story I Come Bearing Souls appears in the Two and Twenty Dark Tales anthology. You can find her at www.jessieharrell.com


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This Post Has 94 Comments
  1. When you self publish you really have to partner with Amazon. That’s not the same as being out there running your business like an entrpeneur as you have to play by their rules: That is the biggest con in my humble opinion

    We automatically support a company that doesn’t pay its taxes in many places.

    A company that pays its workers a pittance and employs dodgy security, check this article: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/amazon-used-neonazi-guards-to-keep-immigrant-workforce-under-control-in-germany-8495843.html

    A company that doesn’t nurture or care for authors or else it would give them a cut on all the second hand sales they make, directly competing with the new books an author is selling from their profile. That alone is totally out of order: you won’t give an author a cut at a jumble sale but if it’s organised, the author is trackable, just there and they already make money on them with every transaction? Totally unfair!

    Consumer centric? Ha! It’s all about greed and exploitation and people still seem to think that shopping at Amazon is convenient.

    We’re in deep trouble, authors, book lovers and general consumers alike and only time will tell how deep! It’s like we’re feeding this monster in our middle for our convenience.

    Nor has dealing with Amazon hasn’t been straight forward: for example: when I changed my price on KDP select it came up as if i had re-published even though I had initially, fully aware, un-ticked automatic renewal. All of a sudden I had another 3 months exclusivity with KDPselect. When I e-mailed and asked them about this practice they ignored my question. There are tons of issues authors have been dealing with.

    Sounds familiar?

  2. Fabulous post, Jessie. Thank you. I’m now both an indie published author (only 2 novellas to date) and published with e-publisher (1 short story and 1 single title to date), so at the moment I kinda have my foot in both camps which I’m quite happy about. I’m keen to improve my knowledge of all aspects of publishing, especially marketing / promotion. This is great info, Jessie.

    1. congrats on all of your publications! I suspect you’ll get a feel for which camp you prefer and gravitate toward that, but the more you know about Indie publishing, the more of an informed decision you can make.

  3. Me again Jessie :0)
    I have a question on using a pen name. How frequent is it that for authors? I’ve started a mystery/thriller novel and want to write under a pen name as I like my privacy. Just curious how it is for authors?

    1. The issue with using a Pen Name is whether you’ve already established a large social media network using your real name. If you have, then using an anonymous pen name will be wasting what you’ve already built. If you select a pen name early though, and build your brand around that, then that’s great.
      Another way to use a pen name is to do it in a non-anonymous way. For instance, Elle Strauss publishes her lighter YA novels as Elle and her older/darker books as Lee Strauss. There’s no secret that she’s the same person, but fans of Elle, who are on the lower YA range, won’t accidentally buy a book that’s intended for an older audience (and vice versa).

  4. Great post! I’m so sick of reading about how Indie is the best or Indie is the devil lol – I’m an entrepreneur by nature and a writer through and through to self publishing has always appealed to me.

    1. sounds like Indie publishing will be perfect for you then! and I agree – Indie and traditional both have their pluses and minuses, but there’s no one right or wrong any more. No need for us to think less of whatever path we didn’t chose, because for someone else, it was the right path for them.

  5. You’ve done a great job of laying out the pros and cons!

    I never understand why a serious author would want to skimp on the cover. People DO judge books by the cover, and with so many book choices out there, you’ve only got a few seconds to stand out from the rest and grab a reader’s attention. I’ve seen so many indie covers that look like they were thrown together in photobucket in five minutes. If that.

    I was fortunate to find a photographer who is moving to graphic arts. My first novel was his first cover/internal layout and it’s been good for both of us. He gave me a great deal because he’s building his portfolio and I get awesome unique covers with a model instead of stock. Finding someone else who’s just starting out too can be a great way to go if you can find the right person. It’s worked out well for me.

    As far as the bloggers go, I’ve had a good response from the ones I’ve requested reviews from. I make sure to read their review policies and I send a professional email requesting their review. Again, many of them are newer bloggers, not yet inundated with requests.

    Creativity, research, and a little time seems to be the way to stand out as an indie. The rules keep changing and we have to think for ourselves to keep up, or better yet, stay ahead of the game.

    1. great point, Stacy! I too found a cover designer who was just getting started and he did an AWESOME job for me at a reduced price. I also found my “stock” photo on deviantart.com and contacted the owner to buy the rights. that way I wasn’t searching the same stock that everyone else uses. Of course, if you can have your own cover model, even better!

  6. Thought I will say if you have a good product it helps.

    I would not be where I am today without all the wonderful blogger support.

    Give them at least 3-4 months, be respectful if they can’t, be professional with queries, find out what they review first! they usually list it on their site – bloggers do this for free. Yes they get books but it takes a tons of time to read and review. I think we forget that. They dont owe us anything.

  7. I am one of those bloggers (www.litchat.net and #litchat on Twitter) who has tremendous respect for authors choosing to publish outside of traditional routes. However, Jessie is spot on when she says bloggers have been overrun with indie authors seeking a review. We publish one book review each week for discussion in #litchat and that’s only 52 reviews per year. We may change that in the future, but for now we must be very selective of the titles we choose. We do encourage indie authors to participate in #litchat, which is a terrific way to build a reading community and author’s platform.

    1. thanks for leaving your comment! It’s a good reminder that bloggers aren’t necessarily turning a book away because it’s Indie, but because their TBR piles are already full. Thanks for all you and your fellow bloggers do for Indie authors!

  8. I have to agree with everyone else, this is a succinct and honest look at the pros and cons for anyone considering indie publishing. Thank you for doing such a great job with it!

    The only thing that I might add is the intangible motivation: When I learned about Amanda Hocking’s success last year on Twitter literally lit a fire within in me. Writer’s love to write, yes? That is the best thing about going indie, writer’s who write are reaping the rewards of learning to craft and tell a good story. The best way to learn how to write a book is writing a book, and then writing an other one and then another one…indie publishing is the perfect motivation to get writers writing!

    1. glad you liked the post, Heidi. And you’ve got a good point, once you start Indie publishing and seeing the sales, you will probably get an even bigger fire under you. Because writing quickly seems to be key in Indie, it can definitely make you speed up your efforts.

  9. Thanks for sharing both the cons and pros of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. Because there are good and bad of both. I’m an attorney like you and am not sure I could juggle all the demands of self-publishing with the demands of a consuming job. And I do want to at least try traditional publishing for that reason. But I’m not ruling this out for the future. Thanks for sharing this.

  10. I was happy to go indie with St Mallory’s Forever! because it was collaboratively written. The editing happened between us, Mark did the formatting, and he and Saffi also paid for the cover — because it’s not their first book. There’s no way it would have been possible for Charley or I to have done it alone, as we’re teenagers. We don’t have jobs and can’t spend money because, well, we haven’t got any. If I were going solo (rather than collab), I think I’d definitely stick with traditional publishing, at this stage in my life.

    But even so, when I’m looking at my wall of rejection (which, to be fair, only has two emails on it at the moment), I like knowing that going indie is an option, a viable option. I like to know it’s there.

  11. Julie – talk to greg pincus – he self pubbed a poetry book and prob has some insights.

    Self publishers do most of the marketing online through bloggers, paid ads, connecting to readers through online groups or ezines etc. It is only the in person marketing you would be missing and that is less than 20% for me. hope that helps! 🙂

    as far as money – thats a tough one for any writer…I would say set a budget and find out what is most important to you to spend it on. You can just upload to ebook sites – we are just saying putting in money helps your book stand out but that doesnt mean you cant upload it. You prob could do bare minimum for 100$ with no editing and free cover. Depends on what is most important to you.

  12. Wow, the con’s list is long. Pros I agree with each, and would like to ad that you can sell your work 4-ever. I have a friend that sells her Christmas series every holiday and has been doing so for 15yrs. She updates the illustrations every 5 yrs.

  13. Great article, thanks so much, Jessie! I’m already learning (and confirming) a lot as I attempt to enter the Indie publishing waters. I have a poetry book that is very difficult to market and promote, but sales at least are trickling. One thing I would like to see addressed in this conference is how people with physical disabilities can deal with publishing and promoting our books. We are usually house-bound, with limited energy resources, and even smaller disability incomes – but we’re still writers who want to get published!

    1. Julie – Shelli responded below (wanted to make sure you saw that!)

      As far as promoting from home – that’s where I do nearly all of my promotion from. I’ve done a school visit with Skype. And the rest is social networking. All you need is a computer and a steady time commitment. Do a little bit every day and you will get there. Many bloggers will do reviews in exchange for a free e-copy. Invest the time to create a list of bloggers you’d like to contact and then send them personalized messages. You don’t have to be in a rush b/c with Indie publishing, your book will be available forever!

    2. Thank you very much, Jessie! I have been doing just that, and searching for reputable free reviewers as well. I also edit and review books for people and do in-depth and honest reviews, and have finally mustered up some courage to ask people who have purchased my book to do a review as well if they are so inclined. I’m also looking into trade-offs for good cover artwork and editing. The opportunities are there, it just takes some work to find them. Thanks again for taking time to respond; it’s much appreciated!

  14. I was convinced that traditional publishing should be the way for me (if I can get there) but reading your post has made me seriously consider if that is the best way forward. Thanks for the food for thought! 😀

  15. Very good points. Luckily we have offset the #2 con because of my tech/graphic/web development skills but I agree that if you are not a professional in the field beforehand, you should hire people who KNOW what their doing when it comes to conversion, cover, typeset for print.
    Great advice and eye-opening truths all around. Even with the cons, independent publishing is still very rewarding and satisfying.

  16. I agree with Jessie on cost – its not about what you can get stuff for – you can always find cheap stuff.

    Its getting the best quality for the best price!

    YOu also have fees to upload on channels (Amazon, B&N, lightning source etc) –

    Miral Sattar at bibliocrunch will be discussing costs this afternoon.

    But I have found:

    covers 100-500 for a good one
    editing 1$-2$ a page for a good editor (this is cheap for industry)
    maybe 100$ for publishing fees
    maybe 100$ for good formatting (you hav eto get past standards on smashwords to get accepted so this is key)

    so as you can see – I would say 500$ MINIMUM for self pubbing.

    I broke down my costs on my blog a while back and have trippled my earn out so worth it in long run but hard up front.

    again its different for everyone.

    1. Shelli: I’ve never encountered upload fees for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace, or Smashwords. I’m not familiar with Lightning Source, So I cannot comment on that one…

      And good formatting will most likely cost more than $100 if someone is planning to get a manuscript formatted for all forms of e-book and for POD…

  17. This article is something I wish I had been able to read last August before I started the intense learning curve.
    Great information for people who are already embedded and potential authors.

    I agree with everything you wrote.

  18. The uphill battle looks ridiculous, but I’ve got my climbing boots on and I’m ready to go. The benefit of timing and control are driving me to publish now rather than wait a year trying to find an agent and trad pub that think my story is worth sharing.

    Thanks for the straight up honesty about the challenge. I’m going in fully aware!

  19. Jennifer – If it is just ebook, you dont have to purchase isbn – unless you want to do school visits or libraries or conferences etc. But now that libraries and bookstores are getting into ebooks – purchasing ISBNs may be needed in future.

    Kim – go to bibliocrunch. They have formatters you can hire and they have been vetted.

    Jane – I have a MG and it does not sell well. However when I do school visits – i sell out of my MG before my YA. I woudl not recommend self pubbing for MG and under – the majority of kids reading MG and under do not control purchases or have ereaders so it is hard to reach them. That is just my opinion but i think this market will change as ereaders become cheaper! so go for it.

  20. Excellent post. I entered only once, by following on Twitter. I’d like a shot at winning the book (not that I will – I’m the single unluckiest person on the planet when it comes to such things!) but someone else *should* win as I don’t currently have a book flap for critique. So I wanted to Twitter-follow anyway. 🙂

  21. I think it is easier for someone who already has the time to figure out the compiling and marketing aspects on their own. I was able to get a cover for $15, new website with hosting for a year for $24, and Scrivener for compiling for $45 with gift cards on Amazon. I spent a grand total of $84 on compiling and promoting my upcoming book. That is an investment that should pay off on the day it is released and I like the freedom and full rights of publishing on my own. up front would be nice, but its a lot nicer for those who get larger bonuses.

  22. This post was awesome. Thanks for such great information. I firmly believe in leaping in with eyes wide open. I just made the decision to go indie and Indierecon couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks again for your info!!!

    Would it be alright if I emailed you in the future for recommendations on book formatters etc?

    Thanks,

    Kim

  23. HI Jessie – Thanks for the great information. I have done well with my first non-fiction publication and waiting for the Amazon novel awards to self-publish my first fiction. I wrote the novels as a trilogy. What timetable to you recommend for publishing the three books? At the same time? Two months apart?

    Thank you for your advice. I am learning so much today! Jennifer

    1. Jennifer – I haven’t done a series myself, so you should probably check with the experts later in the conference. We’re having a chat tomorrow am at 8:30 with RaShelle Workman and Samantha Young who have both had great success with their series. My gut tells me you should stagger your releases at least a little bit, use the launch of book 2 as a reason to make your first book free for a promotional period, etc., but again, I defer to the experts.
      Congrats on your non-fiction success!

  24. This is a nice post, but as an Indie Author, I must note a few things on which I disagree. Bear in mind that I write YA, so that may make a difference. However, I must note that I’ve been reviewed, interviewed, featured, etc, on hundreds of blogs and only 3 have declined reviewing my book because it was an indie-published book. Also, purchasing a copyright is not necessary, because the actual publishing of it is a copyright. And it is not necessary to purchase an ISBN for e-books. For POD, if one uses CreateSpace, the ISBN is provided free of charge. One more thing, a good formatter (book designer) costs more than $100. For a novel of 450-500 pages, be prepared to pay up to $700 for a great format job.

    All that being said, I will strongly say that I agree on the time consumption and the cost noted in this post. It’s worth it, though. After all, quality is not free.

    1. thanks for sharing your own experiences, Belle! I’m floored that you had to pay so much for your formatting. And it’s wonderful that you’ve had so much success with bloggers too! I have found that being interviewed and featured is easier than getting the reviews, but you’ve obviously done something right.
      You’re right on the copyright – you don’t have to buy one and I did not. While you do have common law copyright by virtue of publication, there are certain monetary penalties that you are not entitled to if someone down the road should infringe your copyright and you want to enforce your rights legally.

    2. Thanks, Jessie!
      By formatting, or book design (same thing), that cost covers formatting for all forms of e-book AND the POD. There is a difference between the two if one wants a professional product. Cost varies according to the length of the manuscript. My first book, CICADA, was half the length of my second, FIREFLY, which just released Feb 2nd. I’m very pleased with the quality.
      I use 52 Novels, which was recommended by JA Konrath. However, e-Book Architects was once recommended to me, as well, by Jane Friedman. They have an excellent reputation, too. 🙂
      Then again, it all depends on genre. So, I can only speak from the point of view of a YA author. 🙂
      I adore your checklist, by the way! And plan to share your post with everyone. 🙂

    3. The thing with getting an Indie into blogging review …erm … blogs, is make contact with them long before you need’ em. In other words, BUILD YOUR PLATFORM.

      I’ve recently begun to be invited to guest post on blogs I follow and regularly comment on, as well as querying about guest posting. I see no reason why this won’t translate to reviews when I have a product to be reviewed, (hopefully) later this year.

  25. awesome!

    and as much as we ignore the con of stigma – it can impact where you sell in bric and mortars, whether you can get speaking engagements, and whether you can get professional reviews.

    Quality is another con – you have to PROVE you have high quality out of the gate. IN traditional, people assume you have high quality work b/c you are with a house.

    Dont scrimp on quality! it is the death of indie authors. Reviewers and bloggers are harder and can be brutal. Dont give anyone a reason to doubt you.

    And if you commit -0 do it 150% in quality and investment. ONly 1% of indie authors sell over 100 books (something like that) – quality helps you stand out.

    You will get out of this exactly what you put in.

  26. Jessie, great info thanks.
    I write middle grade, age 8-12, and I have a concern whether this age group would have an e-reader. Young adults would, but not sure about the younger ages.
    What are your thoughts on this?

    1. Jane – my impression from other MG authors who have tried to go the Indie route is that it is incredibly difficult. You’re right – the middle grade kids either don’t have e-readers, or they’re not the ones making the selection because their parents still do that.

    2. I’m going to disagree here. My daughter is a middle grader and she is a very prolific reader. We got her a kindle and she gobbles up the indie books because they are inexpensive. But she loves them. More and more kids are getting tablets and kindles. :-).

    1. Jessie,
      would you be willing to share the costs of your first book? Just curious what I’ll be roughly needing for the editor/artist, etc? I am writing my first book now but since I’m a bookkeeper by day, I’d like to get a grasp what I’m looking at for cost. Thanks! :0)

    2. I’m going to make a confession here – I spent WAY more than I needed to. My cover was around $150, which is pretty fair. You can generally get them between $100-$400, assuming you don’t want original photos. My stock art was only $20 and I think the font was a $13 donation or something like that. Stock art can get pricey too, sometimes up to $70 an image.

      For my editing, I spent several thousand dollars. I knew who I wanted and she wasn’t cheap. You can get editing services for less, but you know the old expression – you get what you pay for. My editor really helped me bring a core character to life and she’s become one of the most popular in the book. It was worth it for me.

      I spent a large amount of money on a custom countdown widget. I didn’t need to. Now, mine was professional looking, had moving text, and no ads, but it wasn’t necessary. Once the book launched, no one but me had the widget anymore. Save money and get a free one.

    3. Thank you!! Gives me an idea what I’m looking at. I know the “you get what you pay for” rings true for everything. I appreciate this! :0) I’ve also been reading from a lot of Indie’s (plus my own reading of some Indie Author’s) that a good editor is worth the cost. There are some books that just don’t need to be published.

      I’m so excited I am a part of this VERY Informative Conference! It’s not only giving me awesome help but I’m learning about more Authors I can read! Looking forward to starting your books, a few of Bob’s and I’m sure my list is going to grow by the time this conference is over. Thanks Jessie! :0)

  27. When I grow up I want to be an “Authorpreneur”. That’s the term I think encompasses everything the indie writer needs to do, which I think you covered very well in your post. Thanks!

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