Home » Self-Publishing, The Business of Writing » Publishing 101 – Money

Publishing 101 – Money

8 May 2013

From author Leigh Ann Kopans:

One of the first questions I ask people who are considering self publishing is whether they have the money to do it well. I see other self-publishers giving the advice to “only spend what you can afford,” and I think that’s wrong.

Yes. It’s wrong. What I think they should say is “If you don’t have the resources to do it right, either wait and save up or don’t do it at all.”

Yes, it’s sort of a harsh message. Yes, I stand by it.

. . . .

Before I made the final decision to publish ONE and TWO, I spent some time quietly gathering estimates from the various professionals I’d need to hire to make these books a success.

. . . .

Then I made an Excel spreadsheet of all the costs, and added up the total.

Then I sat down with my family’s (very tight, four-kids-in-full-time-daycare) budget and hemmed and hawed and sweated and groaned and SQUEEZED until I figured out a way to make it work. (Basically, there will be no date nights or new clothes or electronics or, like, any luxuries for….awhile.)

. . . .

[H]ere’s a basic [cost] breakdown:

Editing, formatting, packaging, and distribution services: $825
Promotional materials and services: $700
Print ARCs (including shipping): $450
Audio book studio time*: $150

Grand Total – $2125

Included in some of those categories are some deeply discounted services, that could have easily added $1500 to the project if I had kept them at full price. All writers have different connections and different personal skill sets, so this is not meant to be a guide for any individual author or project – just one example of  one person’s budget for one particular project.

. . . .

I just want to stop right here and say that I fully recognize that putting money into publishing a book up front is the biggest drawback to self-publishing. So, here are the reasons that I decided it was worth it:

I was speaking (read: complaining) to a prominent literary agent about the stress of putting money into the project at the outset. She responded with something like, “Yes, but just think – if you got a book deal today, your book wouldn’t be out until 2015. All the money you make between now and then, consider your advance.”

Link to the rest at Leigh Ann Kopans and thanks to Ant for the tip.

Self-Publishing, The Business of Writing

183 Comments to “Publishing 101 – Money”

  1. “If you don’t have the resources to do it right, either wait and save up or don’t do it at all.”

    I disagree. Take action now. Even if you have to do it wrong. Waiting around until things are right equates with waiting around forever.

    It’s not like you only get one chance in life.


    • Agreed. Most of these type of articles fall into the “Tsunami of Crap” argument, ie, most of self publishing is crap, and unless you are willing to spend thousands, you might as well not try, because you will publish crap, and the readers will hate you, and give you 1 star reviews, and you will be hated throughout the world, people will spit on your name because of the terrible book you wrote, and people will cross the street when you are walking etc etc (Yes, I’m exaggerating 🙂 )

      I have found this is a form of procrastination – I know people who have been waiting for 5 years, saying they will only publish when they find the perfect agent, or save thousands to afford the best editors/graphic artists etc. “One day. One day, I will publish. Just you wait and see.”

      Till then, you are stuck with people like me 🙂

      • I also think she’s trying to go from non-entity to highly successful entrepreneur author in one fell swoop. For some people, that’s just how they roll. But for others, I think like you said, it’ll force a negative feedback loop of “Until I can get it juuuust right, I don’t dare do it at all”, and that means, it’ll never happen.

        For a decent ebook, you need a well-edited manuscript and a good cover. You can get a good cover for under a hundred dollars. Maybe Carl Graves or Jeroen ten Berge aren’t making it for you, but there are plenty of other artists out there.

        As for the manuscript, prices are going to be all over the map – it’s up to you and your budget as to who you can afford, but a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean a better edit – a friend of mine paid $700 for an edit of his book. Another friend bought it, read it, and found 126 errors. So much for that $700…

        • I think cover design is a skill that can be learned. JN Mey Grimm, who hangs out here, has written some really good blog posts on the topic. It takes time and effort, but I think it’s an art well worth learning.

          I had the same experience with my 1st editor, though I only paid her half what your friend paid. Which is why I’m very suspicious of the “Throw money at it, and your book will shine” argument.

    • Seems a bit contradictory to say its wrong to only spend what you have then go on to explain how she purchased heavily discounted services.

    • Um… well, I’m gonna say this. If you self-pub without paying a good content & copy editor to look at it, it will show and your name will be attached to that forever.

      If you design your own cover, again, that’s gonna be obvious. And I for one am not going to buy a book, even for $.99, if the cover is craptastic. Yes, cover design skills can be learned, but not overnight.

      So yes, it is worth the investment, and if you can’t afford to do it right, you really should wait until you can do it right, otherwise anyone who took a chance on the book the first time will avoid your name in the future.

      • . If you self-pub without paying a good content & copy editor to look at it, it will show

        You know what? There are exceptions. Some people have great beta-readers who do that job. Some people can actually self-edit. Some people get both excellent beta-readers and can self-edit pretty darn well. So no, it’s not necessarily going to show. (And even when it does? Dalglish was probably making punctuation errors all the way to the bank. Hocking used her money to buy editing, if I recall the lore correctly.)

        If you design your own cover, again, that’s gonna be obvious.

        Is it? Each and every time? 100%? Even the professional photographer’s cover, or the pro artist’s?

        I call balderdash on both of these. Yeah, there are painfully-bad covers and painfully-bad (non)edit-jobs. But when you see a nice cover or a good edit… are you automatically assuming someone got a different cover designer or an editor? You may be wrong.

        Yeah, have some harsh critics scrutinize your efforts before trying to skip either step — but I’m starting to get pretty squinty-eyed at these “oh, if you don’t do X, then of COURSE it will SUCK” sorts of comments. Because I think they’re wrong and likely to cut the legs out from under people.

        Besides, nom de plumes aren’t just for tradpub.

    • I disagree. I think what she’s saying is this: don’t rush to failure! When you self-pub, you’re not just the author, you’re also the agent, publisher, designer, etc. Business decisions must be made rationally. Every writer itches to get his/her work into the hands of readers. I think this author is advising those who want to self-pub to take their time and do it right.

      “Why is there never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to do it over?”

  2. I agree that self-publishers should do it right. The worst thing is to have old 1 or 2 star reviews to your book (which you can’t delete without starting 100% afresh, meaning you’d lose good reviews too) because you didn’t bother getting it edited, or put people off because you tried to do a cover yourself with no artistic experience.

    Self-publishing is a business, and it’s one that requires investment.

    What I would disagree with her about is the cost. Depending on the length of a novel, a professional editor can cost about $400 (although of course some charge more). Formatting is something that can be learned, and it’s not very hard. Many cover artists do “premades” that you can choose from for around $50. A bespoke design can be had for as little as $100, as long as you aren’t expecting a custom illustration.

    Distribution? Nah.

    Promotional services? Not needed in the beginning. Get cosy with book bloggers and ask author friends to help spread the word. Do a blog hop. Learn to use social networking effectively. Paid advertising? IMO, only really pays off when you have several books to sell. It’s too hit and miss to take a risk on before your first book is even out.

    Print ARCs and audio? Definitely not needed in the beginning.

    So, I think her $2000 is a bit pricey. Any author can put out a professional product for a $500 or so investment, IMO.

    • Agree with what you’ve said India re: it’s a business and requires investment. Whether that investment is money or the time it will take to acquire and polish the skills you can’t afford to pay for at this stage, it’s still an investment 🙂

      I opted for the ‘ask for 3-4 quotes’ and ‘check out the reviews & portfolios’ approach when I was looking into hiring a cover designer, website designer, formatter, and editor(s). It’s what I would do if I was hiring a builder, plumber, or electrician. I was somewhat surprised at how wide the range could be in terms of pricing, and how much of a difference there was between the US and the UK providers of these services. The UK could cost twice as much as the US. Needless to say, my whole team is American! 🙂

      One of my friends suggested I learn to do it all myself, i.e. the cover, formatting, and website design. Considering that time is an issue for me (and I’m a bloody perfectionist to the core, so I’m sure it would have taken me forever to be happy with what I could put up as final products!), I decided to outsource.

      The key for me was getting those quotes. I fell in love with the book cover and website portfolio of a couple of US designers but refused to pay the high prices they charged. The other great thing that happened was that my cover and website designer suggested an editor and print formatter to me. Word of mouth recommendation can go a long way I feel.

      And I’ve now acquired my second editor (based in New Zealand) through the weird and wonderful fact that I work with her mother in baby ICU!

      The other point is that the internet has made it so easy to work with people from all over the world, and hence provides a more competitive market to choose your service providers from. I was looking at designers in Australia and New Zealand before I picked Streetlight Graphics in the US.

      • Completely agree, India (and great story, AD!). And, in fact, that’s approximately what each title I’ve released has cost. Around $500, heavily tilted to independent editing. But I’m planning to release a print version of an urban fantasy soon (700 pages!) and have already warned the Family Budget Committee that, when done and dusted, expenditure will probably hit the $1,000 mark, most of that in promotion costs. (It helps that I used to moonlight as an audiobook narrator and have my own studio.)

        After successfully starting several businesses, both retail and services, I can tell you that — in retail, at least — it is imperative that you have some starting capital. You have to look the part before people will take a chance on you. For the same reason, as an IT consultant, I used to visit a client ALWAYS BUT ALWAYS dressed in a suit. They weren’t paying me for my wardrobe but I knew that, regardless of my skills, they would not dish out the pretty decent hourly rate I was demanding if I turned up in jeans and a t-shirt.

        So yes, I think that Leigh Ann Kopans is correct about the basics.

        PS I also agree with Shantnu that cover design is a skill that can be learnt. But, again, you pay for the cost savings with sweat equity.

  3. We are a small (very small) Indie publisher, and did just as you suggested. Was it worth it? YES. We tightened our household budget and saved, saved, saved. We managed to get our first publication out of the gate with a running start, and the second. Of course, I’m learning a lot along the way.

    This blog is right on the money (pun intended) as far as we’re concerned. Great job!

  4. If you read the actual blog post, she discusses why she chose to spend money on the things she did (like the ARCs and the promo services). It made sense for her, and that is reassuring to hear – that there are different paths. Her looks look fantastic and miles above a lot of material out there that didn’t undergo the same rigor. This IS a business. If you want to just publish a book and be done with it, that’s one thing. But to establish yourself in a career is another.

    I disagree about “not needing ARCs in the beginning” for the Young Adult genre. ARCs are key to that portion of the industry. Know your genre. Know your reader. That’s how you will properly develop a business game plan.

    Thanks, Leigh Ann, for putting this together!

    • I read the actual post, and I’m pretty sure nearly everyone else did, too. What she decided to spend is her business (A “street team?” Really?) But that’s all good. The product looks great.

      Then she flat out says that if you don’t do it her way, you’re wrong. Either you should wait, spend money you don’t have, or never publish. And I have a big problem with that, especially when I think about other writers who may be looking up to her as some sort of authority.

      • We’re probably seeing the fall out of her “street team” here, Dan. They’re fans/people who enjoy a book/author/band/group and they make a point of going out and saying nice things about it. If it’s for a band, they go out and hand out fliers about upcoming gigs. Most of them spend their own time/money doing this, though some of the bigger groups I’ve seen send exclusive swag to their street teams and official fliers/handouts/etc.

  5. She’s validating her choices by telling everyone who does it different that they’re wrong.

    • Yep.

      There are other ways to do what she did, and those other ways involve great learning experiences.

      • The scary thing here is how this is her first book from what I can tell, and yet she’s set herself up as an expert, giving advice to other new authors when she really has no idea if what she’s doing will work out the way she hopes it will. These all or nothing posts, where opinion is expressed as false knowledge, lead people astray. It’s disheartening to see. She obviously has her reasons for choosing to approach self-publishing the way she has, but to say, without any caveat, “don’t do it at all,” to anyone is presumptuous and arrogant.

        • +1. TLE, great points. You said clearly what I’d been feeling. I too am suspicious of people who have such strong opinions, especially after their first book.

  6. I would say that $2K is EXTREMELY pricey for an indie release! While her costs seem appropriete for what she obtained (for ARC prints and audio, anyway. Not sure what ‘promotional materials’ are.) I doubt how essential the extras were. She’s free to do whatever the hell she wants, that’s what being indie is all about, but I kinda get the feeling she mostly wanted to duplicate a Big Pub style release on her own.

    Hope it works out for her.

    Oh, and this…

    Her Agent: “Yes, but just think – if you got a book deal today, your book wouldn’t be out until 2015. All the money you make between now and then, consider your advance.”

    I think I like her agent.

    • I paid a fair amount to a high-quality cover artist. I get a lot of compliments on the cover. The compliments have yet to convert into sales (sigh), but I’m going to pay equally as much for the cover to book 2. It’s about branding.

      Unfortunately, I was a full-time, benefits-bearing employee at my day job when I paid for all the work on book 1. Been downsized to part-time, no benefits. So yeah, I’m going to have to scrimp. But I think it’s worth it in the long run.

  7. My Bad Apple series is perched on the edge of completion with Book 4 so all my numbers are right here at hand.
    $19–stock photo for cover.
    Which is actually more than I usually pay but this is REALLY good!

  8. I would have spent my money on other things, but I would have spent some money! My expenses are professional editing, cover, and formatting. Other writers make other choices.

    To me, the editing is crucial. If I’m not willing to spend the effort and money on editing, I can’t expect readers to spend the effort and money to read my book.

    • That’s exactly how I feel. I don’t think this post remotely says “This is exactly how much you should spend and/or where your money should go”; it says, “When you set goals for yourself before self-publishing, you should be able to meet them financially.”

      My priorities would also be professional editing, cover, and formatting, and if I couldn’t afford to do that the way I thought was right and would be proud of, I’d save until I could. That’s not procrastination; that’s wanting to put out a good product, which readers paying for my book deserve.

      • I second Dahlia’s comment. Leigh Ann set a goal for her book specifically, and then figured out what she needed to do to reach that goal. If she couldn’t do it the way it needed to be done to reach that goal, she would wait until she could.

        So set your goal, and figure out how to achieve it.


        I have to say I think “Do it now even if it means doing it wrong” is terrible advice. You may get more than one chance in life but you only get one debut novel.

        Also, striving for “decent” seems silly when you’re talking about a manuscript that you’ve put so much work into.

        We all have different goals for our books. Leigh Ann is doing everything she can to reach hers. It’s totally okay for your goals and methods to be different from hers.

        • You may get more than one chance in life but you only get one debut novel.

          You get as many debut novels as you want.

          Not only does every pen name get its own debut novel, but every reader gets to pick which of your novels is your ‘debut novel’ for them. Just because it’s the first you released, that doesn’t mean it’s the first the readers are reading a few years from now when you have a dozen or more available.

          Yes, a successful debut novel was vital in the trade-published past where poor sales would mean you’d never sell another one to a publisher under that name, but they’re far less important today.

          The simple fact is that most first novels suck, and a few hundred dollars of editing is not going to fix them. Most people who’ve released a successful ‘debut novel’ through trade publishing had written and scrapped several novels before that one.

          But you never know. A novel you don’t think is good enough might have a great story that finds an audience despite its other flaws, and you won’t find out unless you release it somewhere. Which you won’t do if you think you need to spend thousands of dollars on it first.

          • If I take the time to work on a book for a few years and put it out into the world, I want my name attached to it. I don’t want to have to create a new pen name and “start over” with every book because I rushed to put something that I knew wasn’t good enough out there.

            While a reader may not actually read my first book as their “debut” for them, if they like my 2nd or 3rd book, they may be inclined to go back to read my earlier work. I do that a lot. While I completely agree that you get better with every book, which means your first book would be relatively worse than your later books–the first comment said to do it even if it meant doing it wrong.

            If you KNOW you’re doing it wrong….why on EARTH would you put your book in that position? Why would you not want to give it the best possible chance?

            Here’s the thing- everybody has their own idea of what “doing it right” means, and that’s perfectly fine. But the comment said- do it even if you’re doing it wrong, and I think that’s a disservice to self-publishing, and all the indie authors who take the time to do the best job they can do.

            • If you’re working on one book for a few years, ‘rushing’ is the least of your problems.

              Unless you’re already a well-established name with a big fan base, no-one can tell which books will be successful and which won’t before they’re released: if they could, every trade-published novel would be a best-seller. The only way to ‘do it wrong’ is to not release the book at all.

              • I worked on my book for over two years. I don’t think that means it’s better or worse than whatever you’ve written. It takes as long as it takes. Everyone has a different process for writing.

                I want to be sure that I can be proud of any book I put out there. Whether it’s commercially successful or not, I will look back and know that it was the best I could do.

                I love my book–the story and it’s characters. I’d never “do it wrong” on purpose.

                “Write what you can be proud of” means different things to different people. But when you KNOW it’s wrong, you already know you’re not doing the best you can do.

                • Some of my favorite books were written over the course of several years, though I suspect that really means the writer was taking long breaks from writing, not sitting there eight hours a day for six years to write a 100,000 word novel at a rate of five words an hour. Others of my favorite books were written over the course of almost an entire week.

                  The former were mostly written by hobby writers, who didn’t care about making money, or writers so successful that they didn’t have to care about making money. The latter were mostly written by writers who needed to make money so they could eat the next week.

                  So I suspect that’s a large part of the difference of opinion. Someone who just wants to write a book and put it up on Amazon can spend years preparing to do so, and if they get really lucky it might even be a big success. But those who want to make a career of writing need to treat it like a career, and put deadlines above perfection like any other successful business (I’m not in that category yet or I’d be writing more of my novel rather than posting here). The vast majority of career writers write one or more novels per year, so if you’re going to write fifty or more over the course of a career, there’s little point obsessing about one particular novel out of that number.

        • This is ‘book-as-event’ thinking. Kris Rusch recently went into this mindset a fair bit (in her business post last week, I think), and it’s a mode of thinking that a lot of new and neo-pro authors fall into.

          I’m just, after publishing 5 novels (2 with NY publishers) and over a dozen short stories/novellas, able to wrap my head around the idea that my most recent completed work isn’t a newly-birthed baby or a rare snowflake, it’s my *work* – I do the best I can at the time (yes, edits, beta readers, copyedits, good covers) and then I put it out on the market, and go on to the next one.

          That’s how you build a career in writing. I know it sounds so pragmatic, and I do think the completion and publication of your first book is a big deal, BUT. It’s just the beginning. Don’t fall into the trap of putting all your energy into it. Write the next book. And then the next one.

          • Anthea, ‘loving’ your book and being ‘proud’ of it, is not by default a definition of Kris Rusch’s ‘book as event’ thinking. Nor does it imply that you sit around for a year, re-reading your work and marveling at how wonderful a writer you are. You can love your book, be proud of it when it’s done–and sit down the next day to begin the next. There is an implication with KKR’s and DWS’s thinking that if you don’t write and publish multiple books a year, you’re somehow engaging in ‘book-as-event’thinking.

  9. I have this basic response I use, that I’ve used for every aspect of content creation I’ve ever been involved in, which so far is music, webcomics, and now writing books.

    There is an iconic picture from a punk fanzine in 1976 that basically encapsulates my philosophy toward all of this. TVTropes has it here:


    “Now start a band.”

    It’s the whole punk rock/DIY thing that made me embrace the web as a publishing platform in the first place, and it’s still a philosophy I believe in. Learn what you can and DO IT. And it may be that the only people who like what you do, at first, are the ones who can look past the raw, unfocused nature of your work and see what’s underneath (or who are attracted to the very fact that it’s raw and unfocused) and everyone else will look down their nose at the amateurish quality of what you put out. It may be. Just accept that and go forward.

    Because one of the criticisms that people make about self published work is absolutely true. We ARE the barbarians at the gate. Unwashed hordes to the last. Well, some of us are cleaner than others. Let me rephrase:

    I AM A BARBARIAN AT THE GATE. And my hygiene is spotty at best. And if I only know three chords, I will play them as loud and as fast as I can until you either get it or you leave the room covering your ears. And any time someone accuses me of being responsible for the slow death of literature, I will look them in the eye and say “yes. Yes I am. And I defy you to stop me.”

    • Hear, hear! (I’ve been randomly snagging family members and reading your post aloud to them all morning.)

      I’d rather storm the gates and risk temporary failure–while learning something along the way–than languish in the pit of despair waiting for somebody to wander by and pull me out.

      Nobody is more invested in my books than I am. At the moment, I have more time than money, so that plus a strong DIY streak means I’m learning as much as I can about the various aspects of publishing and doing most of it myself. Aside from buying software, my biggest expense was a block of ISBN numbers. (Not sure if I’d do that again.) I’m blessed to have good first readers who have an excellent grasp of grammar and story, so I haven’t paid for ‘professional’ editing. (Come to think of it, my biggest expense for my last book was paying to register the copyright. Cover art was less than $20.)
      Point is, it doesn’t take a fortune to produce good books. It does, however, require thought as to the best combination of time/money/elbow grease for your particular project and situation.

    • I think many writers are so afraid of “doing it wrong” that they hold off for months or years, or spend too much money. They think that if everything about their book isn’t of perfect quality (whatever THAT is) then people will sneer at them and write terrible reviews and hate them forever and on and on.

      Learn how to take some risks, people. Do the best you can do right now and put your book up for sale. You’ll get better as you go, but you don’t have to wait. Learn your “three cords” and go ahead. Try it.

      Three cords for self-pub, hmm. 1. Able to write a coherent story and clean manuscript, 2. make an OK cover that can stand beside other covers in that genre, and 3. learn to format. Aside from the coherent story, which most writers can do by the late teens/early twenties, the other stuff you can learn in a week.

      You can pay for editing, cover art, formatting, etc, but that’s a choice. You can do a fine job without it. Don’t take out a loan or mortgage your house for those things.

      • “Do the best you can do right now and put your book up for sale. You’ll get better as you go, but you don’t have to wait.”

        Besides, you can always correct a few typos or upload a new cover after you’ve learned more. Sure, give it your best now. If, later, you realize you made a mistake, fix it when you find it.

    • LOL! Love your barbarian analogy. I’m going to steal that

  10. $2.2k to $3.6k??? Yikes!

    IMHO – She’s spending a LOT of money per book.

    If you take the previously published spreadsheet on the effect of long-tail on sales – chances are that she won’t break even for a very long time.

    I’m all for putting out a quality product. However, there is such a thing as stacking the deck against yourself.

    I don’t mind taking a year to break even. However, I do have a problem taking 5 to 10 years to break even.

    PS – I LOVE ‘3 chords and the truth.’

  11. The amount of money that she says is necessary to “do it right” is gorram idiotic.

    I’ve said it many times before: my first novel carries a 4.6 rating and cost me $15. I will say that I splurged and spent $100 on the sequel covers. That’s $100 for both of them. And they’re awesome.

    It’s not how much you spend, but who you utilize.

    Lastly,I looked her up and expected to find some runaway bestselling self-pub author, but she’s not even on Amazon. How is she in any way in a position to tell other noobs how they should do it?

    I will admit that I like her cover. 😀

    • Her book won’t be out until June – clearly she’s working off the Big Publishing model instead of the Indie model, which takes an entirely different mindset.

      I do wonder, though, without print distribution, how all those ARCs and advance reviews will do for her. And if she thinks she needs to price at Big 5 price points, which may very negatively impact her sales, though the ‘perception’ of a major release would be sustained.

      Kudos to her, though, for giving it her best shot. I hope she sees mad success with this title.

    • Dan as a cover artist, I can tell you that looking at your covers skimping on the price has not done you any favors.
      It might have a high rating (of the 24 ppl that has rated it) and ppl might have bought it, but I guarantee not as many ppl has that could have, had you spent just a little extra cash to have your covers made better.

      Looking at books, I for sure skim past bad covers.

      Covers matter!

      • What are you looking at? “Orpheus” has 35 reviews on Amazon. Try looking somewhere other than Goodreads, which has the old cover.

        Now, just for funsies, let’s see a cover that you’ve done.

        • (Psst, your Orpheus links to Smashwords and B&N are broken. Sadness, angst!)

          • Now, don’t yell, but I went KDP Select. 😀

            • Now that’s a crying shame, Dan. Because there are literally millions of English-language readers in quite prosperous countries in south-east Asia who can’t buy Kindle books, me included.

              One wonders how selling Kindle ebooks in Cambodia, say, in any way makes up for the fact that a ripe market is being ignored elsewhere. As Amazon puts it:

              “This title is not available for customers from your location in: Asia & Pacific”

              So sorry, I — and millions like me — won’t be reading KDP Select ebooks anytime soon.

            • Heathen!

              lol, just teasing. Let us know how it works out!

      • And yet he and a bunch of his readers like them. This is another area, where overall, a good cover is subjective. Yes, there are certain aspects of cover and art creation that work better for ebooks, which are different in some aspects to print books. I’m a cover designer, as well, and made my living in the past from the fine arts and graphic design. Yes, I would do a few things different in his covers (such as increase the contrast of the title of “Orpheus Born”), but they are not awful. I’ve seen a lot worse, including by the big pubs.

        I don’t like the covers of a lot of books out there anymore, no matter if they are traditional or Indie. But, I know that’s only my opinion, and that opinion is subjective. A bunch of those books are selling just fine. :shrug:

        What this did do is made me nervous to even comment on this thread, and I’m a Passive Voice regular. This is his opinion, and it’s just as valid as Leigh, who is a debut author. If I did comment, would that make me and my books open season? Would my success be shrugged off or ridiculed, and my point of view invalidated for everything? Or even worse, will I soon find a bunch of new one-star comments on my books because I have a dissenting opinion?

        Could we please not go there? The Passive Voice is known for great conversations even among people who disagree. I would love for it to stay that way.

        • J. A. I think we’re seeing some of Leigh Ann’s supporters coming in and taking us to task. 😉 I don’t recall ever seeing “Lea” or “Megan Whitmer” posting here before.

          I wouldn’t fear that TPV is changing – I’d say this is a singular reaction to this particular post…

  12. 2,000 per book to self-publish? Uh, no. I don’t think that’s realistic at all. There are many people out there who are just busting to get into the business and help writers out. Writers know writers who know cover designers, who know editors, who know fill-in-the-blank. With a little due diligence, you can save yourself a boatload to get your book self-published. But above all, anyone who self-publishes should do so only when that book is ready for the market. Otherwise, any money spent is a waste.

  13. Hi everyone! Thanks so much for reading and for your comments, and thanks to The Passive Voice for featuring my post here!

    I just wanted to stop in to reiterate that the post was intended to share my decisions and budget for this one project. It’s in no way meant to be prescriptive – I believe that “doing it right” will look different for different authors and each of their different projects. My decisions for ONE were base on my understanding of the Young Adult Market and my particular goals for this project, which were for it to be as indistinguishable as possible from a Big 6 release. 🙂

    Thanks again, commenters! 🙂

    • You’re welcome, Leigh Ann. Thanks for the great blog post.

    • I enjoyed your post, and it was ineresting to hear what you spent and why you decided to spend it, but:

      “If you don’t have the resources to do it right, either wait and save up or don’t do it at all.”

      That’s terrible advice. Check that, the advice may not be terrible by itself, but the implication is that what you spent is roughly what should always be spent.

      Self-pub isn’t about what you spend, it’s about how intelligently you spend it. Again, many authors can put out a quality product for next to nothing … or, in some cases, literally nothing.

      • That’s exactly the line that everyone is reacting too.

        Sure there’s a lot of benefit in the rest of the article, but, unfortunately, lines like that tend to make people who don’t agree stop reading.

  14. Look, whether you like it or not, writing/ publishing is a BUSINESS! It’s not a craft- that is a lie. You’re a small business. You have a product. You need to put out the best product for your end users. Anything sub-standard won’t sell.

    All the commenters complaining about her start-up costs (cause that’s what they are) need to get the hell over themselves.

    • Except startup costs vary widely from author to author and book to book. She’s implying that it takes $2,000-3,000 per book to self-pub, otherwise someone’s “not doing it right” (her words). Many, many writers put out a quality product for a fraction of that.

      But thank you for coming on here to tell us that writing is a business. We had no idea.

      Edited to add: Not that I’m a big fan of crap, but “Anything sub-standard won’t sell” is just wrong.

    • Um, they’re pointing out that her startup costs are far higher than necessary. Which I agree with. I’ve been looking into starting a business making lip balm. I could get all the needed licensure and the foundation ingredients and tools for less than what Mrs. Kopans put into her novel.

      BUT if you look at her breakdown, her $825 for editing, formatting, etc. is reasonable. So was the price for audio book studio time (which was something that most of us don’t start with). I’d guess she bought about 50 ARCs, plus a good amount of book swag and some ads, to try to get her book to hit the ground running.

      For my own purposes, e-book ARCs work fine. Even when I’ve offered book swag as rewards in crowdfunding efforts, nobody wanted it, so I figure it’s no use getting it, at this point.

      I have two in-progress novel series. For one, I can do the next cover myself, so the next book in each series will have different release costs. Different folks have different goals and startup costs, too.

      The issue is that Mrs. Kopans was talking about “Do it right, or don’t do it at all”—then defined “doing it right” with an unnecessarily high price tag. From her reply in the comments here, she intended to be talking about “doing it right for your goals” and “my goals would cost X.” That wasn’t what came through.

    • Robyn, I’ll point out that smart entrepreneurs who are starting businesses watch expenses very, very carefully. Sometimes, they’ll use their ingenuity in lieu of their money.

    • It’s true that independent writer-publishers are also businesspeople, but that doesn’t make it a lie that writing is a craft. It most certainly is a craft if you’re doing it right, or even aiming in that direction. Getting your books out to readers is the part that’s business. Both are necessary for success. I can publish books in a businesslike manner, but if I don’t use my craft when I write them, who will care? That’s my opinion, at least–yours may vary.

    • Nobody puts out the best product. They put out the best product they can given the constraints under which they are operating.

      What’s substandard? Whats’ the standard? All production processes are constrained by resources. They limit what best can be.

  15. Spend what it takes to do it right. If that’s too much money, then you either need to find more money or find better suppliers.

    • There, that’s a better way to put it.

      And, imho, what many people need to spend that first money on is not editing or promotional materials, but on learning their craft.

      I’ve been a small business person for many years, since I was a kid. The most common reason for small businesses to go under is because they spend WAY too much money on appearances up front. For a few, that works — but mainly because it wasn’t their first business, and they had all the other things in place. They could afford to do that.

      • My first business was selling pens, notebook paper and gum out of my backpack. I eventually expanded to a storage closet with 5 employees by the time I graduated high school. Appearance was nothing, product was everything, and I think a lot of new writers forget that. Yes, a good book cover is important, but the most important thing is the story. If the story sucks, a good cover isn’t going to fix it.

        • A sucky cover may be bad for a good story, though, if the book-description isn’t catchy enough.

          On the other hand, doing an adequate ebook cover? Not hard. The generic “classics” covers that often show up at Project Gutenberg, Apple’s iBookstore, and Amazon… (E.g., http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Folk-Fairies-ebook/dp/B004TQPU06/ ) …well, there’s the bar. The rest is up to words alone.

          • A cover, imho, is a part of the product, just like editing.

            • True, but if the ONLY thing about the book that’s any good is the cover, it can’t rescue the rest of the product. Reviews will go along the lines of “It’s really pretty! But the story was boring and I hated all the main characters by the second chapter so I stopped reading it.”

              With an adequate cover, you’ll get stuff like “The cover could use some work but the story was so fantastic I couldn’t put it down!”

            • The cover, at least for an e-book, is part of the marketing, and pretty much irrelevant once I’ve bought the book. It exists to get me to read the blurb, then the sample, and then buy the book.

              But there are many more ways to find new books these days than there were in the print book in the book store era. Some people will see the cover in a list of books and click on it, but others will follow links from other sites, or do keyword searches, or follow an Amazon recommendation, or just be fans who want to buy your books anyway.

              Covers are something I would spend money on if I was going to do so, not least because I’m not very good at them. But so long as it’s competent, I don’t see much of a reason to spend a lot of money on trying to make it better. Most e-book readers won’t even see the cover after they buy the book.

  16. I think people get hung up about the wrong things: it has to be the writing and storytelling that really matters, not the cover or means of promotion etc. You can get away with these things and you perhaps want to at first rather than waste money. Concentrate on the writing. Don’t spend money you may never recoup until there is some evidence of the ability to interest readers. Put the writing miles in, spend time on crit groups and hone the craft. No one talks about writing anymore.

  17. I have a question, where would y’all look for said professional editors? I’m halfway through my series, which I will start to release next year, and though I can find any range of editors online, I worry about the whole investing money I’ve scraped together over the last year for an edit that might not be up to scratch. With ten books ready to go one after the other it’ll be an expensive mistake to make!
    I thought maybe recommendations might be a better route… anyone?

    • Kit, you can find a few right here in the friendly comments section. And when you visit the websites of indies who use editors, you can often find mentions of them. And of course the endless Google searches. But they’re out there.

      Yes, it’s time-consuming to find one who’s both good at what they do, and right for your work. I once hired a copyeditor for some books I was publishing for a game company. She was aces at editing certain kinds of non-fiction, and let us say…not that great at fantasy fiction. So experience with genre is important.

      Also important is an understanding between author and editor about what each expects the job to be. It can be hard for an author who’s asking for a light copyedit to hear that the editor thinks he needs a full line edit. Likewise, getting too light an edit can cause other problems. Asking the editor to do what they think the job requires on a sample chapter can tell both of you a lot.

      • So much to think about!

        I have been looking at indie’s and their editors and making a list that way. There is such a massive difference in rates that it left me quite confused! Being a total newbie, I’ll definitely go with your suggestion of seeing what the editor/s think needs to be done on a sample chapter.

        Thanks Bridget.

  18. Wow! She spends a boatload of money on self-pubbing!

    I work with other authors – we each have our area of expertise. We do good, no, great, work. I’ve never spent more than… oh, let me think, a total of $125 on a book. For the most part my upfront costs involve my cover – which might run me between $20 – $100, and that $100 was a one-time only deal, and of course, my time.

    I suppose I could spend a lot more if I wanted to pay for promo, reviews, advertising and a publicist. But I don’t.

    As it happens I’m a former editor. I do my own editing but a friend proofreads for me. I know editors who do excellent work and only charge between $100-$200 per manuscript.

    I’m just sort of blown away by the amount of money this author is spending.

    I get it, she’s saying if you don’t produce quality work you will fail. However since the average self-pubber makes, what– $57 per year? If you spent as much as she’s telling you to spend on a single book would you ever ever release another?

    I doubt successful self-pubbers like Marie Force and Tina Folsom have ever spent anything close to that amount to self-publish a book.

    • I’m an editor, but I’m amazed how much better another editor is at spotting the ugly bits, so I hire that job done. At friend prices, to be sure. Then I hire a proofreader, who’s ace at catching what the editor and I missed. I do my own formatting, and so far I do my own covers. I love the way each indie author can make a plan that suits them perfectly, and amend it for future books if needed. Feels like freedom.

  19. On the one hand, I gotta say that Kopans has definitely built up a platform to promote her book. One look at the Goodreads page for it, & you’ll see she has been successful with the marketing side.

    On the other, her reference to an agent puzzled me. Who needs an agent to self-publish a book? I thought saw here the spoor of Argo Navis, the literary agent’s, so I went looking to find the publisher. However, I failed to find her book on either Amazon’s or Barnes & Noble’s websites–& Bookish, just for giggles. (Maybe her book is self-published, maybe it’s thru some “special program”; I’m still surprised.)

    She says the book will be out in June, but why wait another month? If she has the ARC’s out, then IMHO the book is finished & ready for release. The iron is hot; a good businesswoman would be working on earning back her investment as soon as possible.

    Now I’m hoping that I’m quibbling over human judgment, that the book will be released without any problems, & it will sell all the copies it should sell, & make her lots of money. But something’s just not right with this picture.

    • On further thought, I was going to qualify my statement about releasing the book sooner by explaining I’m assuming this is an eBook, & not print. If it is print, then of course a June release is not easy to change, & the only problem is starting the marketing a little too early.

      But when I tried to edit my comment to reflect that–or maybe just delete it because it was banal–I encountered an error message stating that I did not have permission to edit my own comment. And only 3 minutes had passed since I clicked on the “submit” button.

    • Recently, I’ve seen authors struggling with understanding the fundamental differences between Indie publishing and Traditional, in terms of book releases. When you prepare for the Trad model while self-publishing, you are looking at things through the wrong lens and skewing your expectations of your book’s performance counter to reality. A very few authors can make a trad approach with an indie release work, but for most, it’s a recipe for frustration.

      Trad: Get lots of advance reviews (preferably in swanky newspapers) by sending out paper ARCs at least 6 months in advance of publication. Try for NPR. Pay Kirkus and PW too much money to review your title.

      Indie: As soon as the book is ready, put it on sale. Every review/blog post/mention where your book is not available to buyers is a lost opportunity. Reviews on ARCs can be solicited from book bloggers 1-4 months in advance on electronic copies, with the understanding that the book is not yet completely proofread/edited (this is what I do, and my advance reviews are awesome). When the book goes live on retailer sites, e-mail the bloggers and let them know, and they generally post their review within a day or two – especially if you’ve given them a target release date (but not set in stone).

      Trad: Based on all the advance buzz, readers will see the print book on store shelves and pick it up, but if you don’t see strong sales within three months, your book is a failure.

      Indie: Expect a ‘soft’ launch, and sales to slowly build. Releasing another title helps a great deal with visibility. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

      Trad: Keep prices high.

      Indie: Price where you will gain readers – generally $4.99 and under for an e-book. Sure, do a print version, and price it as competitively as possible, but understand that (in fiction) e-book is where you will see most of your sales. Yes, even in YA.

      Things that apply to both approaches include: A good cover and selling blurb, and (as has been discussed here already), a basic grasp of the craft of writing. 🙂

  20. Because of circumstances, I live below the poverty line. I have zero dollars to invest in self-publishing, but I have two books and two short stories on Amazon right now.

    So far, I have bartered services for cover design and editing. I also have had a few people with very kind hearts, offer to help me because they knew I needed it. I can’t afford any paid promotion or advertising and I know that this puts me behind the eight ball, but so be it. Yes, my sales are slow, but I still get them, and sometimes they buy some much needed food at the end of the month when my money runs out. I am grateful for that.

    My dear friend died unexpectedly this year. She was only 43. Life is uncertain. If we wait until conditions are perfect to do something, we may die without ever having lived. Nothing makes me sadder than to see a flower that never bloomed, dying on the vine.

    I never let anyone tell me that I “can’t.” I’m the only one allowed to tell myself that, and I’m not quite ready to give up yet.

  21. Wait… She thinks she knows how to do it right when her book isn’t even out yet?

    • Yeah, that bugged the crap out of me, too. The do it my way or fail attitude even though I’ve never done it before approach is not endearing. I wish her great success, I really do. Just don’t like that post at all, even though I agree with much of it.

  22. I put out my first several books for under $100 each (average) and they’ve done very well. There are ways to self-publish very cheaply, even with great covers, great editing, and decent promotion. I don’t think even now after 18 books I spend more than $200 on average to publish. Sometimes I spring for really price cover art which is what brings my average up to $200 when otherwise it would be half that, but I’ve found it doesn’t correlate to bigger sales at all, so I don’t plan to do much of it in the future.

    That said, I’m considering going above my normal budget on a middle grade series because I need an illustrator for the cover. That’s always more pricey, but still not as pricey as what Leigh is paying.

    • I pay extra for incredibly well-done illustrated covers, about $500 each, and I think that’s important for the sort of YA Fantasy that I write. And I think it helps sales. But my adult illustrated covers … I get lots of compliments on them but not much correlation in sales.

      By the way, Elle, I enjoyed your big Writer’s Cafe post about your work method. Very inspiring, and the proper, subjective way for discussing methods. Kudos.

      • Thank you, David. It was my pleasure to write it, and I’m thrilled with all the good news that’s been shared on it by others. I like lighting fires under butts!

  23. Chynna-Blue Scott

    The half-assed approach some of the commenters on here are suggesting is the reason self-pubbing has a bad name. Poorly edited and un-advertised ebooks make the rest of those who spend money to present a polished, professional front look bad. You’re spot on, Leigh Ann. I say either do it properly, or don’t bother. Nothing more disappointing than buying an ebook to find it’s improperly formatted and badly edited because the author has rushed straight into selling it rather than investing first to make it perfect. You get out what you put in.

    • Trisha Schmidt

      I agree. I have found myself hesitant to buy or look at many self-published books because of the rush job that is obvious in reading only the first chapter! Glaring mistakes take you away from the story and make you not want to finish it. I don’t think Leigh Ann is saying “my way or the highway”, but only advice on how to give your book the proper attention it needs. Whether you spend the exact amount she did is entirely up to each individual.

      • Chynna-Blue Scott

        Exactly! It’s about the commitment and investment – time or money. There’s no excuse for publishing a poorly-edited book. It’s not fair on readers.

    • Indies choose different ways of getting their editing and formatting and covers done depending on their needs and budgets. Some can put in the big bucks, and some can’t, but you’d be amazed how many of the books you might recognize as polished and professional come from indie publishers who did most or all of the work themselves. And I’m speaking as someone who has done it all different ways, from big publishing to total indie-pubbing of backlist stories. Yes, some self-pubbed books are rushed and amateurish. Many, many are not. And you wouldn’t know if you saw a well-turned-out indie title that it wasn’t published by someone who spent thousands of dollars on it.

      I’ve been a professional writer and editor for 35 years, and I fail to see how “un-advertised” fits into anyone’s description of whether a book is polished or professional.

    • Name a traditional book that’s perfect. I’ll wait.

      Also, nobody’s saying do it half-assed, they’re saying there are less expensive alternatives. Part of the point of going indie is being able to do things differently than traditional publishers do.

    • Lack of advertising makes other authors look bad? How?

    • Seriously?

      The people you are lecturing are selling books, many of them making a living. Many of us came to this from traditional publishing. You’re talking to experienced people here.

      Also, nobody here advocated putting out a shoddy product. What we said was that her approach wasn’t the only way to produce a professional product… and that much of what she was spending really is optional.

      • Chynna-Blue Scott

        Nobody is advocating it, but it’s the inevitable result when the work isn’t invested in – I’ve seen some comments on here who seem to be suggesting that a book should be published as soon as it’s finished, and taking time is ‘procrastinating’ – with time, or money. My comment was directed towards those who are of a ‘Just get it out there!!#%!’ attitude. If you can format etc. professionally yourself, that’s fantastic. However, I can’t help but feel sad at the attitude some people seem to have developed towards self-publishing – that it’s a quick and easy way to publish a book and make money. The inherent idea within Leigh Ann’s post that I agree with is that all work should be invested in before it’s put out there – either with time, or with money. There’s no excuse for publishing something that is substandard. Leigh Ann is illustrating the commitment (in one form) that is necessary for a book to be published in readable condition. She chose to spend that amount, and more power to her. Others will spend hours doing the work themselves. Either way, as long as it’s done right, it’s golden. You get out what you put in. Half assed approach leads to a half assed book.

  24. I can’t stress enough how grateful I am that my sister-in-law is an amazing designer who was willing to do my cover and layouts for royalty. A bad cover will kill your project right out of the gate; for those getting started, I would say a cover is the most important financial investment.

  25. Nazarea Andrews

    Frankly, I don’t think she’s saying if you don’t spend that much money, your doing it wrong. I spent a little less on my first release, and I’m gonna go ahead and say every cent was well spent.
    Look, it’s an opinion–a valid one in my opinion–but one of the brilliant things about self-publishing is that YOU get to decide your path. Leigh Ann chose hers, and I respect the hell out of what she’s done and that she’s treating this as a business investment–because if you do it wrong the first time, that’s what those readers will remember. She’s created a VERY professional brand/name for herself. So props.
    If you don’t like it, it doesn’t mean she’s wrong or a schemer or an idiot. It means you disagree. But we’re all on the same team here, and there’s enough stigma without us hating on our own team members.
    Just my thoughts 🙂

  26. Wow, so sad to see such disparaging comments. Everyone does things differently, and there is no “right” way for all, including Leigh Ann Kopans. This was what she’s done, and she’s done a very great job so far. She already has built-in fans before her book is even out, which is a step above most Indie authors, and in terms of her expenses, they’re not that outlandish for what she’s paying for. (I happen to know some of the costs involved with the publicist she uses and how great this publicist is at helping authors sell books).

    Honestly, this “Indie Model” isn’t a real thing, yet. Sure, some authors pump out work and sub it and spend little money on it, and some of these are successful, which is wonderful, but there are many indie authors who spend much, much more than Kopans’ budget. (A: Kudos to her for sharing something so personal. B: Many Indie authors spend upward of $10,000 per book, so when compared with this, Kopans’ budget is modest).

    This business is new-new-new, and it changes constantly, so nobody is doing anything wrong. Kopan’s point is about “Resources” which doesn’t necessarily equate to $$.

    For example, I am an editor and work with publishing houses, so I save money using beta readers and other editor friends who want to swap. That’s a resource.

    I am also decent at graphic design. Bought a stock photo, worked on it for a few hours, and there’s my cover. That’s a resource.

    I recently had a blog tour with 77 different blogs. I spent money there, but not much.

    So I think the important thing to take away from this is that everyone’s road is different, and nobody is wrong (published or soon-to-be published). However, there are many, many writers out there that jump the gun and self-pub a book that isn’t ready yet and slap on a not-so-great cover. Rush jobs like this where the author isn’t using enough resources (Money, skills, or contacts) can set up the author as looking amateur, which can then drastically affect their career. Taking a few more months to get it edited or hiring a decent cover artist can make a big difference between a good book and a great book (or an awful book and a good book).

    We’re all in this together. No one should be barking down anyone for their choices. Everyone who has read this article is intelligent enough to be able to determine what will work for them. Kopans has just shown a different approach to Indie publishing, and I really think her release is going to be fantastic.

    Thanks for sharing your journey, Leigh Ann. I think you’ve done some great work! (Can’t wait for One!)

    **Should also point out, Print ARCs cost a fair bit of coin. 50 books at $5 + shipping (est. $10 per book) is $500. That’s an entire quarter of the budget. I make money from my paperback copies, but the cost to get them to me using POD adds up.**

    Every single one of you is brave and fantastic for taking the leap into self-publishing. Never forget that, and also don’t forget that everyone’s journey is different. Hammering down on someone because you don’t agree isn’t what we all need. Pointing out your opinion and sharing your own examples is fine, but it’s really unbecoming to see writers shaming other writers. Love each other, guys. Indies helping Indies makes us all better.

    • “it’s really unbecoming to see writers shaming other writers.”

      So…. what were you just doing?

      • I don’t think encouraging writers to support each other is “shaming,” do you?

        • I think telling people they’re being mean because they disagree is an attempt at shaming.

          “Wow, so sad to see such disparaging comments.”

          Honestly, the only “disparaging” comments I’ve seen so far are from the people who are calling out the regulars with a lot of experience who disagree with Leigh Ann. It makes me wonder where they all came from.

          • Kort,

            There is a difference between disagreeing and being rude. Many of these comments have referred to the author as “idiotic,” have claimed that she “thinks she knows it all and she hasn’t published a book,” that she is telling people that only her way is the right way, that what she’s invested in is stupid, I could go on.

            A disagreement could be “I didn’t spend near that much money, but I have editor friends and my girlfriend is a graphic designer so they helped me.”

            However, coming in blazing and commenting that her advice is useless because they didn’t spend any money in their own journey is different. And yes, some of these comments are “mean,” but I don’t think my pointing out that most of this is misconstrued by using the word “resources” to mean “money” and suggesting we all help each other out is “shaming.” I’ve not said anyone was wrong, or that anyone should publish any other way, but I do think that a discussion should be about the point, not whether or not the author is “qualified” to her own opinion.

            I didn’t spend much money to publish my book, but I did use many other resources to create the best package possible.

            Anyway, I’m not looking for an argument on the Internet. I have writing and editing to do. My point was merely that I was quite shocked at the negativity in some of these comments. I’ve found most of the Indie community to be awesome and supportive people.

            So, I disagree that Leigh Ann’s article is not useful. You disagree that I disagree about the level of negativity in some comments, I disagree that you think I’m being mean by allegedly calling people mean. It’s a vicious circle. Everyone has the right to their own opinion, but insulting someone for theirs is sad to see in a community that is usually so supportive of each other.

            That’s all, folks.

            • Obviously you’re not looking for a fight, you’re looking to defend your friend, which is admirable, but I don’t think anybody here was attacking her as a person. Most of what I’m seeing is a disagreement with a business decision by a bunch of other people who’ve had to make similar decisions.

              Maybe I missed the “idiotic” comment but most of what I’ve seen boils down to “I wish her great success, I really do. Just don’t like that post at all, even though I agree with much of it.”

              • That was me. I said: “The amount of money that she says is necessary to ‘do it right’ is gorram idiotic.”

                Because it is.

                That’s a big difference than calling her idiotic. Someone can tell me I said something stupid, and I don’t take it as them calling me stupid.

                • See, I saw that as disagreeing with a business decision, not on your thoughts of her as a person/writer. I would think that people who publicize their business/money decisions would at least be able to see that people would criticize those decisions. Right? Am I way off base here? If I told people I spent, for example, $1000 on cover art, I’d expect people to, at the very least, ask why. And maybe to tell me I could have/should have done it differently. If they were really nice, they could give me links so I have more options for next time.

              • I’m not on her “street team” but I do think Leigh Ann is a wonderful writer and entrepreneur. Seriously, if you looked up her website and book without knowing, you’d have no idea she’s Indie pubbing. That, to me, already seems like she’s doing it right. I also know her publicist is fantastic and that her debut will more than likely be a great hit.

                These are some of the comments that caught my eye (just words, no names):

                is presumptuous and arrogant.

                is gorram idiotic.

                Lastly,I looked her up and expected to find some runaway bestselling self-pub author, but she’s not even on Amazon. How is she in any way in a position to tell other noobs how they should do it?

                But thank you for coming on here to tell us that writing is a business. We had no idea.

                something’s just not right with this picture.

                Wait… She thinks she knows how to do it right when her book isn’t even out yet?

                These are the kinds of things that irked me while reading the comments. I came over here from seeing a link to the post, and was fairly shocked. I commend everyone for pubbing Indie, but I don’t think anyone has the right to judge who can or cannot give advice. Some authors spend more time getting their platform together. Some authors have a host of not-great covers and a handful of reviews claiming to be “experts.” In the end, every person is going to take away what works for them, but I do believe that taking time is a better method than throwing up a book as soon as it’s written and proofed. You can usually see the difference.

                I think my point is really for people to stop for a minute and just think about it. If you spent a little more money on your book, how much more could you get out of it? $2k is nothing. I know authors who’ve spent more than $10k on one book. I probably spent a little over $750 including some promotion and sending out galleys. I’ve already made that back within a month on print sales.

                But, as I work in the Industry as well as write, (I’m a marketer by trade) I really think that this book has the possibility to be a very successful Indie debut, and I think the time and $$ she’s put into it will play a huge factor in this.

                Anyway, cheers to all, and I want to spread the love. All Indies are hard workers, no matter how far along you are in your journey.

                • ” … is gorram idiotic.

                  Lastly,I looked her up and expected to find some runaway bestselling self-pub author, but she’s not even on Amazon. How is she in any way in a position to tell other noobs how they should do it?

                  But thank you for coming on here to tell us that writing is a business. We had no idea.”

                  I’ll own those, even though you purposefully cut off what I was referring to in the first one. And I meant every one. Not one of those is a personal attack.

                  The first is what I think. The second is what I think regarding experience (in anything). The third was sarcasm in response to sarcasm.

                • These were the comments that caught my eye as I scrolled through the section. I just grabbed a few.

                  I think that saying something someone said is idiotic or questioning their validity to voice advice because she hasn’t sold “X” books yet a bit much. I mean for me, if I written about my process and someone said it was idiotic I’d be a little disgruntled, especially since my experience with Indies has been mainly positive so far.

                  This is a business, but as authors, we’re all equal. No one has the right to look down on someone else because they think their way is better, at least in my opinion. I understand not everyone has this intention, but overall that’s how it looks to a person new to this website.

                  Whether or not you meant them as personal, they read personal. It was not a constructive critique or sharing how your method is different, it was just calling it idiotic because it’s not your opinion. Everyone is free to say what they want. I just find it disappointing to see negativity between writers who are all in learning stages.

                  That’s all. I’m allowed to have my opinion, too.

                • “No one has the right to look down on someone else because they think their way is better, at least in my opinion.

                  Whether or not you meant them as personal, they read personal.”

                  That’s exactly my point. I’m glad you agree.

                • “No one has the right to look down on someone else because they think their way is better, at least in my opinion.”

                  I think you’ll find it was this attitude on Ms. Kopans’ part that got hackles up here. ““If you don’t have the resources to do it right, either wait and save up or don’t do it at all.”

                  Yes, it’s sort of a harsh message. Yes, I stand by it.

                  By declaring this, then standing by it, she was very much saying that she knew best.

                  The commenters here are at many levels of experience, and we understand there’s not one way to do it. So when someone offers “expert advice” that says otherwise, someone’s gonna disagree with that advice.

                • So you really don’t think there’s anything wrong with purporting to know how to do something “right” when you haven’t as yet actually done it yet? Sorry, but in my world that’s a legitimate criticism.

                • Hi Sarah,

                  Not really my point in all of this.

                  And Dan, yes, that goes both ways. My viewpoint isn’t looking down on anyone, but hate to see negativity anywhere.

                  Thanks to all for discussion. I am off to work on my book. No sense in anymore discussion on this. I think we’re all adults and can agree to disagree, n’est pas?

                  We all have our strengths in the business, and we’re all continually learning, which I think is a great thing and an important part of our publishing quest.

                  As I’ve said, you are all awesome for what you do. Best of luck.

                • “This is a business, but as authors, we’re all equal.”

                  No, we’re not. We vary in every way possible: number of words written, years of experience, skill set, relevant past experiences, and on and on.

                  Most reasonable folk prefer advice from the voice of experience. So Leigh Ann’s lack of indie publishing experience is a valid concern.

    • Nobody said she shouldn’t have done it her way. Nobody is criticizing what she did… for herself.

      What people are criticizing is her outright statement up top that everyone else is wrong. Particularly since she is publishing her first book and has no idea what the outcome will be, and the people she is criticizing are largely experienced and successful.

  27. The author is doing it the way she feels it needs to be done for her. And it looks like she’s doing a pretty badass job of it.

    I think she means that you find what is the best option for *you* and go with it. For her, that meant this budget and these resources. She’s not saying everyone else’s “right” way is wrong. She’s just saying make sure you think it through and make sure you hit your own sweet spot.

    Seriously, we’re all a team here, peeps. This business is fabulously maddening and we should be supportive of people taking it as seriously as this! That kind of dedication makes all of us look better, self or traditionally pubbed.

    *slow claps*

  28. Sarah Wedgbrow

    As a YA reader, I really respect what Leigh Ann is doing. I know covers matter a ton to me in snagging my attention. Also I get a LOT of ARCs for review on my blog and I much prefer paper ones.

    In my eyes, she’s doing what’s right for her, and I really respect that. I also respect the philosophy of doing things right or not at all. I have seen a lot of buzz around ONE. I might not have noticed it without her “street team.”

    Do you need to spend $2000 dollars on your book? Depends, maybe not. Who cares? She’s done it, it’s interesting to see her method.

  29. “If you don’t like it, it doesn’t mean she’s wrong or a schemer or an idiot. It means you disagree. But we’re all on the same team here, and there’s enough stigma without us hating on our own team members.”


    The approach I took with my first novel was different from Ms. Kopans, and it’s worked great, particularly given what I set out to accomplish, but I’ve got a lot of respect for the path she is taking and look forward to seeing the success she has because of it.

    I *think* that the intent behind her post was to share what she’s put into her release and encourage others to go the extra mile with their work. There IS a lot of shoddy work that goes out because things like editing, cover art, and marketing get ignored. Her point that you should invest in your work is a valid one.

    Since it seems she is being attacked based on the wording of this sentence – “If you don’t have the resources to do it right, either wait and save up or don’t do it at all” – I’d like to point out that she did say RESOURCES.

    The route she took meant those resources were financial. Maybe yours will be bartering for editing and cover art – or utilizing natural ability you have in certain arenas. I think her intent was to be helpful. If you want to execute a book launch in the manner she is, this is how she did it (there are plenty of authors that don’t like to share the gritty details, so I give her props for that).

    When I read that statement, I took it as one meant to contrast with the attitude that you should “spend what you can afford” can give the idea that you don’t need to invest – if you have an extra couple of extra bucks laying around, that’s good enough, but don’t go sacrificing your Starbucks.

    So, I’m in agreement with Nazarea – indie pub is fantastic because each writer can choose the right path for themselves. And Ms. Kopans point that we should invest in what we love? Not a bad one at all.

    • How does one “save up” non-monetary resources? IOUs?

      • I know you’re just being silly on this, Dan, but there is a way to do this: connections. The more you network, the more friends you have who you can do some bartering with for services. This can obviously lead to the dream of an awesome cover, nearly flawless MS, shared marketing, and (hopefully) lots of sales.

        Cheers! 🙂

        • Hold on, this desk looks like it needs my head on it for a while.

        • I know you’re new to this community, Lindsay, but you’re kind of teaching your granny (Sorry, Dan, and stop hurting your desk!) to suck eggs at this point, and exhibiting just a bit of condescension in the process. Seriously, I’m pretty sure none of the regulars around here need to be told about the value of connections in indie publishing.

          • Oh I’m just passing by. I’ve seen enough of this “community” and how welcoming they are to people with different opinions than their own.

            • Seriously, stick around. Read some blogs where you don’t have a personal connection. This is a good place with good, experienced, knowledgeable people. And also, me.*

              For the record, I must like you, because it’s not like me to try and convince someone to stay anywhere. Normally, I’m like, “%$#@ *&^, !@#$%^&*&^%$.”

              • Haha! Well that’s good I guess.

                I don’t usually visit writing communities to avoid things like this, and the actual really terrible advice I’ve seen, like: “It’s not the author’s job to made sure the grammar is correct, the editor does that!”

                I may pop back again when I am once again procrastinating on a deadline 😉

                Cheers. Keep up the good work.

                • “It’s not the author’s job to made sure the grammar is correct, the editor does that!”

                  We agree on that! I’ve had new writers tell me those exact words. With a straight and serious face. It was really hard to choke down the laughter and calmly try to explain why that is a disastrous assumption. 😛

                • I nearly died. When I replied with something like “Umm, that’s not the way it works,” he literally Internet laughed in my face and called me a lunatic.

                  Fortunately I’ve learned that some people just cannot be persuaded. It’s good to rant sometimes, but until they hit that brick wall of “Uh oh, need to learn CMS,” they’ll think they’re God’s gift to the Industry.

                  Oh well, always good for a chuckle. I think I actually have a file somewhere with really bad writing advice. One was a girl critting a query:

                  “So, I’m a new writer but maybe you should start it with a question? I’ve seen people do that.”

                  And I’m like, “Sweetheart. I was designing web pages when I was your age… how???” 😉

                • Lindsay, do stick around. This is one of the smartest, most generous (ok and slightly snarky) indie writer communities on the interwebz. Your willingness to continually engage on this thread, and even beat Dan up a bit, is commendable. 🙂

                  And the amount of respectful disagreement that goes on here among the commenters might surprise you. It’s not a homogeneous community, though it is a quite experienced one, overall.

            • Odd; they put up with me and my contrariness…

  30. I completely disagree with many of the interpretations of this line “If you don’t have the resources to do it right, either wait and save up or don’t do it at all.”

    I don’t think she’s saying you need to spend $2000. I don’t get that at all. What I get is that she sat down and figured out how much SHE needed to spend in order to make the book she wanted to make and instead of skimping on that, she made sure she spent that. She used services from friends and got discount rates, but the point was that she got the product she wanted.

    As for judging her about her experience…I have to say we don’t know what kind of connections she has. It sounds like she has friends in the biz and her advice and knowledge may very well be experience based, even if there are no books out yet by LeighAnn Kopans.

  31. I couldn’t find her book on Amazon. Must be doing something wrong. Anyone find it?

  32. Holy smokes, I’ve never seen so many new people on a PV blog post. I guess we’ve met the street team.

    • Meet her twitter followers. Apparently, some of them wanted to come and beat us. Should we hand out the scourges?

    • Clearly! Come on in gals – but do take a minute to realize that you’re coming into a well-established culture of respect and dialogue, laced with some sarcasm. But overall, the general commenters at The Passive Voice have a lot of experience behind what they’re saying. I recommend you all go through and read a lot of the past posts and the give-and-take there.

      While it’s nice of you all to try and defend Leigh, it’s not necessary. I think everyone here wishes her well, however they express it. 😉 (Though Dan is clearly always up for a good scourging)

  33. For the last time, everyone who’s saying, “Oh, this is what she meant” needs to reread what she said.

    “If you don’t have the resources to do it right, either wait and save up or don’t do it at all.” Yes, it’s sort of a harsh message. Yes, I stand by it.

    She’s speaking specifically of money, and then she goes into a long post about what she spent. The whole thing implies that a writer has to spend serious money to “do it right. ”

    If she meant something else, she should have said something else.

    We saw the same thing with Rachelle Gardner’s post the other day. She was really vague and got hammered for it.

    We’re writers. There’s no excuse for being misunderstood.

    And the whole thing is compounded by the fact that her debut is still a month away. She has no idea if her method is going to work. At all.

    It’s nothing personal. She seems very nice, and I wish her success. But she’s in no position to educate anyone yet.

    • And, hey, neither am I.

    • “We’re writers. There’s no excuse for being misunderstood.”

      This. It is not harsh or unfair to judge writers by the words they use rather than trying to discern some nebulous “intent” that doesn’t show up anywhere in those words. If a writer can’t say what they mean and mean what they say then maybe they’re in the wrong business.

  34. Trisha Schmidt

    I had never read this site until today and seeing that the main posters of these comments are “regulars”, I have no desire to ever look at it again. Purposely trashing someone and getting quite rude in some cases, all for…I’m not sure of the purpose, but I think it’s ridiculous when there is enough negativity out there. We have to have a thick enough skin with people who will read the book (or not and lie) and now supposed writers going to town on another writer? I’ve seen enough.

    • You actually haven’t seen enough. You came in on a topic with which I’m guessing you have a personal connection. This place might be the most supportive self-pub community I’ve ever seen, which is why we get our hackles up when we see what we believe to be bad advice.

      Click on the “Self-Publishing” link there on the right and get a better feel for the place.

      Although we’ll make no apologies for all of the things we say about Scott Turow, because he just deserves it.

  35. Yes, I’m going to comment here. Yes, it may be a mistake…

    To be honest, no one should really take anything either one of us says without a huge cup of salt. Sorry, Leigh’s friends and street-team. Sorry if that insults you.

    Why? Because Leigh is a debut author. She’s just starting out. What she’s doing might work. It might not. I’m not a debut author anymore. I’ve been writing for over 25 years, yes, but publishing for only a bit over two years. I’m selling. I have fans. I have people emailing me asking when the next Salmon Run or String Weavers book will be out.

    Should someone listen to me? Excuse me while I collapse laughing.

    I started writing a big long post about the various points and writing/publishing myths in the blog post and the Passive Voice newbie comments above (book as event, don’t do it if it isn’t perfect, slow writing = quality, fast writing = crap, We are swimming in a tsunami of crap, ‘crap’ isn’t subjuctive (it’s just crap. Crap is crap), one mistake can destroy a career, one must have money to throw at this, there is only one path, social media frenzies, there is only one way and anyone who isn’t doing it the ‘right’ way is hurting everyone else, marketing and promotion must primary or the book will get lost.), but in the end, who am I?

    I’m still a newbie published writer, too.

    The ones I look at to see what they are doing? The ones I listen to? Those who have been at this for over 10 years, who are consistently producing, who are making their living at this. Those are the people I watch to see what they are doing. People like Dean Wesley Smith, Kris Kathryn Rusch, Bob Mayer, Lawrence Block, Kevin J. Anderson, Sarah Hoyt, and Michael Stackpole to name only a few.

    Do they get things perfect on every book? Nope. Do they make mistakes? Yep. Do they stop because of it? Nope. Are they flexible enough to see how things are changing and adapt? Yep. Do they let fear stop them? Nope. Will they make mistakes again? Yep. Do I agree with everything they say or do? Nope. Do they have to have basic business sense to get that far? Yep. Do I at least listen and seriously contemplate? Yes.

    What I keep seeing over and over again from the long-time pros? Write, and write some more. Learn your craft. Get it done. Do your research. Do the best you can with the resources you have right now (along with basic business advice not to spend more than you can afford to lose). Let it go. Then move on to the next project.

    I’m in this for the long-haul. That means balancing out the following: ability, what I have time to learn, what I can barter, available time, and available money. I’ve been at this game a while now. Have I had the luck of a runaway success? Nope, but I’m putting food on the table. I’m very happy to have food. Seriously.

    I’m having a slow build, and I’m fine with that. I’m enjoying the process, enjoying the writing, and enjoying the publishing. I know the more I write, the more I release, the more I learn, the more I apply what I learn and experience, and the more I work to increase my grasp on the craft, the more I increase my odds of a hit. As Kevin J. Anderson and others have said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

    I know the only person who can destroy my career is me, and that is if I stop moving forward, if I stop writing, if I stop releasing. (Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Killing a Career: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=4131)

    I refuse to stop.

    Indie Resources:

    Dean Wesley Smith: Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?page_id=860
    Dean Wesley Smith: Think Like a Publisher 2013 http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?page_id=3736
    Kris Kathryn Rusch: The Business Rusch http://kriswrites.com/business-rusch-publishing-articles/
    Kris Kathryn Rusch: Freelancer’s Survival Guide
    Bob Mayer: http://writeitforward.wordpress.com
    Michael Stackpole: http://www.michaelastackpole.com
    And of course, The Passive Voice. 😀

    • No, I totally get what you’re saying, and I think so do the rest of the writers that came to join the comment party. (I hope). We are all always learning, no matter what stage we’re in, which I think is important.

      I also think it’s important to listen to everybody, because everyone has a unique experience with their work. So you should not think you’re not worth listening to because you’ve been published for two years. I’m sure you have awesome advice from your experiences!

      I think the biggest thing that got lost in all of this was the article being referred to as “expert” advice. Maybe I missed it, but I thought it was just a link over.

      I’m an Indie-pub author, though my book was with a publisher before I decided to go Indie, and I’m also an editor and marketer. I have a live group I go to once a month, and there are all kinds of writers from all stages who have awesome advice, stories, etc. I know an author who has only written one published book, but gives kick-a** writing classes. I know people who aren’t published who know tons, and I know people who are published who are pompous jerks.

      But you CAN learn something from everyone. What I learned from Leigh Ann’s approach was that I didn’t know it was Indie until I saw it mentioned. I think that is a really cool accomplishment.

      I ride horses as well, and it’s the same conundrum: How “experienced” is a coach and should you listen to their advice? Go visit an equine board one day to figure that one out (only if you have time and popcorn).

      But the point is that you can learn something from everyone, especially in this business. I think *that* is one of the coolest things about being a writer. 🙂

  36. “If you don’t have the resources to do it right, either wait and save up or don’t do it at all.” Seeing as the author is a first timer, I’ll disregard this. Mainly because she has no pubbing cred at all. And until you have more than just one book up, and have a touch of a following I really don’t think you’re in any place to dish out advice.

    I’ve heard of many a n00b self-pubber piling out that kind of money and not getting the returns back. I’m not going to hold my breath.

    Sales are fickle, sales are strange. No one, not indis, not trad pubbers, know which book is going to make it big and which isn’t. Should we put out the best of our abilities? Absolutely. But kicking out that kind of money, unless you are an established author with a fairly secure platform seems a bit overdone.

    I’m no huge big seller, but I do have steadyish sales. And several times I’ve been able to put gas in my truck, and buy milk and diapers for my little ones with my sales.

    I think the advice to write, write, and keep writing is good. Keep putting up new stuff, do what you can. Trade out services with friends if you can. But just because you don’t have the ‘resources’ (Seriously who has 2k sitting in their bank just to blow on a book you don’t know will even sell well outside of friends?) doesn’t mean to give it up.

    That’s my $.02 . **shrugs**

  37. So, I know I’m going against the grain here, and I hope my indie friends will forgive me, but I feel strongly about this.

    I agree with this post.

    I know it’s not the ‘in’ way to look at self-publishing, but I think the current idea of “publish mediocre work while you work on your craft” is seriously off-base.

    I’m studying for a profession. First I went to a college for four years and got a B.A. I then went to Grad school for two years, and completed two internships. Grad school alone cost me close to $40,000 btw, close to 90K with interest and extension by the time I pay it off. I am now completing two years of supervised work, and then I have to take two killer tests, that will probably take at least another year.

    I believe that you want to do a profession well, you have to learn it first.

    And I think artistic integrity and professionalism means that you make your book the best that it can be. It means that you hire a content AND a copy editor, as well as design a decent cover, etc.

    Making your book the best that it can be shows respect for the reader.

    If you can’t afford it, then save up. Or wait and find deals. Or chip in with a bunch of authors.

    Why not? There is no fire here, no rush. Don’t authors need to do the leg work just like any other profession? And you’ll feel so much better if you know that the work you put up is your absolute best, and worth the money you are charging for it.

    • Mira, I wrote a whole long response just to say that I disagree with you. It was very angry and full of f-bombs that weren’t directed at you but at people who’ve turned me down for work because my degree wasn’t expensive enough. It’s the right degree from the “wrong” college and the only difference is what I paid for it.

      What it all boils down to is this; spending more money does not guarantee a superior product.

    • I agree with both Mira and Kort here:

      Here is the thing: I am adamant that a writer must LEARN HER CRAFT! I also have lots and lots and lots of education — and I don’t regret any of it. But very little of that education has anything to do with my writing quality or ability. Even the grad work in creative writing. (Graduate degrees in creative writing are not designed to make you a better writer, they are designed to qualify you as a college professor who teaches creative writing. Remember that.)

      Also remember that many graduate degrees (definitely NOT all) are merely tickets into a profession and don’t actually prepare you nearly as well as going straight into an internship. Spend the same amount of time working in the field as you spend on grad school, and you will often be farther ahead. (Of course, it depends on the school and the field.)


      You have to spend resources (whether it’s money or time) in the process of learning. Most of the time, you’ll just learn that particular expense was a waste of money, but you do have to do it.

      There is nothing wrong with the original author here spending money. What’s wrong is that she is too early in the process to realize that this is just one of her learning experiences. She doesn’t need to do that, but she won’t know that until much later on, after she’s spent the money. Maybe after spending a whole lot more money. If she’s got the resources, there is nothing wrong with her continuing to poke that stick at this problem and see if she can find something useful there.

      What wrong is in not seeing that all of those things she disdains — and which you disdain — are also important learning experiences.

      It can take a very long time for people to learn why the “publish mediocre work while you learn your craft” is essential TO learning your craft. Because it’s not really mediocre work. Mediocre work is perfect but unexciting work done in a test tube. You cannot rise above mediocre without actually taking the risk of doing it for real, in public, live, mistakes and all.

      But my telling you this will not help you until you are ready for it. The fact is, those who have been through this can’t really give those coming along behind any short cuts. Everyone has to go through it all themselves.

      • Kort – glad you wrote the second post. 🙂 And I’m sorry you’ve been discriminated against due to your education, that really sucks, and I’m sure it’s unfair.

        And I’m not advocating that people get a graduate degree in writing, that’s totally up to the individual. And I’m certainly not saying the more you spend the better.

        But I do think there is a certain bare minimum that any writer, especially newbies, should spend. Personally, I don’t really care about cover, arcs, etc. the only thing I think is really essential are both a content and copy edit. Deep editing. And I really don’t think people should publish without that, as I said above.

        Camille, I appreciate your tact. 🙂 And I’ll admit you have a lot more experience than I have. And I agree very much that the actual experience of publishing would be extremely educational for any author.

        But I think some people (not all, but some) are rushing way too fast. My concern is they are not necessarily going to learn from that. They will put out work that isn’t ready, and it won’t sell, or they’ll get negative reviews and they’ll get discouraged. So, I guess I appreciate any voice that encourages folks to slow down a bit and focus on getting ready.

        Quality first.

        • There comes a time when you’re done. I have had professors tell me, straight out, that they had nothing left to teach me. At that point, the only thing to do is go out in the world and do it.

          I’ve also seen my mother have screaming fits after hanging up the phone where the conversation went like this:

          Her boss: We’re hiring this guy who just graduated from Harvard Business School for the position you applied for.

          Mom: But I have 25 years of experience in the industry and I’ve written the protocols for this type of thing. We’re an industry leader because of me.

          Her boss: Well, yes, but he’s from Harvard! And he has these exciting ideas.

          Mom: Yes, which we tried 15 years ago, 10 years ago and 5 years ago. They failed miserably. You should have my proposal on your desk for something that works. We’ve been using it in the field for the last 6 months and seeing good results.

          Her boss: I think we’re going to go with the suggestions of our new hire. After all, he went to Harvard, he probably knows what he’s talking about. Oh, and we’re paying him twice what we’re paying you because he has a college degree.

          Mom: *head desk*

          That’s kind of what this conversation has reminded me of. Hope that illustrates it a bit.

          • Kort – I’m sorry. That sort of elitism is really unfortunate – not just for the people involved, but the business misses out and makes cost-consuming decisions.

            I never meant to support that elitism in my post – I would never want to do that.

            • When the new guys policies ended up costing the company 2 of their biggest contracts, guess who they couldn’t afford anymore? That’s right, my mom. Now she babysits for me full time.

              To be honest, I made professional sales when I was 16. I’ve spent the last *mumble* years improving my craft and my work is better. I was a better editor at 19 than some pros I’ve met but I was informed I needed a degree to work as a professional editor so I got one, after working my a** off to be able to afford it. Oops, sucks to be me. Big name publishers have no respect for a small state school and they’re laying people off at this point, anyway. The small presses I’ve worked for have all gone out of business, several still owing me several months of back pay, because they did stupid s*** like spending $2000 promoting a book and forgetting to pay the editor.

              Well, I wanted to write anyway so I just enjoy the friends I made getting it and edit for any of them who want to write. Some of them are better than me. Some of them are awful but they sell circles around me. None of them have spent more than $100 on a book and they had a kick a** editor.

              Indie publishing reminds me a lot of open source software. There’s a huge stigma against some of it because it’s free and that is beyond stupid. If you know what you’re doing, the end product is the same, no matter what software you used. The traditional people in the industry look down on the people who used the free software but it’s the actual product the end user cares about. Who cares how it got there?

            • Mira, you didn’t support elitism. Quality first has utterly nothing to do with elitism. Whether a writer publishes traditionally, self-pubs or is published by the Martian Free Press, putting out a quality product should be a writer’s first priority.

        • I think the thing that you don’t realize — and this makes sense for a beginner — is that you see the act of publishing as an end-game. It feels like it’s the all important Big Goal of Life.

          It’s not. It’s the beginning. It’s WAY early in your learning process. It’s actually something you have to do to move to the next level — which is still a beginning level. The difference between publishing when you’re polished and doing it earlier is actually a tiny blip in the continuum. There isn’t actually that much difference.

          Sure, don’t publish until YOU feel ready, but there’s nothing wrong with people tumbling into as soon as they want.

    • “Why not? There is no fire here, no rush. Don’t authors need to do the leg work just like any other profession?”

      No. Why should they care about some other profession? The market judges the product, and it doesn’t care about the academic or professional pedigree of the author.

      • Terrence, I’m not talking about external validation.

        I’m saying that most professions require years of work to become adept.

        But there is this strange idea (and pressure) that writers can just hit it out of the ball park without having to practice there craft. Maybe that’s true for a few people, but most need time to develop their skill.

        I don’t think encouraging folks to publish too soon – without a sense that their craft will take time to season – is doing them any favors. I think they will have poor results, and it may discourage them prematurely.

        It may also add to the poor reputation that indies have in the Industry. I’m extremely concerned that poor reputation will start to float out into the general public. If that happens, traditional publishing will get a great boost, and that’s something I’d like to avoid.

        • Ok, but Mira, for every writer publishing too green, there’s several more who are sitting on their work for far too long, procrastinating, waiting to ‘get it perfect’ or save up enough money to ‘do it right’ – when, after a certain point, if you’re *serious* about doing this writing thing as a career, you just have to PUBLISH the darn thing and move on.

          Do the best you can, but don’t agonize, and don’t feel you need to spend 2k per book – I think that’s the general advice sifting out here in the comments.

          • Anthea, what is so wrong about writers agonizing over something to get it better? Not perfect. To me,if you’re ‘serious’ about the writing thing as a career, you do whatever it takes, including ‘agonizing’ to get as close to excellence as you can–and then move on.

            • The problem is not necessarily the agonizing–the problem is that a lot of writers never move PAST it. (I know people like this; they’ve got amazing stories that will never, ever see the light of day.)

              Or, in my case, it delays them much, much longer than it should have. The agonizing was the combined result of perfectionism and a fear of failure. I wish I could go back in time about five years and tell my younger self all the things I’ve learned since about writing and publishing. I’d have way more books available now, that’s for sure!

          • @ Anthea –

            Yes – I do agree that perfection is not a realistic goal for any writer, but I’m afraid I don’t agree with this perspective – sorry. I think a writer can rest from a book for awhile without publishing it. They can work on something else while they practice their craft and/or save up for editing, and then go back to it later.

            I’m working this out as I write on this thread, and I think the main jist of this for me is that debut and previously published authors are different.

            Folks like you and Camille, who have been traditionally published, most likely had the experience of close editing work on your early books. That’s so invaluable. Not only did you most likely grow alot as an artist, but you had the experience of putting out a very good book in the marketplace. From that, you learned to trust yourself.

            Debut folks who are breaking into indie publishing have never had that. It is very hard to evaluate your own writing, and without several rounds of editing with a dynamite editor, you just won’t have the perspective you need for your work.

            I don’t think it’s a good idea to encourage debut people to put out their work without that editing experience. In addition to the other reasons I mentioned, putting out mediocre work for publication is embarrassing, once people realize it is mediocre. That’s not a good experience for a debut writer to have.

            So, I think the advice for those who have been traditionally published and experienced deep editing vs. debut writers should be different.

            • Yeah, the ‘close editing’ I got on my debut NY release? ZERO. I got zero content editing. And yet, that book went on to be nominated for a pretty big industry award (the RWA RITA).

              My second book? Also zero content editing. Yes, both books got light copy-edits and also galley proofs – but my self-published books get MORE attention, editing, and proofreaders than my traditional titles ever did.

              I think, with debut authors, there’s a lot of fear and a tendency not to trust themselves. Spending a lot of money on that first book could feel like validation for some.

              But the best test of your work? Readers. I’m not saying throw any old thing out there in a half-assed manner. But don’t let fear keep you from ever publishing, too.

              • Wow. A RITA. Cool. 🙂

                And that sucks that you didn’t get editing. Although clearly you didn’t need it. But not everyone may have your natural talent, Anthea.

                I do appreciate that you are encouraging writers to trust themselves, I think that’s very empowering.

                However, for me – I think the best beta is an editor who is well-versed in your genre. That way you’ll not only hope your work is good, you’ll know it is. I really do think many writers are publishing way too soon. Their work would have greatly benefited from a content edit, and they would have ended up more confident because of that.

                But I’m okay with our agreeing to disagree. We won’t always agree on everything, doesn’t mean we aren’t heading toward the same goal.

            • Just a point of reference: yes, I’ve been professionally edited. What I learned was that professional editors actually didn’t know more than I did. Generally, I was very pleased with an editing job where I only had to restore HALF of my work. (And yes, the lead editors agreed with me and restored the work.)

              You don’t learn from being edited. You learn from writing and reading intensively and… studying English and other languages. I learned from reading things like William Safire’s column On Language in the New York Times, and the Chicago Manual of Style, and Lawrence Blocks wonderful columns in Writer’s Digest.

              I learned from having people who know nothing about writing read my work and mark where they were confused or bored. I learned from my fellow writers getting in knock-down drag-out fights over use of dialog tags. (After which I went and LOOKED at dozens of stories in my favorite magazines, as well as my favorite books, to see what “real” writers actually used – Instead of promulgating whatever prejudice my friends decided was right, or what some junior editor at a conference claimed was the absolute truth.)

              Being in traditional publishing did not teach me to write or to edit. I learned that on my own, and from actual teachers, the same way Indies do and will do in future.

              And I suspect you’ll find that most writers learned the same way.

        • It may also add to the poor reputation that indies have in the Industry. I’m extremely concerned that poor reputation will start to float out into the general public. If that happens, traditional publishing will get a great boost, and that’s something I’d like to avoid.

          And we’re back to the ‘Tsunami Of Crap’ argument.

          Most indie writers couldn’t care less what ‘the industry’ thinks of them unless ‘the industry’ is offering them a big cheque. And the general public couldn’t care less whether a book is trade published, so long as they like the story.

          Few readers go hunting through books at random on Amazon. Most of us base our purchases largely on recommendations from friends, acquaintances, reviews and elsewhere, and unreadable books don’t get those recommendations. If my best friend says ‘this book is great, read it’, I’m not going to say ‘oh, sorry, but it’s not published by the Big Five’.

          And, ultimately, there’s nothing you or I can do to stop people scribbling down the first thing that comes into their head and publishing it, so worrying about it is simply pointless.

          • @ Edward – I agree that the general public doesn’t care who published a book.

            And I want them to continue to not care.

            If they consistently read poorly written, poorly edited books – or even mediocre, non-polished books – from indie authors, my concern is they will begin to care.

            That would be a huge blow to the indie community – if readers began to look for a Publisher stamp because they believe the books Publishers put out is higher quality.

            And sure, people will do what they want. But the indie community is large and strong, and word spreads. I think talking about this is very valuable.

        • Terrence O'Brien

          “I’m saying that most professions require years of work to become adept.”

          OK. Many do. Each should be judged individually. There is no reason to think authors have to put in years of work because dentists do.

          I don’t encourage writers to do anything. It’s none of my business what they do. But I certainly don’t discourage them by saying they need years of effort because someone in a completely different area does.

          And God bless the amateur. He can produce great books and doesn’t give a hoot about that the professionals do. The consumers doesn’t care either.

  38. $2000 to release one book. I just released my first book in February, and I have eight more slated for release over the next couple of years. That’s a total of $18,000 for my first two years’ worth of books, and I’ve got lots more books on my list.

    I’ve been a stay-at-home mom with no separate income for 24 years. I’ve been writing for 23 years. I’ve known for almost that long that the conventional publishing industry was something I just didn’t want to have to deal with. Self-publishing is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for all these years. My husband, bless him, has been incredibly supportive, but if I went to him and told him I wanted to sink $18,000 of the family’s funds into something that might never earn back anywhere near that much, I’d get a kind but firm, “You’re out of your mind.” Disability due to chronic fatigue syndrome makes getting employment outside the home, or even in the home for more than 2 or 3 hours a day, impossible.

    So do I just put my dreams and goals and my stories on ice indefinitely because I can’t “do it right” by this definition?

    I don’t think so. I work damned hard on my books, both in the art and craft of storytelling, and on the presentation. I published my first book for around $100. Seeing that book up for sale is one of the biggest thrills I’ve had in my life (aside from family milestones). I wasn’t expecting a big bestseller right off the bat, and that isn’t what’s happening, but I’ve got another book coming out in June, one this fall, one around New Year’s (hopefully), a five books series starting next year, and plans for more. I’m in this for the long haul, and I produce to the very highest standard that I can.

    And the only people with any right to judge the worthiness of my efforts, the only people whose judgment I care about, are the readers who buy my books. And so far, I’m not hearing any complaints.

  39. Here’s the thing about posting on the internet:

    Anybody can be an “expert.” And unfortunately, beginners have a tendency to expound on everything they learn, and everything they think of but haven’t really tried out yet.

    Heck, even more experienced people do it — talking about ideas is one way we process and learn.

    The problem is that beginners tend not to realize that their wonderful new idea is something everyone else in the room has tried. And talked about. And poked a stick at and tried a different way. And also watched their friends try in many different ways.

    And because it all seems so new, beginners have a way of speaking authoritatively on something they really don’t know very well at all. Heck, it happens in most “get rich quick” movements: every single person who joins spends a few weeks learning about it, and then writes a book on what they learned in that short time to sell to the people who entered only a month later.

    Can the old-timers learn from the newbies?

    Sure, but not what the newbie thinks she can teach. Oddly, she can teach more by NOT acting like an expert, and acting like a learner: Ask pointed questions. Don’t make up your own answers, but rather listen and then ask even more pointed questions. Share your experiences — but realize that the exciting obvious stuff is likely the same as what everyone else experienced — so share the little things. They’ll be more valuable.

    At the same time, remember that when the Real Experts tell you something, it may not be relevant to you. You may have to do the thing they tell you not to do (or not do the thing they say you must do) as a part of your development process. (I think I wrote a blog post about this one — the Hatchlings and Neo-pros one. Too tired to look it up.)

  40. I’ve been reading these comments and I’ll just add my two cents, for what it’s worth. I wish this author all the best, she seems really sincere and driven, and I think that’s great. However, I also sense some inexperience, and I suspect that is pushing her toward spending more money than she needs to. Unless someone’s been through a commercial publishing effort, it can be difficult to know how best to use your resources and easy to be lead by others, more knowledgable than they, to options which have higher costs, or aren’t even truly necessary, especially when those knowledgable people are selling you the very service you’re convinced you can’t do without.

    I find the notion of waiting for resources to be the direct opposite of my experiences in publishing. We always worked on tight budgets, there was never ever adequate money available to do things as we’d prefer. The entire enterprise was one of making compromises, putting limited funds to best use in order to produce the best product possible in the highest quality given the conditions at hand. Not publishing until we had the money to “do it right”, whatever that means, was simply not an option. It was like that everywhere I worked over 15 years. That situation was precisely why I learned to diversify my skills. We never, I repeat never had enough money to pay for everything we’d like.

    It sounds a bit like she was getting that point, but the blanket statement she started with that “only spend what you can afford is wrong” is unfortunate and, to me, is indicative of someone who hasn’t yet really been in the trenches. The line about plugging everything into an Excel spreadsheet did make me cringe, too. In all my years in publishing, nothing good ever came from a spreadsheet. They make it far too easy to ignore intangibles in favor of clean columns of numbers that don’t necessarily reflect the boots on the ground reality. Of course, you deal with corporate bean counters long enough, getting an email with a speadsheet attached becomes enough to make you break out in a rash so I might be slightly biased on that score.

    I do wish this author the best. She’s got a plan and is charging after it. Good for her. She’ll learn, probably the hard way because that’s how we always do. I can pretty much guarantee, if she sticks with this, she’ll be singing a little different tune two or three books down the road. All the advice and research in the world is nothing compared to some good old fashioned real-world experience.

  41. I seem to have missed the moment when this blog’s mission statement changed from “Here’s news about the publishing world” to “Here’s an ‘enemies list’ of people for Dan DeWitt to creepily cyber-stalk on Twitter.”

    • Uh, what? The only thing I did on Twitter was apologize to Leigh Ann. I think it was a grand total of five tweets where I apologized and invited her to stick around TPV to get a better feel for the joint. Oh, and she responded! And we conversed briefly! That’s some creepy stalking there.

      Care to come up with another example, champ? Because you’re more like a stalker than I am right now.

  42. Hi again, everyone!

    Just wanted to say “thank you” to all the new commenters. This exchange has been very eye-opening, for sure!

    Thanks for your well wishes! 🙂

  43. I love this place.

    It’s hard to find a man more “he calls it like he see’s it” than Dan DeWitt. He’s not rude, unless you mistake rubbing your nose in facts rude.

    J.A. Marlow, Dan Meadows, Camille Lageurre, Anthea Lawson, Barb Morganroth great advice/comments as usual. Lot’s of other great comments too.

    My two cents–

    Although the saying goes “it takes money to make money”, it’s paramount that overhead be kept as low as possible, until you have positive cash flow.

    • I don’t know, you might change your mind about me after talking to Lance.

      • I’ll add an addendum–or unless you provoke him.

        • That’ll teach me to seek someone out to apologize for upsetting them. Lesson learned.

          Also, remind me to put Lance on my super-secret enemies list. And keep it a secret.

          • And maybe a third addendum–*caution-may be easily provoked.

            Who names their kid Lance, anyway?

            • The funniest part about this whole brouhaha is that most of the people who were critical of that one section of advice (which I still maintain was communicated poorly) were still wishing her well and complimenting the work she put in. I flat-out said, “The product looks great.”

              Eh, congrats to PG on smashing the comment record two days in a row.

  44. I never want to see someone who is really doing their best and really want it to fail or get taken advantage of. What I see in her article is the influence of the pervasive notion floating around that writers can’t do this or can’t do that. It’s simply not true. Writers of all stripes do these things themselves every day in great numbers and many do them very well and very professionally. I’ve never understood the attitude that, somehow, I’m skilled enough to collect a paycheck from publishers as an editor yet somehow incapable of applying those same skills to my own work. Throwing money at it doesn’t solve problems, the knowledge and experience to use that money wisely does.

    The point above about the lacking experience of new writers, especially in editing, is well taken. But my response to that is if you don’t know how to do something, learn it. None of this stuff is rocket science, and the more you understand the actual work involved in editing or cover design or formatting, the better able you are to judge what’s worth paying for and at what price. I don’t believe writers should always do everything themselves, but they should at least know how to do everything. Cultivate many skills because you never know what you may need to fall back on to solve a future problem.

    I’ve been reading up on the Author Solutions class action suit this morning, and it strikes me as the perfect example of how simply throwing money at a problem frequently only leads to more problems and isn’t the ultimate answer you’re looking for.

  45. Whatevs.

    I spent $3 on Liquid Fear (for stock photography to use on the cover), traded for editing, and invested perhaps $150-$200 in promotional money to launch. Did format and cover myself.

    It sold around 100,000 copies before Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer took it over and several tens of thousands of copies since.

    Good ROI.

    My strategy is to keep overhead as low as possible (who CARES what you can afford? Readers sure don’t) and start making money as soon as possible. I don’t know if this will work every time but it worked at least once.

    Whatever way you go, avoid people who KNOW the exact and proper way to do it. Because no one does.

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