Recently, fellow Missouri author Lisa Medley posted a blog post about the cost to self-publish her first book. Now, some folks have given her a little flack for paying for things she didn’t have to, and the amounts she paid and so on, without understanding the context of her choices. They’ve claimed some of her expenses were mistakes. But while she made some different decisions than I did, I think I’d rather have made her mistakes than mine. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Lisa through a local writers’ group, and I was thrilled for her when Harlequin picked up her Reaper series a few years back, right around the time I was first published by Pendraig Publishing, a small press out of California. Oddly enough, we both had some similarities in our experiences, in that we both got picked up by publishers, and we were both disappointed by the results. And we BOTH went to self-publishing.
Now, here is where our experiences differ. First off, Lisa writes in the VERY competitive romance market, specifically in paranormal romance. I write urban fantasy and zombie fiction. Technically, the zombie novels are post-apocalyptic sci-fi. And I will tell you from a total lack of experience but from knowing folks who know the business…romance is an expensive genre to write in. Sci-fi and fantasy…not so much. So it stands to reason that though we’re both following a similar path to publishing, our costs were different.
Lisa broke her costs down pretty thoroughly for her first book, and I thought I would do something similar for my first self-published book.
. . . .
So, on with the show. Here’s how the expenses for Zompoc Survivor: Exodus played out.
Zompoc Survivor Exodus
Write the book: Time and energy, $0
Recruit beta readers in place of an editor: Time and energy, mention in acknowledgements, $0
Make cover myself: Time, effort, $0
Format myself on Smashwords & Amazon: Time, effort, headaches, stress, $0
Get ISBN number from Createspace for print copy: $0
Let Amazon assign ASIN instead of ISBN to e-book: $0
Createspace proof w/ slow boat to China level shipping: $6.36
Advertising via spamming on promo groups on Facebook: 2-4 hours daily, $0
10 copies from Createspace: $35.50
Prize shipping: $30
Total cost: Time, effort, Sanity, hair loss, $71.86
Now, notice one HUGE thing I did different from Lisa: I did a LOT of the work myself. Formatting, cover, editing, all me. Some folks might think this is a great idea. But while some folks have pointed out on Facebook that Lisa paid for some things that might not have been strictly necessary, I am here to tell you, she made the better decision!
First off, the editing. This is something no writer should try to handle on their own, in my personal opinion. Here, let me get on my soapbox and shout that out with a megaphone and some neon lights. DON’T DO IT! If you love your readers…if you want to ever HAVE readers, don’t edit your own work if you can avoid it. Even if you can’t avoid it, at least get some good beta readers. See, I was very lucky when I went searching for beta readers. I asked other successful writers who they had beta read their work, and I went to talk to those people. Best bad decision I ever made, that. One of those beta readers now has her own business as an editor and proofreader. So, I wasn’t smart, I was lucky.
Second dumb thing I did that ended up turning out okay: the cover. For my cover, I went through some of my photos and found one in my files that I could alter to the point you couldn’t tell who it was or where they really were with ease because of the composition of the photo. Then I took it from color to black and white and ran it through a water-color wash and BAM, instant iconic image for my cover. Then, I did one other smart thing. Remember how I talked to other successful authors about beta readers? Same thing here. I found out what worked and made the changes they suggested. And it worked. Of all my covers, it’s by far the most amateurish, and it shows. But again, luck favored me in many ways.