Authors and Money: You’ve Gotta Spend a Little To Make a Little

I suspect there is something in us indie writers that hasn’t yet connected to the idea that indie and self-publishing also means indie and self-publishing money; money that comes out of our own pocket.

I suppose that somewhere along the lines many of us began to dream of great success with tens and hundreds of thousands of books sold, all without the bother of having to spend a dime on things like professional book cover design, editing and marketing.

How did we get to this point?

It’s possible that we’d heard about how easy self-publishing is; how simple and uncomplicated the process can be (true enough, though this has nothing to do with the quality of the book project that’s being produced, just the route that’s being taken, but that’s for another topic).

And, sure, I suppose we’d heard of writers who’ve had great success without seeming to spend a lot of money for their efforts.

Yet even in these rare cases of success, I can assure you that writers either compensated for lack of funds by spending extra time publicizing their work, had great interaction with fans, published multiple books  in order to get their names out there, or simply hit the jackpot with a book that happened to capture the audiences imagination (some of these writers might’ve initially spent more money on their book projects than you’ve come to believe).

Great for them! For the rest of us still stuck back here on earth, our approach might have to be more practical.

So, let’s get back to the issue of money; not crazy ridiculous, break-the-bank money, either. I’m not talking about spending a fortune here. After all, some of you can barter for services from editors, book formatters and cover design professionals. Nor am I’m talking to those of you who honestly can’t afford the outside help right now. I know the economy is tough and tight. So if you don’t have the money, well, you don’t have it.

Who I am talking to are those of us who can afford the services of professionals, with perhaps some temporary suffering involved (i.e. not eating out for a couple of months, my friends), yet still want to be “cheap” and do everything on our own.

But, you see, if you’re self-published, you’re officially now a business man or woman, and you must deal with the undeniable fact that no business person thinks of entering a business without spending money (even if it’s someone else’s money).

Business people know this to be true, but artists? Well, as Mark Twain once said about the literary minded, “literary persons are flighty, romantic, unpractical, and in business matters do not know enough to come in when it rains or any other time.”

His quote was a reference to his own financial failings in the publishing business; a colossal indictment against artists and their business sense, or lack thereof.

In this day and age, however, let’s decide to be smarter about our writing careers. Let’s decide neither to regret nor be shocked by the idea of spending hard earned cash on producing our books and furthering our projects.

When I finally decided to publish my short story collection “The Blueberry Miller Files” in July I knew I wanted it to be professionally packaged and I knew it would hit me in the pocket book, but I didn’t mind one bit.

So, I hired an editor who had worked with Scholastic books, (Jessie Leaman), a professional book cover designer, Rebecca Swift, to make me a fabulous cover (because in the book world, people really do judge your book by its cover), and asked Guido Henkel to take on the frustrating task of converting my 111 page manuscript into a format that was suitable for publication on such sites as Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords (I was on a self-imposed deadline for formatting, and when I told Guido I needed the book formatted in 3 days he turned around and had it completed in a day a half).

I am so glad I did. Everything was done quickly, professionally, and without me having to fret about technical things I honestly know nothing about.

As for the amount of money I spent ($1,800, total)  in this day and age of digital publishing we writers no longer have to worry about our books getting taken off a shelf somewhere in a bookstore. Our books can remain on the “shelves” of the internet for years to come, giving us ample time to recoup the money we’ve spent on producing our little gem.

What’s more, a professional product will enable you to declare to the world, “I’m a writer!” and mean it, knowing that your book can compete with the best of the books in whatever genre you’ve chosen to write in.

Yes, yes, I know spending money is still a hard idea to stomach, but it’s time to admit that it costs a little money to make a little money. It’s a simple fact of life – and it’s a reality we artists must begin to embrace.

Related Posts:

5 Reasons Authors Must Have a Blog

The Blueberry Miller Files

Author A. Yamina Collins has been featured on for women in business and several other marketing and literary blogs. Her new book,  The Blueberry Miller Files is a collection of tales about the humor, awkwardness, and tragedy of the human condition. You can purchase it on Amazon.



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Troy Johnson says: September 12, 2012 at 9:28 am

Excellent advice — hiring professionals at every stage of the book project is important. Now that the book is out, will you eventually talk about your budget for publicity and advertising?

    A. Yamina Collins says: September 12, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Hi, Troy,

    Well, here is the short version.
    To have my book professionally edited, formatted and cover-designed cost me $1,800.

    As for marketing, I am just getting into that and a social media company has cost me $399 a month, my business coach is $360 a month and Google Ad words has been just above $500. This does not include the PR help I aim to hire.

    Once I have had a proven record of sales, I will be sharing more details with my audience.

    Thanks for the questions, Troy.