Sunday, February 26, 2012

Self-Published Authors: Why are You Paying for these Services?

The thing about self-publishing, something I really like, is that it's very DIY. You're in control of everything. You get to make your own cover (or not), you edit and format it (or not), and you're in charge of all your own promotion (or not).

So then, why the (or not)'s?

Some people (like me, in many ways) are just writers. They write a story, edit it, it's finished...and then what? Just a few years ago, if you had just completed a 80,000 word novel, your options were pretty much either to write to agents and editors asking for representation, or store it in the back of your closet and/or hard drive and write another book. Self publishing at this point was more or less a joke - an option, sure, but it was highly unlikely you were ever going to successfully sell any copies.

Now, though, that third "self publishing" option has opened up, and many authors, both new and experienced, are taking advantage. Many previously traditionally published authors have even switched over to 100% self-publishing, because they can often make more with a 70% royalty option over something like 8%.

But a trend that I'm witnessing, and am not in favor of, is new authors throwing their money away on things that are perfectly reasonable to do for free.

Granted, before I receive death threats and a downvote brigade, I do want to point out some things that, in my opinion, are somewhat reasonable to pay for.

  • Cover Art - I have seen some wonderful cover art that authors have commissioned others to design. I did not do this, because in my opinion, it wasn't worth spending money on a cover, when I wasn't sure I was going to make it back. Although, I have seen cases where a designer just purchases some cover art, crops it a bit, and adds a title. (More on this later.)
  • Stock photos - This can be lumped in with "Cover Art", because I know a lot of authors purchase stock photos for their covers. This is perfectly reasonable, and I plan on doing exactly this for when I release "The Night Life" - I even already have a few in mine (there's a girl who looks very close to how I imagine Tanya Roberts, one of my main characters!). This is especially useful when you're writing about something from say, the 1800's.
  • Editors - I am still wary on this one; I do believe that every author should try and proofread their own work; however, an editor might be worth the money for some people.
  • Advertisements: This one is more of a "maybe", but if you find a popular website willing to host an advertisement for a day (and hopefully not a pay-per-click ad), there may be value in this.
That said, I do not think new authors, especially ones without at least a few titles under their belt, should really be paying for most of these services, save for some stock photos for their cover art. I think authors that over-promote one book are mostly ridiculous - I want to slap most of them and ask if they're even working on another book (because the time some of these people put into their single title is just too much!). 

Not to mention the things I've seen people pay for - most of it could easily be done yourself, for free. Such things include:
  • Bad Cover Art Designers - I once saw a case where the designer herself just purchased some cover art, cropped it, and added a title. And the portion of the image they cropped was so small that the cover was blurry. What?
  • Blog Tours - Some companies, for the low low price of $99, will set up "blog tours" for you. But, why not just email some bloggers yourself and ask, "Hey, would you mind if I did a guest post?" You may have to email a lot of bloggers, depending on what you;re aiming for, but it's much better than spending $100 for somebody else to do the same thing.
  • Ebook Formatting - I really don't understand this one. By the time I published Family History: Part 2, the formatting took me maybe an hour (and that was just because I needed to go back through and reformat all the chapter heads). 
  • Setting up a Facebook Fan Page - I recently saw the blog post of somebody who paid a company to set up her Facebook Fan Page. Again, you can do this yourself in a few minutes, and you don't even have to pay anybody. In this case, this particular author had even set up another Facebook page for herself for one of her books. What? You can do one Facebook page, but two is just too many?
  • Reviews - Admittedly, I haven't actually run into this one personally, though I have heard stories of people who pay others to review their books for them. 
That's all I can think of at the moment, though I know there's plenty more out there.

Please, people, stop paying for some of these services. How you're willing to shell out this much money, to sell a few extra copies of a $2.99 book, is beyond me.


  1. I agree with you 100%! I see a lot of authors paying up the wa-hoo for this and that and I wonder where they get the money for it?

    I pay a lot of money for my book covers for the current series I'm writing because even though I can (and usually do) most of my own book covers there is a certain look I wanted for my covers and I wasn't confident in my own Photoshop skills to achieve what I wanted. But that was a deliberate decision.

    And once this series is done, I'll be back to designing my own covers.

    1. Yeah! Again, I'm good with people commissioning cover designs, to a point. There aren't stock images for everything, and we're not all photoshop masters. Though I'm probably not ever going to pay for cover art to be done, unless I'm helping out a struggling graphic designer friend, or something. :P