The cost of being an Indie Author.


“Chapter 1…gah!  This is a terrible story!”

Besides for all your time laboring over your manuscript, slurping coffee ad infinitum, refusing sleep, and generally slaving away at a keyboard for months of your life…there is the monetary cost to being an “Indie” author.  As easy as Amazon has made it for anyone to upload a document and slap a cover over it and hit PUBLISH (all for free), you have likely just doomed yourself to utter failure and disappointment.  Has your book been edited?  Copyedited?  Proofread?  Have you paid for a professional cover?  The answer to those questions can, and will, likely determine whether your book is successful or not (or, at least, sell more than if you uploaded your MS Paint cover you drew yourself!).

Most professional editing services will cost you anywhere from $500-$1500 for a typical book (80k words), depending on who you use.

Copy-editing can run you roughly the same price, but a lot of places combine both the edit/copyedit/proofread services into one fee such as Createspace, with varying degrees of editing.  Another term for this complete package is “Development Editing” which can run as high as $6,000 for a full novel.  They’ll work with you from typos and sentence structure, to plot and character issues.  After struggling with your massive beast of a story, you may even consider doing an entire re-write based on their feedback!


Development Editing requires a trivial amount of money.

Enlisting a cover designer can run you from FREE (your MS Paint masterpiece) to $800 depending on quality and amount of work.  There’s a lot of “premade” covers that, if you happen to find one that fits your story, will save you a lot of $$$.  Custom covers, particularly from established and professional companies, will look unbelievably awesome but will set you back another $500+.

Obviously, even $500 can be out of reach for most new authors.  However, editing and a professional cover is a necessity regardless of your budget.  That is, if you want to give your story the best possible chance of success.  If you happen to tell a good story, even if there are some plot/character issues, reader’s will still enjoy it.  Will it be as good as it could have been?  Maybe not.  Yet despite a good story, every reader will notice editing issues.  Typo’s, poor sentence structure, double-words and word usage, or even Frankenstein sentences that will outright confuse a reader.  All of these things will take the reader out of the story, and some will even put it down before finishing it.

Looking back at my first book I published on Amazon, I cringe at the problems.  Thankfully, the content was good enough that nobody complained about the lack of professional editing.  A Cold Black Wave underwent better, but incomplete editing, and suffers from some issues that can be distracting.  With Dustland, I’ve learned to take publishing far more seriously than I have before.  I’m not ready to shell out $6k, but I’ve went with a professional cover designer and will have extensive editing done.

A lot of Indie authors are making thousands of dollars per month on their books, and while one can argue that spending $6k on a “Developmental Edit” is worth it if you are serious about your novel, most others aren’t quite ready (or confident) enough that they’ll see a return on that investment yet.  Yet, changing one element of your plot, or adding a specific character you didn’t think of, could end up turning your “good” book into a best-seller.

Despite all of the above, most new and even established Indie authors find a multitude of ways to save money in publishing their book.  None of us want to spend $500 or more to publish a book.  Each author has different finances and different needs.  Some of us even know people who are willing to do editing or cover work for free.  For my book ACBW, my friend did the cover design and in return, I agreed to donate 10% of the profits each year to a charity of his choice.  In the end, don’t be afraid of self-publishing because of any associated costs.  Paid services are NOT required to publish.  However, the more professional your product (in every way), the better chances it has of succeeding.

I’d love to hear from anyone who have used any kind of editing/proofread/cover designer services, and would recommend their work regardless of the price points.  There’s a lot of diamonds in the rough out there that could use the recognition, I’m sure!  And who knows, maybe I’ll use them. 😉

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