Thursday, November 05, 2020

Secrets to Successful Self-Publishing: Invest in Your Team

By Laurisa White Reyes, @lwreyes

Part of The Indie Authors Series 

JH: There's a lot to consider before taking the indie-publishing plunge. 
Laurisa White Reyes shares tips and thoughts on how to put together the right team for publishing success.

Laurisa White Reyes is the award-winning author of seventeen books, including 8 Secrets to Successful Self-Publishing. She is also the founder and senior editor of Skyrocket Press and teaches English composition at College of the Canyons in Southern California. Visit her website at

Take it away Laurisa...

“Unless you pay the price for success, you will not know its worth.” – Apoorve Dubey 

It Takes a Village

Your book is written. You’ve revised it to death. You have your social media, website, and newsletter up and going. Everyone you know is anxious to get their hands on your story. Time to publish, right? Well, not quite.

Probably the biggest mistake self-published authors make is getting to this stage only to jump the gun and “put their book out there.” 

You can easily spot these books because they have unprofessional covers, their texts are full of typos, and their interiors are unattractive. They scream ‘SELF-PUBLISHED!!!’ These tend to be the books whose authors naively believed they could do it all themselves. 

I’ll let you in on a little secret: No author worth his salt ever does it all by himself. Ever. Not ever ever.

When you read traditionally published books, books produced by Random House, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, or Chronicle, THEY LOOK GOOD. Don’t they? The covers are awesome. The blurbs are awesome. The interior design is awesome. And the stories, the content, are awesome. Why? Because every book takes a village to create.

A writer writes. An editor edits. Designers design. Formatters format.

Your book needs its own village. Trust me on this. Don’t cut corners, because if you do, it will become painfully obvious, and I promise that poor quality of the final product, no matter how brilliant your story may be, will result in crappy sales.

Chances are you’ve spent months, maybe years on your book. How many hours would you estimate you’ve invested in it so far? Hundreds? Thousands? Then why stop investing in your book now? Your book deserves to be the best it can be, and for that to happen, it needs a team. 

Here is a list of what your book needs to become a professionally published book:
  • Developmental Editor
  • Line Editor
  • Proofreader
  • Cover Designer
  • Interior Layout Designer & Formatter
  • Publicist

Are you surprised? 

In a traditional publishing house, each of these tasks is performed by a different person. 

Self-published books, if done right, need the same care and attention. If you think you can do all of it yourself, or if you think you can just ask a neighbor or friend to edit your book or design your cover (for free), sure you can. 

But if you do, I guarantee the quality of your book will suffer. If you want a professional quality product (your book is a product), you need to invest in a professional quality team, and the reality is professional artists, editors, and formatters cost money – and they are worth it.

“But why?” you ask. “Why do I have to pay people to create my book?”

Do you have a job? Aside from writing, I mean. I am an adjunct college instructor. I teach composition. I teach six hours a week in the classroom and spend another ten hours a week preparing lessons and grading essays. At the beginning of each month, I get a paycheck. I work. I get paid. If I didn’t get paid, I wouldn’t work.

Editors work. Cover designers work. Formatters work. They deserve to get paid for what they do. Would you go to your job every day for free? Neither would they. 

(Here's more on What You Really Want to Know About Self Publishing)

How Much Is Too Much?

Let me begin this section with a question: How much is your book worth?

Let me say it another way: How much money are you willing to spend to produce the best quality book you can?

Be realistic here. If the answer is NOTHING. NOT A PENNY, then feel free to stop reading right here. I’m not interested in helping you crank out a shoddy book, and you shouldn’t be either.

But you also shouldn’t have to take out a second loan on your mortgage.

In 2018, I attended the Southern California Writers conference in San Diego. I listened to an author speak about his self-published book. I later bought and read it – a dynamic story and funny as all get out. The cover image was attractive and well-conceived, though the title font was a bit blah. Inside, the layout was at best bland. Not bad, but nothing special. I remember opening it, flipping through the pages, and thinking I could have done better.

The author spoke about his journey of writing and then publishing the book, including it having won some well-deserved awards. When he was done, he opened it up to questions. Someone asked him how much it cost to produce the book. His answer? In the ballpark of $10,000.

What the…?

Ten grand for THAT? I’m ashamed to admit it, but that’s what I was thinking. I loved the story, but the book itself…

Then another question. Had he sold enough books to make that money back?

His answer, after a little hemming and hawing, was—no. Not even close. He will likely never earn that money back.

The moral of the story is, in my opinion, $10,000 is way too much to self-publish a book. At least it is for me. I cannot afford that much money. I am solidly middle-class, part-time employed, supporting three full-time college students. I don’t have $10,000 just lying around. Maybe that author did. Maybe that much money wasn’t such a big deal to him, but I suspect that unless you are a corporate CEO or doctor or attorney, your situation is probably closer to my own.

So, realistically, how much money are you willing—and can afford—to spend on your book?

To give you some idea of what these different services cost, I’ll share Skyrocket Press’s fees. Let’s say your book is 50,000 words. Let’s add it up:
  • Developmental Edit: $850
  • Line Edit: $1,000
  • Proofread: $750
  • Cover Design: $350
  • Interior Design & Formatting: $350
  • TOTAL: $3,300

Does that seem like a lot? 

These fees are about average for the industry, though there are editors and designers out there who do charge less, and there those who charge more, a lot more. For example, Mary Kole, one of the best developmental editors in the field (she is a former New York literary agent) charges $3,000 for a 50,000 word manuscript developmental edit. 

Is she worth it? You bet she is. Personally, I couldn’t afford her full edit, but I did hire her to do a partial edit for my novel Memorable.

Emma Dryden (arguably THE best independent editor in the business) starts at $4,000 for a developmental edit on a novel and $6,000 for a line edit.

By now you are probably sweating. Don’t panic. There are really great editors out there who are much more affordable. Two editors I’ve used and have been very happy with are Judi Lauren and Bryon Quertermous. And of course, Skyrocket Press offers editing services as well. 

(Here's more on Considering Indie Publishing? Start Here.)

Raising the Cash

You’ve looked at your budget, and the money just isn’t there. You have two options: produce your book yourself for free (and face the consequences) or raise the money to pay for it. 

Crowdfunding is often quite successful, though some indie authors look down on it. Opinions vary. I won’t spend a great deal of time on the “how-to” of crowdfunding here since there are plenty of books and online sources to help with that. Below is a list of reputable crowdfunding options.

When I founded Skyrocket Press in 2012, my first project was to produce a collection of short stories for speculative fiction author Noelle Campbell, but her husband had recently died of a sudden illness leaving her as a single mom trying to raise her kids on her own. And she was flat broke. So together we hosted a Kickstarter campaign and successfully raised enough money to cover her costs. The result was the publication of Martian Goods.

The benefit of crowdfunding is that you likely already have a circle of supportive, loyal friends and fans excited to read your book. A campaign allows you to tap in on that enthusiasm. Potential readers invest in the future of your book and your career as an author by essentially buying the product up front with the promise that once it’s completed, they’ll be among the first to get a copy.

If you don’t feel comfortable with crowdfunding, my next suggestion is to carve out a slice of your regular income/budget for editing and publication services. 

I set aside between 10-20% of every paycheck for that purpose. I put it in a savings account where the money accumulates over time so that when I’m ready to produce a new book, I can afford it.

However you choose to fund publication of your book, don’t get sucked into the belief that you should do it all yourself and do it for free. Remember, you get what you pay for, and nowhere does that apply more than with self-published books.

Crowdfunding Sites

Note: GoFundMe is a popular site but is generally used for charitable causes. So, if you want to produce a book for the purpose of raising funds beyond publication but to support a good cause, this might be an option for you.

About 8 Secrets of Self Publishing

So, you’ve decided to self-publish your book. Great! What next? Time to consider these questions:
  • Is my book ready?
  • Can it be better?
  • Is self-publishing worth the effort?
  • Where will I find readers?
Publishing a book is easy. Successfully publishing a book takes commitment, teamwork, and yes—money. In 8 Secrets to Successful Self-Publishing, award-winning author and Senior Editor of Skyrocket Press, Laurisa Reyes, explains what it takes to give your book that special ingredient that will shoot it towards success. Learn how to develop your craft, gather a publishing team, market your book, and much more as you travel the road of self-publishing. Whether you're a veteran or new to the field, this book is a valuable resource that needs to be on every writer's shelf.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. A reality check for those of us who want to self-publish. I will be purchasing this book. Thank you for this on point information.