It’s Your Business

Several years ago, when I was green as lettuce and attended the Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith workshops on fiction writing — which made me a little less green, if nothing else by providing a much needed wilting — they kept saying the same puzzling phrase “Treat it like a business.”

And of course, I understood what they meant, and it was sense, but at the same time it wasn’t.  It’s very hard to treat as a business a career you have no control over, and which does not, and unless you’re very lucky cannot (yes, talent comes into it too, and the balance of talent and luck vary according tot he writer, but you still need to be in the right place at the right time, something you in the end have no control over) pay a living wage.  At least not if you’re already in the business and know that they’ve got you slotted mid-list.

Well, ladies, gentlemen and filofaxes, all that has changed, in the seven years, changed completely and turned on its head.

Even if you are, like me, still writing for traditional as well as indie, you have so much more control over your career, it’s not even funny.  The fact that indie authors who actually work at it are out-earning their traditional colleagues; the fact that my indie book out-earned my traditional ones, means I have options.  If for whatever reason working in traditional publishing becomes intolerable, I can escape and make more money.

And right there I can see some of you go “but if you can make more money, why are you still working for Baen?”

Because I treat it like a business.  Baen gets me exposure and distribution that indie can’t — yet — get me.  If and when that changes, I can always reevaluate.

The thing is a business isn’t just money.  Business isn’t having a product and selling it.  That’s what my mom used to call “buying and selling” a genteel hobby for a lady (according to her, don’t ask me.  She tried to convince me what I wanted to do — be a journalist — was no fit profession for a lady, while a little genteel buying and selling was okay.  Of course, I presume ladies had more money than we did, but there you have it.  Mom was aspirational.)  It’s not a business.  It is to some extent what I had before indie became viable.

What is the difference you say? Well, the first and most important difference is that you can’t “build” on a little buying and selling.  It happens, it’s not really fully under your control, it has no long term future.  Sure you can make a lot of money if you’re in the right place at the right time, but that’s only partly controllable because the authority is not in your hands.  Yes, it’s different if you come into the field at a higher level and your publisher doesn’t view you as midlist, because then you always have the power to walk for a better deal.  But if you were in midlist hell in the good ol’ (not) days, all you could do was take what was dished out, good or bad.  Which meant you couldn’t really make plans or work to build your future.

And in the end that’s what this writing business is “a future.”

No one — or at least very few people — makes a living from their first book.  I’m however reliably informed that after the 10th indie book (for whatever reason reissues don’t count) things get VERY interesting.  I’m not there yet.  I have one — count it, one — book published all on my own.  That’s going to change this year, and I hope to have ten by next year at this time.  However, I can plan to get there.  It’s under my control

At the same time I can plan projects to build my career with my publisher, and if they reject those projects I can take them indie.

The freedom is something I couldn’t even have DREAMED back six or seven years ago.

But with freedom comes responsibility.

Because any book you put out there is going to be scrutinized more closely than traditional books.  No, it’s not fair, but fair is a place where you sell livestock. Just like in the oughts people had an image of bloggers as working in their pajamas (I don’t.  I found out long ago if I treat the work day as a job, I work better and more.  so I’m sitting here wearing business-casual.  I am, however, on my sofa. The real post-blogging work day is upstairs in the office.) they have an image of indie authors as working at their kitchen table, and never proof-reading.  Which means if you have the average number of typos in a traditional book, you’ll get reviews talking about how you need editing.  Heck, even if you have no typos, someone from the school of “no sentence fragments, every sentence must be perfectly grammatical” will come along and slap you for no reason.

And then there’s other stuff, particularly if you are a new-ish writer.  Look, I’ve been at this for — heaven help me — almost 20 years from the time I sold my first book (but not that it came out) and let me tell you, even young geniuses can’t see the flaws in their plot or structuring.  More importantly, they don’t see how to “punch up” a book and make it better.  And of course you want your books (each of them) to be as good as possible.  Each book is an opportunity to hook readers who will read everything else you write, but you have to make sure you are as good as you can be.

So, this is where being a business comes in.  You hire people to help you, you manage your costs. Your forecast your revenues.  You set your schedule.

We’ll start with “atmosphere and impression.”  What I mean is that we humans are monkeys of habit.  Monkey see/monkey do.  And studies have shown, and it’s true, that what you wear and your environment affect your performance.  So, take off those skivvy jeans.  Now put something decent on.  I confess I don’t wear great clothes, mostly because I gain a ton of weight whenever an auto-immune attack hits and more if I go on prednisone.  So I don’t HAVE any great clothes that fit me.  I do wear jeans, but mostly black jeans, and a blouse of some sort.  (a step above t-shirt.)  I don’t look out of place when I have to go with Dan to the office.  I found early on that getting up on time and wearing clothes made it easier to get myself in working mode.  It also helps to “walk to work” (I walk about a mile, then go to the office to work)  And it helps to have different computers for different tasks.  Like I have a writing computer and an editing computer, and an art computer.

Okay, now that’s out of the way.  You, the CEO of Yourself corp, are in your office. You looked at your schedule, and you have a book due to be delivered in two weeks, and one making its way through your betas, and one being edited/getting a cover.

So, first thing in the morning, you make some “calls” (these are now mostly actually email.)

To begin with let’s clarify the process books go through.  Few people can write a clean first draft, even with much experience.  So the first thing you do to your book is read over for continuity.  Did you forget a character halfway through?  Did you change someone’s name/haircolor/etc?  More importantly, if your book changed directions halfways through (mine often do) did you go back and fix all the “pointers” in your foreshadowing (the thing that hints to your readers’ subconscious what’s going to happen?  For instance, if your girl was supposed to fall in love with A but she insisted on loving B, did she still notice how A looked, etc in chapter 3, while ignoring any mention of B’s looks?  Do one read for all of that.  Sticky notes are your friend.  (Yes, this is still easier done on paper.)  Then do one read for wording.  Are you really calling a desk “thingy for computer” because that morning you couldn’t remember “desk” to save your life?  Fix that and that sort of problem.  Do a third read for typos.

You are now done with your solitary work on this manuscript.  Send the manuscript to betas now.  Get as many betas as possible because most won’t answer.  No, it’s not your book.  It’s unpaid work, and people have jobs and lives.  I get about 25% response.

When your betas come back evaluate their input.  If three or more agree in a misstep, give it some thought.  It might not be exactly what they think it is — for instance when all my betas complained nothing happened in the first five pages of a short, they were objectively wrong: someone got killed, the body got hidden, etc.  However, I used passive voice throughout — but they’re seeing SOMETHING.

Some betas will also be nit picky on grammar and typos. Consider their input, but don’t change your voice/the tone of your book/your word choice unless you REALLY agree with them.  Some non-writers have the funny idea that fiction should be written in carefully constructed sentences consisting of subject/verb/predicate or object every TIME.  If you do what they want, you’ll achieve a soporific result.

Okay.  Now the free part of your book process is concluded, and you engage in the “paying pros” part.  Indie publishing has sparked whole rafts of associated professionals who do various parts of the journey of your book from head to market.

First up: structural editors.  These are not copy editors.  They’re people who will go through and tell you things like “if you punch up this scene, it will make a big difference”.  Or “Lose this character.  He’s not doing anything, and it slows the action down.”  Or… whatever.

These are probably the highest paid of the associated professionals.  And, let’s face it, most of them are not very good.  If you feel — or have become convinced — you need one, be prepared to shell $500 to a thousand, and take them only on recommendation.  I can recommend only one of those, D Jason Fleming. Editing at  djasonfleming dot com. Also if you’re on facebook, he’s on my flist.  He’s good enough not to do the thing bad structural editors mostly do: tell you to write the whole book and make it something THEY would write.

Next up: Copy editor.  Copy editors run anywhere from $100 for 20k words, and up.  There are people who will do it cheaper, though.  You ask the price and you see if you can live with it.  I can recommend Dave Truesdale (he edits Tangent online, so you can probably get to him via that. Or, again, my flist on facebook)  He charged me $400 for a horrendously in bad shape book (artifacts of conversion from Word Perfect to word everywhere.  Some words obliterated by them)  but less when the book is relatively clean.  Also, our very own Jason Dyck, aka Free Range Oyster, is a good and thorough proof reader/copy editor.  (Freerangeoyster at gmail dot com.)

Then there’s covers.  For covers I can heartily recommend Jack Wylder (again my flist on fb) who does the covers for my refinishing mysteries.

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The caveat is that it’s not his profession of choice, and he takes limited jobs.  I do okay at taking art, modifying it, and slapping a title/author name on it.

My son’s upcoming collection cover:
ALMOSTCURABLE1

It was a picture of a guy fishing.  I did things to it…

My husband’s cover:
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This one is a composite of many elements, plus a filter to do the cool effects.

Amanda’s covers:
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Most of these are from stock art, though several of them are made of various parts of art and run through filters.  I charge $200 and I have exactly ONE person who pays me.  The others we work out things.

Which brings us to another point: you see, it depends on how much money you can expect to make.  I made 20k (plus some) from my one indie book, but the thing is that until I have more of a frame of reference, I can’t be sure this is replicable.  So I try to put books out as cheaply as possible.  I do what I can do (covers) in exchange for copy-editing with Amanda, for instance.  A lot of writers have this sort of round-robin relationship in groups.  It’s more complex than paying, but also cheaper.  Again, it’s a business decision.  You have to decide.  if you’re a crazy-good copyeditor who sucks at art, but your buddy can do art and not copyeditting, it’s a no-brainer.

While talking of covers, I must mention that even if you don’t want to do your own, you’d benefit from taking the WMG cover class.  Most of the professional cover makers out there are either used to making literary-and-little covers, or — often — doing things to gratify their own artistic sense, and not to make a selling cover for you. Even if all you’re doing is giving art direction, it helps if you have a clue what a selling cover looks like.  Yes, the workshop is expensive.  That’s life.  All I can say is it will save you/pay you thousands in the long run.  Same for their typesetting/paperbook making course.

If you decide to make your own covers, there are free stock art sites.  My favorite is pixabay.  I’ve also worked with Morguefile, but there are others, and I’m sure they’ll show up in the comments.  If you can’t find what you want, the stock place I use most is Dreamstime.

When I put out a call for names and contact for associate professionals only two responded.  I don’t work/haven’t worked with either, but I know people who have.  The associated pros are:

Meghan of hyde-n-seek-editing.blogspot.com

(hide.n.seek.editing at gmail dot com)

This is her announcement:

I am an editor with my own business.  I have 20+ years experience editing books from all genres, and fully believe that writing a book is a team effort, one including the author, editor, and cover artist.  I also go above and beyond, believing that you can’t do one kind of edit without the others, and I read the manuscript a total of three times to make sure that I catch everything.  
Anyone who is interested in speaking to me about editing can reach me through my email address (hyde.n.seek.editing@gmail.com) or through Hyde ‘n’ Seek’s Facebook page.  If they mention your name or website, they will receive 25% off their project.
And Matthew Bowman:

My website is in my signature. I am not currently opening submissions, but that will change probably in a month after I do initial intern training. I will offer reduced rates (to be posted) for those who want to help train the interns. 

Of the two, I don’t know Meghan at all, but I know Matthew personally if not professionally, so I can speak for his probity, intelligence and detail-oriented abilities.
HOWEVER, again, it’s your business.  Any of the people I mention here, you should interview/evaluate on your own before you contract with them.  I should add that an editor/cover artist who is very good for me might suck for you due to different work styles, etc.

I have yet to find a publicist I agree with who will work for me.  The ones I’ve interviewed ranged from the goofy (got interested in my Shakespeare books, wanted me to break into academic publishing to push them.  At the time, note those books were out of print, and I wanted to publicize my urban fantasy.  Threw hissy fit when I pointed that out.  Not hired.) to the inscrutable (wanted me to write for Portuguese Publications in America.  Seemed to think that was my natural/only audience) to the scary (wanted to send out tons of spam (automated emails) advertising my books to his “very good list” — which had mostly non-fiction writers as clients.  Um… no.)

I do know a very good publicist, but he says writers are all crazy and make his hair go gray.  So there you have it.

So, your morning might very well be eaten by contacting people to see where your book is at, etc.  I try to limit that to two hours in the morning, since after that you have to write, but this depends on what it’s easier for you to do and when.
The point I’m trying to make is that your business IS a business.  You have to do other things besides writing, and hire people, and manage money as though it were a business.  Otherwise you’re just doing a little “genteel buying and selling” for “pin money” and that’s what you should expect it to remain.
Now go, and look after your business.

57 Comments

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57 responses to “It’s Your Business

  1. paladin3001

    Good advice for any self employed person really. When you are the chief cook and bottle washer, making sure everything is setup properly to get paid (after all this is what it’s all about) is necessary.
    Thanks for all the links to people that can assist.

  2. $20,000 on one indie book…nice! Congratulations! (says he who was closer to $200.00).

    • eh. It doesn’t matter. Some people have 200 for their first book, and then go on to make hundreds of thousands a few years later.

      • Listening to lots of indie scuttlebutt it seems your 10 book thing is on so we should all remember that.

        I also get the impression from other sources it is closer to 20-30 but that has been very multiple genre people who had some siloing.

  3. “Treating it like a business” is just great advice for running your life in general.

  4. Great post. I love it.

    In one of those odd quirks of fate, I was in that very same workshop with you. It’s hard to believe it has been seven years, but the advice does make a lot more sense to me now that I’ve been writing full time as an indie for the last few years.

  5. The other thing to remember is to give the person you’ve hired your best product. If you are lazy and figure your editor will catch stuff, he’ll take it up a level from what you’ve sent. But if you have it in better shape, that next level up will be higher than the first scenario. Also, you will learn stuff you didn’t know from their changes as opposed to stuff you do know and didn’t bother with. Don’t use the professionals as a substitute for doing your own work.

    I would love to work with a structural editor and haven’t yet. My suggestion comes as someone who used to have to review other people’s work in the day job.

    • sabrinachase

      This is actually a very important point and is part of Sarah’s “treat it like a business” theme. Treat your editor, artist, whoever as someone whose skills and time are valuable. Be reliable, do what you say you will do when you say you will do it. Pay on time and in full. *They* are a business too, so treat them as you would like to be treated.

      When I worked with a professional voice artist to record one of my books, he got a pronunciation guide as soon as the contract was signed, and my intention as to the “voice” of the main characters. He didn’t need to ask for it. When the recording files were done I reviewed them in a timely fashion so he could get paid quicker. My editor knows I will turn in the manuscript when I say I will, and that it will be sufficiently “clean” that she can budget *less time* for my edits. This means I can squeeze in her schedule when she has a gap and get done sooner 😀

      My artist…probably has a dart board with my picture on it. What can I say? I had to learn some things the hard way and he drew the short straw. Which is another pro tip. If you are going to irritate people, make sure they are in a different hemisphere so it is more difficult for them to mail you dead fish.

    • GWB

      Very true in lots of things, not just writing.

    • snelson134

      “Don’t use the professionals as a substitute for doing your own work. ”
      I have to disagree. That’s why you hire them: to provide skills you don’t have time to develop and labor you don’t have time to perform. My efforts at novel writing would inspire laughter and/or nausea;

      I buy books from the authors here because they are professionals who have mastered the skill of storytelling.

  6. Good stuff, Sarah, thank you. I would love to say that ten indie novels is the magic number, but I’m over that and a really, really good month is still below $500. My absolute lack of marketing has a great deal to do with that, I suspect. And bad covers on most of my short stories (see: marketing).

    Jason Dyck is very good. He did _Language of the Land_ and is currently working on the first Shikhari/RajWorld book. Charles Martin also does good work, but he’s gotten busy. One thing I found reallym really helpful in the beginning was having a style as well as copy edit. Nas Hedron taught me a lot about ticks I’d developed, and how to tame both the academic tendency and the overly-casual-in-the-wrong-places habit. And to make sure that when I use obscure words, I use the correct obscure word.

    • SheSellsSeashells

      FWIW, I picked up Language of the Land…not *exactly* on the strength of the cover alone, but it caught my eye when “Recommended For You” popped up on my way to search for something else. Backpedaled, eyeballed, downloaded, will read when end-of-school-year crazies abate.

      Just a small marketing data point (does that mean this anecdote IS data?).

  7. I really need to schedule myself better. Start working on those “These five books need new covers desperately, and I’ve got lists of typos from a reader with too much time on his hands that need to be entered into the master copies so that will be done and ready when I upload the new cover . . . ”

    And it shouldn’t be difficult, since my Muse thinks 2PM to 2AM is a good time to write.

  8. Very good stuff for anybody seriously considering an indie career. And thank you for the references for editors and proofreaders, I’m contacting one of them for an upcoming project.

    Not sure if publicists can help indies – so far most people I’ve heard of mostly mass e-mail assorted news outlets and seem to do very little else. On the other hand, if I could find someone who got me into Instapundit more often (each time I get mentioned there it’s like a mini-Book Bub promo), I’d gladly consider putting them on the payroll 🙂

  9. Great post, I very much agree on treating it like a business, I started out that way more out of habit than anything, because I’ve had a couple of businesses of my own in the past. I also agree on the being held to a different standard. Someone always tells me to ‘hire an editor’, even on the books that were professionally edited.

    I must admit I am very tempted to look into hiring a structural editor to see if I can bring my writing up to the next level. And I probably should talk to Jason about proof reading / copy editing. If I’m going to pay someone to do it, I’d rather pay it to him, rather than someone I don’t know.

    I did try hiring someone to do promotional work for me earlier this year, and yeah, that didn’t go very well. I think your friend is right though, we are all crazy. Perhaps the biggest issue with promotions is that each genre seems to have a different set of ‘rules’ and if you hire someone used to working in one that isn’t yours, they’re just not going to be very effective. Or at least that’s how I perceive it.

    Thanks for the post, and thanks for the help you’ve given all of us over the years. Sometimes I don’t think we say that enough to those who have helped us.

    • SheSellsSeashells

      FWIW, I consider myself reasonably good at structural editing, and I need to get some official-like work under my belt to build up my portfolio. (Current official-like portfolio consists mostly of copy editing and marketing writing, and I’m desperately trying to expand it.) Poke me at a-g-g-r-o-k-i-t-t-y at the geemail if you want to chat. 🙂

  10. I’m not so sure that indies are getting a bad rap on typos and other “minor” editing issues. I’m a voracious reader and while I don’t *look* for errors, I do get pulled out of a book by especially noticeable ones; use of “in the passed” for “past”, leaves me snarling, “How could you possibly be confused, it’s not even the same part of speech!” And that certainly seems to happen more often with indie authors.

    I suspect that indie publishing has opened the gates to a lot of inexperienced writers who think that running spell check on a manuscript is all the editing they need to do. You, and other good indie writers, are being unjustly tarred with the same brush as these incompetents. I don’t see any way out of that… probably wouldn’t work to put “Recipient of The Good Editing Seal of Approval” on the covers.

    • Uncle Lar

      I always like to copy edit in MS Word and I use its grammar and spelling function extensively, mostly to ignore 90% of what it highlights. That’s the real trick, to have a feel for when there is a legitimate error in phrasing and when it’s just how people normally speak and think.

    • Oh, I can tell you how that one happens: I bet the writer like me has a voice-narration going and the fingers take dictation. Mine type the most absurd things, sometimes. Live for leave, for ex.

      And it’s amazing how a book that goes through THREE copyedits still retains stuff like that.

    • (Since I cannot seem to leave a comment on your site… have yet to dig deep into why..)
      Once upon a time a roommate had me read his paper. The spell check said all was well, but that merely indicated that all the words were words, not that any where the right words. He was grateful that I managed to catch one nasty little mistake. The term “public humiliation” has a rather different meaning when the first L has been dropped.

    • While I feel a twitch to offer a free copyedit to some indie authors I have read (for the same reason you mention), including a few that visit this site, I have seen the same things in traditionally published works, to the same degree. I’ve even seen more than one case where sentences got put out of order (or in one case, an entire chapter was duplicated), and the same error endured through more than one release.

  11. Uncle Lar

    Hardest lesson I had to learn when I started doing beta reads for author friends was to savagely suppress my instinct to call out every typo and grammar mistake. I still make note of them, because that soothes the English schoolmarm nag in the back of my head, but my focus is to cast a mind’s eye on myself. Is the story grabbing me, does it make sense, would I pay money to read this? Only grievous errors in continuity get called out during the beta exercise, things like names or physical descriptions that change from chapter to chapter with no explanation. As for the use of only grammatically correct complete sentences, any Hoyt manuscript would send such a nit picker into terminal shock. Sarah’s stuff in particular. Dan and Robert not so much.
    I’ve done copy edits as favors for friends, including a few of those covers you showed. Probably need to double my fee structure from the sound of things. Not looking for work in any case as helping a couple author friends with various business related efforts has me fully occupied.
    If asked nicely I am available as subject matter expert on various aspects of space operations, firearms lore, details pertaining to industrial engineering, and a few other oddities.
    At least indie publishing is keeping me out of the cheap bars and whore houses, darn it. I’d been looking forward to a retirement of quiet dissolution, but it just ain’t happening.

  12. Trussed knots thigh spiel Chequers. [Chequers is the
    country cottage of the English Prime minister.]

    I did a line edit of friend’s scientific monograph; friend was not a native speaker of English. It was a fairly long book. That took several months.

    • There are several levels of grammatical editing, from spelling and word choice, to word order, to phrase and clause order.

    • This poem about spell checkers dates back to the early 90s. For more details on the origin see: https://www.thoughtco.com/spell-checker-poem-by-mark-eckman-1692348

      Candidate for a Pullet Surprise
      by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H. Zar

      I have a spelling checker,
      It came with my PC.
      It plane lee marks four my revue
      Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

      Eye ran this poem threw it,
      Your sure reel glad two no.
      Its vary polished in it’s weigh.
      My checker tolled me sew.

      A checker is a bless sing,
      It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
      It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
      And aides me when eye rime.

      Each frays come posed up on my screen
      Eye trussed too bee a joule.
      The checker pours o’er every word
      To cheque sum spelling rule.

      Bee fore a veiling checker’s
      Hour spelling mite decline,
      And if we’re lacks oar have a laps,
      We wood bee maid too wine.

      Butt now bee cause my spelling
      Is checked with such grate flare,
      Their are know fault’s with in my cite,
      Of nun eye am a wear.

      Now spelling does knot phase me,
      It does knot bring a tier.
      My pay purrs awl due glad den
      With wrapped word’s fare as hear.

      To rite with care is quite a feet
      Of witch won should bee proud,
      And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
      Sew flaw’s are knot aloud.

      Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
      Such soft wear four pea seas,
      And why eye brake in two averse
      Buy righting want too pleas.

  13. Pingback: The Slicing Edge of Freedom | According To Hoyt

  14. With a casual mentor’s help, I have tried AMS (Amazon Marketing Services – ads). My RoI is in the wrong direction, and I was not aware that AMS ads will sicken and die – and not be put up by Amazon for people to see – after a while.

    BUT – I had both sales (which they charge you for) and borrows from KU (which they do not) for as long as the ads were running, and immediately dropped to zero of both when the ads were no longer ‘live’ – so I KNOW what I have to learn now is how to make them work better for me. That is business, I have no interest in it – but it must be done, or I’m only selling to the few people who both like my kind of novels AND I have direct contact with.

    I’m convinced I have a good product in a neglected niche, so the rest is up to me. And I WILL do it. AM doing it.

  15. TRX

    > easier done on paper

    Up into the 1980s at least, air traffic controllers still used file cards instead of computers. Each plane’s information was written on a card, and the cards were slid left to right until they were not needed and swept into a trash basket.

    It worked even for high-traffic airports, was immune to all the ills of computers, and it provided a record of the type that was admissible in court, should the need ever arise. Last I heard computers were being installed anyway, because, well, computers.

    • That’s so similar to how we dispatched in a major outage. Phone and a note pad, later index cards. These there collected periodically and grouped by outage. Way more efficient that it looked, especially at 0 dark 30 with a desk covered with outages and a note of who was assigned to it.

      Now it’s call center and software, and while the software does have advantages, it’s essentially the same thing we did with index cards/note pads.

  16. The cost question is a big one for me and one I wonder if you can do a follow on/reboot things with.

    If I am figuring at best I’m looking $200 for my first indie book (which isn’t that bad if you consider it…that’s 95 sales at $2.99 and 70% royalty costs are a real issue.

    A $400 edit is taking a $200 loss in that scenario even if I make my own cover.

    Skipping a good copy edit is hard to accept but paying twice what my outside estimate of a book will sell in the next 52 weeks is a pretty hard thing to swallow. On the flip side I want to establish a good pattern on at least how the book is presented so I’m not sure copy-edit is “I’ll buy it when it sells enough.”

    Covers it is easier to see a reboot thing. I could make my own cover.
    I have been getting ahead of myself I have been talking to my wife about photographs to do for my first book’s cover even though I’m only about 25% done with the rough draft (her hobby is photographer so it was a natural thing). If I sell 600 copies then I’ve paid for the above copy-edit and could sink that $200 into a better cover or maybe wait if the book is going to be in a series and redo books 1 and 2 when I get to 3 or some such.

    I realize you need to spend money to make money but the idea of spending $1000/book for the first 10 books to hit critical mass seems…well, not sure what the prudence factor is.

    Any thoughts on scheduling out costs and doing cost/benefit analysis (hey, the day job title says Financial Analyst so I’m going to look at it that way…I looked at OkCupid emails that way).

    • If you look around, you can find a number of high-selling indy authors who in the description/blurb of their first book will have something about the book being ‘re-edited now that I can afford it’, or something similar. So yes, doing a ‘reboot’ kind of thing is an accepted practice.

      Good luck.

    • I have NEVER spent 1k per book. I came closest with Witchfinder, but that’s because of sunken costs of a cover artist who didn’t deliver anything usable. (no more paying up front.)

      • I reached $1000 by $500 for a copy edit and $500 for a good cover. If I’m over estimating that is great.

        • I spend about $350 for a really good cover. I use ebooklaunch.com and have been very happy with them for years now. I would say to ask others who they’ve used and what their experiences have been.

    • Some of this, too, is how confident you are in your final product. There are indy authors who really, really need a copyeditor. Jim Curtis is an awesome guy and a great author, and I finally figured out about the third thing I beta-read for him that he puts in a comma every time he’d pause for breath if he were telling the story out loud.

      This drives me batty. His editor is not a follower of the oxford comma, but she cleans it up to a consistent style so it reads very smoothly in final form.

      Peter, on the other hand, self-edits a good 4 to 5 times before he sends out to beta readers, and then at least that many after the beta changes are made before publication. Despite not having an editor on his indie stuff, his copy is extremely clean. (But he also came out of a much stricter school standard than the US system, so he is much better at it than most people I’ve met, copyeditors included.)

      • I finally figured out about the third thing I beta-read for him that he puts in a comma every time he’d pause for breath if he were telling the story out loud.

        Elocutionary punctuation. Historically well-attested, but less favored by grammar teachers.

        • The problem with grammar is it is always a moving target. Just look at the history of the apostrophe, for example. It was created by a french printer and its use is constantly changing. Now they’re talking about doing away with it, at least for possessives, maybe more?
          And look at quotes marks for dialogue. The English use single, we use double. There are other differences in grammar between US and English grammar as well.
          And last of all, there are what? Three? Four? Different style guides for grammar in America and they don’t even agree with each other, much less with -themselves-. Heck, I think it’s the ‘Elements of Style’ guide which tells you not to use passive voice, but which makes extensive use of passive voice itself.
          Part of why English is such a hard language.

  17. I’m hoping my copy gets cleaner going forward… as it stands, every time I came across a problem I had to shoehorn in a solution and leave a note to put in a line where they made the magic-proof shotgun from iron pipes in the first place so they have it in hand now. (And all the Chekhov’s guns I’ve placed have wound up going nowhere, too, more’s the pity.) A major character invented halfway through the book when he needs to have existed from the beginning. Et cetera…

    It’s all part of learning. I guess I just hope I don’t manage to edit it to death when I insert What Should Have Been There All Along.

    But I think that’s probably engaging in the good old Worry About Everything hobby.

    • Yeah, I have a similar problem. And likewise, worry about the editing to death since most of my books need expanding not trimming after the first draft to fill in the holes. I have noticed the ‘bare bones’ I do tend to wind up with after first drafting tend to be cleaner as I’ve gone along so there’s hope! We’ll see if it carries through to the final.

  18. Thanks for all the excellent tips and leads. I’m still at the stage where I’m relying on the help of some amazingly talented friends for proofing and editing. I hope sales will justify changing that soon!

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