Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Life of an Indie Author

     Sooo… Recently someone asked me why I self-publish and why not go with a publisher. Only a few moments later, a read a post from a reader saying that she is skeptical on buying Indie books because so many are so badly edited. Today, I’m going to try and shed some light on this subject.

Gotta have a hottie in there somewhere.
     First off, I’ve done the publisher route. The first experience was pretty good. Well it was until they didn’t pay me. It wasn’t much. It was for a short story, but still, I deserved to be paid for work done. I did submit invoices, wrote emails and finally gave up because it was taking more of my time up than it was really worth. Still, over all I was fairly pleased with them.

     The second publisher was a nightmare from start to finish. The editing process was long and tedious. On the first round of edits, the editor asked me to rewrite a paragraph. I did. The second editor didn’t like that same paragraph, so I tweaked it and sent it back. The first editor didn’t like that and asked for something different. A third editor said that the same paragraph didn’t make sense and it needed work.

     Okay, this had been going on for weeks by this point and no one was telling me what specifically they wanted, or were looking for. So what did I do? I changed it back to exactly the way it was in the first place and everyone loved it. Go figure.

     If there were the only issue with this publisher, I could have dealt with it, but no. That was only the beginning. That book has been out for almost two years now and I’ve yet to be paid anything for it. Not one red cent. Nada. Nothing. I’ve asked for the rights back, but have never gotten a response from them. Come to find out, I’m not the only author this has happened to. Its okay, Karma is a real bitch.

     The last issue that I have with publishers is that it takes them months to get a book out. That is time money is not coming in. From the time I finish a book, till the time it goes live is a lot less. Now granted, it still takes time, and this is where I get into the comment about editing issues.

     After I finish a book I turn it over to a beta reader. I try to proof it myself first, but by that time, I’m usually sick of looking at it, and I miss things. It looks and sounds right in my head, but that doesn’t mean it actually is.

     So, first beta read… They are looking for plot holes, things that don’t make sense, name mix ups and things like that. After they are done, I will go back over it, make corrections and then send it back to them. They have another look and send it back, often with more corrections.

     I’ll go over it once again and then I will send it off to an editor. This is where the real work begins. First off, editors are not free nor are they cheap. This can be very expensive. The more time they have to spend on it, the more expensive it gets, so it is wise to try and give them the cleanest manuscript possible. If they have to go over it a second time, you get charged for that round of edits as well, round two and possibly round three. They don’t work for free and I don’t expect them to. However, I try and keep the cost down as much as possible, so I do my very best to limit it to only two rounds.

     After I get the edits back from the editor, I go through the story again. How many times is that now? Now you can see why I get sick of looking at the damn thing. Okay, so I go through it once again… then off to a second beta reader. They still catch stuff. No one is perfect and things slip through.

     Oh guess what, I then get to go over the thing again. Yep, joy-joy. By now I’m ready to start drinking first thing in the morning. I begin to hate the characters and have self-doubts if this damn book is any good at all.

     Now, all this does take time. I can’t expect a beta reader, who does this out of the goodness of their heart, to do a one or two day turn around. They have lives too after all. The editor, depending on their own work load, can sometimes take up to two weeks to get a round of edits back to me, for an averaged sized book.

     And guess what? I send it off to yet another beta reader. Yes, I usually have three different beta readers go over this story as well as the editor. I learned the hard way about putting out something that had major editing issues. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was my first go-round, and I learned a lot. So yes, I try and put out as clean and polished product as I possibly can.

     On average, I say I can get a book ready to go live in five weeks, compared to six months or longer with a publisher. Yes, it is a lot of work and can be frustrating as hell, but again, I’d rather get it out there to readers than it sit on someone else’s desk for who knows how long.

     Then we get to the cover… yeah, that pesky thing. I thank my lucky stars that I have A.J. Corza who does my covers. The woman is a true artist and a genius. We work very well together. There are times I have something in my head and she will go in a completely different direction and it is amazing. No, I don’t mind that she does that. She knows me, what I like, how I work and she’s always spot on. Of course there are times that she does go with my ideas, and that works too. But let me make this clear, she doesn’t work for free either.

     What I truly love about self-publishing is the freedom it allows me to get all this done. Of course I’m out of pocket hundreds of dollars before you know it, but that’s on me. I’d rather pay for that freedom.

     “Well the publisher promotes the books, don’t they?”

     Uhhh, not that I’ve seen. The two publishers that I worked with didn’t post, promote or do anything to get my work out there and into the hands of readers. Nope, I did that. And guess what, I don’t see any other author’s work getting promoted either. They end up doing it themselves, for the most part.

     There are a few exceptions here: The Bears of Winter. That editor and the publisher both promoted that anthology. They are one of the few that I would consider working with again. Also Wilde City does more promoting than any other publisher that I’ve seen, so I’d look at them if I ever decided to go with a publisher again.

     The dirty side of indie publishing: money. Oh yeah, there’s that too…

     Readers who do not know me or my work will balk at spending $2.99 on a short story, especially if it is under the one-hundred-twenty-five page mark. I have no idea why that page number is the magic number, but it seems to be. So let me break it down for you…

     Editing…costs money. Cover art costs money. Time, well I’d like to think my time is worth a little something. Ahhh, but the biggie is that giant that everyone loves to hate: Amazon. Why does Amazon have anything to do with it? I’ll tell you. (Like you thought I wouldn’t?)

     Amazon has this little rule… anything below the $2.99 mark, the author only makes thirty-five percent of total sales. Anything $2.99 and above, the author makes seventy percent of total sales. This has nothing to do with that KU thing. Not even going there. It is a hard balancing act. Ahhh, but then there are those who are constantly saying they want bigger books; longer stories. I am all for that. I myself love a nice long book. BUT, and it is a big but; are readers willing to pay for that longer book. The numbers say no. This is why you will see many authors aim for the sixty-thousand word mark. Remember, this is not only an art, but also a business.

     Let’s go back to the editing process for a moment. Editors charge by the word. For just one round of edits, the price can vary from $0.0025 to $0.035 per word! That is just one round of edits. A lot of time it will have to go through a second round of edits, which will often be less, but still, that is money out of pocket.

     I’m going to use the lowest number, the $0.0025, here as an example. That’s $150.00 for a sixty-thousand word book, for just one round of edits. Add another $100.00 to that for a second round, and as you can see, it gets a little expensive for an individual. It is very easy to be in excess of $500.00 to get a book to market, and that isn’t a huge book.

     Double the size of the book and you are going to double, at minimum, the cost of producing the book. Often times, the longer the book, the more the editor is going to charge per word because it is going to take more of their time.

     The average cost of an ebook is around $4.99. That is roughly a sixty-thousand word book, give or take a bit. Are readers willing to pay more for an indie author’s book even if it is longer? Again, the numbers say no.

     I’m currently working on My Hero: The Olympian, which is well beyond that mark. It could easily reach the six hundred page mark, no problem. Here is the dilemma: Do I charge for the word/page count or do I charge for what the market will bear? Do readers really want longer books? Will readers pay for a longer book? See where this is going?

     Readers want longer books but rarely are they willing to pay for them.

     Now for a total topic jump… damn, I’m longwinded today…

     European book sales are in the toilet. Why? Because most European Governments have placed a VAT (taxes to us Americans), of anywhere from 19% to 22% per book. I personally think that is outrageous. Not only has it hurt the readers, but it isn’t much fun for the author either.

     Before the end of this year, I am going to offer all my books at the same price, across the board, to ALL readers directly from my website. We’ll see if Amazon will allow this, the big brother that they are, or not. I’m going to try at least. I think the European readers are getting ripped a new one and I don’t think that is right. We’ll see how it goes.

     What did I do this week as far as doing something nice for someone? Nothing individually, however I did finish a story for charity, which I enjoyed doing. I loved the story, even if it did make me want to jump on a plane and go stuff my face with ├ęclairs. It is being divided among charities that I believe in, so I feel good about that. How did y’all fair this week? Did you reach out and touch someone’s life, even if it was just a tiny bit?

     I bet you did! Have a great week, y’all,

And I leave you this.... enjoy!