Common Services for Indie Authors: Are They Worth It?

I’m in the process of finalizing my first non-fiction book for publication. (So stoked!) I’ll reveal more about that soon, but today I want to explore a topic all indie authors face: where to invest our money.

It’s no mystery that self-publishing requires a financial investment. The last thing any serious author should do is write a book, attempt to edit it themselves, slap on a makeshift cover and send it to Amazon. But we also need to be mindful of that little thing called a budget.

Circulation in business

Most indie authors don’t make huge income quickly or at all through their books—though both are possible. It takes awhile for most of us to break even upon publishing, then go on to profit. (It took me a good year to start profiting from In Her Shadow.) Many companies profit far more than writers from self-publishing, and there can be a fine line between a worthy investment and being taken advantage of.

1. Quality cover design — worth the investment

In some cases cover cheapness really shows, and could serve as the only sign a writer published her own book versus was published traditionally. There’s no shame in self-publishing, of course, but we want our books to be as respected as those on traditional shelves. And folks really do judge books by their covers.

Do your research. Shop around, ask for artist work samples and referrals from trusted author friends whose covers you adore. Go to Google Images and search for your genre, noting which covers immediately grab your eye and attention and what you dug most about them.

2. Contests and awards — sometimes helpful, sometimes a money drain

Some contest companies charge hefty fees and give out loads of awards purely for the sake of their own profit versus celebrating worthy writers. In such contests, virtually everyone wins and has the option to purchase extras, such as award stickers and certificates. They promise exposure on their website, which may have low traffic. While these awards may influence buyers to some extent and sound groovy in your bio, they aren’t known to boost sales over all.

There are plenty of credible contests, which charge more modest fees (say $10, versus $99), care at least as much about about writers and the literary world as personal bank and whose kudos would shine more brightly.

Research contests before entering. Find out important details, such as who is hosting the contest and who the judges are. Any contest that is not transparent about its judging panel may not be worth your time or entry fee.

To learn more, read this Salon article: Vanity Book Awards.

3. Professional editing — hugely worthy

No one can edit their own work well, and writing and editing are completely different skill sets. Again, do your research. Get referrals and make sure your editor is credible. I was fortunate to meet mine at a writers’ conference. After he critiqued a sample of my work, I knew he was the right fit for me and my story.

To save your editor time and you money, do your best to get your book in tip-top form before handing it off. As my novel’s editor—who’s also a prolific author—Mike Sirota says on his blog, “You’ve already put a lot of blood, sweat, tears, time, and coffee into your story, so why dash to the finish line?”

4. Credible editorial reviews — potentially helpful

Kirkus Reviews reviews indie-authors’ books. In this case, the fee, while steep, isn’t wonky or misleading. Traditional publishers pay for these services, too, and at least in the case of Kirkus, the review process is exactly the same. You can submit to Publishers Weekly for free, but your book won’t necessarily be chosen for review. (You can also pay PW’s indie program, PW Select, for a listing in their guide.)

I’m a bit biased, as Kirkus gave my novel a pretty shiny review, but regardless, I like the fact that these publications critique books with a critical, professional eye and are well-respected throughout the literary world. They’re known to be tough on books, which is something I desired. A positive review from either may influence agents and publishers, should you decide to go hybrid or traditional later on, and can add impressive light to your bio.

If you have the funds to submit to Kirkus, consider it. If not, fear not. The review won’t make or break your success as an author. If you get a negative review, you can ask that it not be published on their site and bypass using a blurb or the full review yourself. Steer clear of paid reviews that seem sketchy or unethical; they probably are.

5. Any service that seems necessary, but that would suck our time and energy if we did it ourselves — wise and worth it!

I know me. I am not going to take the time to learn how to format my manuscript for each outlet. It would be tedious, headache-inducing and draining, and my energy seems best spent elsewhere. Like many writers, I wear multiple hats and would rather pay someone.

I’m hiring Jenn Oliver of The Author Sidekick to take care of this for me, and I’m thrilled already. She’s sharp, experienced, enthusiastic and reasonable price-wise. To check her services out, visit

As in life, choose where you invest your time, funds and energy wisely. ♥

Punch-Drunk Indie: A Gratitude Party

“If serotonin is the Zen-master among neurotransmitters, dopamine is Pollyanna, responsible for the highs of infatuation, new love, joy, self-confidence, and motivation.” — Deborah Bloom, Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer

I’d have to add publishing decisions to Bloom’s list. As if I wasn’t stoked enough about Girl Boners! 😉 Sadly, they aren’t on today’s menu. Welcome to #ThrillerThursday, the day I feature whatever else I find thrilling.

Those of you who read my post on self-publishing with an agent know that I’ve been deciding whether to do just that.

The moment I spotted “consider self-publishing” in my agent’s email a few weeks ago, giddiness filled my belly. I felt as though I’d been clocked on the head by the love monster—woozy, butterfly-filled and punch-drunk in LOVE. My inner Pollyanna took over, proving the Zen-master obsolete. I’ve learned to listen to my gut, and it was screaming.

I knew I shouldn’t make such a huge decision on the spot, so I researched like crazy, thought and dreamed about it (when sleep was possible), until I had all of the answers and affirmations I needed. Soon, my brain had caught up with my gut and I braced myself to run around yelping officialize my decision.

Then…Sandy struck. The largest Atlantic hurricane on record blasted the Northeast with 85 miles per hour winds and torrential rain, flooding streets and buildings, cutting power and taking lives. That morning, I sat huddled on the sofa, watching the news with suffering from what felt like a nation-wide emotional flu, making my indie decision seem trivial. But I was also inspired.

Atrocities like Sandy show us how connected we all are. They also bring out incredible strength, resilience and compassion. While I’m still head over heels with with my  choice, Storm Sandy brought me back down to Earth and enlarged my gratitude in one gargantuan, if pain-staking, fell swoop. I suppose that’s positive on another level; I can share my decision without screaming so loud your ears hurt. (You’re welcome. ;)) So without further ado…

To say I’m stoked is a major understatement. More will follow on the specifics, but for now, I’d like to invite you all to party with me “pimp and promote” style, a term coined by the fabulous Chuck Wendig, with a slant toward gratitude.

In the comments below, post two links you’re GRATEFUL for:

1) Pimp out one of your own links, such as your Amazon author page, Facebook fan page or a blog post.

2) Promote someone else’s book, blog, author or fan page.

This is a fun way to gain and give exposure, particularly if you take the courteous route by checking out others’ links. (No one wants to party or promote solo. Ask any indie. ;)) Post now and pop by later, or check out others’ links before posting your own.

I’ll start by pimping my interview with David Freed, author of the Cordell Logan mystery series. David is a spectacular writer and person I’m grateful to call friend. He’s also an award-winning journalist, dog lover and pilot with a wicked sense of humor and a passion for Mexican food. (What’s not to love???) For more fun, connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

I’m honored to promote one of my favorite indie-divas, Steena Holmes. Author of the award-winning best-seller, Finding Emma, Steena is as sweet as the chocolate she adores, and as supportive and driven as Megan, the indomitable mother in her novels. She’s also a mother of three, wife to one and a talented graphic and book cover designer who’s doing a brilliant job on mine. (Yeah-hoo!) To learn more, check out her wonderful website.

Your turn! Share, share away. I can’t wait to explore your links, and hope you have as much fun as I plan to. Thanks in advance for brightening my day, and as always for your support. *raises glass*