I don't know about you, but I definitely would like to see more truth and authenticity in the publishing business. I'm not sure which is worse -when people used to dismiss Indie authors entirely or the current situation where we’ve become a primary sales target.
There is an awful lot of advice for sale to the self-published author. Funny, since a short time ago the only advice they offered was to “shut up and wait our turn." Unfortunately, much of this advice comes with hefty price tags and inflated promises about fame and fortune.
No doubt, some of it is good and may even be valuable. Coaching and services for better writing, more effective editing, formatting and publishing are all things an author should consider. Self-publishing isn’t a free-for-all, anything goes business. But, so much of the advice is free and available on the internet, although when a person makes the effort of collecting it all into one place, that convenience is often worth the price. As for services, well some very cost-effective providers deliver quality work.
But let's face it, in case you don't know by now, no one thing will bring you fame and fortune. In fact, even if you do EVERYTHING it still offers no guarantee.
In other words, even James Patterson, try as he may, cannot teach you the bestseller formula. He can provide great advice on creating a well-written book but beyond that, though the rest is just a sales pitch.
My advice is to be smart with your money. Do your research and figure out what you need to know and what you need to get done AND THEN purchase from the best and most affordable person.
And mostly, keep your money in your pocket. Save it for marketing your book or buying groceries because this list of “expensive things you don't need” will just lead to heartbreak and empty pockets.
1. 99 dollars "Get an Agent: Webinars:
If you're chasing the traditional publishing dream then someone probably told you that you need an Agent. That angel of publishing who holds the key to the Golden Gates. They are hard to get, I hear. Elusive beasts with beautiful portfolio pictures and a list of "things they look for in a book." Svengalis of the book industry no doubt and evident by the incredible growth of the traditional publishing industry (I jest). And like your high school, mere commoners may not “just approach” these Prom Kings and Queens. No, indeed, such direct methods will get your manuscript tossed onto the pyres. They will shred it to confetti, throw the pieces into the night sky and dance beneath your broken dreams.
But as the story goes, all is not lost. You can attend a webinar for the low, low price of 99 dollars to obtain your Golden Ticket. Legend has it that within these conference calls you will discover the secret language of agents. And with these great and mystical discoveries, your book, regardless of genre, value or professionalism, will finally garner their curious bright-eyed attention.
2. $189 "Winning query letter" seminars:
The reason the “get an agent” workshop didn’t work for you is because you didn’t invest enough. What you really, really need is to buy the secrets of the “winning query letter.” These letters are the primary instrument of agent and publisher enchantment.
The power of the format, the “hook,” and the pitch will make them froth at the mouth, hungry to devour your text. Just join us for an hour, and we will give you the words.
Which is, of course, bullshit.
Is there something to be gained by learning the current query letter style and techniques used. There is. It's like learning how to write a strong resume. Is there some magic hidden behind that189 dollar entry fee? No. So don't waste your time. Spend it on research - the free kind. Here is a great article that tells you everything you need to know.
3. $8 per page editors:
Look editing is critical. Do not publish your book without the help of a professional, trained, damn-good-at-their-job editor. And don't be wowed by some fancy website or claims. Thousands are hanging an "editor" shingle on the web, make sure the one you select knows what they are doing. But, don't pay $8 a page for the service. If you have 2400 bucks laying around, send it to me, I will get your book expertly edited (and keep the difference).
So where did this price tag originate? Well, there were plenty of professional editors displaced by the industry, and there are a ton of folks subcontracting your work to lower paid editors. If it takes a solid 40 hours to edit a 300-page book...$8 a page gets you a nice paycheck, I’m just not sure it gets you a quality product.
Will a $8 a page edit be better than a 1-cent a word edit ( that's about $2.50 a page btw)? Money doesn't always drive quality, so it's hard to say.
But, this is a buyers market. The industry has no shortage of editors, so you should get the best editor you can at the best price you can afford.
4. Typography and Interior Planning Experts:
Yes, there is such a thing. If you're writing a non-fiction book, especially something with tables, graphs, and pictures, then this service might be helpful. If you're writing fiction, don't waste your money. Typography is a matter of readability - keep the fonts easy on the eyes (Garamond, Georgia, Bookman Old Style, etc.). And if you're writing an ebook, don't give it a second thought beyond Times New Roman. The e-reader owner will decide which font they like and change it accordingly.
5. Any "be a best-seller" service:
Now these are the people whose eyes I'd like to take out with a rusty spoon. Again folks, no secret sauce. Books are like the stock market. Beyond the need for a somewhat firm foundation (well-written, edited, good story, good style, nice cover), no single thing works all the time. There's a lot of books and plenty of competition and, sometimes, it comes down to what people "believe" will be excellent and employing effective marketing techniques, plus other uncontrollable such as luck and timing.
If, however, you absolutely must reach the bestseller list to feel fulfilled, then do what will work to get there. Take out a loan, max your credit cards, remortgage the house or whatever it takes to get together one hundred thousand dollars. Take that money and invest heavily in a national ad, or use it for an agency to buy thousands of copies of your book. Either method works fairly well. (Find out the truth about making the NY Times Best Seller List Here)
Hey, I'm not saying you shouldn't invest in yourself or your book. You should educate yourself because successful authors are first and foremost successful business people.
Just be a good business person. Be smart about how and where you spend your money. Don't get sucked into marketing pitches, over-stated promises, or some old pricing model.
There are a lot of great service providers, many of whom also have a dream to be an independent part of the book industry. Look around, get to know people, do your homework, and you'll be okay.
By Raymond Esposito
Raymond Esposito is an award-winning dark fiction author and Amazon bestseller. His articles and interviews have appeared in a variety of publications including Family Circle and Sanitarium Magazine. He has a degree in Cognitive Psychology and has spent over 28 years as a criminal behaviorist.