Long ago, in another time, another place, I lamented the foolishness of writers who skipped jumping the required hoops that litter the path to traditional publishing and simply published themselves. I mean, after all, self-published works carried a stigma. If the authors were any good, they’d have the logo of a big publishing house on their book spine, right?
Not necessarily. I’ve read traditionally published books I wish I hadn’t spent the money on, and independently published books that should be made into movies.
Indies are finally rising above the stigma.
In all aspects of this game, professionalism is becoming more evident. Savvy authors are networked not just with other authors, but with freelance editors, beta readers, formatters, cover designers, promo specialists–even accountants. They know how to make a go of it without the big-name logo on their spine. Those who really take this job seriously budget funds for the purpose of hiring people for things they can’t do themselves.
This year, I’ve seen an increase of authors seeking professional edits. I credit this to the fact that serious writers have educated themselves about every facet of this business, and the sources they use for that education stress the need for professional services–including editors.
In his Let’s Get Digital, David Gaughran emphasizes the need for at least a copy edit and provides the industry-standard hourly rates: “anything from $35 an hour up to $200 an hour.” The fact that he provides this information has made a difference in my own editing business, because now it’s the rare author who balks at the price–and I charge less than what Gaughran calls the “industry standard.”
Another thing Gaughran emphasizes is for authors not to skip the self-edit. This is a great money-saver when it comes to paying for a professional edit. For a more effective “self-edit,” get other eyes on your work first. Join a writing group or find a critique partner who’ll push you toward perfection until you just wanna cry big ol’ crocodile tears. Work on your manuscript first and get it to the absolute best you’re capable of doing.
Don’t skip this part, because, as Gaughran says (effectively, if tactlessly): “your editor can only work with what you send him or her; a polished turd, after all, is still a turd.” And the messier it is, the longer it takes to polish–and when the editor charges by the hour, fixing that mess can crank up the dollar signs quickly.
Freelance editors aren’t the only ones who help indy authors beat the stigma. Professional cover designers provide writers with their biggest and best marketing tool: the book cover.
In her soon-to-be released Practical Guide: Formatting e-Books for Writers, Susan K. Stewart invites her readers to pick a genre on Amazon–any genre–and skim the covers. You can tell instantly which were made from templates and which were designed by professionals.
What you can’t tell is which professional-looking cover was designed by a traditional publisher and which was designed by a freelance cover designer. (My favorite is IndieCoverDesign, who created the cover for Give the Lady a Ride, but you can search the Internet and find tons of others, or ask other authors.)
As long as we authors are willing to put out a professional product, we can win the war against the stigma. Most readers don’t care who published you as long as you give them a great reading experience. We still may have to battle the stigma in the realm outside of the industry, because while readers love to read, they don’t keep up with publishing trends like authors do. But we can chip away at it by holding each other accountable and publishing excellent books.