Ever since I got back from Dragon*Con, I’ve been mulling over the possibility of getting into the self-published ebook game. Ebooks seem to be growing more popular by the hour, and more and more of my peers in the podcast writing arena are dipping their toes in the market. I know Abbie Hilton has had some success selling ebooks of the Guild of the Cowry Catchers series, and Mur Lafferty jumped in with both feet last summer by self-publishing all five parts of her Afterlife series, which was wildly popular on Podiobooks.com.
Thing is, if I’m going to do this, I want to do it the right way. If I’m going to ask people to spend money on one of my books (even if the price is only $3.95 or something like that,) I have to deliver a quality product. That means hiring a professional editor to catch any remaining typos, inconsistencies, plot holes, etc. Because I recorded audio versions of both Acts of Desperation and Purgatory, I’ve caught a lot of the typos and missing words, but no way am I confident enough to say that I caught them all. Good editors do not come cheap, nor should they. I’m figuring between $1,000 and $1,500 to edit just one of the books.
Next comes the cover. Again, if I’m going to offer a book for sale, it needs a cover done by a professional illustrator. I happen to really like the covers I chose for the audio versions of my books, but the cover for Acts is a Creative Commons licensed photo that I found on Flickr. I gave the photographer attribution, but the license does not allow me to use it to make money. I did pay a license fee for J.R. Blackwell’s lovely photograph for the cover of Purgatory (worth every penny,) but using it on a book for sale is a different matter. I estimate a few hundred dollars for a cover illustration.
That brings the total bill to $1,500 to $2,000 even before I get into formatting, distribution fees, etc. That means, if my price point is $3.95, I have to sell around 500 electronic copies just to break even. Obviously, I want to sell way more than 500 copies, but if I’m the publisher as well as the author, then by definition I’m the marketing department. It will take a lot of time and effort to publicize the book enough to generate sales. I think I’m up for that challenge, but it will be a major commitment.
If I do this, I think I would start with Acts of Desperation, which has been rejected by a lot of agents and publishers but has also been downloaded a lot on Podiobooks. More than 5,000 people have downloaded the final episode, meaning they liked it enough to stick around to the end of the story. I have Purgatory on submission right now to a small press publisher, and I still have some hopes of publishing that the traditional way, so it will be some time before I choose to self-publish that one.
Publishing has changed tremendously just in the seven years since I first started tapping out novels on my keyboard. Self-publishing ebooks is becoming more viable every day, and it’s something every author should consider. Will it be right for me? Jury’s still out. I need to save up that upfront money, and I haven’t sold a freelance piece since July. Looking for new freelance gigs is occupying a fair amount of my time these days. But, if I can generate those funds and cover the cost before I sell anything, I very well may take the plunge.