When I first decided to make my backlist available online, I figured I’d go at it on my own. Make my own covers, format my own books, put them up for sale myself–then reap all the profits! What a perfect plan!
Except, not so much.
First of all, I didn’t have the time. I only have a finite amount of work time each day and that is usually spent writing new books or marketing them–two things I’m good at. If I end up spending most of the day formatting, proofing, uploading, etc. then that’s time taken away from writing. I don’t want to be an editor or a cover designer or a page proofer. I want to be an author. And also a mom. Those two things are worth my time. The others are not.
Second, even my best efforts looked amateur. My cover art was cool, but only because someone else took the stock photo. The rest looked flat. The type looked funny. The dimensions were off. It just looked unprofessional. Something I am a hundred percent positive influences sales.
Sure, back in the day you might have been able to get away with a homemade cover. Amanda Hocking never had any thrilling cover art and look how well she did! But nowadays, with more and more authors hiring professional cover designers for their online books, you don’t want to stand out in the crowd in a bad way with a cover that makes people cringe.
Also there was the formating. I slaved over these manuscripts, trying to get them Smashwords friendly so they could appear in their premium catalog. But try as I might, I just kept getting turned down. In fact, to date, I only have one book in the Smashwords premium catalog and one that is up on their site, but still rejected. I gave up entirely after that–it was too much work. And my self-published books never looked as good on my reader as my New York published ones. (The damn paragraph indent alone has succeeded in driving me bonkers!)
And that worried me. As a professional author the last thing I wanted was to look amateur. To portray the idea that these ebooks were somehow inferior to the ones found in paperback. I found myself posting again and again “This was originally published in paperback” as if I felt the need to defend myself against someone thinking they might be inferior works because of their covers or formatting.
So I decided it was time to stop going at it alone. It’s called self-publishing, but that does not mean you have to do every single thing yourself. Pick your strengths–mine are writing and marketing–and then farm out the rest. Professional covers are a lot less expensive then you might think–you can get one for around $100. And there are many freelance editors out there, ready for hire. Companies will even format and upload your manuiscripts for you–taking away all the stress of Smashwords!
Sure, there’s an upfront cost to all this. But I believe in investing in my writing. Over the years I’ve spent thousands of dollars marketing my books by going to conferences, running contests, taking out advertisements on blogs, etc. etc. I just see this as one more element to that. Maybe the most important of all.
In any case, I will be beginning the process of “fixing” my books in the next couple weeks and will be documenting the process on this blog. And then, in the end, I’ll compare sales from what I have now (completely self-published) to after I’ve had a little help from professionals. I could be wrong, but I’m betting there will be a big difference.
And now back to writing!