Hello there my lovelies! I hope you enjoyed our guest blogger, Heather Hudec last week. If you missed her post, make sure you go back and check it out, because its mentioned today too, and trust me, you won't want to miss it!
It’s Sunday again, which means another rambling, seemingly crazy, hopefully helpful, post about writing. So if you’re a loyal reader (which in my mind, you all are 😂), you’ll remember that three weeks ago I introduced a series I intended to expand upon, on becoming a successful indie author. So today I’m doing the first in that series, but in true RRR fashion, I’m not going in order, I’m starting with the last step. And today I’m giving you My Two Cents on Writing Experts. In particular, I’m going to focus on three experts you should absolutely not skip (even though they’re probably expensive). And three experts you can probably do without.
So let’s start by explaining what I mean by “experts.” An “expert” is defined by Google as “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of, or skill in a particular area.” This may seem self explanatory, but trust me that when you get out in the world, the use of the word can get really murky. This isn’t only true in writing, but in the writing community, it can be really difficult to figure out who the true experts are, so it’s important to identify what makes that person an “expert.”
Do they need to have a degree in whatever area they’re claiming to be “experts” in? No. But should they have a proven track-record of success in that area? ABSOLUTELY! I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole, because that’s not really what this post is about. But In general, I caution you to make sure you verify the validity of your experts, and ensure they have a proven record of success.
So now that I’ve defined an “expert,” let’s talk about which experts you need, and which ones you could potentially skip.
Experts you need
I’d say there are at least two experts you need, and one that is less an “expert” per se but is something I think is ultimately very valuable, so I’d suggest spending money on. So here are the three experts I think you need:
Editors, cover designers, and marketing professionals.
Editor (or editors)
An editor (or editors) is something you should absolutely invest in, without question. Last week’s article (Heather's Two Cents on What Editing You Need and When ) gives you a breakdown of the different types of editors available, and when in the timeline you need them (plus expected/standard costs of each). Developmental editing, line editing, copy editing, and proofreading are all types of available services, and I’d say they’re all services that a truly polished novel needs. But don’t forget that all editors are not created equal, and not all of them will excel at all types of services, because they each require a specific level of detail and knowledge.
Some editors offer multiple areas of editing as a package deal, while others offer them each at a different service level/price. It’s ultimately a personal choice, but I’d say, each full-length novel needs 2-4 rounds of editing from different editors. I want to repeat that in case you missed it, each type of editing you pay for, should likely be done by someone different. Because just like authors, editors can experience manuscript fatigue after reading it too many times. And ultimately more eyes on your novel will identify more/different areas of improvement.
My debut romance novel is about to go to its second editor. It’s already been sent to one, who did developmental along with some line edits. The editor it’s about to go to will do copy editing (and she also includes some line editing as well), and before I publish, I plan to also send it to a proofreader. That’s three different sets of eyes, and three different perspectives on the same story. But I think it’s completely necessary and while I’m making an investment, I do think that it will pay off with a more professional end product.
In last week’s article, Heather talked about per word cost and you can do the math on that, but I’m going to make it stupid simple. You should plan on spending at least $2,000 on editing of a full-length novel. There are tons of variables that could change that cost, but the point is be prepared to spend a lot. Never fear though, it doesn't have to be all at one time. Most editors offer very flexible payment plans for indie authors. Also, it is possible that you have a professional editor friend, or someone who is really good at editing who could help you skip some of the costs, but I think if you really want your book to be successful and well-received, $2,000 is about the minimum you should expect to invest.
I know that seems like a lot, but think about it this way... if you go to Starbucks every day for a year (and spend $5 a day which, let’s face it, those cake pops/chocolate croissants make that the BARE minimum you spend there) that’s $1,800. So even cutting out half your Starbucks runs will get you halfway there! Cut out one trip a month for a mani/pedi you’ve got $1200, one fast food meal a week for 1 adult you’ve got an extra $780.
Are you getting my nerdy calculation’s point?
Am I suggesting you cut out everything you love in life? Of course not! But you get the point. It is possible to find an extra $2K without getting another job or a raise. If you buckle down for even a short time you can make it happen.
Also, if you find a great editor (like Heather) you won’t just be paying them for their editing services. She is also a big cheerleader for her authors (although, that’s not specifically her job, and not all editors do that, it’s one of the reasons I’ll keep going back to Simply Spellbound). She has helped grow my book audience and she promotes the heck out of everything I post on social media. So, the point is, if you're lucky enough to find an editor like this, you can also think of some of the money you spend on editing as marketing too!
Though paid editing isn’t the only useful tool. You can do some of it yourself if you find the right free professional help. For example, Susan Needingham has a blog with TONS of free editing tips, including the Tightened Prose Checklist which includes tons of ways to edit BEFORE you pay someone, and can possibly save you some money on one of the types (like line/copy edits).
The next thing I’d say you should absolutely invest in is cover art. I know, I know, a lot of people will say that with all the technology available today, it’s completely possible to design your own cover and come up with something very professional looking.
And they aren’t wrong.
Canva, Photoshop, PicMonkey, etc all provide perfectly lovely templates. And you can also purchase pre-made covers from places like Etsy, BookCoverZone, Fiverr, etc. But my issue with either of those options, is you’re likely to get very generic covers that won’t stand out in a crowded market. And let’s face it, EVERYONE judges a book by its cover. It’s a fact. So you should prepare yourself that if your cover is just so-so, you will likely experience so-so sales.
Similarly to what I said before about Heather, along with creating a beautiful design, cover artists often bring with them an audience of book fans that may not yet know about you. Afterall, the way they gain business is by showing off what they’re working on, so you’ll likely have a partner during cover reveal and launch day. So if you’re willing to shell out a little more to get on a popular cover designer’s waitlist, you can often set your book up for instant success.
In my research, I’d say cover design is a little more wide ranging as far as pricing goes. Well-known, in-demand cover designers can often have years long waiting lists and you can expect to pay upwards of $1,000-$1,500 per design (with a couple re-touching rounds). Less known, or less established cover designers can go anywhere from a couple hundred dollars, to less than $1,000. It can seem daunting, but again, remember you get what you pay for. Cover designers spend a lot of time creating the specific aesthetic you have in your head.
Also, a cost some people don’t consider when figuring out their cover is photo licensing (especially important if you want people on your cover). If your cover doesn’t have people in it, your cover designer probably includes the licensing of the stock photos in their costs, or you can find stock photos that are easily licensed for a couple bucks. But if you are using models/photos, and you have a specific aesthetic or pose, you are likely going to need to license a photo from a photographer. Licensing professional book-cover photos will likely cost between $300-800. With this, you purchase the right to use the photo exclusively (you won’t see it on any other books) and you can make slight alterations (clothes, tattoos, hair color, eye color, etc). If you don’t purchase a photo, you are likely to face licensing issues down the road, so don’t cheap out and just use a google photo (because that could get really tricky later). These are all things to talk with your cover designer about, and they should be more versed in what is/isn’t acceptable as far as liabilities for having licenses, (which is another reason I suggest trusting the professionals).
How awful would it be if you got your book published and then it got yanked off Amazon/IngramSpark because you didn’t properly license one of the photos on the cover. Plus do you really want to be known as the author that stole another artist's work? Probably not, so just trust the professionals!
The final thing I’d say is essential to spend money on, and find an expert to help you with, is marketing. Proper marketing is key to a successful launch. And to be clear, marketing should start WAY before launch day. And there’s a lot of different areas I’m talking about.
First and foremost, the thing that probably comes to your mind is social media marketing. But paid promos and ads are only part of the equation, and should only be used with a proven marketing method.
But how do you find a proven method?
That’s the harder part. There are lots of professionals out there, but one of whom I’ve recommended before is Mixus Media Marketing. She has a free book marketing kit, as well as paid monthly content, and consulting services. PLUS she’s constantly putting out free content/examples on social media about proven methods. Again, Mixus Media is just one example, but her services aren’t even that expensive. And she has monthly service options as well as higher dollar consulting programs ranging from $100-200. She also hosts a podcast/blog that give a wealth of knowledge about marketing.
In addition to paid promos, and a marketing expert, you should be prepared to spend money on website services and newsletter marketing. Most of the time, web-site Builders/servicers (like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, etc) offer free (or nearly free) website templates. But in order to choose your own domain name (which should be your author name), send emails/newsletters, gain subscribers/contacts and grow your online presence, you’ll have to pay a monthly/annual fee. Free websites are fine when you’re just starting out, but you should plan on upping your plan when you get closer to publishing. Plan on spending a few hundred dollars a year on web-services, and email services.
Ultimately, marketing takes on many shapes, and there are professional services available for every step. Make sure you research to figure out what you need and what you potentially do on your own.
Experts you could potentially do without
Ultimately, these are up for interpretation. Some people are better at things than others, so if you think I’m wrong, you’re not the only one! But these are the experts I think you could find free alternatives for (that would be as good if not better) and/or you could probably get good enough at yourself.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t think you should have to pay beta readers. There are TONS of readers and writers out there looking for free books to read, and willing to read yours and give feedback. Unless you just can't find someone to do it in your time constraints, I really think you should just keep looking for free betas. Plus, I think paying for beta readers gives you skewed results most of the time anyway. Because they’re more likely to not smash your book because you’re paying them. Also, while they’re more likely to finish, there’s no guarantee they will or even did if they said they did. I had a friend who paid someone beta read, and the comments they sent back made it obvious the person hadn’t read the book. So, my suggestion is don’t hire betas. The free book is their payment (and if you get lucky and find some really great ones like I have, their name in your acknowledgments is an added bonus🥰). IF you feel you must pay a beta (because you're desperate) $20-40 MAX is all I'd be willing to spend. If you end up wasting it, you can rationalize it away by skipping coffee a few days.
Again, this is personal preference, but there are a host of formatting services available for a fee, and I think most everyone could figure out how to do it themselves. There are tons of resources online that teach you how to imbed text/emojis, and how to change size formats. And if you’re not looking for anything fancy (just reprintable margins that don’t move), you can save it as a pdf.
There are likely some things I’m unaware of that go into formatting the interior, so please, if that’s what you do, don’t think I’m diminishing that, but I probably don’t plan on spending much (if anything) on this step.
ARC review servicers
There are a ton of service providers on social media that promise to find you Advance Copy Readers (ARC). They range in cost but are generally at least a couple hundred dollars and they may or may not get you readers. In my experience as a reader for one said company, I am not convinced the service helps, and I've seen authors get as many (if not more) reviews from just starting their own street teams. If you choose to use one of these companies, beware of which you trust. Ask them if they have a guarantee of a certain number of reviews and try not to spend too much.
In my opinion, the real way to make sure you get reads and reviews is to get your book on Goodreads. While there is a process for getting access to the author program, it's free to do, and by all accounts, it's a fantastic way to get readers, because they look for you! Basically every book lover has heard of Goodreads and it's going to work!
So that’s it folks! One writer's opinion on experts you should seek out, and where you need to invest your money in order to succeed as an indie author. Remember you get what you pay for, so make sure you’re finding qualified experts.
Have a great week!
P.S. Let me know what you think about my list! You think I’m right about which experts are important? Would you add any others to the list?
-Rose Rayne Rivers
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