It all started more than a year ago when I finally finished Guardian in Magic, which is part one of my fantasy story. I had no clue about publishing, didn’t even plan to publish at all at the beginning, so I walked the internet up and down and read about other people’s experiences in discussion boards and blog posts. What I read there was quite shocking for me. Many posters honestly thought that writing a nice story and sending it to one publisher is all it takes to make millions off a book. Well, luckily I was never that naïve… The ugly truth for a first time author in the fiction world is: it’s hard. And it’s not cheap at all. If you want your book to have any chance on the market you have to spend money on it to get the ball rolling.
So I started at square one: Editing. I am not a native speaker, so for me this was a no-brainer. But still I can tell you from that experience: You need a professional editor, no matter how good your English is. The 1.000 bucks I spent on having my 268 pages proof read was money very well spent. I learned a lot about writing styles and ways to express certain things to make them more readable through that. It’s more than worth it.
Back then I thought those 1.000 bucks would be my major investment for the publishing, damn, I am naïve after all… Yes, there are publishers that will cover all expenses and do everything else for you, but I have to ask you two questions there: 1) How much time and money does it take to find such a publisher and convince him to accept you? 2) Do you really want to give the complete control over your book to someone else? I heard from friends in regard to the first question that they spent weeks and months traveling from one book fare to the next, just to talk some publishers into even taking a look at his work. (None of those have published so far by the way…) I definitely didn’t want to do that, but my real decision for self-publishing only came when I per accident got hold of a publishing contract. Bloody hell… You need a lawyer to understand that… Luckily I do have some experience with this, so at least I figured out some passages in the paperwork that I definitely didn’t want to have in mine. Getting 20% royalty on the list price is cool, but what’s it worth if you can’t control the list price? The publisher is per contract allowed to even give your book away for free if they see fit… I don’t care about that…
OK, so self-publishing it was. After bumping around the internet again for a while, I chose my publisher: AuthorHouse. And there another 2.000 dollars went out the window… Why not start with the smaller package? They start at $599. Well, because if you look at the details it just makes sense. The “booksellers return program” is something that just convinced me, especially as a first time author.
So, 3.000 dollars so far, but that’s it now, right? Well, no… There is one thing I just could not live with: the “Custom full color cover” is nice, but it is always based on a picture that comes off a gallery. It might do, but in the end the cover is the first thing everyone sees on a book. Do you really want to do a half-ass job there? I didn’t… And it cost me another 500 dollars. But again it paid off. The cover illustration took 8 weeks to finish, but when I looked at the final piece for the first time it rendered me speechless. Once again worth every penny…
But now we are done, right? Well, no… The book is out now, after a painstaking process that took another three months to complete, where I had to be more of a project manager than an author, even though I hired specialists to do the job. But what good is a book that’s out there if nobody knows about it? And that my friends is where it gets REALLY expensive… The magic word is called “Marketing”. You can have everything from simple postcards to full blown marketing campaigns and even a specialized rewriting to target Hollywood producers. Beware of your budget is all I can say… You will burn through it fast if you are not extra careful.
How much did it cost me in the end? No comment… Was it worth it? I am quite sure that it was. Will I get rich through publishing? No.
So here is my conclusion about all this: If you expect to make quick money with little effort, seek life elsewhere. If you think you can get rich with your first book, think again. If you rely on the professionalism of the publishers or support companies you are out of luck. But if you still want to be an author even with knowing all this, you will have loads of fun. And you will most likely agree that it’s all worth it in the end.
Being an author is about telling a story, not about making money. Sometimes those two combine, but many times they don’t. That’s how it is…
Richard Blunt is the author of the fantasy novel, Lucas Trent: Guardian in Magic. He is currently working on his second book in the Lucas Trent series. You can visit his website at www.lucastrent.com. Visit him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/lucas_trent and Facebook at www.facebook.com/people/richard-blunt.