I’m so sick of hearing this “I can’t afford it” bullshit from indie writers. Guess what? I couldn’t afford to invest $20K in my business in 2016, but I did it anyway because it’s the only way to see growth. If something is important enough, it can be prioritized and worked toward. Now, I recognize the reality of legitimate financial hardship* and that the cost of professional services is truly not a reality for some people, but for a lot of us it’s a matter of choice and what’s worth going into debt or saving up or sacrificing for.

Being a self-publisher means you are both author and publisher, and publishing is a business. Any business requires investment before it sees profit. And the reason bigger publishers are harder and harder to break into and smaller ones struggle is that it is a huge investment to produce a professional-quality book, and it doesn’t always pay off.

But here’s the thing: the minute you start charging money for your work, the standards go way up. And if you aren’t willing to invest in yourself, why should anyone else?

If you don’t want to spend the money, that’s totally fine. But don’t publish a book. Now, I’m not saying don’t write. Absolutely write. Never stop writing. Writing feeds your soul; it’s part of who you are. But, there are plenty of other ways to get your writing out there to the public that do not imply any degree of professionalism or hold to any standards.

Publish on Wattpad. Start a blog. Get your work out there for people to see, and get feedback. Find beta readers. Join a critique group. Take writing classes. Read books about how to be a better writer (check out Point of View and Show, Don’t Tell, both by Sandra Gerth). Read books by writers who are better than you, by writers you aspire to be. Work on your craft. The cleaner you can make your manuscript before it goes to an editor, the lower your overall costs will be.

And remember that there is also a cost to putting out a manuscript that wasn’t ready to be a book, in terms of your reputation and professional integrity. I don’t know about you, but my ideal reader is someone with a true appreciation for the craft and artistry of a good story well-told, and those readers expect quality and professionalism. Don’t disappoint them.


*If you have a legitimate financial hardship, please don’t be afraid to approach me. If your story sets my soul on fire and I’m in a position where I can afford to spend some time on a pro bono project, I want to help you bring your words to the world. I am also open to barter arrangements.

Alissa McGowan

Alissa McGowan

Alissa is the founder and owner of Red Pen for Rent. She is passionate about helping authors make their work fucking awesome.
Alissa McGowan

Latest posts by Alissa McGowan (see all)

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

The Real Costs of Self-Publishing

by | Feb 17, 2017