More tips for flat-broke indie authors

money by Junior Libby public domain pictures dot net
Photo courtesy of Junior Libby at


Indie publishing is becoming more mainstream, more professional, and leading to more money in the author’s pocket than ever before. Self-publishers earned 40% of all money earned by authors from e-books at in 2015 [See report].

But before you can get any of that cash into your pocket, you’ll need to polish up your work. With so many indies publishing, the competition is stiff. Readers are wary of self-publishing. They’ve been disappointed by indie authors who don’t write well or don’t use professional support, so it’s hard for them to trust an unknown. If readers give your indie book a chance, you have one job: Don’t disappoint them. So take the time to do it right the first time.

Use professional software. You can download Open Office word processing software, which is compatible with MS Word, for free at Scrivener, which I love, love, love, costs  only $40 per year. And if you get together with some of your writer friends and buy it together, you can get Scrivener’s  discounted group rate.

Hire professional help. Before you publish, you’ll need a structural editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader to clean up your manuscript, someone to format your manuscript for either print or e-book (or both), and someone to design and format your book cover. And possibly a photographer, if your cover design includes a photo. (That will be up to the cover designer. She may have a photographer that she works with.)

You know you need these professional services, but you’re broke. Never fear; I’m here for you.  If you can’t afford to pay for professional services, consider the following.

  1. Hire students. Ask your friends and coworkers if they know responsible students who can edit, proof, take photos, or format your manuscript or book cover. Students looking to gain experience or plump up their portfolios are often able and willing to work for lower pay and a good reference from you. (And maybe a pizza.)
  2. Get competitive prices on professional services at Choose from among freelancers who bid for your job. Hiring a freelancer can be a gamble, but has a service called SafePay, where your advanced payment is held in a separate account until you approve of the job. Certainly, there are cheats out there, but if you carefully hire someone with good experience and positive feedback, you can usually get a basic, professional-level job for a fair price.
  3. Barter. Your critique group is a good place to start. See who might be willing to edit or proofread for you. In exchange, you do the same for them. Or offer another skill or goods that you may provide. I’m a professional copy editor, and while I usually only work for money (because the electric company won’t take home-grown tomatoes), I will barter on occasion for something I’d be paying for anyway. It never hurts to ask.

Order a proof copy before ordering a bunch of print books. If you find mistakes, you can fix them before they go out with errors to hundreds of readers.

Pay as much attention to your book’s  summary as you do to the manuscript. I’ve seen self-published books on Amazon that I know are well-written and polished, because I’ve read them, but the summaries seem hastily slapped on. They lack organization, contain errors, or are just plain boring. The reader looks to your summary as a sample of your writing. Make it your very best.

You know that expression, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” Make sure you come out of the box looking as good as possible and never offer up a badly written book.

What have you done to cut costs and up your professional status? Have you tried Scrivener? What do you think?

Hugs, Kathy





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Ride the Pen

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A personal blog by John Parsons, author of the Hebrew for Christians web site.

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