Tag Archives: editing

The Cost of Independent Publishing

Independent publishing is substantially cheaper than its ever been.  With Amazon and other distributors offering to distribute your ebook for a small fee and print your print book on-demand with nearly zero up front costs, publishing your book on your own has never been easier.

However, to be taken seriously in the market and compete against other high quality traditionally and independently published works, it is still going to take an investment, like any other business.  Two must-have items you hear over and over again are quality editing of your manuscript and a professionally designed book cover.

Thanks to the explosion of independent publishing these two necessities can be outsourced to professionals willing to do the work.  But, that has a cost.

In very general terms, book covers can range between $300 – $800 depending on whether or not you want an ebook cover only or a print book cover as well.  It also depends on the designer, how good they are and how busy they are.

editingThe cost variance in book editing is even greater.  First, there are many different types of editing options (proofreading, copy editing, developmental editing, etc.).  Each of these involve different work efforts by the editor and therefore have varying prices.  That being said, for a standard novel (50k – 65k words – which are short novels BTW), it can cost anywhere between $500 – $3,000, depending on the editor.

Let’s take the middle ground of those two very broad ranges, meaning your book cover could cost about $550 and your editing $1750.  That’s a $2300 investment per book.

You sure better be ready to publish and then be VERY patient on getting a return on your investment.  Why?

At the current Amazon 70% return on each ebook sold over $2.99, if you offered your ebook for that price, you get about $2 per sale.  That means you have to sell 1150 books to break even.  For some people, that may not sound like a lot .  For others, that may sound impossible.

To put it into perspective, the average self-published book sells under 200 copies.  That leaves you $1900 in the red.  Granted, most of those self-published books have crappy editing, awful book covers and zero marketing effort.  The numbers are daunting, none-the-less.

Now, some people have contacts or talented friends that can help and you may be able to reduce the cost, but, whatever you decide, do NOT reduce the quality of the end result at the same time.  Writing is an art, but publishing is a business.  You need to go into it with your eyes wide open and with realistic expectations of cost and return-on-investment.

I will say this.  If I have to invest $2300 in my first novel, you can bet your ass I’ll be marketing the living crap out of it.  Otherwise, my Chief Financial Officer (i.e., the wife), won’t allow me near the credit cards again.

I haven’t decided on an editor or a book designer yet, but I’ll let you know when I do and how the process worked for me.

If you’ve had any experience with either editing or book design, please share your insights in the comments section. We’d all love to hear from someone whose been through it.

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Word Count and Finding Your Voice

I finished the first draft of Lost & Found this week and the writing process for this novel allowed me to finally find the correct voice and tone for all of the Gabby Wells novels.  It was weird to me that it took two novels (that have since been trashed) and three novellas to find the voice for the overall storyline.  But, that’s just what happened.

When I was about half way through Lost & Found, when I was making Gabby’s life miserable to biblical proportions, it started to feel right.  When I was actually tapping the words on the keyboard, all of the elements started to coalesce and I felt a creative momentum building.  When I was done with the draft, it made me realize two really important things:


The first was that I had to now match the tone with the other novellas.  It actually won’t be that hard in Skyway.  But The Homecoming Incident was much lighter and would need to grow darker and more gritty.  I have some ideas which will help and they tie into the second thing I realized.

The second thing was that my brother Paul was right and all of these novellas should actually be turned into novels.  That means adding an additional 10-20k words to each one.  With the new tone and approach, it makes sense that the scope needs to widen and it would need to get darker.  I also want to do a better job of layering in the spiritual elements Gabby deals with too.  Not in a preachy way (I hate that) but in the overall world of the story.  It’ll make more sense if/when you read the books.

This continual shifting in approach does bring with it a level of frustration, however.  I feel like the novels are like a bathtub with the plug pulled and no matter how much I write, the words still spin down the drain.  It’s like I’ll never get finished.  But, I have to move forward because these decisions are the right thing to do.  I just want to be able to check off “done” on one of these manuscripts so I can move onto the editing/book cover phase and get them to market.

And I’m sure, at some point, years from now when all of the novels are completed, people will comment on how it all seemed so planned out from the beginning and I’ll just laugh and send them to my blog entries which show the continuous alterations we’ve made since starting this process years ago.

I just have to keep plugging along.  I have some time over the holiday weekend and I haven’t decided whether to start on the third novella or rewrite The Homecoming Incident first in order to be able to check something off my list.  My heart tells me I should start on the third novella Tears & Miracles, but my impatient brain is telling me to rewrite the first one.  I’ll let you know what I came up with.

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Writing as a Business

Whether you are independently published or traditionally published, the majority of the ownership for your success falls on your shoulders.  It is up to the author to write good stuff, build a fan base, establish beta readers and street teams and marketing plans.

It’s why real writers treat writing as a business.  It’s where the term authorprenuer comes from.  If you treat writing as a business, then your books are your product.  They require planning, time to execute, and a marketing plan.  There should be sales goals, expenditures, statistics, and analysis to know whether you are hitting your mark.

In an attempt to take what I have in my head and turn it into something tangible, I threw together a production schedule.  It’s aggressive.  It’s a rough draft.  It’s more of a what-if than a real plan.  But, by doing so, it put into sharp focus just how much work lay ahead of me.


From the sample graph, you can see I’ve documented in fiscal quarters which month I will write, which month(s) marketing research needs to be done and when each subsequent marketing phase would occur.  I also added time for research and overlapped the release of the beginning of a new series in the middle of the release of the first series.  I don’t know if that’s a good idea, but I know I don’t want to wait until one series is over before kicking off the second one.

However, by performing this simple exercise of playing around with what-ifs… if I release the novellas three months apart and the novels six months apart, I’ll have 20 novels in seven years.  And for that to occur, I have to write everyday for the next seven years.

Let me say that again.  I have to write everyday for the next seven years.

If anyone ever tells you being a writer sounds easy, show them a schedule like this and let them fully digest the work involved.

As I mentioned, this schedule is a draft.  A guess, at this point.  But, it was eye-opening to do it, to see how much time I’d have to write a novel, when I could be writing two at the same time, and added research time frames as well.

Looking at this I’m both excited and daunted, both of which make me feel like my head will explode.

There’s a 99% chance the actual production schedule won’t look anything like this.  But, you have to start somewhere and, looking at the next seven years, I’m glad I got started sooner than later.

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Where Credit is Due

I once read that successful people surround themselves with people who are strong in areas they are not.  I continue to do this in the creation of the Gabby Wells novels.


As I’ve mentioned on this blog, my history is writing screenplays, but am migrating my way into novel writing.  This process hasn’t been easy and has required in inordinate amount of re-writes in order to start the process of re-wiring my brain so that I can approach a scene in my mind from the perspective of a novelist.

This long process has sucked.  But, in the end it will be worth it.

During this process I have had the critical assistance of two people.  One has shown me the independent author ropes and assisted in editing our book and another, a very gifted writer, has been kind enough to help craft each chapter to its maximum potential.

It’s time I give them their due credit, but stealthily so.  The person editing my book has been doing so as a favor (she refuses to let me pay her).  She was once an editor, but has since moved to other areas of interest in the literary landscape.  She no longer officially edits and would rather her public persona remain focused on her current interest, so I will keep her name to myself.  But, thank you, ______, you have been a tremendous avenue of support!

The second person is a writer, who has chosen the pen name C F Long as her moniker.  She is a private person, but has been there during the creation of the novel.  She’s helped me so much that I convinced her to include her name on the book cover.  After all, this book would never see the light of day without her.

So, instead of the Gabby Wells book being written by only me, it will include “with C F Long” on the cover.  She wants to retain her privacy and acknowledges that this novel, and it’s following series, is my creative baby, so she is not interested in participating in the publicity of the product.  However, I felt it would be dishonest of me to finish it and claim sole creative credit for a book in which her voice is intermingled with my own.

Thank you, my creative team, for helping me learn the business and hone my skills.  I still have a long way to go, but I couldn’t have gotten this far without you.

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I’m in a funk.  A writing funk.

I’ve been working on my first novel for a long time.  A LONG time.  Not always in novel form, but the story itself has been in my life everyday for about four years.

Four years.

First as a screenplay idea.  Then as a TV script idea.  And now as a novel idea.  It’s taken so long because it is through this process that I have been teaching myself how to write a novel.  No easy task.  And, apparently, not a fast process, either.

I’m at the point in the writing/rewriting process that I am finding it hard to read a draft and see the story in front of me anymore.  I know it too well.  I’ve re-written it too many times in too many formats that it’s become matrixed into my brain (you know, where they download how to fly a helicopter into your noggin and suddenly you know everything there is to know about flying helicopters).  I read what I think is there instead of what is actually on the page.

I’ve reached a saturation point.

rewrite-specsSo, I’ve brought in some outside assistance at this point to help me finalize this baby.  Readers, editors and the like.  Objectivity and brutal honesty is what I’m looking for.  I don’t care what has to change, as long as it makes the story better.  I am not wed to any character or event with any sort of emotional tie that wouldn’t keep me from killing them off if it would make a more effective novel.  And I think that’s the right approach.

At the end of the day, I don’t want to release the novel until it can be the best story possible.  Michael Hyatt, in his great book called Platform, calls it releasing a Wow product.  It’s not about being a perfectionist (because I am anything but), it is about not settling.  If you know it could be better then make it better until its a Wow product.

So, I’ll keep chugging along.

I’m not at Wow yet.  I’m probably at Cool or Interesting or Huh?

Hopefully I’ll soon leave this funk and move onto Woohoo when the final draft is finished.

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It Drives Me

I like to challenge myself.  And I like to learn new things.

These attributes have come in handy as I’ve focused on writing novels.

When I was a kid, I was enthralled by movies.  One summer in particular, the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark was playing at a local dollar theater.  Back before DVDs and online streaming, a dollar movie theater was a great place to see films once their initial run had ended.  For the theater, they didn’t make money off of the ticket price, but off of concessions.  So, if a film was popular, they would run it as long as people kept coming and buying popcorn.

Raiders was so popular that the film ran all summer long.  Rarely a week went buy where I wouldn’t scrounge together four quarters and sit in the air conditioned theater, escaping the blistering heat outside, and willfully enter the world of treasure seeker Indiana Jones.


When I saw an interview with director Steven Spielberg where he mentioned he had storyboarded all of his shots, I found a book that explained how to do it and started practicing on my own.  I wrote short films and storyboarded every shot.  My scribblings were no masterpiece, but it allowed me to learn how to tell a basic story, frame and edit scenes together, without a camera, actors or film.

Later, in college, I wanted to learn more about writing screenplays and there were some new books on how to do just that.  So, I bought them and taught myself the screenplay structure and studied films of all genres to find out they used the same template over and over again.  I started writing screenplays, learning how to tell a story with a strong beginning, middle and end.  I learned how to write dialogue and when to give the audience information and when to keep it from them.

I was also acting at the time, so I learned how to memorize scripts, get into a character’s head and change who I am to fit the role.  I read books on acting and watched theater and film as much as possible, studying everything I could, absorbing any bit of morsel that would give me an advantage over my competition.

My hard work was starting to pay off.  I won awards for acting.  I won awards for some of my screenplays.  A few of them were optioned by Hollywood production companies (never produced) and one I wrote for a friend (a low-budget action film) that was produced and distributed.

I just love learning new things.  And I don’t understand people who don’t want to excel in their craft.

When I felt called to rediscover my faith, I started reading everything I could, from the Bible to Saints to the Catechism, from authors like Scott Hahn and Bible Studies by Jeff Cavins.  The more I learn, the more I realize how much I have to learn.

SLP Website

When we were going to start Sonlight Pictures, a Christian film company, I watched every Christian film I could get my hands on.  I researched the distribution options for Christian films, which genres were most effective, which actors of note were willing to participate in Christian films, potential income from such films, etc.

I learned so much.

When I decided to turn some of our Sonlight Pictures properties into novels, starting with Gabby Wells, I knew there was a lot to learn and there was a lot I didn’t know.

What always scares me the most is not knowing what I don’t know.

So, I’ve researched young adult novels, book covers, potential market places for Gabby Wells novels, editors, publishers, agents, book printers, distributors, ebooks and royalty rates. I’ve tracked down editors and fellow authors, looked at what books are in stores like Family Christian Bookstores, and what are not.

I’m researching marketing approaches from blog tours to book signings to release parties to speaking engagements to conference attendance and workshop participation.

Learning something new excites me.  Taking on the challenge of entering an industry I’ve never been in inspires me.

I don’t know how this whole journey with the Gabby Wells book series will end.  Hec, I barely know when it will officially start (i.e., book release date).

But I love the process.  I love the impossible task of succeeding at this insurmountable goal.

It drives me.

And I know I’ll be the better person for having tried.

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Podcast 02 – Author Jeff Strand

Jeff Strand, author of over 20 novels, including the highly successful Andrew Mayhem Series and A Bad Day for VooDoo shares his approach to his comedy-horror novels, the changes to distribution and his latest release, Dead Clown Barbecue.


Many thanks to Jeff who suffered through a cold while recording the podcast.  He’s a trooper.

Enjoy the Show!

(Running Time 38:24)

Links Mentioned in the Show:

Jeff Strand

Lynne Hansen Design



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Publishing Options

Out of the plethora of publishing options available today, we’ve ranked three that fit the best.

Our Gabby Wells novel series is about a teen sleuth who, along with solving mysteries, must also deal with the high demands of her faith.  These stories are not written in a preachy sort of way. Though most people will probably categorize it as Catholic or Christian fiction, we would categorize it as fiction about a character that happens to be Catholic.

Because of her beliefs, her faith journey is part of her life and adds a higher level of dramatic tension to the series.  Not only must she try and solve the mystery before her, but how she solves it can have eternal consequences.

Most people will probably try to pigeon hole this type of story into the Young Adult Christian fiction or Young Adult Catholic fiction category even though I feel it is far more universal than that.

Maybe I’m just being too optimistic.


This will be a five book series, not a one-off novel, so we have to look at the big picture of how best to publish them over the next 5-10 years.  At this point we have ranked these three publishing options:

  1. Established Publisher – An established publisher, either mainstream or Christian based, would give us access to resources that would be costly to do otherwise, especially editing.
  2. Create our own Imprint – since we hope that this series will be larger than a simple self-published title, having an imprint of our own, thereby establishing ourselves as our own publisher, would give us direct access to the same printing companies that publishers access today.  This would add a level of professional credibility to our product and allow us to adjust to the growth potential with each book.
  3. Self-Publish – using something like CreateSpace or some other low-cost self-publishing option, we could publish the series this way.  I’ve read a lot of books created using this method and the quality of the printing is excellent.  And the out-of-pocket costs are minimal. There is, however, a lot more time required to develop all of the material required, formatting the various publication options (print, ebook, etc.), cover photos, etc.  Plus, we’d have to be extra careful about rights ownership using such methods.

Option one is our preference, of course, because it’s a shortcut to getting out a quality product.  I have no problem surrendering a portion of my royalties to a company that helps make the end product the best it can be.

So, we’ll see what happens.  Who knows, things may change.  But, this is where we stand at the moment.

I’d love to hear about your publishing experiences. Care to share?

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Editing in Reverse

One of the best editing advices I’ve ever heard was this…

Edit your story in reverse.

pencil2What does that mean?  Start with the last chapter and go backwards.  The early chapters have invariably been reread and edited far more than the later chapters, but, in a good novel, ever chapter has to be good.  So, give those later chapters a fresh look by starting with them.

I tried this recently on the latest round of edits on our Gabby Wells: Water & Blood novel and it was a tremendous help.  I was amazed at how many tweaks needed to be made by using this very simple technique.

Granted, reading the story that way made me feel like the main character in Memento, but it is a great approach.

BTW – I searched and searched and could not find the book or website where I read that advice.  I wanted to give that person credit.  So, whoever you are, thanks!

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