The book market has radically changed in the past few years, and I am not going to rehash all the amazing stats and how people don’t need to get a publisher anymore. That was so last week.

This has led to a flood of “indie” authors going out and publishing their own work. After all, if you don’t have a big name and are just a little guy, even if you somehow manage to snag a publisher, they will do little more than provide editing support and the hard costs of putting the book out. Really, it comes down to improving production value, and this is what I want to talk about.

In a CNN article this week on indie publishing, they did a survey of 1007 indie writers randomly and found they made, on average, $10,000 a year, with the majority (more than half) making less than $500 a year.

To get a full, professional edit of a book the size of my last novel Atopia would cost about $14,000 (about $3 a page). So, seeing as the average income of an indie author is probably less than $500 a year, only a very foolhardy soul could justify spending $10,000 or more on a professional edit. And so, we cut corners…

For Atopia, I hired two just-graduated (and unemployed) English lit majors to review mine at a cost of $1500…and I edited it at least two dozen times myself, but it is almost impossible to catch small errors in review when you write yourself, they become invisible somehow 🙂 on top of that, I invested at least another few thousand in marketing. Even then, Atopia still has some mistakes in it, which bothers me, but at a certain point we need to move on to the next project.

My point in all this is that the average indie can’t afford professional-grade editing, and on average they are already losing huge amounts of money. My point is that if you are a reader who has paid $1 to $3 for an indie authored book, you need to understand that errors in editing are NOT the result of a sloppy writer, but the fact that we can’t afford a professional grade edit. End of point.

If we could afford it, we would, trust me. We hate having errors in our books A LOT MORE than you do. But an indie author can’t make it perfect, no matter how many times they edit a work themselves because the human brain tends to skip over details that you wrote yourself. So, you need an outside, third party to review it. And we can’t afford $10k+ to edit something that isn’t going to make us any money.

With Atopia, my expectation was that this was going to be a money-losing venture. I mean, I had my hopes, but I am also realistic. It took me two years of nights and weekends (and almost my relationship!) to write Atopia, FYI the average 100,000 word novel takes about one year of full-time work for an author to write and edit. Atopia was 150,000, so about 1.5 years of full-time work. And, at the end, I spent about $2000 to outside editors, and $4000 to marketing companies, all with the expectation that I wouldn’t earn a penny in return.

But, amazingly, Atopia exceeded my wildest dreams and has been in the top 5 of “Science Fiction/High Tech” on Amazon for 8 weeks, but it certainly hasn’t made me rich 🙂 Even with Atopia being a big home run (for an indie), exceeding my wildest expectations, I estimate I have earned about $8 an hour for all my efforts. Not a great way to make money, so this is very much a labor of love.


So, when you’re picking up a full length novel for $1 or $3, and not the $10-$15 range, I would argue that you need to set your expectation that there will be some editing mistakes and errors, and accept a certain baseline expectation as part-and-parcel of reading indie work. If it is obvious that they just weren’t careful or put in effort at all, then point this out in a review. But, be gentle. This is a labor of love, and if you find something you like for $1 or $3, give them some praise and write a review.

OK all for now, just wanted to “represent” for all my brothers and sisters out there burning the midnight oil 🙂 !!

What do you think?