One of the Facebook publishing groups I belong to seems to attract a large number of first-time authors as well as prospective authors. We all have to start somewhere, and I try to help out whenever I can.
The posts typically come from people who are even more clueless than I was when I was getting started, and trust me, I was pretty darn clueless. (I’d written a historic cookbook called, Anna’s Kitchen, and I thought I knew it all. Let’s just say I’ve come a long way since then.) That said, I’m sometimes flabbergasted at some of the things people are posting, such as the prospective author who couldn’t afford to pay her illustrator, so she wanted to know if it would be okay to split the book royalties 50/50 instead?
There are many myths out there about writing and publishing books. One of the biggest, and most persistent, is that authors make big bucks from their book sales. There are some who do, but they’re the exception. In reality, most authors have to have day jobs if they want to pay their bills. Their book royalties are, at best, income supplements.
There are also out-of-pocket expenses involved when it comes to writing and publishing books, such as editing, proofreading, and cover design. Laptops and tablets cost money. Pens and paper cast money too. I understand that money may be an issue for some, and if you’re one of them you may be tempted to do it all yourself. My advice, however, is don’t. Very few people have the skillset to do it all, which means you will have to hire people to do certain tasks.
As noted, it’s easy for someone who has never written a book before to assume their book will make a profit. They may think it’s perfectly okay to offer to share a portion of their future profits, or royalties, in lieu of paying for the work. It isn’t. The people proofreading your manuscript and designing your book cover have bills to pay. Asking them to work on spec is, at best, unprofessional.
What about asking your spouse, or your best friend, or your great-aunt Mary? Again, I don’t recommend it. Family and friends usually aren’t qualified to do the task, but if you need an editor, and your great-aunt Mary just happens to be a retired English teacher, then maybe you could ask her. Keep in mind, however, that she may say no, or she may expect favors from you in return.
The fact of of matter is that you have to pay your people for services rendered. If you can’t afford to pay them, then I’m sorry to say you can’t afford publish your book. At least for now.
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