If you’ve participated in any writing communities in the past decade, you’ve probably heard this saying: Money flows toward the writer. Once upon a time, this was nearly undeniably true. But in the ebook and self-publishing landscape, writers often have to spend money to make books.

      In traditional publishing, the saying still holds some merit. No writer should pay a publishing company upfront for basic publisher duties like editing, evaluating, reviewing, or reading the manuscript. And no writer should ever pay an agent upfront. Beyond that, though, things get murky. Certain publishers will want you to pay in order to have your book printed. This is called vanity publishing, and in some cases, it’s perfectly fine. If you need souvenirs for a family reunion, frat or sorority handbooks, or a few dozen books for a family business, vanity publishing might be your best bet. However, alarm bells should go offin your head if a vanity publisher promises to get your book in major stores for a fee of a few thousand dollars. It might be technically true, but it’s not going to happen the way you envision.  In the ebook world, most writers have to spend something in order to get a quality product. Whether it’s spending time learning to use Photoshop or a few hundred dollars for a freelance editor, these independent ebook services can be totally legit– and incredibly helpful. 

   If you already have some Photoshop experience, you may be able to make your own cover. If you don’t have the experience, and you’re not able to learn, paying for a cover will be your best option. Some ebook cover artists charge hundreds of dollars for a single cover. Others will charge rock-bottom prices and hope to make a profit through volume of sales. Many artists can make great covers. The trick is finding a skilled, dependable designer who is willing to work with you to make your vision a reality.

      Editing is the necessary evil of writing. Friends and family are often too forgiving or too inexperienced to point out the mistakes of a loved one’s draft. More and more writers are turning to freelance editors, both copy and developmental.

      Freelance editing is a business. It’s a profession. It’s not personal. Your feelings will probably get hurt. But with great editing, that short-term pain will lead to long-term gain in the form of more engaging storytelling. With mediocre editing, the process will lead to a bunch of headaches when astute readers point out basic or not-so-basic flaws in your ebook. And with terrible editing, the misguided editor might introduce errors, fail to correct major errors, forget to edit the story at all, or attempt to take control as if she were now the legal guardian of the ebook and not just a babysitter.

   In any case, vetting freelance designers, editors, and marketers is absolutely crucial. All freelance professionals should be able to offer you a personal history, references, examples of previous work, current contact information, pricing information and a clear timeline of the process.

      If any freelancer refuses to give a straight answer or can’t substantiate previous work claims, move on. Though it’s typical to get an estimate for a project and not an exact dollar figure, be extremely wary of any “professionals” who cannot give an hourly rate, a per-page rate, or a per-project rate. Also, be cautious of freelancers who oversell their services. No one can guarantee sales or fans.

      There are tons of amazing and experienced freelancers ready and willing to work with you on your ebook. Using the services of an outside professional can help you get a polished product ready for selling and downloading.

      ((One caveat: if you’re soliciting the expertise of a freelance editor, designer, or marketer, don’t offer to pay with the royalties from the future ebook or the opportunity to “get your name out there”. It’s simply unprofessional. In the same way that actors, camera operators, and prop directors get paid even if a movie tanks at the box office, your support team should be paid whether or not your book is a success. You’re the publisher now. And you can’t get all the reward if you don’t take some of the risks.))

Want to recommend your editor, designer, or marketer? Leave a comment with a link!