It is a truth universally acknowledged that a novelist in possession of a good manuscript must be in want of an editor. What we discuss less often is that an editor in possession of good talents is inevitably in want of a paycheck. Likewise are the lovely people who will be tasked with creating cover art, designing the cover font, and laying out the insides of the book in expectation of being paid.
“But I shall traditionally publish!” you may proclaim. “That will cost me nothing!”
And I shall inform you that you still need a computer. Like editors and artists, whoever you get your computer from will most likely expect you to pay him.
Furthermore, not only is the traditional route becoming both less attractive and more difficult as time goes on, but many people would actually advise you to hire an editor to perfect your manuscript before you even send it to agents. If you protest, such people will merely shrug and tell you the publishing world is more competitive than ever.
So what is a poor writer to do? No one is going to pay for a book you haven’t written, so you’re left spending hours and hours of unpaid time writing it. And then you’re expected to spend money on it. Where is that money going to come from?
Some popular sources of funding are spouses, parents, and day jobs, but what if none of these sources will work for you? Maybe your family is barely paying for rent and food, so the idea of coming up with an extra grand to give an editor is as ridiculous as a Hollywood blockbuster about giant robots. Maybe you were doing fine until the city flooded your basement with sewage, or until your firstborn decided to wreck your car, or before that dragon torched your yard and the homeowners association started sending nasty notes about you needing to replace your grass. Maybe things are even more dire than that and you don’t know where rent and dinner are coming from, so you really need to be making money of this book now, not losing it.
The good news is that we live in an age that features a thing called crowdfunding. The bad news is that crowdfunding is hard.
“Hard?” you may say. “What’s so hard about letting the Internet hand you money?”
Well, my friend, how many strangers have you given money to in exchange for nothing but a promise of a future good? Maybe you’re like me and the answer is actually pretty high, but maybe you’re like most people and the answer approaches zero.
“But, my friends!” you would surely protest.
Yes, your friends… Let me tell you, nothing will teach you who your real friends are quite like a crowdfuning campaign. Some of the people you know will give you more money than you would have ever asked them for, but others who you counted on won’t even reshare your social media pleas for funds even though you sent them emails about it because you were afraid they were just not seeing your posts.
Additionally, it’s not actually that easy for most people to have to ask for money. It makes us feel awkward and a little dirty. In a bad way. We feel we are, fundamnetally, reducing ourselves to begging. And in most of the world it takes a lot of gumption or desperation to beg.
All of this is on my mind lately in a big way because I have a new book that is one revision away from editing. I can do the layout myself, but a writer who is his own editor generally has a fool for a client, and I couldn’t draw myself out of a paperbag, let alone create my own cover graphics.
My first novel, Pride, Prejudice, and Curling Rocks, I funded through Kickstarter and it was a nightmare. It felt like nothing more than me repeatedly asking to be kicked in the stomach and having the world comply. And this was a project that exceeded its goal. I can’t imagine what a failed campaign would have done to my self esteem when a successful one hurt as much as it did.
The novel did well enough that when it was time to pay for my second, I’d Rather Not Be Dead, I had enough money saved to do it.
That book, however, has not sold as well as the first. Possibly because it doesn’t have the Austen tie-in, although maybe the problem has more to do with its astrological sign. It can be hard to tell about these things. And sales of both have been scarce recently.
Combining the lack of sales with a completely unrelated debt situation means that I am looking at finding funding again. And to make matters even more interesting, my husband’s second novel is also reaching the point of editing and cover design. His first novel, Waiting for War, we paid for out of pocket, but doing that for two books when we’re already strapped seems at best foolish.
So maybe we’ll be on Kickstarter. Or Indiegogo. Or even gofundme. All are valid choices.
Other alternatives would be to work out barters, arrange to pay the editor and artist in installments, or make sure we win the lottery.
My most serious thought on the matter though is to have a completely book-unrelated book fundraiser. You see, I make jewelry, and I’m thinking that if I took all the extra supplies I have laying around I could make a pretty decent little Etsy store. Would this be any easier to get traction for than something that is basically a pre-order system though? I don’t know. If you have thoughts, please feel free to comment.
So, to summarize, in order to publish a book, one needs to spend money. In order to get money, one must find a way to convince people to give it to one.
If it were you raising somewhere between one and two thousand dollars in a month or two, how would you do it? Crowdfunding? Yard sales? A trip to Vegas? Or would you just lose heart, give up, and post your work for free without bothering with editing and cover design?
While you ponder that, take a second to pop over to Indiegogo, where The Scriptors’ very own R.J. Blain is trying to find the money to publish her next few books in the most excellent Witch and Wolf series.