How I Sold Fifty Thousand E-books Without Spending Money

character: Lazy Sal, Futurama.

This the kind of click-bait/low-quality post you see on author boards like Kboards and elsewhere. Basically, some author wants to brag about how s/he banged out a book in two weeks, bought a stock image book cover, added their name and book title on it, and uploaded the completed file to Amazon with no editing or formatting, and then saw the book go to #1 on the Amazon bestsellers list for three straight weeks. It’s tough to know who’s telling the truth and who’s just looking for attention, but they do bring up a good question: How much should you spend on a self-published book? Estimates vary, with some people going all out for about $1500-2000 a book and some people saying the spent $5 on a stock photo and otherwise no editing, no formatting, just plopped a cover on there and soon it was making them tens of thousands within a month.

I honestly cannot figure out how any serious author can produce such low-quality work and expect to be successful. Yes, maybe once or twice someone spent, like, ten bucks on a cover, threw a book up on Amazon, and sold 100,000+ copies and is now seeing their movie being made into a Hollywood film. Maybe. Realistically, those people with the shortcut attitude will be lucky to sell more than 500 doing that. But who knows? Apparently you can write Justin Bieber fan-fic and get a million or billion views, or write a poorly written book and sell 100 million, so why not?

The answer should be, there is no “right” answer. If you can barter for editing services, good for you. If you’re a natural artist and you can make a great cover, good for you. Otherwise, any good book should have 1-2 qualified editors (people with a background in editing, at least one of them an actually book editor), at least three reliable beta readers (helps you test plot holes and pick up anything the editor could have missed), and someone who can actually create a book cover. Whether you spend $40 or $400 is irrelevant, whether your total is $300, $500, or $2000, as long as you get the cover you want and can make sales with the best looking product you can make. It’s not the cost, it’s the quality.

The bottom line: You don’t see major publishers or bestselling indies skimp on every process of book creation any more than Rolex skimps out on producing a luxury watch. Wouldn’t you rather emulate the successful than the bragaholic cheapskate looking for clicks?

I can’t answer for you, but I know A LOT LOT LOT of people with that kind of attitude. They want to show off how cheap they are or how little effort they can put in. It’s like someone saying that, instead of producing a great video, they just farted on their webcam, uploaded it to YouTube, and had 500,000 views in a month. Oh wait, I think that did happen.

They put in the minimal effort into everything, and then wonder why they aren’t successful. Hm.

For the record, on one of my just-completed novels, I hired an editor with six-plus years Big 5 experience. She actually was reasonable, in the triple digits for a full development and line edit (the line was the major cost). I will let you know how she does after she finishes work, but so far I’m very enthused about working with her.

What about you? How much do you spend on producing your book? Do you do any marketing?

4 thoughts on “How I Sold Fifty Thousand E-books Without Spending Money

  1. I sympathize with folks who can’t afford that perfect cover and have to go with something lesser. There are ways to do that without completely tanking it. Still, the indie books that really fly off the virtual shelves are going to have fabulous covers.


    • I agree! To each his/her own, but that’s why I get somewhat irritated when these clickbaiters put those posts up on Kboards, hoping we’ll follow them to their blogs. I think some of them want to make others jealous by how little work these “success stories” had. Let me be clear that I’m separating people who legitimately do not have money to pay for a decent book cover versus those too cheap to consider quality. However, in this cruel world, readers are not going to know or feel bad if you cover sucks. They will judge it so I know I need to make sure it’s comparable to a Big 5, even if I don’t have that kind of money right now. Another side job, maybe?

      Liked by 1 person

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