I talked to a neo-pro indie writer who soured on the whole experience, having paid $460 for editing, formatting, cover, keyword research, and a bunch of other stuff to get his book published.
In his view, he’d never make that money back. Which is quite true. But that’s not his problem.
His problem is that he overpaid. A LOT.
I published my first self-published novel in November. Total cost: $0.78 for two stock images.
A writer/designer whom I’ve helped with crits made the cover for me. Cost: $0.
I traded crits with other writers for editing (using Scribophile). Cost $0.
I sent out the book to a few beta readers for feedback and additional proof reading. Cost $0.
I traded services with a friend who’s a proofreader for the final read-through. Cost $0.
I published direct to Amazon, Google, and Kobo, and used PublishDrive (which I got for the ability to publish in China, also as an AppSumo deal, but it’s good for 48 books forever – no subscription fees). If I hadn’t gotten PD, I’d have used Draft2Digital, which is free to set up (charges 10% of your cover price, though). So cost could have been $0, but does exist now.
I got my ISBNs for free through the Swedish Royal Library (living in Europe has its advantages). Cost: $0, but if I’d been in the US, I’d have ignored ISBNs completely. You don’t need them to publish your work, only if you want to get it into brick-and-mortar bookstores, and even then not always.
Everything else is just time, and learning. I haven’t done much marketing (read any marketing at all) other than a cover reveal which got me a few sales, and I don’t plan to.
All of this is irrelevant, though.
The way I see it, the first book is a learning experience. You do it so that you’ll know how to do it.
I don’t expect to make any money from my first book for at least a couple of years. It’s the first in a series, but as long as the rest of the series isn’t published, it’s effectively a standalone.
Standalones from unknown writers don’t sell. Sorry to say that, but from everything I’ve seen, that’s the hard truth.
A complete aside here: standalones from traditionally published writers don’t sell, either. If you expect your publisher to do the work for you, think again. You’ll likely be required to do just as much marketing as an indie writer, and your chances of getting any sort of money from your publisher for a first-time author, is slim-to-nil (apart from a pittance in the low four figures – and not even that is guaranteed as I’ve seen trad deals for “increased royalties” and no advance.) I wouldn’t trade that for the potential that exists in being indie – but to each their own.
Is it easy to be indie?
But it’s not meant to be. When you decide to go indie, you decide to become a small business owner. That takes a completely different skill set than being a writer, since you’re also a publisher.
You can solve that in two ways: you can throw in a lot of time, effort, and learn, learn, learn. Or you can throw in a lot of money.
But, so you won’t feel bad, there are writers who go to Well-Known-But-Very-Litigious-Scam-Company and buy their grand package instead, paying the vanity press up to half-a-million-dollars to “publish” their book. (Yes, I’ve read Preditors and Editors.)
In comparison to that, paying $460 is nothing. Chalk your costs up as a learning experience, and figure out what you could do better the next time.
Luck and Persistence!