From a guy who did it himself [link gone].

One of the things that always strikes me in these discussions–well, almost any discussion about writing, really–is how much people undervalue the cost of their own labour. In his post, Ben Reeder talks about certain things costing “time and energy” and “$0”. Except, you know what? That “time and energy” has a value. If you’ve got a day job, it’s called your hourly rate. If you’re running a business–which, if you’re self-publishing, you essentially are–then that cost doesn’t magically “disappear” just because you’re doing the work yourself rather than hiring the skill out. My parents-in-law run an engineering firm, for example, and you can bet they count their own hours and pay them out of the business’ profits. No “time and energy: $0” for them.

And this isn’t even going into issues of skill or quality. If a book cover designer’s average hourly rate is about $50 (which Google tells me it is, at least for salaried jobs), and it takes me four hours to complete a cover (which, knowing me, would seem reasonable), then I’ve essentially just paid $200 for that cover. The fact that money isn’t physically transferred as part of the exchange doesn’t mean it can’t be accounted for in a business sense. And, like. Let’s be real. $200 isn’t much.1 And yet you can get some pretty good cover designs for $200.

Could I do something myself in four hours that’s “better” than something I could buy by converting the time into cost? Fuck no. I’ve even got some basic art and design skills, and still: Fuck. No.

Rinse and repeat this conversation for every other line item, and the maths gets even worse. You can’t edit your own work; you have to get someone else to do that, preferably someones else. Interior formatting seems like it would be easy but it’s actually a huge freakin’ pain in the ass. Do you want to spend an entire evening fiddling with margins and line spacing settings in Word? Or different ebook platform export formats? I bet you don’t. I bet you’ve got better things to do than that. Things like writing your next book, for example.

And so on and so forth.

For what it’s worth, while Reeder doesn’t quite do the maths, I do agree with his conclusions; after having done a book himself, he agrees it’s better to hire out to professionals as much as possible rather than going the DIY route. when working with free, after all, you only get what you pay for.

  1. I mean… it is, in the “raw cash” sense. But we’re not talking that. We’re talking a business investment, in that you put money in your book’s cover because you hope it return money to you. The maths here is trying to predict whether the $200 you put in will result in at least $200 worth of sales. That’s tricky, particularly if this is your first selfpub rodeo, but those are the sorts of questions you’ll need to learn to ask to be successful in the business. []