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  • C.E. Groom

The Costs of Being an Indie Author, or Why I Won't Pay for Reviews

Updated: Nov 20

Let me start by saying how incredibly delighted I am to have received a 5-Star Review from Readers’ Favorite, particularly since I submitted my giant beast of a debut novel for a free review. I had zero expectations of getting either read or reviewed, let alone of getting such a delightfully positive write-up. To be honest, there are very few free review sites available for independent authors, and one had already refused to accept the book due to the word count exceeding 150K, which had dashed my hopes. Imagine my surprise when I awoke to find that someone had written a 5-Star Review that even comes with a sticker to use in promoting the book, a very sweet and unexpected bonus.

Here’s a little taste of what reviewer Essien Asian had to say about The Sword and the Spark:


“Billed as an alternative take on Shakespeare's timeless classic Macbeth, C.E. Groom's The Sword and the Spark goes one better. The storyline is intriguing as each of the primary characters justifies the motivation for their actions. . . This is the first foray into what could prove to be a very interesting series and I look forward to reading the sequel.”


Indie publishing has been a wild and crazy ride so far, and I’m only in my seventh month of being a published author. The journey has been full of peaks and valleys, with Everest-like highs and abysmal lows. I can sell five books in a day, or I can go weeks without selling a single copy. I might get three beautiful reviews on Amazon in a week, but then I won’t see another review for months. Meanwhile, I can tell you this: being an author is not a lucrative profession.


Of course, there’s the saying, “In order to earn money, you have to spend money.” Well, for those of you who don’t know, publishing a book is not cheap. First of all, time is money, and a novel of over 150K words certainly requires a significant chunk of time to write. Then of course, there’s the editing process, which is incredibly expensive if done properly with the right editor. Now, while these are typically the standard costs for a writer whether they are being traditionally published or independently published, there are lots of writers who will skip the professional editing phase entirely and pitch their manuscripts to agents and publishers without paying for someone to go over it with a trained editorial eye. That was never going to be me, nor will it ever be me, so the bill for editing shall always come due.


But wait; there’s more. For the self-published author, the rest of the initial publishing costs are as follows: formatting the book, designing a cover and hiring an artist for the artwork, securing a final proofreader, purchasing ISBNs for each edition of the book (ebook, paperback, and hardcover), filing for formal legal copyright protection, registering the finished work with the Library of Congress (in the US), and maintaining and hosting an author website for any reader traffic. None of these are inexpensive, and all are essential for having a professional book out there for readers to purchase. Again, a writer can skip any number of these steps, or opt for cheaper options, but that, too, was never going to be me.


Which brings me to my current dilemma: the flurry of emails, social media DMs, and website contact forms asking me to pay for reviews of my book.


Right now, the answer is going to be no. No, I am not going pay for a review of my book. Not from independent bloggers, not from literary magazines, not from review companies. . . not even from Kirkus, since the only way for an independent author to get reviewed by a company that prestigious is to pay them a hefty fee. This is not to say that I am against the practice of charging for reviews. We all need to make a living, and as mentioned before, time is money. Reading and reviewing a book takes time and effort, and I am delighted that there are so many folks willing to help new and independent authors by charging a small fee to promote their works. And yes, I can definitely see how a paid review might get potential readers to see that a new book is out there, which is genuinely one of the hardest parts about indie publishing. Additionally, I know that most paid reviewers and review sites will only charge for positive reviews, which are going to boost sales. However, after all the costly steps it took to publish my own book coupled with the sporadic sales of the book itself, I simply cannot afford to pay someone to read and review the book in addition to eating the cost of the free copy the reviewer will be receiving for said review.


Let me repeat, I just cannot afford to pay an individual to review my book at this time.


That said, if you are someone who reviews books, hosts a website or blog on books and authors, and/or wishes to give their honest feedback on my work, please contact me to see how we can arrange a review that will be mutually advantageous for us both. And of course, I encourage all readers who have purchased a book to leave reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any other site.


In the meantime, I’m focusing on spending what money I can afford in trying to reach readers organically, through in-person events such as conventions and book signings—and yes, those events also cost money.


So, please, stay tuned for more information regarding upcoming events, and as always,


Stars light your way!

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