Paying to have things done

‘Life is too short to do anything for oneself that one can pay others to do for one.’
W Somerset Maugham

I came across this quotation in a magazine. Like many such sayings it has a surface attraction though in this case, with one use of ‘oneself’ and two of ‘one’, it surely comes over now as formal and stiff.

But moving on to its meaning, consider what it might signify for authors. If we can afford it we could:
– use a professional for the layout and proof-reading of interior text
– use a graphic designer for our covers
– use an illustrator if our book contains illustrations

So far so good, but why not go the whole hog and pay someone to write our books for us? You know it makes sense! A certain celebrity here in the YUK has done that with some success and has reportedly said that the trick lies in coming up with the ideas. The writing is the easy bit.

Yet the issue of paying for services is a serious one. Many people think that proofing and formatting interior text is easy. To judge from mistakes even from large publishing houses this is plainly not the case. But it is usually easier to persuade an author of the importance of a professional cover because the cover sells. Or, to put it negatively, without a professionally produced cover your book won’t move.

There is one other area where authors might consider hiring help and that is marketing. If people don’t know your books are out there they can’t choose to buy them, but marketing isn’t easy. For a start, it requires certain skills – for example, in the effective use of social media – and authors don’t necessarily have those skills. It may also involving selling yourself, which many authors are not comfortable with. Readers, we are told, want to know a little about the author, like why they write in the first place or who knitted their socks.

Looked at objectively, this blog is not a good example of an author promoting his work. The subject matter is too diverse, too often beside the point (it should be publicising the books) and not confessional enough to attract a large following. I should pay someone competent to do it for me.

And lastly there is the question of money. Assuming you have enough to hire others to work for you in the first place, why would you spend it in this way? After all, instead of blowing it on a third party you could get your head round publishing software, graphic design and concepts such as ‘flattening’. Not to mention web design for your website. You could choose to do these things, but it will take time and time is money too. People who work for themselves and charge by the hour are well aware of this. So how much is an hour of your time really worth? Only you can work that out but one thing seems clear, it’s a graduated scale. The older we get the more our time is worth because we don’t have so much of it left.


4 thoughts on “Paying to have things done

  1. Yes, it’s all one big trade-off. Having gone to the trouble of writing a book, you want readers and to do that you need to publish the book and then you have to make all the decisions you outlined above. I rather enjoy learning my way round the software, but I can’t afford Photoshop – which would have helped with my cover problem. I tried contacting someone to take on some publicity for me (i.e. brave the bookshops and local papers). She’s had a draft of my new book for a while, I suspect the silence means she is not enthusiastic to take it on. I am resigned to not making money, to selling very few publicly and a larger number on the personal circuit – i.e. people who read the earlier books and will come to a launch, or reading groups I’ve been to. I recommend making a flyer and sending it out in all your Christmas cards.

  2. I don’t have Photoshop, though i use Elements 6 to edit photographs. I don’t know if it’s up to book covers, though. It’s much cheaper than the full version. I wouldn’t know who to contact about PR. Did fliers in Christmas cards work for you – I would never have thought of that.

  3. Its a tricky business and you made some great observations about the difficulties of writing. Even with a lot of money getting published isnt an easy thing I dont think but it cant hurt.
    The worst part about writing now is it seems we’re all expected to be roaring extroverts publicising and doing meet and greets, book readings etc. thats the antithesis of what writing is about. I fear great writers are losing out because they dont want all that. So if I had money, i’d pay some one to do these events for me 🙂

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