You Can Do It Yourself (But You Shouldn’t)

There’s a lot of bad feeling in the Indie Publishing world, towards what are called, ‘Vanity Presses’. These are publishers who charge would-be authors to publish their books. Whilst there’s no doubt that there are unscrupulous businesses out there who will trade on author’s desire to see their name in print, a lot of legitimate author services companies get labeled the same way.

I was at a writing group once, when a new member proudly declared to the room (many of whom had paid for author services) that anyone who paid someone else to do what they could do themselves was a fool! Why pay someone else to design your cover, or proof-read your book when you can do it yourself for free?

Personally speaking? I put a value on my own time. It’s a scarce commodity, just 24 hours in any given day and I like to sleep around 8 hours of that. Given my age, education, and experience it’s not expecting too much to get a wage of £20 an hour.

Let’s say I want to typeset my own book:

I spend a few hours googling and reading how to do it myself – £40.

I realise that if I want any nice bells and whistles I’ll need software so I research that and look for prices – £20.

The software itself costs £190, then I’ll need some time to read manuals, and have a play – total £230.

And then there’s the time to actually typeset the book. If we say half an hour per chapter, 30 chapters, that’s 15 hours or £300.

Total cost: £590.00

And when it’s done, it will be the best that I can do it. But it still won’t be as good as if it had been done by someone with experience. (I paid considerably less than that to have Alfie Slider and the Shape Shifter typeset to perfection!)

It doesn’t seem so ‘free’ when you consider it like that, does it? And of course the same is true when you’re looking at other professional services. In fact, a lot of what I write about for clients is sharing their knowledge and expertise because that sets them up as an expert in their own subject area, and it also makes potential customers aware of the skills, knowledge, and experience that person brings to what they do.

For example, most people are capable of writing a pretty decent blog post about their subject of interest. There are plenty of sites out there that have useful content, and most of it is ‘well written’ in as much as there are no spelling or grammar problems. It conveys the information it was supposed to.

But how long did it take that person to write? And while it might have been a good post, was it great? Did it include the right keywords, in the right places,  necessary to help it rise in the search rankings? Did the author write what they wanted the client to hear, rather than what the client wanted to know? Did they know how to use repetition successfully to make a point? (See what I did there?)

Great writing has a rhythm. You start at the beginning and the flow of it pulls you through to the end. There are lots of techniques for controlling how quickly someone reads your text, using word length, sentence length, and sibilance. Sure, you can google all those things and then try and use them (or go back through your post and add them in) but wouldn’t it be quicker to get someone who does it without thinking to do it for you?

I can clean my own windows. I don’t, because it’s not an effective use of my time and they wouldn’t be as streak free as my window cleaner leaves them. Not many of us go out and hunt, butcher and prepare our own raw meat – we let someone else do that for us. Yet somehow, when it comes to hiring professional services, people would rather spend time than money.

So, as the title says: While there are many things that you could do for yourself? It’s often much better to value your time and let someone with the right expertise do it for you.


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