I just read an excellent article in CreativePro called Are you a creative professional or a hobbyist? The article is talking about graphic designers, but it equally speaks to authors and writers.
The dividing line is the tools you use
Every day I see questions on FaceBook, Google+, and the author groups and forums in which I participate. They are all basically the same.
How can I do this or that without bothering to learn how? It’s usually written with an audible whine…
The answers are simple—and there are really only three of them.
- You can do it poorly
- You can pay someone else to do it for you
- You can invest the time and money necessary to produce at a professional level.
I assume you realize that I am writing this as a creative professional with over 40 years of graphic design experience, as a book designer with over 30 years of practice, and as an author with over 20 years writing, designing, producing, and publishing my own books—both traditionally and self-published.
Hobbyists use word processors for everything
They try to do graphics with Word and Gimp. These are not professional publishing tools. Writing in a word processor makes sense. But, trying to use word processor documents to release your books is a costly waste of time and effort. What you end up doing is letting Smashwords, Amazon, or someone similar crunch your writing into a semi-presentable mess.
This is not the place to discuss all the reasons why your word-processor-released book is obviously less than professional. There’s nothing wrong with that. But even normal readers will sense that the book is less than it should be.
Professionals do what it takes to do it well
The cost of learning and using InDesign will be $240 per year, plus a solid year of study and work. You can add an older version (CS6 or earlier work fine back to CS3 or so) of Photoshop, and even Illustrator using Ebay for very little. For example, in the photo above, it took about five minutes to drop in the screen capture of a book I’m working on into the free image I found in Pixabay using Photoshop.
Once the learning is out of the way, the $240/year is all it costs to produce and release books for print, PDF, ePUB, ePUB FXL, and Kindle. I usually produce and release 6-10 books a year to Createspace, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Scribd, Draft2Digital, and more. It takes barely a day to release them once they are completely written and edited.
Just try to get one book produced and released on a professional level for less than $300. How much time will you spend trying to explain to the book designer what you want, and how you want the book to look?
There is no right or wrong here.
You simply need to decide how serious you are about this writing thing.