Indie Publishing: It takes a village?

I’ve said here and elsewhere, many times before, that it takes a lot of money to self-publish a book. You can write one for only the cost of your time, but to involve professional editors, designers, printers, and possibly even marketers is to commit several thousands of dollars of your own money to do it right.

I make a living by editing books. If I am correcting your novel line-by-line, I cost about $2000.  I usually pay a competent designer between $1100 and $1300 to typeset that book and design its cover. Then I will charge you $150 to write your flap copy and press release. (I know it’s a faux pas to talk about money in public. Tsk, tsk. We writers… You can’t take us anywhere.) The result will be an attractive, well-edited book that you will be proud to share with your readers.

You can find better deals, of course. And they are still expensive. David Drazul, a fellow writer, spent a bit over $1000 in workshop fees, editing, design, and marketing costs. (See his guest blog post here.) No matter how you slice it, indie publishing is not as democratic as we biblio-revolutionaries would like it to be.

Until now? Michael Keefe posted an article last week on music website MadeLoud.com, “Kickstarter: Where Modest Dreams Can Still Come True,” that highlights yet more instances of successful crowd-funding ventures. While the concept is not exactly fresh from the fires of a new economy (TIME published an article on it in 2008, and it has been around for at least ten years), it offers some hope for the cash-strapped genius in all of us. By posting your project on a site like Kickstarter.com, people anywhere can read about it and donate a minimum of $1 in support of it. Some of the site users’ current writing projects include zines and a translation of “Uruguayan poet Marosa di Giorgio’s 1965 masterpiece, The History of Violets.

The concept is appealing. With over 95 percent of its revenue going directly to the artist, writer, or filmmaker, a crowd-funding site can offset the cost of a worthy project. Besides that, it also involves the public in the arts and creates a sense of ownership–supporting an idea that I am personally attached to, namely that the arts are a dialogue, not a talent show.

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