No money down! Easy payments!

I realize that I am beginning to harp on this subject but: Please think long and hard before deciding against self-publishing because of up-front costs.

I'm seeing a lot of things like this:

I’ll be honest, the up-front costs of self-publishing scare me. . . . [With a publishing contract t]here isn’t an upfront cost, nor is there a payment of any kind of front. The royalties are lower. . . , but I’m not spending anything out of pocket.

Have you ever done one of those cost calculators where you plug in your credit card debt and your rate of interest, and you figure out how long it would take and how much you would pay to pay that debt back if you only ever made the easy-peasy minimum payments? And the answer is always something like "850 years" and "a kajillion dollars"? That's what's going on here.

When people don't see an upfront cost, they tend to assume there is no cost. Intellectually, they may know it exists--but it's just a lower royalty, right? It's not real money.

Except that it is. This is called "loss aversion," and it's a well-documented phenomenon--people would rather forgo future gains than give up money they already have. If I say to you, You have to cough up for an editor, a copy editor, and a cover artist, you look at that discrete dollar amount, and you say, I can't afford that. Emotionally, you are programmed to hold tightly onto what you have. You don't want to invest, and with self-publishing, you do have to invest.

But if I say to you, With a traditional publishing contract, the more successful your book becomes, the more money you will lose, that doesn't really mean anything on a gut level. It's too vague, it's an indeterminate amount of money, it's off in the future, and it's "just" lost revenue--you'll never see that money, so you'll never miss it. It will just slide painlessly away from you, just like the interest on those easy-peasy minimum credit-card payments does.

The irony is, the very things that make self-publishing painful and scary are what will save you money in the long run. You'll (hopefully) be more motivated to shop around and look to more inexpensive alternatives (do you really need custom cover art? could a stock photo do? can you recruit a good amateur editor?). And once that money is spent, that's it--if the job was done to your satisfaction, you never have to pay for it again.

Once people figure this out, that's when they start foaming at the mouth about how you should pay cash for your car and you should pay off your credit-card bills every month and you should save up for stuff before you buy it and you should never give anyone a share of your royalties. Those people are a pain, right? And one reason they're such a pain is that you know that they're right--they're the voice of experience and they used to do what you're doing until they figured out how absurdly expensive it was.

Here's one; he goes by the name Dean Wesley Smith. He writes:

If you pay for a task to be done, pay a set price. Period. There are lots of new start-up businesses that offer a menu of tasks for set prices.

But let me also say this clearly right now. If you are worried about money, spend the time to learn how to do this yourself and have no real costs. This is not rocket science.