My Self-Publishing Journey: Pareto’s Law Revisited

I wrote a while back about Pareto’s Law: the 80/20 Rule. That’s the idea that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. The trick, of course, is knowing which 20% of your effort is producing the results.

Castle Rock Publishing is preparing to publish DANGEROUS TALENTS. Part of that process is deciding what level of editing to pay for. DANGEROUS TALENTS has been through multiple rounds of critique with authors who have published well over 100 books between them. Is that enough?  Do I (as the owner of Castle Rock) hire a less expensive editor to go over this much longer book? Or do I stick with an editor whom I know does excellent work? Do I pay for a developmental editing pass I may not need, or do I pay only for copy and proof editing?

This is no small matter. I’m in business. Every dollar spent up front pushes the break-even point further away. At the same time, my books represent me. They can build or hurt my reputation.

I’ve made my decision based on my dedication to producing high quality entertainment for you, my readers. But I wanted to share my dilemma with you because if you’re self-publishing these are the kind of decisions you’ll face too.

In the meantime, I want to announce the winners of my drawing for a free copy of one of my books. These winners may choose either a print or digital copy of VEILED MIRROR, LIGHTBRINGER, or DANGEROUS TALENTS when it’s released next spring.

Congratulations to Christine Wunch, Caroline Mickleson, and Benita Grunseth. Thank you for leaving reviews of my books. You can contact me with your preference at


Filed under Publishing

5 responses to “My Self-Publishing Journey: Pareto’s Law Revisited

  1. I truly understand your dilemma over what level of editing to have done on this book. It’s one of the things I’ve thought about a lot in weighing whether to self-publish or go the traditional route. Because I haven’t published previously, I am probably going to pay for developmental/content editing prior to publication. I’ll also probably pay for a cover artist rather than trying to mock up something myself.
    I know that it will be a long time–if ever–before I recoup those expenses. However, if I want writing to be a career and not just a hobby, I believe editing and cover design are necessary business expenses.

    • Elise, I agree that professional editing and cover art are necessary business expenses. I know people who have done without, and have done all right, but others . . . not so much. I want to do whatever I can (within reason) to send a clear message that I’m taking this seriously as a professional.

      I’m taking what I learned from the developmental editing of LIGHTBRINGER and applying it to DANGEROUS TALENTS before sending it off for copyediting and proofing. My WIP, FIRSTBORN, is a shorter book and hasn’t been through extensive critiquing, so for that book I’ll pay for the full Monty. 🙂

      As for recouping my costs, I believe that if my product is professional it will break-even and, as I build my reputation with multiple books I’ll have a profitable career.

      Good to luck to you!

  2. It’s a very hard call, but I agree with you our books represent who we are and if we want to be taken seriously as an author then we need to put forth the money to get quality people.

  3. Caroline Mickelson

    It’s an important call and not an easy one. This book I’m just finishing is my first mystery so I’ve had three different editors go over it and I’ll still send it out for one more copy edit. Overkill perhaps but I’ve chosen to look at it as an investment in my editing education as opposed to just a per product expense. The editorial insight I’ve gained has been worth every dime. Will it always be necessary for me to have three developmental edits? I hope not. But I know I’ll always want an outside editor to help me improve my writing. Like so many other decisions with self-publishing, it can be frustrating to have the weight of each decision on our shoulders but I find the freedom so sweet. I’m confident you’ll make the best decision, Frances.

    • I agree, Caroline, I’ll always want some level of outside editing.

      This decision gives me more insight into traditional publishing. I’ve read that while big publishers hope all their books do well, the company looks at entire lines to judge profitability, and editing is just one of many standard expenses for each book published. Some need more, others less, but every book gets some attention. Publishers with in-house editors can rely on them to decide how much editing a particular book needs. We have to make the decision. It’s work, but like you, I find the freedom very sweet indeed! 🙂

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