Self Publishing – $1500?

I’ve been following Joanna Penn since she appeared on “The Self Publishing Podcast“. She’s a very interesting, thoughtful, and educated woman. She’s got her stuff together, and her books are pretty good too.

She often links to interesting articles about writing and publishing on her twitter and facebook. That is where I get a lot of my “This week in publishing” links.

Today she linked to “How Self Published Books are Made Start to Finish“.

The first thing I notice is a list of “things you should have” and one entry:

  • Money to invest in said book. I wouldn’t start this without $1,500 in the bank marked ‘I can lose this’

Who can afford to just mark $1,500 dollars as “I can lose this”?

Okay, I understand her reasoning. There are editors, book cover designers, marketing, print books, advertising… Ya, there are a LOT of things that go into writing, publishing, and selling your books. Even if you go with a simple cover design that you put together you probably need to buy a licenses for the art work, unless you have some art skills.

But… $1500?

I’ve got 8 books out now. I’ve spent a total of $400. All of that went to editing one book, “Osiren’s Tears“. Granted, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the the editing. It seemed rushed, and I know someone who could have done a better job for a little more money, but he wasn’t available then.

Editing is worth the investment. Some day, I hope, I will make enough to have everything I have already put up re-edited, and then re-published as a new, better edition. But I’m on a budget, and my budget does not include $1500 to blow.

The nice thing about going indie in ANY industry (movies, music, writing, theater, art…) is that you can invest what you have. You can outsource, barter, scrimp, save, and adjust.

Here is what you really must have for self-publishing:

  • An idea
  • Time
  • Patience
  • Persistence
  • A plan
  • A finished manuscript
  • The ability to take criticism
  • An edit
  • A cover
  • More patience
  • The willingness to ask questions.

Only two of those things might cost you some actual hard earned money, and there are ways to get around that too. Got a friend who is an artist? Suggest a trade. You’ll do something for them (babysit, cook, clean, wash their car) if they design a cover for you. Got a group of friends that like to read? Will they be your beta readers and give you some good feedback on cleaning up your prose? Writers workshops are free, and often help a lot.

Another wonderful part about indie industry is that there are a lot of people doing the same thing, and willing to help out in many ways. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask for help, look for tutorials on youtube, read a how to book, and ASK QUESTIONS!

Now, granted, just throwing your book up on amazon will not bring a lot of sales to you. That’s where marketing, and word of mouth comes in. But if your book is good, interesting, and well written, and you put yourself out there where people will see you, then you have a good chance of getting some readers.

Then the trick is to start the whole process over again. The more you publish, the more noticeable you will be. This is true even for really bad writing. There are some terrible books out there with awful covers, and horrible grammar. But they keep producing, and there are people who read their stuff. Go figure.

Point being… you can produce a book for the low cost of ZERO dollars. Doesn’t mean it will be good, or sell, but you can do it. 

And if it is good, or just pretty good, and you get some sales, then maybe you can start saving up for that $1500, and a proper release of a bigger project later.


9 thoughts on “Self Publishing – $1500?

  1. Nice post.

    I produced my first book for zero dollars out of pocket. I did so with the help of a great writing group and friends to help read the early drafts.

    Not having an editor was a hinderance, but it also forced me to learn to do the task myself and create my own processes for doing so. During each pass, I increased the depth and precision of the story. So, an external edit pass by a proofreader will only fix your grammar, but will not do much to improve the story.

    While my first release had a good number of stupid grammar mistakes, I quickly resolved any error pointed out to me and republished almost instantaneously.

    • I had a couple problems with my earlier drafts too, but I am going back and fixing them as time permits. As I go they are getting better, and the response so far has been great.

      Editors are a necessity, I think, but a good writing group, and opportunities to barter with people you know can go a long ways in filling in the gap. Then you can save up to have a pro edit later.

  2. You can get a lot of the proof/grammar stuff done by sending it to several grammar nazi friends who read. I stagger it so they get it one after another. Usually by the fourth they have picked up/fixed most of it. Then it can go to an editor for the final run.

    • True, but you are doing a lot more then I can do right now. Print books, author signings, flying all over, doing talks and what not. But in the simplest term, to just get an ebook out you need ZERO dollars. You can even do a good one if you take your time, do it right, and ask for help. And the more you do it, the better you get. I know in 6 months with 8 books out, I’ve learned so much, and my new ebooks/print books are way better then the first ones.

    • You did very well with your kickstarter. It really has helped ‘that book’ a lot.

      That being said Crissy has put out some very high quality e-books, with great formatting, editing and cover design very cheap. She makes a valid point.

      Example: I have a professional designer & illustrator who works for free (sister). I also have a professional copy editor in ‘the family’. Sometimes it is more ‘what’ and ‘who you know than how much money you need to spend.

  3. Thank you for the helpful information. My first-book manuscript is near completion and I’m thinking about editing, cover design, proof-reading, and all …I’m feeling …I can edit. What’s the deal? Punctuation, grammar—maybe I’m missing something. I did my own cover. Why do I love it? Is it my baby—or, one of them? I know there’s a really good answer but I’m used to being in charge.
    Leading a Pop band, one is in charge of many things. There might be a false confidence that being an editor in one field validates one in another field.
    I guess we will see, before long. I’m looking at the end of August 2015 for publication of my book.
    ‘Stealthy Blackjack.’

    • Editing is more than just punctuation and grammar. A good editor will catch all the inconsistencies, and tighten up the prose so they flow better. A good editor is worth their weight in gold.

      Here is a good test to see how much you need an editor: Take your best piece of writing, the one you have edited, and send it to a few editors. Many will do 2000 words for free to see if you work well together. If you get the piece back with very little red ink then bully for you. Publish without editing and go for it. If it’s covered in red? Then you need an editor.

      If you aren’t even willing to put your work to the test than you aren’t being objective about your writing.

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