“I can’t afford self-publishing.”
Self-publishing doesn’t have to be expensive, and money shouldn’t be a barrier to getting your work in the hands of readers on your terms. If you’re considering going the traditional route so you don’t have to cover your own costs, you’re not alone. “I can’t afford self-publishing” is a common refrain.
If you do have the cash, sure, there are some things you can pay for that make the job simpler and maybe more polished. But that shouldn’t stop you. If you think you are in a “I can’t afford an editor for self-publishing” situation, let’s look at the costs involved and where you can save money. And where it might be worth spending what you can.
Editors can be costly – and so they should be! If they’re going to make your book shine, they’re going to have to invest a huge amount of time and concentration to make it sing. But… do you have to use one? No!
If you have some cash, hire a proofreader. Proofreaders usually cost $50 to $200 and will make your manuscript relatively typo-free. Remember, even traditionally published books have errors. Ask your beta readers to go through it, most readers will overlook errors for a great story, and you can use book sales to fund a more detailed edit later.
This is one area where it may make sense to “splash the cash.” The cover is the most vital part of selling a book and needs to be genre-specific and eye-catching. It may be you have the skillset to design a good cover yourself or know someone who has that will give you a good price, perhaps a student on a design course looking for experience. Photoshop, or a free alternative like GIMP, can do a pretty good job if you know how to use them.
The bottom line is that you can change the cover to a better one later on when you’ve sold enough to pay for it. Don’t make it an obstacle to getting your book published, but do get the best one you can now.
Of course, formatting is important. It needs to be consistent and correct. It affects how the book looks and can improve the reader’s experience, but it needn’t be expensive. Reedsy offers a great tool for formatting that’s free, and most software for writing has some formatting help built-in. Scrivener is used by many writers mostly because it provides superb organization, but it can help in formatting, too. I know it’s around $50, but you can usually get it for 50% off by taking part in a NaNoWriMo event and “winning.”
Print-on-demand has changed the self-publishing game. Now, you don’t need to pay to get your books printed. Every sale will pay for its own printing. Focus on online book sales for now, and consider doing in-person events where you need printed books later.
Stop worrying about what you can’t afford and get that book on the market! Have you ever heard of Heinlein’s Laws? If not, here they are:
Take these laws to heart.
If you have to, do everything yourself. Yes, getting a book to the stage where it can be released is time-consuming, but don’t let that put you off.
Always remember that even the best books are rarely, if ever, perfect. If you have a good story to tell, the readers won’t mind the occasional mistake. The beauty of online publishing is that it makes errors easy to correct. It’s not like you have thousands of books sitting on shelves to worry about.
Professional help makes the task easier but not necessarily better. It would be lovely just to be able to concentrate on writing and nothing else. But if your situation doesn't allow that, don’t let that deter you from getting your book in front of readers.