Ballin’ on a Budget: Author Edition

Self-publishing can be a great freedom, but also an unfortunate strike on your piggy bank. You can easily find yourself dumping thousands of your hard earned dollars into the process. There’s a need to publish quality content, but let’s be honest here, not every writer has thousands of dollars available to funnel into a publishing adventure. So what do you do when the budget is tight? There are ways to publish without breaking the bank. The tips I am providing below are what I like to call “Ballin’ on a Budget: Author Edition” so take notes.

I’ll discuss publishing in both ebook and print formats, but obviously you’ll find the ebook only approach being the cheaper route. You should be able to publish both formats together for anywhere between $500-$800 depending mostly on your choices for editing and covers.

First, let’s start with the hefty chunk of the self-publishing costs. I’ve seen full editing packages exceed $2,000. It’s not a secret that you shouldn’t skimp on your editing. Too many errors inside your book will have readers discarding before they finish the story. You can’t handle all the editing alone and expect to catch everything. Your friends don’t make good options either, but you don’t have to pay thousands to get your book edited. Here are some editing options for your budget.

  • Option one: Find a teacher/professor who can offer the right editing for your project. No friends! Not even if the friend is strict with their grammar! I’ve been there, done that. Just don’t. English majors who do a lot of reading and writing of their own will have much better eye for editing your manuscript than someone who just understands grammar. My Alliance series is being edited by a local English teacher who has similar tastes in reading. Appreciation of your genre is not required, but could be an added bonus. You might find a local teacher who has experience in editing and can offer you a better rate than a professional online. You might be able to negotiate a flat fee or a discount for a multiple book commitment.
  • Option two: Professional editors are going to be the more costly option, and the price can very well depend on your manuscript. Rates usually are calculated per word or page, but I’ve seen some quote a flat fee for certain word counts. The industry standard seems to be 250 words per page. I’ve seen people charge $1 per page and some $0.ooo7 per word (which translates to $1.75 per page) There’s also different types of editing. I recommend polishing your manuscript to the best of your ability and then getting a quote and sample edits. If your manuscript averages 60-180k you should be fine here. I feel confident you can find editing and proofreading costs to be under $500 for an average size manuscript. If your manuscript is more like 300k behemoth, well then the budget might be a little tighter.

Professional editors will usually offer a sample edit for so many words or pages. After applying some research time, request sample edits of the editors you found in your price range. You might be able to make a more educated decision based off of the quality of the edits you receive.

Second, you must understand the cover is also vital to your book’s success. Regardless of the classic phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” people will still unfortunately judge your book by the cover. Don’t Photoshop your own images unless you really know what you’re doing. Hey, I won’t assume you aren’t a skilled graphic designer, but if you’re not a savvy art professional who knows how to design book covers, don’t.  Leave this task to a professional who understands design and layout. For this you’ll have two options.

  • Option one: Premade covers aren’t always the best decision, especially if you’re working on a series, but can work well for small budgets. For ebook you can get a premade cover for about $50, but keep in mind the price will increase to about $75-$100 if you add on the print option. Don’t be hasty, make sure you read the fine print and do your research on the designer.
  • Option two: Custom covers are the best option with an obviously larger price point. This allows a cover to be created to 100% fit your story and add cohesion if it’s for a series. For this option, you’re looking at about $100 minimum for ebook. I’ve seen low print and ebook packages run around $150-$200.

Formatting can range $50-$100 per average size manuscript. Remember you’ll need different file formats for ebook and print, so make sure you get a price quote for everything you need.

Copyright and ISBNs are a relatively low cost, but also aren’t 100% required, especially if you’re publishing through Amazon’s Createspace. Createspace will provide the ISBNs for you, so you shouldn’t need to purchase an ISBN if you’re working exclusively with them. I personally haven’t purchased the ISBNs because I do publish exclusively through Amazon. Copyright costs can add that extra security and peace of mind. I did go through the copyright process for the first novel in my Alliance series, but have not for the second novel in the series. If you can include this in your budget , the copyright fee should start at $35 for a single manuscript.

Remember, if you are working on a series, don’t forget to ask if they offer discounts for multiple books. I mentioned this in a previous blog post, but there’s a chance a formatter, editor or designer will offer a discount for multiple projects. Not everyone will advertise a discount, but I’ve found many who were willing to offer me one when I inquired.

Also remember to research and read all the fine print when building your budget plan and choosing who to work with. Don’t be hasty, be smart. I learned all of this the hard way, and I hope to save some other writers from making the same mistakes.

Publishing costs for my second novel, Drakon, totals at $475 by using the tips I provided. The $475 includes the print and ebook covers, editing and formatting, so the budgeting route is indeed possible.

Writing a novel takes a lot of heart and hard work, so make sure to take the same care with your self-publishing choices.

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