The biggest mistake I made self-publishing my first book was to spend too much money on all the wrong things. As any self-respecting, aspiring author I combed the internet for information on how to make my novel a success. Instead I should have tried to figure out how to stay in the game long term.
Even if you do everything by the book (pun intended) there is no guarantee that your first novel will take off. Or the second. Or the third. In fact, it is much more likely that you will work as an undervalued author for years and years, before you make back the money you invested.
If you are one of the lucky ones and your sales numbers go through the roof, your profit margin will be higher if you've been penny-wise during your publishing process.
Here are my top 10 tips to save when self-publishing your book:
1. Market yourself
If you didn't expect this to be the very first point, you're already wasting money. Marketing is the life-blood of self-publishing and a possible money saver if you:
Spend time, not a dime.
As soon as you know you want to write, try and build rapport with your future readers. How? Social media is the go to tool for most authors. One account should do the trick in the beginning. You don't want to spread yourself too thin and take away time to write.
On how to choose a single social media account...only you can answer that question. Are you known for your hilarious one-liners? Is photography your second passion? Still thinking about those days at uni when FB parties were all the rage?
What are you waiting for? Sign up.
2. Write a (prequel) novella
You are excited to dive into writing your debut novel, I get it. But why not make it a novella instead? Less words mean less time spent writing (ka-ching), less money spent editing (ka-ching), less time spent wondering if people will like it and a chance to quickly find out if your writing has any future at all (ka-ching).
3. Make your own cover
This doesn't have to be a daunting prospect even if you're not a cover designer. Yes, readers judge a book by its cover, but a great story can also speak for itself. If you manage to write a great story and have a good cover to attract readers you're already halfway there.
My best advice for making your own cover is to keep it simple and to get a book lover to give you feedback on your final design. If you're looking for a more comprehensive list of tips and tricks check out this Book Cover Tutorial I published a while ago.
4. Make use of free resources
We all know that downloading just any picture from the internet and sticking it on your cover can get you in trouble, but there are heaps of great public domain pictures, videos and songs out there that you can use for your covers, teasers and trailers. Just make sure you read the license details. Not all content allows "commercial use" and some requires you to attribute the creator.
5. Shop around
If you don't feel comfortable making your own cover or marketing yourself you can still save money with this little trick: shop around. Whatever it is you're looking to outsource, get your research hat on. The time you spend scouring the internet will be well worth it when you find the best value for money.
6. Don't get hung up on editing
This goes against most of the advice you'll find on the internet, so let me back it up with a brief example from personal experience.
As a non-native English speaker I was terrified that people would laugh at my writing. And not in a good way. So, for my first novel, I paid a small fortune to the most thorough editor I could find. I went through countless rounds of revisions and...ended up with barely any sales.
I have since found a low-cost, high value editor and my sales are way up. Why? Because the number of copies I sell have little to do with the editing services I pay for.
My first novel was a story I wanted to write rather than a story I knew readers would enjoy. I made the mistake of not marketing myself early enough in my career and the little marketing I did when the book released was not on point.
All of this made more of an impact on overall sales than the number of revisions I put my book through.
My point: Unless you're getting your book in front of millions, a typo here or there is unlikely to break your career. Much more likely you will run out of money before you've built a reader base big enough to reach millions.
Get your book edited, but look for a competitive solution that won't break the bank.
7. Design your own website
Once your book is off to the editor, it's a good time to start looking into designing your own website. The times when website design required a professional are over thanks to sites such as Squarespace. All you need is a computer, an internet connection and a general understanding of drag and drop.
Not convinced? How often have you passed up a great book because the author's website wasn't winning design award of the year? Once the money starts rolling in you can get someone to overhaul your online presence.
8.) Go digital
Your book is with the editor and you are ready to line up bloggers for early reviews. Search for and give preference to bloggers who accept digital advanced review copies (ARC). Printed ARCs are expensive. Add in the cost for shipping and you'll need a bloody good review and a lot of traffic on the blog to make up for a single printed copy.
On a similar note: With on demand print services like Createspace it is becoming increasingly easy to get your books out in print as well as digital. Just remember, print books usually require printed proof copies (for yourself!). These copies cost money, as does the shipping. You may be better off starting digitally and building your print empire at a later date.
9.) Be SWAG careful
SWAG is great. Readers love SWAG. From customized notepads, to pens, to key rings. An author can go bankrupt buying all the pretty. Wouldn't that be just too bad.
Until you have a good understanding of your profit and losses, hold off on buying too much SWAG. If you want to give readers something for free, why not start with a digital copy of your book. It doesn't cost you anything extra, has the potential to grow your reach and is very likely the one thing a reader wants from you in the first place.
10.) Don't expect to recuperate your losses
Nothing will save money like a healthy dose of reality. So you think you're the next JK Rowling? Good for you? Just don't count on it. Only a small margin of self-published authors make it big.
Spend as much as you must and as little as you can to give you the best chances of staying in this business for a long, long time.