Is Self-Publishing On A Budget Possible?

Apr 1, 2020 | Publishing

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For creative writers, the turn of the calendar into December means something different. It means that the annual NaNoWriMo push is finally over. The end of the annual novel writing sprint means that there are (literally) thousands of new novels out there in the universe. Can you actually self-publish what you’ve written inexpensively? In this blog, a publishing consultant on budget, we’ll look at a few of the realities.

Self-publishing is a possibility for your newly written novel and one you should seriously consider.

If you are looking at 2020 as the year you put your book out there, here is a list of some low or no-cost steps that you can take over the next few months to give your book the best chance to reach its desired audience. 

Why Does Self-Publishing On A Budget Matter?

If a writer is not careful, self-publishing can become expensive. There is no end to the number of services, from consultants to designers to advertising.

I am not here to say that spending money is bad. Heck, I provide many of those servicesAs an author as well, I can tell you that there is at least some correlation between budget and success. As a publishing consultant, budget books are something I work for.

When you’re first starting out though, the one thing you can budget is time. First books are meant to be awkward. They’re clumsy. You’re doing something that you’ve likely never done before.

This is a list of things you can do before you spend money.

#1.) Start Writing a Blog — Today

Reaching your audience is the keystone step in building a successful, long-lasting author brand.

Whatever you write, whether that be fantasy, science-fiction or thriller, readers want access to you. They want your thoughts and ideas.

That isn’t as invasive as it might sound though.

It is critical to connecting. Readers want to feel like they know something about the people they support. Buying books is just that, a form of support.

Don’t overthink this one. You can start your blog as slowly as you want. One article a month, or maybe two, if you’re feeling ambitious.

Find your own rhythm. That way your readers can find you.

Start a blog

#2.) Build A Mailing List

Among the core aspects of self-publishing on a budget is building up that mailing list. Why though?

Advertising costs money. A lot of money.

Access to your mailing list, on the other hand, is only a click away. If you build your mailing list the right way, around readers who are interested in what you write, they will be the most responsive group you can call on.

Have a new book? Announce it to your mailing list. If they’re engaged then they will be more than happy to buy.

If you’re unsure how to do this, Tammi LaBrecque is the absolute master of mailing lists and her book has defined the market. The publishing consultant on budget tip here is, build your mailing list because it is the one thing you will always have access to.

#3.) Embrace Your Writer’s Group

Your friendly neighborhood writer’s group. Now is a really good time to get in contact with them and grow that connection.

Your NaNoWriMo novel isn’t done yet. No. What you just finished was a 50,000-word first draft that needs editing.

An editor will cost you some money. It’s money well spent, but a good writer’s group will get you through a few re-write stages.

If you’re interested in self-publishing on a budget, your writer’s group is a great way to get solid, actionable feedback from trusted sources.

Save your editing budget for closer to the end.

Embrace your writer's group

#4.) Study Your Genre

This is one that came to me as a kind of shock. You wrote your novel in a specific genre.

You need to get to know that genre.

Positioning your book in front of the right readers is critical. It makes no sense to try and sell a romance novel to the hard-core science fiction crowd. You won’t sell it. No matter how good your sex scenes are.

Genre readers form great little tribes. If you know the rules and conventions of your genre, where they congregate and what they like, reaching them will be easier as will selling to them.

#5.) Your Genre, Part II: CoversBook covers are definitely worthy of a whole bullet point unto themselves.

Your book’s cover is the most important means of conveying to your readers what your book is about and if it’s for them.

Let me write that again a different way…

Your book’s cover is the most important part of selling your book.

Want to know why? Allow me to illustrate.

Say you have a romance novel (an example I use because they’re so clear) but your cover says “cozy mystery” instead (a slip one could easily make) your core readers will notice that. They’ll see it at first glance, probably in their Amazon stream and they’re going to receive the wrong message.

That cover will tell them to look elsewhere. You don’t want that. You just spent time and energy to get your book in front of them.

Go to Amazon. Go to Barnes & Noble. Walk the aisles and find the books most like your book. Study the covers on the top sellers. That is what you’re going to want your cover to look like.

Another reason this is important for self-publishing on a budget is that covers can be very expensive. If you don’t know what works, or what you want, you’re going to overspend figuring that out.

#6.) Emulate Successful Writers

Translation: imitate the heck out of people ahead of you.

Look, I get it, you got into writing because you have original ideas. Your stories are little bits of creative intellectual property. You really want to believe there is only one like them.

As wrong (and humbling) as that is, the myth of originality freezes you out of a great path to success in writing and self-publishing on a budget.

Find someone in your genre and do, as best you can, what they do. Of course, do it your way, but look at where they interact and what they offer. Someone selling 100 books a day does so as a result of excellent habits.

Make their habits your habits.

I’m not talking about writers of a Stephen King or Neil Gaiman caliber here. Those guys are too far ahead of where you are.

The publishing consultant on budget advice is, find someone close to you instead. A rung or two up.

#7.) Find Your Digital Tribe

Most of us have visions of a bookstore with a cat and a teapot, where quiet readers congregate. You walk in. You see your book on the shelf.

That’s out there. Of course it is out there.

But most of the books you sell will be on-line. It’s a fact of the business (just as the reality that you’ll sell a strong majority of those books on Amazon).

Find a digital tribe. Look at the way Twitter organizes conversations under individual hashtags, or Facebook groups have taken off.

Join those and take part in the conversation.

#8.) Develop A Strategy For #FOMO

This was a really hard one for me. Once I crossed into the publishing arm of my paranormal mystery project, I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I gravitated toward people, groups, and strategies…

My book wasn’t done. That required a little time to catch up though.

You’re going to feel like you’re missing out. I’m not going to lie. You are actually missing out. But if you keep at it, keep focused on what you can control, you’ll soon arrive at a different place in the conversation.

I needed to develop a strategy for that “fear of missing out”. You’ll need one too, especially as your project takes shape. The publishing consultant on budget advice here is, don’t buy things you don’t need. Wait until you need them.

#9.) Talk About Your Project

This is often an overlooked step, but a very critical one. You need to learn how to talk about your book.

Why is that so important?

Being an author is about engaging in a conversation about your work. Whether that takes place on-line, at the dinner table, or at a reading, you need to be able to articulate what your book is about.

You need to be able to talk about what you’re about.

Can you see why that get’s overlooked? We think we know how to do this but a strong majority of us don’t have the foggiest idea.

Work on distilling your story world to a few enticing lines. Get your core concept down pat. Arrive at that classic elevator pitch.

You’re going to need them.

#10.) Formulate A Budget

I put this one last because, well, it is last on the list.

Eventually, you’re going to have to spend money. At some juncture in the publishing journey, you need to decide how much money you have and what to spend it on.

I break my tasks into categories…

What I can do for myself and will never pay for.

What I cannot do myself, but am willing to learn.

What I cannot do myself… and won’t take the time to learn because it’s too difficult, too time-consuming, or too far outside my skill set.

Formulate a budget

There is a whole other blog (or a blog series) to write here, but self-publishing on a budget requires an honest inventory of time and skills. Once you’ve covered those first nine steps, this is what you’re tasked with.

The good news is, you can write, edit, publish, layout and design, and market a credible book on a shoestring budget. If you follow some of this advice, it’s attainable.