Author Topic: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?  (Read 2238 times)

cleopatra_snake

What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« on: January 18, 2019, 02:05:15 PM »
Iím new to self publishing and publishing in general. Iím currently unemployed, but when I get hired I was wondering what are your tips for saving and making sure you have enough for cover designers, and editors.

Luckily I found cover designers I know I can afford but unfortunately for me the editing is within the triple digits, but I understand that editing is crucial for a polished product. I havenít even started my draft yet. Iím still in the brainstorming phase
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet

Arches

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2019, 02:17:04 PM »
I spend about $750 per book, with the cover costing $225 (probably most important to overall sales), about $400 for copy editing (next important), and $125 for proofreading (you may find someone to do that for free). Then I usually spend a couple of hundred bucks on new release promotion.
I think that's about the bare minimum on costs while still having some shot at the book making money. You could certainly spend less, but I think that affects future sales, and you could spend a lot more, particularly on promotion. Best of luck.
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet, KFaitour, Cathleen, DeeMonster, cleopatra_snake

cleopatra_snake

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2019, 02:30:29 PM »
Your covers look awesome
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet

CoraBuhlert

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2019, 03:57:07 PM »
If you have no money, you can get by on very low costs. I paid nothing at all for my first book and did not invest until the money started coming in, but that was in 2011 in a drastically different landscape. 

Of all the self-publishing cost factors, editing is the most important and the one thing you should spend money on, even if you have no budget for anything else. If you have absolutely no money, you can also try to barter.

Cover art is also important. Luckily, you can get some nice premades for 50 USD or so. If you have a bit of artistic ability, you can also design your own cover using cheap or even free stock photos (just check the fine print first) and free software like Gimp, Paintshop Pro, etc... Canva is another option and they have nice templates, too. Besides, the good thing about covers is that you can always upgrade them later. Though they should look professional.

Formatting is nice to have, but you don't have to pay for it. I still do my own formatting, following Guido Henkel's formatting guide. Another, easier option is letting Draft2Digital do the formatting for you.

A website is nice to have and you should reserve your domain name, just so no one can snatch it up. But you don't need to pay for webhosting, if money is tight (though that was one of the few things I did pay for early on) - a free blog/site with a redirect will do just as well.

You really should get a mailing list, though the free option will suffice at first. I think the first two thousand subscribers or whatever are free at Mailchimp, that's way more than you'll need. Because most mailing list providers require you to input a physical address (some weird US law requires this), a lot of people hire a P.O. Box because of privacy concerns. Personally, I never bothered, because due to German law, every website operator has to put a physical address on their site somewhere, so my address isn't secret anyway. But only you can answer how important keeping your address private is to you.

Advertising: Nice to have, but if you have no money, you should make do with free or low cost options. Look for cross promos that are advertised here on occasion or start your own. If someone is looking for authors to interview, apply. Use social media to get the word out, but don't overdo it.   

Blog | Pegasus Pulp | Newsletter | Author Central | Twitter | Instagram
Genres: All of them, but mostly science fiction and mystery/crime
 
The following users thanked this post: She-la-te-da, idontknowyet, KFaitour, Cathleen, Rosie Scott, DeeMonster

Writer

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2019, 06:32:22 PM »
It really depends on where you are in your career and how ambitious your goals are. Some factors to consider when deciding on a budget are: what kind of books you're writing, how frequently you plan to release, whether you're viewing this as a living or a side income, and whether you're capable of producing more, similar type books in the future. I usually believe it's a good idea in most cases to experiment with a few low budget books, just to see how they do and whether the indie process is for you. If you find that you're making back your money and are able to write and publish on a consistent bases, then I'd increase the spend.

For myself, after nine full-time years in the indie business, this is what I've arrived at pretty consistently:

For one of my genres, I pay around $500 per cover illustration, $400(ish) for proofreading, and around $500 on ads during a new series launch.

For my second genre, photo manipulated covers are the norm. As a former cover designer, I design my own and save a bit of money there. I also self-edit in this genre and do my own formatting. That lets me save all my budget for ads, where I spend several thousand dollars over the first few months, depending on what potential I think the series has (or how wide an audience I expect it to appeal to).
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet, Cathleen, DeeMonster

VanessaC

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2019, 07:58:33 PM »
I'm still very new to this - I published my first book in July 2018 - but the general guide I've used is to never, ever, under any circumstances, spend more than I can afford to lose.  A lot of people do amazingly well in self-publishing, and I really hope that will be me one day, but I'm building up slowly and until then I work on the basis that anything I spend on the books is money I may never see again.

If you haven't done so already, take a long, hard look at your own skill set to decide where you'll need the most support and help.  Also, do you have any skills you could use as a swap?  (I don't do this - just a suggestion.)

I don't have a lot of money to spend, so had to think long and hard where to spend it. I have zero eye for design, and there's absolutely no point in me even attempting cover design - it's never going to work! I therefore got a fantastic cover designer to do custom covers for me, as I had a planned series of five books.   

On the other hand, I spend most of my time in my day job writing - e.g. emails and reports.  As a result my sentence structure and grammar is reasonably good for prose, but I am hopeless at dialogue punctuation.  So I got a dialogue edit for my first couple of books, which was much less expensive than a full copy edit and proofread, and a huge help - I paid attention to the feedback, and it was money very, very well spent.

Apart from that, at the moment, I basically self-edit (which is generally seen as an absolute "no").  I don't plan to do that forever, but it's what my budget allows for just now.

This does mean a lot of work for me - several passes once the book is "finished", including basic spell checking, run through Grammarly's free version and reading the text aloud myself.  Reading aloud is incredibly useful.  Side-loading the book to my kindle and reading it there also helps.

If this is your first book, another lower-cost option (compared to a full edit) if you want to find out whether your book is ready for paying readers is to get some beta readers - I used paid beta readers and it was brilliant as I got lots of good feedback and reassurance that the books were pretty much ready to go.

On other matters, I have a website - I pay for the domain name, which isn't that much, and used the free website builder through my website registration service.  I have a mailing list, and most mailing list start off free up to X subscribers. I've done minimal promotion / advertising and, again, when it's within budget.

For me, it's a slow build.  Book 5 is due out in the next few weeks, and taking costs of all five books into account, I haven't broken even yet, but should do so over the next few months. 

Wow, that was a long answer!  I hope some of it is useful.

Best of luck.
     

Genre: Fantasy
 

cecilia_writer

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2019, 08:20:17 PM »
I completely agree with Vanessa about not spending more than you can afford to lose. Personally I hardly spend anything except time on my books, even after quite a few years of self-publishing, but I know this is frowned on by many people. However this is because I have been the only earner in my family for almost 20 years and even now I am working part-time well past my retirement age.
Even if you're going to send things out to an editor or proof-reader, it's a good idea to learn to self-edit as much as you can. I do all of it myself but I know there are plenty of writers who can't. There may be readers in your genre who will beta-read either for free or at a low cost, so it may be useful to join a relevant Facebook group or something similar to find them.
It has taken me longer to work out covers and this is still an ongoing process, but I must say Canva has made my life a lot easier. I tend to use photographs taken by me or other family members as the basis if I can and I've also used an occasional image from Canva or Dreamstime at quite a small cost.
I have not found paid advertising all that worthwhile (but haven't even tried for a BookBub). Interacting with readers on my Facebook author page seems to work to some extent and is enjoyable, and occasionally I will spend a little money on a boosted post or something. Having a long-running series with the first book free has given the best results for me.
Hope something in here helps, and good luck!
Cecilia Peartree - Woman of Mystery
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet, Cathleen

LilyBLily

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2019, 01:00:16 AM »
All great advice. My first book cost me four times what my latest book cost, around $2k versus $500. That's for everything, but I self-edit (longtime professional editor) and only pay for the cheapest possible proofread. Look around and you can usually find very inexpensive proofreading, a pass that's IMO an absolute necessity. Much more crucial is a copyedit, and those can be pricey, so get multiple 5-page samples so you know you've found the right person. Multiple beta reads should help you decide if you're on the right track storywise. Those can be free or paid, but make sure the beta reader likes your genre.

About $200 for both ebook and print covers from a designer is my average, although I've spent as little as $50 and as much as $350. My foray into pre-mades didn't make me happy, and the more expensive covers will take a while to amortize. (Proof that putting an expensive new cover on an old book isn't instant sales magic--which goes counter to received wisdom, BTW.)

As to advertising, definitely dip your toe into Amazon's ads. Debate rages about whether to start with a very low budget and a handful of highly targeted keywords or with a high budget and a huge number of keywords. It's still the cheapest way to successfully advertise without discounting your book. You don't need reviews and there's no curation on these ads, either, whereas newsletter ads will involve both. Most indies today will tell you that advertising is a necessity, not a luxury.     

Good luck.
 
The following users thanked this post: Denise, idontknowyet, KFaitour, Cathleen, DeeMonster

angelapepper

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2019, 02:46:53 AM »
Before you release any big investment novels, publish a couple of short stories under a pen name to learn how everything works. You can get a premade cover or DIY. The scale is much smaller. Even if you get pricey editing, it's not so much on a shorter work.

Yes, you'll probably lose all the money, but it won't be as much as making mistakes on your first novels, and the learning experience will be extremely valuable.
 
The following users thanked this post: PJ Post, idontknowyet, Cathleen, DeeMonster

dgcasey

  • Short Novel unlocked
  • ***
  • Posts: 496
  • Thanked: 159 times
  • Gender: Male
  • I will not forget one line of this, not one day,
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2019, 03:16:21 AM »
Before you release any big investment novels, publish a couple of short stories under a pen name to learn how everything works. You can get a premade cover or DIY. The scale is much smaller. Even if you get pricey editing, it's not so much on a shorter work.

Yes, you'll probably lose all the money, but it won't be as much as making mistakes on your first novels, and the learning experience will be extremely valuable.

That's exactly what I would advise. I started out by writing four short stories and publishing them as Short Reads and it gave me the time to figure this game out.
All available at Amazon, some available at B&N and some available God knows where
Dave's Amazon Author page | DGlennCasey.com | TheDailyPainter.com
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet

DrewMcGunn

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2019, 03:37:34 AM »
Iím new to self publishing and publishing in general. Iím currently unemployed, but when I get hired I was wondering what are your tips for saving and making sure you have enough for cover designers, and editors.

Luckily I found cover designers I know I can afford but unfortunately for me the editing is within the triple digits, but I understand that editing is crucial for a polished product. I havenít even started my draft yet. Iím still in the brainstorming phase

Best of luck with your writing. I agree with everyone who said that your cover and the editing of your book are the most important aspects of publishing your story. Vanessa's advice was spot-on about the cover. Like her, I have no eye for designing a cover and early efforts were embarrassingly bad. I hired a cover designer for $100 for an ebook and she did very well especially given the genre in which I write doesn't lend itself to gorgeous people in sexy poses.

Until your art is in the hands of other people it's hard to know how clean your prose is and how much editing it may take. I thought I had a very good grasp of grammar before publishing, but I still set aside around $300 for an editing job on a 60k word book. I'm glad I did. The editor taught me so much about how to clean up my writing. Even though now my writing is much better, my editor still helps me to improve the product.

I didn't pay any beta readers, because I posted my story on a genre friendly forum and received a ton of feedback. They helped with fact checking and the internal consistency of the story. I'm not sure how much that would have cost me, but like the editing, it has been invaluable.

As with all advice on this forum, YMMV; this is what I currently believe is working for me.


Drew McGunn
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet, Cathleen

munboy

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2019, 03:59:01 AM »
I agree with don't spend more than you're prepared to lose. Also, be prepared to not see a return on your investment for awhile. A few people have their first novel take off like a spaceship, but for most it's a grind and it takes releasing 2-3 novels to start getting some traction.

I also like the start small idea. Write a few short stories and publish them to start getting a following. Do permafrees and post stuff on watpad. Make sure to direct the people reading your stuff to your socials. You can do all this for dirt cheap and once you're ready to invest in a novel, you'll have ready made readers waiting for it.

I wish I had done some of this before I released my first novel, but I sent it out into the world cold with no idea how to get people to read it. I also spent way too much money on getting it put together and it took a couple years for me to recoup it.
 
The following users thanked this post: Denise, idontknowyet, Cathleen, DeeMonster

Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

  • Short Novel unlocked
  • ***
  • Posts: 410
  • Thanked: 226 times
  • Gender: Female
  • Author of Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, and Suspense
    • Lavender Lass Books
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2019, 08:41:32 AM »
I'm still very new to this - I published my first book in July 2018 - but the general guide I've used is to never, ever, under any circumstances, spend more than I can afford to lose.

 :goodpost:
            
Author of Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, Suspense and Historical Non-Fiction.
Lavender Lass Books | Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter |YouTube
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet

guest1038

  • Guest
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2019, 09:28:49 AM »
 :banana: Controversial opinion alert  :banana:

...feel free to ignore...  :hehe

If you have a good command of the English language, and your grammar isn't atrocious, you don't need to shell out hundreds of dollars for editing. And proofreading you can either do by yourself by reading your work aloud, or have someone you know read it over for you.

Again, this is highly controversial to say in such a place, and in such a business, but in my opinion where indie publishing is concerned, the editing emperor has no clothes.

I think people get it in their heads that is "has" to be done because that's been trad publishing's modus operandi for time immemorial, but I don't think - outside of some grammatically/linguistically challenged outliers - paying an editor matters one iota in determining your book's success from a sales standpoint.

Where you should spend money: covers and ads. Those are the two most important places to spend money on as an indie. Pay as much as you can for both.

Other than that, your sales success will be determined by how commercial your premises/ideas are, how much readers like your writing, and whether or not all of the above is so strong that they tell others about you.
 

Tom Wood

  • Long Novel unlocked
  • ***
  • Posts: 970
  • Thanked: 355 times
  • Whatever you imagine can make your life brand new.
    • Agents of DISRUPT
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2019, 10:02:33 AM »
For an interesting look at the cost of advertising, see this interview with MD Cooper. The question that sets up the discussion starts at about the 41:30 mark. Stick with it, because he talks about the disconnect between the timing of the spend and the timing of the receipt of sales revenue.

 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet

angelapepper

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #15 on: January 19, 2019, 11:25:54 AM »
:banana: Controversial opinion alert  :banana:

...feel free to ignore...  :hehe

If you have a good command of the English language, and your grammar isn't atrocious, you don't need to shell out hundreds of dollars for editing. And proofreading you can either do by yourself by reading your work aloud, or have someone you know read it over for you.

...

It's true! I always tell new publishers to go ahead and spend money on developmental editing or whatever if they'd like, but view that expenditure as an educational expense. If it helps them write better for all books moving forward, it could be a great investment.

Also, a great in-between is reading books about craft and self-editing. I'm surprised by how many people will come to writing groups or workshops and don't have a single craft book at home. Craft books are amazing, if you're an autodidact.



 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet, cecilia_writer

LilyBLily

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #16 on: January 19, 2019, 11:37:33 AM »
:banana: Controversial opinion alert  :banana:

...feel free to ignore...  :hehe

If you have a good command of the English language, and your grammar isn't atrocious, you don't need to shell out hundreds of dollars for editing. And proofreading you can either do by yourself by reading your work aloud, or have someone you know read it over for you.

Again, this is highly controversial to say in such a place, and in such a business, but in my opinion where indie publishing is concerned, the editing emperor has no clothes.

I think people get it in their heads that is "has" to be done because that's been trad publishing's modus operandi for time immemorial, but I don't think - outside of some grammatically/linguistically challenged outliers - paying an editor matters one iota in determining your book's success from a sales standpoint.

Where you should spend money: covers and ads. Those are the two most important places to spend money on as an indie. Pay as much as you can for both.

Other than that, your sales success will be determined by how commercial your premises/ideas are, how much readers like your writing, and whether or not all of the above is so strong that they tell others about you.

The problem is, many writers don't know what they don't know. They think they have a good command of the English language, but they are wrong. I've come across numerous authors who sincerely do not know how bad their grammar, punctuation, and spelling are. They don't realize they constantly use malapropisms, either, which I personally feel is a true mark of ignorance; if you do it twice in a book, I'm done. (Once could just be a bad edit.)

Yes, there are free ways around paying a fortune for editing and for proofreading. But will these newbie writers faithfully use these free ways, or will they think, "Oh, I guess I'm okay as is"? When they get slammed by angry readers in reviews that Amazon refuses to take down, these authors come to these boards and others whining about it. The reason we all say "Get an editor" is because of the negative reviews with the 1-star ratings. This is a preventable negative outcome, but authors have to actually take the steps that prevent it.


 
The following users thanked this post: PJ Post, idontknowyet, DrewMcGunn, sandree

guest1038

  • Guest
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #17 on: January 19, 2019, 12:03:34 PM »
:banana: Controversial opinion alert  :banana:

...feel free to ignore...  :hehe

If you have a good command of the English language, and your grammar isn't atrocious, you don't need to shell out hundreds of dollars for editing. And proofreading you can either do by yourself by reading your work aloud, or have someone you know read it over for you.

Again, this is highly controversial to say in such a place, and in such a business, but in my opinion where indie publishing is concerned, the editing emperor has no clothes.

I think people get it in their heads that is "has" to be done because that's been trad publishing's modus operandi for time immemorial, but I don't think - outside of some grammatically/linguistically challenged outliers - paying an editor matters one iota in determining your book's success from a sales standpoint.

Where you should spend money: covers and ads. Those are the two most important places to spend money on as an indie. Pay as much as you can for both.

Other than that, your sales success will be determined by how commercial your premises/ideas are, how much readers like your writing, and whether or not all of the above is so strong that they tell others about you.

The problem is, many writers don't know what they don't know. They think they have a good command of the English language, but they are wrong. I've come across numerous authors who sincerely do not know how bad their grammar, punctuation, and spelling are. They don't realize they constantly use malapropisms, either, which I personally feel is a true mark of ignorance; if you do it twice in a book, I'm done. (Once could just be a bad edit.)

Yes, there are free ways around paying a fortune for editing and for proofreading. But will these newbie writers faithfully use these free ways, or will they think, "Oh, I guess I'm okay as is"? When they get slammed by angry readers in reviews that Amazon refuses to take down, these authors come to these boards and others whining about it. The reason we all say "Get an editor" is because of the negative reviews with the 1-star ratings. This is a preventable negative outcome, but authors have to actually take the steps that prevent it.

It's a fair point, but by the same token - are the 1-star ratings harming sales? Outwardly, the obvious answer to that might be 'yes', but we have to judge readers based not on what they say, but on what they do. If you're not selling and you have an abundance of reviewers howling about the apparent lack of editing, then you might have a case - but even then, it's not a sure bet. And, if we're telling would-be indie publishers they just "have to" pay for editing then in essence we're saying it is part of the "sure bet" one has to make to see sales success, and I think that's misleading.

How many books have been subject to a professional edit that also have been 1-starred because 'x' reader perceived the writing to be of low quality or to have lacked editing? How many times has an author themselves edited their own work to the nth degree only to be met with scorn from certain readers pertaining to the editing or perceived lack thereof? How many times has an author launched with just their first draft and gone on to make a killing?

There's a myriad of answers to all of those questions.

Part of the problem I have with paying healthy sums for editing is, there's no way to tell from a buying customer's perspective whether the book's been edited or not. I can't pick up a copy of you-name-the-famous-novel from my shelf and tell you whether that's the author's 6th draft or her 27th - whether her work was gone over by just one trad house editor or several. Just as there's no tangible way for an author/businessperson to tell whether their sales success has had anything to do with the money they shelled out for an editor versus had they not spent that money and made more profit on their book(s) because whether they knew it or not, as far as the market was concerned, their writing was 'good enough'.

It's true some people will complain about work they perceive lacks editing, but it's also true there are books all over the bestseller lists that could easily appear to you and me as being in need of a professional edit and yet the market is telling them, and us, something different.

I would say, if you've spent lots on a great, commercial cover, and a lot on ads, and you're in a popular genre with a kickass super-commercial premise/idea, and your blurb's on-point AND you're not selling...then maybe the writing's the issue. But, would a professional editor help you there? Which one? In what capacity? Was the issue your syntax, your grammar, or does your voice just suck? How many copy editors and how many hundreds of dollars later would it take for you to find the answer? How many developmental editors will agree on what your problem is? How many of them would any given author have to pay to iron out their craft issues that may or may not result in weak sales once a product is put to market?

There's so much amorphous intangibility surrounding the idea of editing that it makes me reticent to recommend to anyone in this business to commit dollars to it, let alone hundreds of them. I just don't think there's enough proof-of-concept in terms of directly linking editing to healthy sales numbers that would lead me to support it...that is, outside of anecdotal evidence or the promotion of the idea of "well, the traditional publishers have been using professional editors for 'x' number of decades and look how many billions they've raked in therefore..." arguments which aren't really rational arguments in my view at all.
 
The following users thanked this post: Denise, idontknowyet, Anarchist, Rosie Scott, Jack Krenneck

idontknowyet

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #18 on: January 19, 2019, 01:00:38 PM »
I think you're both right. Editing matters for many authors, but I bet there are just as many that don't need the help.  For me it is absolutely essential. I'm really hoping to make it on $800 per book in editing. With that said my grammar is so bad they are going to earn every cent of it.

I'm hoping to get custom covers for each of my books for around 100-150.

I want to have my website up 6 months before I start publishing but that's a minimal expense.

Advertising is the big question. I'm hoping to have a decent sized budget for at least my first in series books. I just don't want to waste much of it while figuring out how to do ads.

I also have a wild project in my mind that will probably be a bust and its going to be pricey, but I guess i'll see if it works when I can afford it.
 

guest1038

  • Guest
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2019, 02:43:18 PM »
I think you're both right. Editing matters for many authors, but I bet there are just as many that don't need the help.  For me it is absolutely essential. I'm really hoping to make it on $800 per book in editing. With that said my grammar is so bad they are going to earn every cent of it.

I'm hoping to get custom covers for each of my books for around 100-150.

I want to have my website up 6 months before I start publishing but that's a minimal expense.

Advertising is the big question. I'm hoping to have a decent sized budget for at least my first in series books. I just don't want to waste much of it while figuring out how to do ads.

I also have a wild project in my mind that will probably be a bust and its going to be pricey, but I guess i'll see if it works when I can afford it.

This is purely anecdotal of course, so take this for what it's worth...but...

Just reading your posts in this thread is proof enough you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on editing. And, certainly not to the tune of $800, yikes. Of course, it's your money, your business, and your prerogative. But, if it were me I'd let the market determine what's what before saddling myself with a financial burden so large that my ROI per book drops to near nil.
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet

Simon Haynes

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #20 on: January 19, 2019, 02:44:46 PM »
I self-edit, and have a team of alpha- and beta-readers to catch typos and plot holes.  I grabbed 3 x 100-packs of Depositphotos stock art from appsumo once per year ($50/pack), and use maybe 2-3 stock photos on a cover (so that's $1.50)

I design my own covers, so apart from the stock art there's no cost. (When I started out I hired artists, but it's too expensive when you have one or more ongoing series, plus I'm constantly tweaking and changing things.)

I also do my own ebook and paperback layouts - $0.

So, pretty much zero budget, as you can see.

What do I spend money on?  Mailerlite, Bookfunnel, FB ads, Bookbubs ... the promotional side of things. Sometimes I'll go months without spending anything, and then I'll do a bit of a splash to get one book or another moving along.


Also yWriter, free novel-writing software for Windows PCs. (Mac version in progress).
SalesScanner, free KDP/Google Play/Kobo/Smashwords report analyser & aggregator.
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet, Jack Krenneck

Denise

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #21 on: January 19, 2019, 11:57:11 PM »
:banana: Controversial opinion alert  :banana:

...feel free to ignore...  :hehe

If you have a good command of the English language, and your grammar isn't atrocious, you don't need to shell out hundreds of dollars for editing. And proofreading you can either do by yourself by reading your work aloud, or have someone you know read it over for you.



A lot of people have agreed with this, and I kind of agree with it as well.

It's important to deliver a clean, clearly written book, for sure. On the other hand, clear, well written sentences won't help your book sell and won't guarantee positive reviews. The success of the book depends more on the plot and on factors that copyediting can't really fix.

If you can hire a good copy editor, I think it's a great idea. If you can't, and if you know grammar, you can do a lot of it yourself. You could also swap with other authors, etc. I think it's more important to do some content editing and work on characters, structure, etc. Some good betas could help you with that, if you're on a budget.

For covers, there are cheap, professional-looking premades.

As for ads, sure you can advertise your first book, but if you want ROI, it's better to wait until you have more books.

 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet, Cathleen

Vijaya

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #22 on: January 20, 2019, 12:50:18 AM »
:banana: Controversial opinion alert  :banana:

...feel free to ignore...  :hehe

If you have a good command of the English language, and your grammar isn't atrocious, you don't need to shell out hundreds of dollars for editing. And proofreading you can either do by yourself by reading your work aloud, or have someone you know read it over for you.

...

It's true! I always tell new publishers to go ahead and spend money on developmental editing or whatever if they'd like, but view that expenditure as an educational expense. If it helps them write better for all books moving forward, it could be a great investment.

Also, a great in-between is reading books about craft and self-editing. I'm surprised by how many people will come to writing groups or workshops and don't have a single craft book at home. Craft books are amazing, if you're an autodidact.

This.

To the OP, you can get a free education at the library--dissecting your favorite books and reading craft books. And if you can get together a critique group, you can help each other.

And if you're like Simon, gosh you can do it all.

Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces, primarily for children
Vijaya Bodach | Personal Blog | Bodach Books
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet

Arches

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #23 on: January 20, 2019, 02:31:36 AM »
The great thing about this forum and Kboards is that they include all kinds of authors, but after years of following those forums, I've yet to see anyone who is great at every aspect of self publishing.
Particularly in the beginning, an author can do themselves considerable good by letting someone who is an expert help with certain critical tasks like cover design and editing.
And although its possible for a new book to explode into popularity without any promotion, it's extremely rare these days. Being willing to promote a little at the beginning of a series, probably not for book one, but for the followup books, certainly helps.
So, sure, you can try and do it all yourself at virtually no cost. But you may lose readers forever who check out your cover or your read inside text and think your book isn't ready for prime time. They have plenty of options to go to instead, and may never give you a second chance. If you can scrape together some upfront money to maximize your chances of success, it seems to me to be well worth the effort.
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet, DrewMcGunn, sandree

PaulineMRoss

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #24 on: January 20, 2019, 06:51:14 AM »
I would second (fifth? twenty-fourth?) the advice to never spend more than you can afford to lose. It puts a whole other heap of pressure on that you really don't need.

Some other thoughts:

For getting your writing into shape before publishing, try an online critique group. It's free, you earn points by critiquing other people's work (which is a learning exercise all by itself) and when you have enough points, you can post your own work for other people to critique. It's a great way to find out how your writing shapes up without spending a cent, but just be sure not to take every last criticism as gospel. I used Scribophile.

For checking that you've got the pacing right, download one of the multitude of beat sheets (eg Save The Cat) and compare your book. It will tell you whether you've got all your critical moments in the right places. You don't have to follow the beats exactly, but for popular genres, it's an easy way to see if you've got a lacklustre critical point or a saggy middle.

If you can get unbiased beta readers (ie not your best friend, auntie or the guy down the pub) then go for it, but this is very hard to do, so don't sweat it.

When you start thinking about publishing, the trinity of presentation is cover, blurb and look inside (ie the first 10%). You need all of those to be spot on to attract buyers. If you can produce your own professional-level and genre-specific cover, great, if not, pay an expert. He or she will be able to advise what's most common for your genre (if you don't know), and it's not a huge expense, unless you write epic fantasy and want hand-drawn illustrations. Blurbs need to be polished and polished and polished - check what the bestsellers in your genre are doing. More polishing for that first 10%. Whatever the rest of the book is like, there must be zero typos in the first few pages.

I'm agnostic on editing. If you want the reassurance and can pay for it, go for it. If you think you're up to speed on homonyms and ellipses, do it yourself. I had professional proofreading for my first books, but I learnt from my mistakes, and I now self-edit.

Ads are essential these days to get off the ground. Once you're established and have a many-thousands-strong mailing list slavering for your next release, you may not need so much advertising, but initially you just have to get eyeballs on your book. Budget what you can and if funds are limited, save it for the first 30 days of a new release, when Amazon will do some of the heavy lifting for you. I'd go for Amazon ads at first, which at least is targeting people who are already looking at books.

Good luck with it!

Writing epic fantasy as Pauline M Ross; writing Regency romance as Mary Kingswood
Bookbub score: 5 for 76
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet, DeeMonster

CoraBuhlert

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #25 on: January 20, 2019, 09:23:38 AM »
You don't necessarily have to pay for a copyeditor, but you need someone external with a good grasp of the English (or other applicable) language to look your book over, at least for your first publication. Because a lot of people think they're good at spelling, grammar, punctuation, homonyms, etc..., even though they really aren't. If you can't/don't want to pay for an editor, try to find someone with a good grasp of English, e.g. an English teacher or a journalist or librarian or a fellow author (just check out their books first), and ask them to read through your manuscript. If you've got some experience and know that your grammar, spelling, etc... are up to snuff, you can self-edit.

My first steps into indie publishing were all previously published short stories for which I'd gotten the rights back, so I knew that they had been copyedited. And I tend to write pretty clean drafts and by now I know where my issues lie and what I have to watch out for.

BTW, I second the suggestion to start with a short story to get a feel for the publishing process before publishing a whole novel. Because there is something of a learning curve.

 

Blog | Pegasus Pulp | Newsletter | Author Central | Twitter | Instagram
Genres: All of them, but mostly science fiction and mystery/crime
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet

Bill Hiatt

  • Epic Novel unlocked
  • ****
  • Posts: 1112
  • Thanked: 437 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Tickling the imagination one book at a time
    • Bill Hiatt's Author Website
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #26 on: January 21, 2019, 03:02:25 AM »
It's a fair point, but by the same token - are the 1-star ratings harming sales? Outwardly, the obvious answer to that might be 'yes', but we have to judge readers based not on what they say, but on what they do. If you're not selling and you have an abundance of reviewers howling about the apparent lack of editing, then you might have a case - but even then, it's not a sure bet. And, if we're telling would-be indie publishers they just "have to" pay for editing then in essence we're saying it is part of the "sure bet" one has to make to see sales success, and I think that's misleading.

The problem is that we don't really know what readers do. There's no way for us to measure how many people glance at bad reviews and then move on. Even a book that is selling fairly well might have been selling twice as many copies without the one-star reviews bemoaning editing. I take your point that a book that's not selling might not be in trouble because of the one-star reviews, but your logic can just as easily be applied to your side of the argument as well. Just because someone self-edited, and the book is selling well doesn't mean that the person couldn't have benefited from a professional edit.

Quote
How many books have been subject to a professional edit that also have been 1-starred because 'x' reader perceived the writing to be of low quality or to have lacked editing? How many times has an author themselves edited their own work to the nth degree only to be met with scorn from certain readers pertaining to the editing or perceived lack thereof? How many times has an author launched with just their first draft and gone on to make a killing?

There's a myriad of answers to all of those questions.

I'm sure it happens, but in order for that argument to really carry weight, you'd have to be able to show that it happens a lot. I'm not persuaded that a freak accident kind of scenario is a reason not to get a book professionally edited. Sure, some readers' perceptions of whether a book has been edited well or not can be flawed--but that's true of virtually every feature of a book. We could just as easily say, "There's no point in spending time on character development, because I have, but reviewers still criticize my characters." Anyway, if a book really is poorly edited, it's probably going to attract a lot of one-star reviews, not just the occasional idiosyncratic one. Is such a pattern likely to affect sales? We know there are writers on this board that would take a pass immediately. I know a lot of readers who get bent out of shape if a book has more than a certain number (usually small) of editorial problems. They may not return that book, but they won't be buying more by the same author any time soon. I know zero readers who don't care about editing at all. Maybe the people I know are all idiosyncratic, but I doubt it.

Quote
Part of the problem I have with paying healthy sums for editing is, there's no way to tell from a buying customer's perspective whether the book's been edited or not. I can't pick up a copy of you-name-the-famous-novel from my shelf and tell you whether that's the author's 6th draft or her 27th - whether her work was gone over by just one trad house editor or several. Just as there's no tangible way for an author/businessperson to tell whether their sales success has had anything to do with the money they shelled out for an editor versus had they not spent that money and made more profit on their book(s) because whether they knew it or not, as far as the market was concerned, their writing was 'good enough'.

A buying customer who has good language skills can tell from a quick glance at the Look Inside whether a book has been adequately edited or could have used another pass (or perhaps several). And that's all a customer needs to know. How many drafts or how many rounds of editing a book has had is irrelevant--but the finished product isn't irrelevant.

Quote
It's true some people will complain about work they perceive lacks editing, but it's also true there are books all over the bestseller lists that could easily appear to you and me as being in need of a professional edit and yet the market is telling them, and us, something different.

No book is perfect, but I've yet to pick up an NYT or other bestseller that looks as if it needs a professional edit. If you have any actual examples to cite, please do so. As far as Amazon lists are concerned, we all know those can be--and are--often manipulated. A book could be ranking very well on Amazon as a result of ghost borrows or botting and not really be doing that well in terms of real sales.

Quote
I would say, if you've spent lots on a great, commercial cover, and a lot on ads, and you're in a popular genre with a kickass super-commercial premise/idea, and your blurb's on-point AND you're not selling...then maybe the writing's the issue. But, would a professional editor help you there? Which one? In what capacity? Was the issue your syntax, your grammar, or does your voice just suck? How many copy editors and how many hundreds of dollars later would it take for you to find the answer? How many developmental editors will agree on what your problem is? How many of them would any given author have to pay to iron out their craft issues that may or may not result in weak sales once a product is put to market?

Yes, editors do vary in their responses, so one needs to use their advice selectively. I thought we were talking at least partly about grammatical issues, and there's less room for argument there. Anyway, your reasoning, if generalized, is a recipe for inaction. One could easily ask the same questions about cover design, advertising, or any other element. For instance, no two cover designers are going to create the same cover for your book, just as no two editors are going to have exactly the take on your manuscript. Is that an automatic reason to do your own cover, even if you have no artistic or graphic design experience? Hardly. As far as the rest of that paragraph is concerned, yes, there are no certainties, and even some great books doubtless don't become great sellers. That said, doesn't it make sense to make the book the best you can reasonably create with whatever resources and talent you have? Whatever else someone might claim, I doubt anyone can claim that producing a better product is going to hurt sales.

Quote
There's so much amorphous intangibility surrounding the idea of editing that it makes me reticent to recommend to anyone in this business to commit dollars to it, let alone hundreds of them. I just don't think there's enough proof-of-concept in terms of directly linking editing to healthy sales numbers that would lead me to support it...that is, outside of anecdotal evidence or the promotion of the idea of "well, the traditional publishers have been using professional editors for 'x' number of decades and look how many billions they've raked in therefore..." arguments which aren't really rational arguments in my view at all.

And again we're back to questions we can't know the answer to. If you want more than anecdotal evidence (which is at least better than no evidence) for anything in self-publishing, you may be waiting for that forever. If we had a comprehensive study that included both editing processes and sales figures for a cross-section of authors, then we might be able to draw conclusions. Until then, anecdotal evidence is all we have--and it points to the idea that a reasonable amount of editing is usually necessary. That doesn't mean spending big bucks to have it done professionally. Some people really can self-edit. Others can find low-cost ways to do it. I don't think there's any one formula that is right for everyone. However, I think newbies need to develop the self-awareness to  know whether or not they need editing help--and how much. From my (admittedly limited) experience, "the best one can do under the circumstances" is a better bet than "good enough."


Tickling the imagination one book at a time
Bill Hiatt | fiction website | education website | Facebook author page | Twitter
 
The following users thanked this post: Captain Cranky, idontknowyet, sandree

sandree

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #27 on: January 21, 2019, 03:21:32 AM »
Quote
That said, doesn't it make sense to make the book the best you can reasonably create with whatever resources and talent you have? Whatever else someone might claim, I doubt anyone can claim that producing a better product is going to hurt sales.

This! I am not at all OK with producing something that is "good enough." I want to put something out there that represents the best of my abilities at this point in my learning curve. And I know that at this point, I need editing help, especially with the big picture.

I'm pretty good with writing cleanly but I would never put something out that has not at least, been copy edited and proofread by someone else. I used to proofread when I was a typesetter and we used two people - one reading the copy, the other marking it up. Even with that and the potential  ire of the paying client keeping us on our toes, typos occasionally got by.

It's even harder to see your own work objectively. The eye glides over things that have become familiar because we wrote them and then edited them ourselves. Mark me down as a believer in editing. :mhk9U91:
 
The following users thanked this post: Captain Cranky, idontknowyet

guest1038

  • Guest
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #28 on: January 21, 2019, 06:53:11 AM »
It's a fair point, but by the same token - are the 1-star ratings harming sales? Outwardly, the obvious answer to that might be 'yes', but we have to judge readers based not on what they say, but on what they do. If you're not selling and you have an abundance of reviewers howling about the apparent lack of editing, then you might have a case - but even then, it's not a sure bet. And, if we're telling would-be indie publishers they just "have to" pay for editing then in essence we're saying it is part of the "sure bet" one has to make to see sales success, and I think that's misleading.

The problem is that we don't really know what readers do. There's no way for us to measure how many people glance at bad reviews and then move on. Even a book that is selling fairly well might have been selling twice as many copies without the one-star reviews bemoaning editing. I take your point that a book that's not selling might not be in trouble because of the one-star reviews, but your logic can just as easily be applied to your side of the argument as well. Just because someone self-edited, and the book is selling well doesn't mean that the person couldn't have benefited from a professional edit.

Quote
How many books have been subject to a professional edit that also have been 1-starred because 'x' reader perceived the writing to be of low quality or to have lacked editing? How many times has an author themselves edited their own work to the nth degree only to be met with scorn from certain readers pertaining to the editing or perceived lack thereof? How many times has an author launched with just their first draft and gone on to make a killing?

There's a myriad of answers to all of those questions.

I'm sure it happens, but in order for that argument to really carry weight, you'd have to be able to show that it happens a lot. I'm not persuaded that a freak accident kind of scenario is a reason not to get a book professionally edited. Sure, some readers' perceptions of whether a book has been edited well or not can be flawed--but that's true of virtually every feature of a book. We could just as easily say, "There's no point in spending time on character development, because I have, but reviewers still criticize my characters." Anyway, if a book really is poorly edited, it's probably going to attract a lot of one-star reviews, not just the occasional idiosyncratic one. Is such a pattern likely to affect sales? We know there are writers on this board that would take a pass immediately. I know a lot of readers who get bent out of shape if a book has more than a certain number (usually small) of editorial problems. They may not return that book, but they won't be buying more by the same author any time soon. I know zero readers who don't care about editing at all. Maybe the people I know are all idiosyncratic, but I doubt it.

Quote
Part of the problem I have with paying healthy sums for editing is, there's no way to tell from a buying customer's perspective whether the book's been edited or not. I can't pick up a copy of you-name-the-famous-novel from my shelf and tell you whether that's the author's 6th draft or her 27th - whether her work was gone over by just one trad house editor or several. Just as there's no tangible way for an author/businessperson to tell whether their sales success has had anything to do with the money they shelled out for an editor versus had they not spent that money and made more profit on their book(s) because whether they knew it or not, as far as the market was concerned, their writing was 'good enough'.

A buying customer who has good language skills can tell from a quick glance at the Look Inside whether a book has been adequately edited or could have used another pass (or perhaps several). And that's all a customer needs to know. How many drafts or how many rounds of editing a book has had is irrelevant--but the finished product isn't irrelevant.

Quote
It's true some people will complain about work they perceive lacks editing, but it's also true there are books all over the bestseller lists that could easily appear to you and me as being in need of a professional edit and yet the market is telling them, and us, something different.

No book is perfect, but I've yet to pick up an NYT or other bestseller that looks as if it needs a professional edit. If you have any actual examples to cite, please do so. As far as Amazon lists are concerned, we all know those can be--and are--often manipulated. A book could be ranking very well on Amazon as a result of ghost borrows or botting and not really be doing that well in terms of real sales.

Quote
I would say, if you've spent lots on a great, commercial cover, and a lot on ads, and you're in a popular genre with a kickass super-commercial premise/idea, and your blurb's on-point AND you're not selling...then maybe the writing's the issue. But, would a professional editor help you there? Which one? In what capacity? Was the issue your syntax, your grammar, or does your voice just suck? How many copy editors and how many hundreds of dollars later would it take for you to find the answer? How many developmental editors will agree on what your problem is? How many of them would any given author have to pay to iron out their craft issues that may or may not result in weak sales once a product is put to market?

Yes, editors do vary in their responses, so one needs to use their advice selectively. I thought we were talking at least partly about grammatical issues, and there's less room for argument there. Anyway, your reasoning, if generalized, is a recipe for inaction. One could easily ask the same questions about cover design, advertising, or any other element. For instance, no two cover designers are going to create the same cover for your book, just as no two editors are going to have exactly the take on your manuscript. Is that an automatic reason to do your own cover, even if you have no artistic or graphic design experience? Hardly. As far as the rest of that paragraph is concerned, yes, there are no certainties, and even some great books doubtless don't become great sellers. That said, doesn't it make sense to make the book the best you can reasonably create with whatever resources and talent you have? Whatever else someone might claim, I doubt anyone can claim that producing a better product is going to hurt sales.

Quote
There's so much amorphous intangibility surrounding the idea of editing that it makes me reticent to recommend to anyone in this business to commit dollars to it, let alone hundreds of them. I just don't think there's enough proof-of-concept in terms of directly linking editing to healthy sales numbers that would lead me to support it...that is, outside of anecdotal evidence or the promotion of the idea of "well, the traditional publishers have been using professional editors for 'x' number of decades and look how many billions they've raked in therefore..." arguments which aren't really rational arguments in my view at all.

And again we're back to questions we can't know the answer to. If you want more than anecdotal evidence (which is at least better than no evidence) for anything in self-publishing, you may be waiting for that forever. If we had a comprehensive study that included both editing processes and sales figures for a cross-section of authors, then we might be able to draw conclusions. Until then, anecdotal evidence is all we have--and it points to the idea that a reasonable amount of editing is usually necessary. That doesn't mean spending big bucks to have it done professionally. Some people really can self-edit. Others can find low-cost ways to do it. I don't think there's any one formula that is right for everyone. However, I think newbies need to develop the self-awareness to  know whether or not they need editing help--and how much. From my (admittedly limited) experience, "the best one can do under the circumstances" is a better bet than "good enough."

Yes, it's the lack of conclusions and clear evidence that makes me reticent to recommend a professional edit for most indies. Someone up-thread mentioned it could be seen as an educational expense, and I tend to agree.

Honestly, if a book is selling well does it really matter if it's just "good enough" versus "a work of stupendous grace"? Not to me, no. Sales are the thing I care about. If my book has 80 one star reviews versus half that with five stars, do I fret over it, if the thing is making me a killing? No. I'm running a business. ROI is important. I want money. I want sales. I could care less if anyone thinks I'm the second coming of "insert your favorite literary author here".

Goals differ however, when it comes to authors, granted - so, if having your work held up as some artistic high watermark is part of your raison d'etre and you think a pro edit will get you there, go with god, but if you're running a business, ROI is an important figure to keep in mind.

Which is to say - sure - any book might benefit from a professional edit, but if the book is selling and doing well for you, you could chalk that expense up to an educational experience for you from a craft standpoint, and if you have the expendable income to do it, go for it.

But, again, I think it's misleading or perhaps just straight-up bad advice to advise new entrants into the market - or indies who don't have a lot of money - that they simply must pay for editing in order to be seen as or to actually be a viable self-publisher. That just isn't the case probably in 9 cases out of 10.
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet, Anarchist

Bill Hiatt

  • Epic Novel unlocked
  • ****
  • Posts: 1112
  • Thanked: 437 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Tickling the imagination one book at a time
    • Bill Hiatt's Author Website
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #29 on: January 21, 2019, 07:45:45 AM »
Yes, it's the lack of conclusions and clear evidence that makes me reticent to recommend a professional edit for most indies. Someone up-thread mentioned it could be seen as an educational expense, and I tend to agree.

Honestly, if a book is selling well does it really matter if it's just "good enough" versus "a work of stupendous grace"? Not to me, no. Sales are the thing I care about. If my book has 80 one star reviews versus half that with five stars, do I fret over it, if the thing is making me a killing? No. I'm running a business. ROI is important. I want money. I want sales. I could care less if anyone thinks I'm the second coming of "insert your favorite literary author here".

Goals differ however, when it comes to authors, granted - so, if having your work held up as some artistic high watermark is part of your raison d'etre and you think a pro edit will get you there, go with god, but if you're running a business, ROI is an important figure to keep in mind.

Which is to say - sure - any book might benefit from a professional edit, but if the book is selling and doing well for you, you could chalk that expense up to an educational experience for you from a craft standpoint, and if you have the expendable income to do it, go for it.

But, again, I think it's misleading or perhaps just straight-up bad advice to advise new entrants into the market - or indies who don't have a lot of money - that they simply must pay for editing in order to be seen as or to actually be a viable self-publisher. That just isn't the case probably in 9 cases out of 10.
I'm not advocating professional editing for everyone. Nor am I advocating that people spend more than they can afford. As far as sending a book out for editing when it is already publishing and selling well, is anyone saying that? Maybe I missed something, but I thought we were talking about editing prior to publication--in which case someone isn't in a position to know whether the market is going to fall in love with the book or not.

Newbies come in at a lot of different levels. Some of them have been writing on their own for twenty years before deciding to self-publish. Some of them have just started. Some of them have done relevant coursework. Some have not. Some have worked in jobs that honed their editing skills. Others have not. It would be a mistake to assume that all newbies have the same needs.

All of that said, as a former English teacher with thirty-six years on the job, I've seen enough of the research and had enough personal experience to convince me that people in general benefit from having other people give them input on their writing. One of the reasons this is true is the tendency of the brain to self-correct. That is, we tend to see what we know should be there rather than what actually is. The research is mostly related to proofreading issues, but I've seen enough to suggest that it can also extend to more substantive issues, though those judgments are more subjective.

There are ways to beat the brain's self-correction. Reading material more times, in connection with longer pauses between readings, can certainly help. However, at that point the question of how much one's time is worth arises. If I save a few hundred dollars by not doing an edit, but I spend a thousand dollars of my own time on the project to avoid one, am I really coming out ahead? After all, that extra time spent could have gone toward other projects that would also have eventually made me money. Of course, no matter what process one uses, some self-editing is essential, but if an edit can substantially reduce that self-editing time, it can in the long run be more cost-effective.

Getting other people's take on work in progress can also be valuable, though that doesn't have to be through a professional editor. I believe beta readers were mentioned earlier. We tend to see our own writing in a certain way, and it's good to compare that to how others see it. That doesn't mean that every single piece of feedback will necessarily improve the work, but in my experience feedback almost always has a net positive impact.

I wish someone had encouraged me to have a professional edit done before releasing my first book. I assumed because of my experience analyzing the writing of others that I could save the money. Wrong! My first version was riddled with errors my brain had auto-corrected, even though I went over the final draft three times. Eventually, I had to do the edit anyway, but I've often wondered how much better things would have been if had done the edit to begin with. I lost some readers I'll never get back, and I didn't start with the kind of momentum I should have had. Back in 2012, a new release, if it launched well enough, would have had major visibility. Ultimately, the book did well, but it could have done better had it been in better shape when first released.

Whether one's focus is on ROI or on art for art's sake, there is value in perfecting a manuscript. That doesn't mean spend more than you can afford. That doesn't mean spend years to produce one book. Neither of those is a practical strategy. It does mean doing what you can with the resources available. For a lot of people, that will mean obtaining a fresh perspective on the manuscript one way or another.


Tickling the imagination one book at a time
Bill Hiatt | fiction website | education website | Facebook author page | Twitter
 
The following users thanked this post: Captain Cranky, Angstriddengoddess, idontknowyet

LilyBLily

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #30 on: January 21, 2019, 08:57:50 AM »
I agree with Bill. Grin

Also, we don't know the goals of every would-be indie. Maybe some want to be read and respected by their peers and by strangers. Maybe they're writing under their real names and don't want to embarrass themselves--or their parents, for that matter. Those writers would do well to get editorial assistance so they can polish their end product.

"I want money" is only one possible goal. There are other business goals. I stress business goals, because not naming money as the very first goal usually brings down the annoying lecture about how "This is a business" and yadda-yadda. Yes, of course this is a business, but ROI for self-publishing is not only measured in cash. 
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet, bookworm, Matt Godbey

guest1038

  • Guest
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #31 on: January 21, 2019, 11:05:32 AM »
Yes, it's the lack of conclusions and clear evidence that makes me reticent to recommend a professional edit for most indies. Someone up-thread mentioned it could be seen as an educational expense, and I tend to agree.

Honestly, if a book is selling well does it really matter if it's just "good enough" versus "a work of stupendous grace"? Not to me, no. Sales are the thing I care about. If my book has 80 one star reviews versus half that with five stars, do I fret over it, if the thing is making me a killing? No. I'm running a business. ROI is important. I want money. I want sales. I could care less if anyone thinks I'm the second coming of "insert your favorite literary author here".

Goals differ however, when it comes to authors, granted - so, if having your work held up as some artistic high watermark is part of your raison d'etre and you think a pro edit will get you there, go with god, but if you're running a business, ROI is an important figure to keep in mind.

Which is to say - sure - any book might benefit from a professional edit, but if the book is selling and doing well for you, you could chalk that expense up to an educational experience for you from a craft standpoint, and if you have the expendable income to do it, go for it.

But, again, I think it's misleading or perhaps just straight-up bad advice to advise new entrants into the market - or indies who don't have a lot of money - that they simply must pay for editing in order to be seen as or to actually be a viable self-publisher. That just isn't the case probably in 9 cases out of 10.
I'm not advocating professional editing for everyone. Nor am I advocating that people spend more than they can afford. As far as sending a book out for editing when it is already publishing and selling well, is anyone saying that? Maybe I missed something, but I thought we were talking about editing prior to publication--in which case someone isn't in a position to know whether the market is going to fall in love with the book or not.

Newbies come in at a lot of different levels. Some of them have been writing on their own for twenty years before deciding to self-publish. Some of them have just started. Some of them have done relevant coursework. Some have not. Some have worked in jobs that honed their editing skills. Others have not. It would be a mistake to assume that all newbies have the same needs.

All of that said, as a former English teacher with thirty-six years on the job, I've seen enough of the research and had enough personal experience to convince me that people in general benefit from having other people give them input on their writing. One of the reasons this is true is the tendency of the brain to self-correct. That is, we tend to see what we know should be there rather than what actually is. The research is mostly related to proofreading issues, but I've seen enough to suggest that it can also extend to more substantive issues, though those judgments are more subjective.

There are ways to beat the brain's self-correction. Reading material more times, in connection with longer pauses between readings, can certainly help. However, at that point the question of how much one's time is worth arises. If I save a few hundred dollars by not doing an edit, but I spend a thousand dollars of my own time on the project to avoid one, am I really coming out ahead? After all, that extra time spent could have gone toward other projects that would also have eventually made me money. Of course, no matter what process one uses, some self-editing is essential, but if an edit can substantially reduce that self-editing time, it can in the long run be more cost-effective.

Getting other people's take on work in progress can also be valuable, though that doesn't have to be through a professional editor. I believe beta readers were mentioned earlier. We tend to see our own writing in a certain way, and it's good to compare that to how others see it. That doesn't mean that every single piece of feedback will necessarily improve the work, but in my experience feedback almost always has a net positive impact.

I wish someone had encouraged me to have a professional edit done before releasing my first book. I assumed because of my experience analyzing the writing of others that I could save the money. Wrong! My first version was riddled with errors my brain had auto-corrected, even though I went over the final draft three times. Eventually, I had to do the edit anyway, but I've often wondered how much better things would have been if had done the edit to begin with. I lost some readers I'll never get back, and I didn't start with the kind of momentum I should have had. Back in 2012, a new release, if it launched well enough, would have had major visibility. Ultimately, the book did well, but it could have done better had it been in better shape when first released.

Whether one's focus is on ROI or on art for art's sake, there is value in perfecting a manuscript. That doesn't mean spend more than you can afford. That doesn't mean spend years to produce one book. Neither of those is a practical strategy. It does mean doing what you can with the resources available. For a lot of people, that will mean obtaining a fresh perspective on the manuscript one way or another.

It's more this idea: that one pay for an editor when whether or not the book succeeds sales-wise based on whether or not it is edited professionally is completely unknowable. That's what I have an issue with.

I agree with Bill. Grin

Also, we don't know the goals of every would-be indie. Maybe some want to be read and respected by their peers and by strangers. Maybe they're writing under their real names and don't want to embarrass themselves--or their parents, for that matter. Those writers would do well to get editorial assistance so they can polish their end product.

"I want money" is only one possible goal. There are other business goals. I stress business goals, because not naming money as the very first goal usually brings down the annoying lecture about how "This is a business" and yadda-yadda. Yes, of course this is a business, but ROI for self-publishing is not only measured in cash. 

Of course, respect is nice, praise is nice, but I'm in this: 1. because I love to write and tell stories, and 2. to make money. If greater respect and praise means more dollars added to my balance, bring it on.

So, yes, when I talk about ROI, I am talking about money. I'm not certain what else you could attribute ROI to, but I'll grant you other philosophies and approaches abound. Power to any and all to do whatever it is they want to do.
 
The following users thanked this post: idontknowyet, Anarchist

She-la-te-da

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #32 on: February 16, 2019, 12:32:06 AM »
Everything Cora said.

Quote
Also, a great in-between is reading books about craft and self-editing. I'm surprised by how many people will come to writing groups or workshops and don't have a single craft book at home.

It's amazing how many people have no desire at all to learn how to write fiction. They feel that they know how to write, based on being able to connect sentences on the web and some vaguely remembered writing assignments in high school (or, gods help us, further back). Instead, it seems to be the way to simple ask people on writing forums to give them the bullet points of how to write something people will pay them to read. Rather presumptuous, in my opinion.

For the OP:  we have no idea what your skill sets are or are not. So, plan on needing at least a developmental edit on your first manuscript. Take what's said in hand and learn from it. If you manage to get a manuscript worth publishing, good on you. Most of us don't manage to get that on the first try (and some no matter what).

Then you have the task of finding other services, if you can't learn to do it yourself. Covers can be done by someone with a good eye for how to put a proper cover together. Formatting isn't that hard, it can de done rather simply without need for anything other than Word or a free equivalent. Ads need to be done, but maybe not a lot on a first book, save up to really start the promo once more are out.

The truth is, all any of us can do is give you general advice. You will basically need to try different things, shift and change your plans, over and over as you learn more and the business changes. And it will. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and willingness to learn a bunch of stuff beyond the writing, and give it a shot.

You can start out with a couple of shorts to get a feel for things, but don't expect to make more than a few dollars from them. The money is in longer works, much as I hate it (I'd love to be able to just write shorts, but it's a lot of work for little return).
I write various flavors of speculative fiction. This is my main pen name.

 
The following users thanked this post: EB

LD

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #33 on: February 16, 2019, 03:39:03 PM »


Also, a great in-between is reading books about craft and self-editing. I'm surprised by how many people will come to writing groups or workshops and don't have a single craft book at home. Craft books are amazing, if you're an autodidact.
I don't have any craft books.  My education was the thousands of books I read in my genre.
 

LD

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #34 on: February 16, 2019, 03:47:45 PM »

Quote
It's true some people will complain about work they perceive lacks editing, but it's also true there are books all over the bestseller lists that could easily appear to you and me as being in need of a professional edit and yet the market is telling them, and us, something different.

No book is perfect, but I've yet to pick up an NYT or other bestseller that looks as if it needs a professional edit. If you have any actual examples to cite, please do so. As far as Amazon lists are concerned, we all know those can be--and are--often manipulated. A book could be ranking very well on Amazon as a result of ghost borrows or botting and not really be doing that well in terms of real sales.

  Unfortunately, I've seen some USAT books that were sorely in need of editing.  And many of them got that title from participating in those massive box sets.  Which is probably why that claim is losing its credibility.  I've not seen NYT books have the same issue. 
 

okey dokey

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #35 on: February 16, 2019, 11:30:33 PM »
QUOTE:
"My education was the thousands of books I read in my genre."


I started crawling, and walking on carpets.
So I know how different carpet material feels. Which colors and patterns are attractive.
But all that time spent crawling and walking on carpets will not make me ready to produce a saleable carpet.
I have had many rides in automobiles. Heck, I've even driven a lot of them over the years.
But I'm not ready to design or build one.

 
The following users thanked this post: Angstriddengoddess

EB

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #36 on: February 17, 2019, 12:45:23 AM »
The truth is, all any of us can do is give you general advice. You will basically need to try different things, shift and change your plans, over and over as you learn more and the business changes. And it will. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and willingness to learn a bunch of stuff beyond the writing, and give it a shot.

This ^^ 100%.

I thought I'd have something deeper to say on this subject, but as I was writing a reply, I changed my mind. It's one thing to share experiences of how one method worked for me, or how I've seen certain methods work for other folks. The truth is, though, that skill set is an important aspect of how successful you will be.
 
The following users thanked this post: Angstriddengoddess

Bill Hiatt

  • Epic Novel unlocked
  • ****
  • Posts: 1112
  • Thanked: 437 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Tickling the imagination one book at a time
    • Bill Hiatt's Author Website
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #37 on: February 17, 2019, 04:43:33 AM »
It's more this idea: that one pay for an editor when whether or not the book succeeds sales-wise based on whether or not it is edited professionally is completely unknowable. That's what I have an issue with.
As I've pointed out, though, you could take any aspect of a book's production and say the result is completely unknowable. In the sense that there are no comprehensive studies, you'd be right. But common sense would suggest that good editing (whether professional or otherwise) has some impact.

I'm not saying that everyone has to hire a professional editor to be successful. I'm saying that creating a well-edited manuscript is part of what one needs to be successful. Not everyone needs professional help to do this. Not everyone can afford professional help. There are other, less expensive ways to get different perspectives on the material.

We know that some readers react negatively to editing problems. We know that some leave one-star reviews. We know that at least some readers are influenced by bad reviews. Some are probably also influenced by checking the Look Inside and seeing it riddled with errors. While it's true that we can't know exactly how much of an impact any of these will have, I think it's risky to assume that all of them together have no impact.


Tickling the imagination one book at a time
Bill Hiatt | fiction website | education website | Facebook author page | Twitter
 

LD

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #38 on: February 18, 2019, 02:58:59 AM »
QUOTE:
"My education was the thousands of books I read in my genre."


I started crawling, and walking on carpets.
So I know how different carpet material feels. Which colors and patterns are attractive.
But all that time spent crawling and walking on carpets will not make me ready to produce a saleable carpet.
I have had many rides in automobiles. Heck, I've even driven a lot of them over the years.
But I'm not ready to design or build one.
  I understand what you're trying to show here, but I don't agree with the analogy.  Writing, fiction especially, does not require you to have "formal" education. 
 

PJ Post

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #39 on: February 18, 2019, 04:09:02 AM »
The most important consideration, as first steps go, is to filter everything you're reading here through your goals and expectations prism.

If you want to make money ASAP...listen to Bill. Good marketing sells far more books than 'good' writing. (This is not a comment on Bill's professionalism; I'm just iterating that the shortest path between no money and some money is internet marketing skills. The product is irrelevant.)

On the other hand, if you want to write the next, great American novel...sadly, you're going to need to slow down and learn how to write, which means a few developmental, copy and proofing edits to learn by. It's an investment in your career. As was said up-thread - new writers don't know what they don't know. So start with shorts and experiment. Although, it needs saying that shorts have their own unique vibe, and are extremely difficult to write. Very few novelists do them well because short stories are NOT brief novels. Beyond that, try to find your voice, or rather - let it find you. When that makes sense you'll know you're closer to where you want to be. Figure out what it is you want to write about, themes and such. What do you want to say? And how is your take on it different than everyone else's?

You'll need to learn about different writing and publishing processes in order to find the one that works best for you - the one that lines up with your goals. Also, understand that there are simply too many moving parts in this business (it's like herding cats), so your mileage may vary (YMMV) is going to be a constant with ALL advice. What works for one can be a total disaster for someone else. Taking the time to understand all of those moving parts will greatly facilitate your product development (book writing) and marketing strategies - even if you only want to follow your own muse. Because, at some point, once you put your book up for sale, whether you're looking for readers or money, the business side of it is the same.

Unfortunately, all of these considerations affect budgets.

The only thing that matters in the beginning is that you write, and that you learn and grow from both your writing and your publishing experiences, so you can get better - at everything.

Good luck and remember to have fun.  :tup3b
 

Tom Wood

  • Long Novel unlocked
  • ***
  • Posts: 970
  • Thanked: 355 times
  • Whatever you imagine can make your life brand new.
    • Agents of DISRUPT
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #40 on: February 18, 2019, 04:24:10 AM »
A well-known writer is at a posh dinner party when a well-known brain surgeon says to them, "When I retire I'm going to be a writer too."
The writer says, "What a coincidence! When I retire I'm going to be a brain surgeon too."

A famous actor reports to a famous acting coach, "I don't need acting lessons because I'm going to work outside the lines."
The acting coach says, "Before you can do that, you need to know where the lines are."

 

LilyBLily

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #41 on: February 18, 2019, 05:05:37 AM »
There's a ton of free writing craft info available online and in your local public library. It's worth reading a few books on the topic. Save yourself from making beginner's mistakes. 

If you read deeply in a genre, the basic story rhythms are probably well known to you, which certainly is a plus.

To circle back to the budget topic, there's little need to spend serious money on books about writing, but that doesn't mean you should stay willfully unaware of their good advice. Some writers are addicted to pens and journals. Others are addicted to books on craft. If you look around and sample some, you'll probably find one that suits the way you approach writing. Then you can ignore the rest and save yourself some cash. 

Edited to add: I think my basic message is: Save yourself.
 

dgcasey

  • Short Novel unlocked
  • ***
  • Posts: 496
  • Thanked: 159 times
  • Gender: Male
  • I will not forget one line of this, not one day,
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #42 on: February 18, 2019, 09:14:32 AM »
I understand what you're trying to show here, but I don't agree with the analogy.  Writing, fiction especially, does not require you to have "formal" education.

Okay, I can agree with this. However, if the quality of your writing shows a lack of formal education, you have no room to complain when reviews start to point that out.
All available at Amazon, some available at B&N and some available God knows where
Dave's Amazon Author page | DGlennCasey.com | TheDailyPainter.com
 

LD

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #43 on: February 18, 2019, 03:15:35 PM »
I understand what you're trying to show here, but I don't agree with the analogy.  Writing, fiction especially, does not require you to have "formal" education.

Okay, I can agree with this. However, if the quality of your writing shows a lack of formal education, you have no room to complain when reviews start to point that out.
I agree.  Mechanics DO need to be learned.  But crafting the story?  No, you don't need those books for that.  Especially since they don't teach you genre expectations (except in a broad sense, if at all).  Reading widely can provide that.  After all, the books you read are showing what's taught in the craft books.  There's a reason why, when someone has a question about what to do about something, people will point them toward picking up a book to see how it's done by way of an example.  Will reading craft books help?  Sure.  It'll probably speed up your education too.  But is it necessary?  No.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2019, 03:48:43 PM by LD »
 

David VanDyke

  • Medium Novel unlocked
  • ***
  • Posts: 594
  • Thanked: 599 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Full-time hybrid author and curmudgeon
    • David VanDyke's Author Website
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #44 on: February 18, 2019, 04:43:55 PM »
There's self-taught, and formally taught, but it's all taught.

Almost nobody is a pure natural. Everybody needs education in their craft. To reject education is to reject reaching one's potential. It doesn't have to be in a classroom, but it has to be there somehow.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.

I'm a lucky guy. I find the harder I work, the luckier I am.
 

LD

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #45 on: February 18, 2019, 06:08:43 PM »
There's self-taught, and formally taught, but it's all taught.

Almost nobody is a pure natural. Everybody needs education in their craft. To reject education is to reject reaching one's potential. It doesn't have to be in a classroom, but it has to be there somehow.
I don't think anyone's saying not to educate themselves (at least I'm not), but debating the manner in which that education is obtained.
 

Tom Wood

  • Long Novel unlocked
  • ***
  • Posts: 970
  • Thanked: 355 times
  • Whatever you imagine can make your life brand new.
    • Agents of DISRUPT
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #46 on: February 18, 2019, 10:11:51 PM »
Dunning-Kruger effect

Not pointed at anyone in particular because we are all vulnerable to our own blindness.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2019, 11:06:43 PM by Tom Wood »
 

okey dokey

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #47 on: February 19, 2019, 05:16:35 AM »
I'm not suggesting the need for a formal education.
But walking on carpet all your life does not indicate you have skills to be a carpet maker.
There are plenty of books on fiction craftsmanship.
Just "reading" novels isn't enough.
I have read newspapers since the age of 5. So I thought I had enough "experience" to write.
Wrong.
In my 20s I was hired as a cub reporter. I almost got fired after one week.
Reading and writing are different things.
I quickly buckled down and studied books on newspaper writing. Devoured the trade journals such as Editor and Publisher.
The AP and UPI teletype machines provided examples of how to begin a news article. How to end an article. What questions to ask during an interview.
What is a "second day lead"?
How, and where, do you insert background material.

All of this was new to me despite having "read" newspapers for about 20 years.

There is a learning curve to "writing" publishable English.
Switch from "reading" hundreds of novels, to "studying" hundreds of novels. And every craft book.

Amen

 

Eclectic Dan

Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #48 on: February 19, 2019, 06:52:01 AM »
Which came first, a novel or a book on how to write a novel?  :icon_think:
     
 
The following users thanked this post: Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

  • Short Novel unlocked
  • ***
  • Posts: 410
  • Thanked: 226 times
  • Gender: Female
  • Author of Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, and Suspense
    • Lavender Lass Books
Re: What is your advice on budgeting for self publishing?
« Reply #49 on: February 19, 2019, 07:58:24 AM »
Journalism is much different than writing fiction. Not saying you can just sit down and write after reading...but we are taught to reduce a story to its essence.  Only the essential facts.

I have to have a TON of stuff happen in my novels or I'm writing a novella.  :catrun

ETA:  Unless the mansion is practically a main character...then I can write an entire chapter about the house. LOL
« Last Edit: February 19, 2019, 08:01:34 AM by Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books] »
            
Author of Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, Suspense and Historical Non-Fiction.
Lavender Lass Books | Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter |YouTube