Self-publishing has been steadily rising in popularity over the past fifty years. With the rise of the Internet, and with it, free and available professional tools, authors are working to wrest creative control away from large and powerful publishing houses. Some have even predicted the fall of large-scale publishing as it stands in the coming years.
Proponents of self-publishing swear by its benefits. As a self-published author (they claim), you’ll have full creative control, a timeline of your choosing, and you’ll have far higher royalty rates. You won’t have to cede control over any of the process. You’ll also be able to achieve your authorship, design, and marketing vision without compromise.
What these enthusiasts don’t mention, however, is the cost of self-publishing. Self-publishing is not a free process; nor is it as quick and easy as some may make it seem. Because you won’t have the support of a major publishing house, all the professional services that your book needs to move from a draft to launch fall on you. These services (editing, design, marketing, and more) will inevitably require a large financial and/or time commitment from the author.
What can self-publishing authors do to avoid this dilemma? How can you choose self-publishing at least in part because of its quick timeline, while working with the large time commitment it poses?
With careful planning, thorough research, and a few tips and tricks, finding balance is possible. Read on to discover how to save time and money on the journey through self-publishing.
Do Your Homework
The first step to financing self-publishing is getting a good sense of the cost of the process. Jumping into the middle of the process can cost you valuable time and money later. Early mistakes tend to multiply the cost of self-publishing, amplifying your losses in the long-term.
For example, moving to print before your book is fully proofed can leave you with hundreds or even thousands of copies of unusable books– a costly mistake. Another example of this type of mistake is getting your book proofed before you’re finished making changes. This adds another expensive round of copy editing and proofreading before you move to publish.
Before getting any other professionals involved, sit down and draw out what services your book will need, approximately how much they will cost, and where you plan to get the funds to self-publish.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Once you’ve laid out your expenses, you will be able to construct a timeline. As the above examples illustrate, getting professionals involved at the wrong times can be costly. It can also set back your launch by weeks or even months.
Production timelines will vary widely on your genre, length, and required services. It’s important to make sure you’re constructing your timeline only after thoroughly researching what your book will need to move from a draft to a final release. It’s also always wise to build in some wiggle room.
Especially if you have a marketing plan in motion, you won’t want small snags in the process (like finding new editors or graphic designers if your original picks aren’t good fits) to turn into major delays.
Before beginning your search for editors, designers, and marketing specialists, take a moment to evaluate your own skills. Though proofing your own book is generally frowned upon, many other production tasks can be taken on by the author to reduce contracting costs.
Do you have a particularly strong social media presence and/or experience planning events? With careful self-study, you may be able to avoid hiring a publicist or marketing specialist. Take a moment to think about the services that are really necessary to bring your book to life. Then, consider the services you may be able to handle yourself to reduce the cost of self-publishing.
Now that you’ve finalized your planning, it’s time to get in touch with your team. Freelance publishing work is fairly unregulated, so you’ll see a wide variety of rates and fees. Without compromising quality, a deep dive into available talent can yield very affordable pricing.
You’ll want to look into whether cost-effective service providers have experience in your genre or can provide sample edits or design. A thorough vetting process might take more front-loaded time. However, it can save you the trouble of having to look for a new editor or designer that you’re not happy with. The counter process is expensive both timewise and monetarily.
You can also reach out to other self-published authors for recommendations or check the acknowledgements pages of successfully self-published books. All these techniques will widen your search net. They will also increase your chances of finding someone that will fit your project as well as your budget.
Build a Team
Freelancers can be accustomed to working alone. However, building a team for your launch will save precious time and money by coordinating the publishing process across several domains. As an author, you have the ultimate say on what your book looks and reads like. That doesn’t mean that your editors, designers, and/or marketing specialists will not have valuable input for the other members of your team, though. They may also have deeper industry knowledge than you might have as a first-time author.
If your designer and publicist can coordinate and correspond early and often, for example, launch materials may come together faster and present a more cohesive picture than if the design and marketing processes proceeded completely separately.
There’s a common urge among self-publishing authors to make your book available in every format possible to (hypothetically) widen your audience. This urge can be counterproductive. Each format (eBook, hardcover, softcover, audiobook, etc.) requires the involvement of different professionals. This creates a (most likely expensive) conversion between formats, and a longer time to publish.
Will the cost of a voice actor, for example, really be covered by the audience you get from the audiobook format? Will physical printing draw in a significant increase in readership over eBooks? Is the feel and weight of a hardcover worth the splurge?
Self-publishing with Success
Self-publishing isn’t as easy as it might seem. It’s not as quick as an upload with the push of a button, nor as simple as going over your own draft a few times before hitting submit.
It’s a complicated process that can balloon in time and monetary commitment if your research skills or attention to detail slip. But if you’re careful, and you follow the steps laid out above, you might just be able to reduce the cost of self-publishing and avoid falling into financial and temporal faults.