One of the few downsides to self-publishing is the cost. Every detail from the editing to the cover is paid by the author before the book is published. This is the biggest hurdle that stands between many potential authors and their dreams of being published. It can often drive authors to independent presses or vanity presses in order to bypass the cost – which is a shame. Don’t be discouraged by the cost of self-publishing! The amount of care and attention to detail that is poured into your book is what truly counts. It can give you the chance to recoup your investment and more. Cost ranges for self-publishing can range from $0 to $tratosphere. Ironically, this does not mean that the more you spend the better it will be, but if you want to put out a professional book you need help from professionals. Having said that, if you must take shortcuts, here are some options.
There is a lot to cover here, so the main focus is on the higher ticket items in the publishing process. Short disclaimer here: these tips will certainly help you stretch your budget but be aware that they are not always the best recipe for a flawless publication.
Use Tools to Design Your Book Yourself
Much of the cost of self-publishing comes from the variety of experts you’ll need to produce a professional-looking product. But if you have the time, confidence, and technical skill, there are some tasks that you can complete yourself. Important note: this is not referring to editing. It is inadvisable to do all the editing by yourself. However, there are tools available for you to use for the interior layout and the cover of your book.
A haphazard layout is one of the first signs that a book was self-published by an amateur author, so you will want to be careful with this one. There are many self-publishing experts that will caution against doing the design by yourself unless you spend plenty of time researching and educating yourself on best practices and industry standards. There are a lot of ways to go wrong here, but designing the book yourself is certainly not impossible.
Design Your Cover For Free
Some budget-conscious self-publishers are familiar with the website Canva. For publishing purposes, this website is primarily used for ebook covers. It is free to create an account and they have countless templates to choose from. There is a proper way to use Canva and the wrong way to use Canva. Don’t be afraid to use some of the advanced features and tools in order to customize your cover and hide the template. Canva offers both free and paid stock photos to add as the background to your cover – but don’t overlook the option to upload your own photo. A word of caution, however: You might notice that the free version doesn’t allow you to resize the image, which severely limits your options for trim size and makes it nearly impossible to design the spine of the book (which is why it’s mainly for ebooks). You can opt for a 30-day free trial if you are interested in exploring Canva’s tools.
Amazon’s KDP service also includes a cover creator that is similar to Canva – except this one is for print books and does give you control over the spine. You can also upload your own images into KDP’s cover creator. You may consider using a combination of Canva and KDP’s cover creator. Canva is a service for multiple design needs, but KDP’s cover creator is specific toward books. Using both will give you more flexibility than using one by itself.
Format Your Own Interior Layout
Amazon’s KDP needs to be mentioned again, because they also provide tools for your interior layout. This time, KDP offers downloadable templates that are specific to the standard trim sizes found in KDP Print, the print on demand service. The template is a word document that is pre-formatted and you should be able to carefully copy and paste your content into it. Additionally, Amazon is working on a Kindle Create Add-in for Word that appears to be similar to their cover creator. This program is only in Beta, so it might not be a complete program at the time of this post.
There are a few paid software programs that are available for this task as well. We mentioned Scrivener in a previous post, but only gave an overview of the program as a word processor and outline creator. Scrivener is much more than that. Using the advanced tools, you can also format the book and use the “compile” feature to create either a PDF or a Word file that can be uploaded to whatever printing service you are going to use. However, Scrivener is not easy to use right away, and you may have to spend some time looking at tutorials to get the most out of the experience. Scrivener costs $45 and its high level of difficulty is matched by its flexibility and complexity.
Vellum appears to be a happy medium. It is intuitive and easy to learn like KDP’s cover creator, but has far more options. The biggest downsides to Vellum is that it requires a Mac computer and the license is quite spendy – about $250 for the version that accommodates both ebooks and paperbacks. This might be a good option for you if you are likely to design more than one book or if you simply want to do it yourself.
Pay Less For Designs Using Crowdsourcing
A basic definition of crowdsourcing is when you allocate specific tasks to different individuals in order to get something done more quickly. Sounds pretty similar to what you would get with a consultation company like My Word Publishing – except for a key difference. Crowdsourcing is usually the term used when you hire individuals for a single project and your entire interaction with them occurs online.
Consultants at My Word Publishing typically advise against using untested strangers for your book. This is because our vendors have been strictly vetted to ensure that you will get the best quality for your dime. But crowdsourcing can still be considered if you are on a tight budget.
The riskiest place to find freelancers for your project is Fiverr. The best advice for getting the most out of a Fiverr freelancer is to closely read their profile. Make sure they not only have the experience in your project of choice, but that they have plenty of reviews. You’ll find a mixed bag of talent, but you also have a chance to get a steal of a deal on covers, logos, or editing. Editing comes with a slight cringe, because you really do not want to skimp in this area. But do what you gotta do – with extreme scrutiny.
Cover and layout crowdsourcing are a little safer than editing. 99designs and CrowdSpring have similar rates of $299 for book covers. On these websites, you create a project and multiple designers submit a variety of designs for you to choose from. CrowdSpring estimates that the average number of choices you get from them is about 60. Alternatively, 99designs has a similar model and offers interior layout projects as well. DesignCrowd is the cheaper of the three with a minimal package of $99 for three different choices.
Find New Professionals Offering Discounted Services
Everyone must start somewhere. The self-publishing industry is skyrocketing. New professionals are drawn into the fold with fresh ideas but might lack the experience. In order to build their portfolio, many of these new faces are discounting their services in order to entice clients. So where do you find them?
As the new professionals expand their networks, they will often acquaint themselves with more established vendors or with consulting agencies such as My Word Publishing. Many of our consultants offer a variety of services including editing, cover design, and layout. Feel free to schedule a free consultation to hear more about them.
New professionals can also be found on Reedsy, which is a freelancing website that specializes in publishing. Again, these service providers may not have been vetted by My Word Publishing, but if you are bargain shopping it can be a good place to start.
Bonus Tips for Publishing On a Budget
Now it’s time to throw out some bonus tips. The beginning of this post mentioned that the focus is mainly of the “big ticket” items like cover and interior design. You may have noticed that we do not advise using these strategies for editing. However, if you are a fiction writer and are looking for some ideas on how to save on editing, check out the post Beta Readers vs Manuscript Review.
There are plenty of smaller tasks that weren’t mentioned. These include purchasing your ISBN, setting up your KDP Print and Amazon Author Central accounts, compiling the metadata for the frontmatter, etc. If you have published before, you might be able to tackle these tasks yourself. But you don’t have to.
My Word Publishing consultants can be hired by the hour to complete these tasks. Or, if you are a do-it-yourself kind of person but don’t know where to start, we also offer Spot Coaching. For $150, you can ask a My Word Publishing consultant 10 questions over the course of a year.
Still confused by the options? Schedule a free consultation to discuss what is best for both your book and your budget. This is your publishing journey – you have control over which vendors you use. If you prefer to do it yourself, we have your back.
Kerry Roepke is a genre fiction writer and a publishing consultant at My Word Publishing. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Metropolitan State University of Denver and has a background in editorial journalism.