Around the time I set forth on my journey to publishing A Writer’s Bucket List, I came across this comprehensive post on the cost of self-publishing by Duolit — a great overview!
But it scared me
The list is long. Was I doomed to an inferior product because I had nothing to invest upfront? DIY Writers on my email list know that my first financial investment in Bucket List stemmed from a generous gift of just $100 from a supportive loved one. It’s a teeny place to start, but it gave me the boost I needed to reach out to my community and make this the best book it could be.
Below is the sorta-lengthy cost break-down for A Writer’s Bucket List, based on the Duolit cost list, explaining how I published this book — to surprising success and plenty of praise — for under $150. First, here are the key lessons:
1. Nothing is out of your reach, even if it seems too costly.
Don’t lose hope, thinking you’ll never be able to publish your book because you can’t fork over hundreds or thousands of dollars in production costs. You’re a creative person — you wrote that whole book! Now that you’ve created a product or work of art (or both!), flip the switch and use that creativity on the business side of things. How can you use your talents in parts of the process besides writing? How can you use your creativity, motivation, and innovation to achieve this dream, even if you don’t have the money you think you need?
2. Nothing should be ignored because it seems too costly.
While you shouldn’t be barred from self-publishing by cost, you also don’t have a right to use a tight budget as an excuse for producing a crappy product. Don’t skip steps because people tell you they cost money. If you’ve decided to delve into self-publishing, understand that it comes with a wealth of responsibility. You have to wear several hats and display a variety of talents. Successful self-publishers are ambitious entrepreneurs who learn to do this, often out of necessity. When you simply don’t have the skills or the money necessary for any part of the process, dig into the deepest recesses of your network, and find people to help you.
The Cost of Self-Publishing A Writer’s Bucket List
Books and Courses: FREE
Investment in your career — i.e. education — is vital, but the costs seem unjustifiable sometimes. Free ebooks, webinars, newsletters, and online courses abound, so take advantage of them while you’re scraping by. Check out my Resources for Writers section to see some of the free resources I’ve taken advantage of to boost my writing, publishing, and business knowledge. And don’t forget to utilize your local library for educational books!
I wrote, designed, and formatted A Writer’s Bucket List on the free programs from OpenOffice.org and with Google Docs. I now work with Adobe Photoshop, which is pricey, but came free to me because the person who gifted me their old Mac Mini had already purchased the program.
Beta Readers: FREE
I offered a free copy of the book to beta readers from the blog, Facebook, and my email list, and was surprised by the enthusiastic response — thanks!
Proofreaders/ Professional editors: $60
I had to stay thrifty, but I know that editing is the number-one service everyone demands you spend money on. Rather than wait years before I have hundreds to pay an editor, I decided to source editing from DIY Writers — I put out the call to my email list and hired three great editors who were willing to do the work for a small fee and the credit and experience, plus had a couple of writer friends insist they could look over the manuscript for free.
Before you scoff at this, remember: There was a time when I worked for free, and you probably have, too. I trusted my skills at the time, but knew I needed some experience before I could get better paid work. I put that same faith into the DIY Writers who helped with Bucket List, and I received invaluable feedback that helped the manuscript shine.
Cover design: FREE
Oops. The other number-one service you’re supposed to shell out money for. Instead, I did it myself. The cover went through several (three or four) “final” iterations before I was happy with it — I had to learn throughout the process. But in the end, I am happy with it; it represents the book wonderfully and didn’t cost me a dime to create.
Layout design: FREE
The first edition of A Writer’s Bucket List is PDF; I formatted it entirely in OpenOffice, which also did the conversion to PDF. I’ve got a Kindle edition coming soon (details soon!), which I’m formatting myself free through Pressbooks (thank you-thank you to Chris Brogan for tipping me off to that!), and the paperback I’ll very painstakingly format in OpenOffice.
If you want to format an ebook for multiple e-readers yourself, Smashwords founder Mark Coker wrote the free Smashwords Style Guide with detailed instructions to do it through Microsoft Word (and they translate pretty well to OpenOffice).
I was lucky to have a very kind and very talented friend to do illustrations for the book for this nominal up-front fee. She’s also receiving royalties from book sales, because the illustrations add so much value to the book. Any additional images (for blog posts or other promotion) are licensed through Creative Commons, so I can use those for free.
I’m glad this is included in the list, because many self-publishers overlook the weight a font carries in your book and cover design. For a more professional and unique look, you might consider buying fonts or downloading them for free (or a small donation) from sites like Dafont. My first-edition fonts were included in OpenOffice. An updated edition will include free fonts from Dafont.
The PDF edition has no ISBN, so no cost there. When I publish the Kindle and print editions, I’ll probably choose the free or the $10 ISBN options through Amazon, though I have to fully review the restrictions of those options first.
Distribution: $5/mo = $15 total for 3 months of ARC distribution and launch
I’m distributing the PDF through e-junkie, which is an incredibly affordable service utilized by many bloggers with information products. The setup is simple, as well, and overall, the service is very user-friendly. I’ve had just a few glitches figuring out coupon codes, and no issues that were e-junkie’s fault :)
Review Copies: FREE
Yay, ebooks! Even for the launch of the paperback edition, I plan to stick with electronic ARCs — they’re easy for me to distribute, and I don’t have to worry about any production or shipping cost.
- Design: $30/year
-Domain name: $12/year to WordPress + $10 /year to GoDaddy X 2 sites
For both sites, I’ve purchased a custom domain name, and WordPress charges $12/year for domain mapping.
-Hosting: FREE for now
Both are hosted on WordPress.com, which is free, though my move to a self-hosted blog with WordPress.org is in the works!
-Mailing List: FREE
The DIY Writing mailing list is managed through MailChimp’s “Forever Free” plan, which is free up to 2,000 subscribers.
-Book trailer: FREE
This one risks being costly, but thankfully, I was able to create the book trailer myself, with the help of Stefan and his iMovie skills.
Have you encountered any costs in self-publishing that I didn’t cover? What is the biggest barrier you face in self-publishing?