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So you’ve decided to self-publish, and you want to make a half decent product available for purchase. Difficult? No. Easy.

What you need:

At least $6,000USD (and up).

There. Done and done. You’re welcome. Wait…what? What are you crying into your bitter coffee for? Surely you have $5,000 neatly tucked away under your mattress. No? Oh, oh wow, okay. That’s alright, we can still figure this out, we’ll just have to go the budget way. Basically this means that if you’re traveling overseas, you won’t be going by air, but rather, by homemade boat overfull with war refugees. So toss your pride overboard, and give up your personal space, it’s about to get real.

Here are the things you will need for your book:

Money, Editing, Formatting, A Book Cover, Promotion,  A Willingness to Forfeit Your Pride, A Sense of Caution.

Money

If you do have some cash, you might have an easier time. You don’t need a great deal of change, but if you have no money, however, you will have to have TIME and patience.

To get money, there are some ways to go about it. There are two sites you can try out. I personally have never tried them but I did see some authors reach their financial goal.  You can try to get donations for your book.

www.Indiegogo.com

www.kickstarter.com

At these two sites, you can sign up, make an ad for your project, offer rewards for donations. Some authors do well with it, but most that I saw didn’t. For kickstarter.com whatever monetary goal you set, it’s all or nothing. If you don’t meet your goal, all of the money goes back to the donors. For Indiegogo.com you can do all or nothing or take what you can get. If your cause can inspire enough people, then you can get some money to help pay for your project. Look around the sites. Kickstarter seems limited for international entries but indiegogo was available world wide.

The bottom line is this, if you have NO money, then you NEED to have time, a lot of time to slowly make your way through.

Editing

You need to edit. There are some ways around it (you can  do it on a budget, but you need to do it. And NO, you cannot edit it by yourself). Here are some cost-effective ways.

1. a critique partner: This is a partnership. You read one author’s work, they read yours etc. etc. A separate pair of eyes guarantees you will get some errors caught. It might not mean you get proper grammar corrections but it is still better than nothing.

2. a critique circle: This is a community. The good news is that along with the inexperienced writers, you get put in with experienced writers who sometimes just edit for fun. This is a SLOW process as you have to critique to GET a critique also. Giving to get is not a bad thing though, as this will help your own writing improve. If you go this route, you can get most of your grammar errors corrected. Along with a content edit. If you have MONTHS (because you won’t be able to post your entire manuscript at one time, it will have to be weekly or monthly) then it’s a good option.

I recommend: www.critiquecircle.com but there are many others. Do a google search and choose wisely.

3. Beta readers: These readers are not editors. They only read the story and tell you what’s wrong with it. Don’t send out your manuscript into the unknown. Find a few trusted beta readers but know that beta readers are doing it for free and they are under no obligation to finish reading and/or give you feedback.

4. Cost-effective editors: These editors can actually be GOOD editors. Freelance editors are a wild bunch which I hope will one day be reined in on the interwebs. That day is a LONG way off. Here’s the thing, some good editors might be starting out and want to build up a portfolio. Others are just really nice people. So you can find some at a good price. Ask around, GET a free sample, etc. etc.

try www.elance.com to post a job and how much you are willing to pay. Try some out for 1 hour (a good editor won’t mind giving you a sample at a cheap price), offer a few dollars, and get some samples to compare. Send those samples to other friends and let them have a look also.

When choosing an editor, however, be careful. A lot of editors are NOT really editors. They just love to read and figure they know a thing or two about grammar. (They don’t). So try before you buy. It might cost a ‘tad’ more to give them a small fee for a few chapters, but it’s better than blowing a lot of money and getting nothing for it.

6. Do it yourself: You can’t do it all by yourself but you can do some things. By studying up on punctuation and grammar, you can clean up your manuscript quite a bit. Ultimately (as stated before), you cannot do without having someone else look at it. But if you study grammar, at least you can tell if you’ve been given a good sample or not.

Try www.chicagomanualofstyle.org which is a manual which gives you a lot of grammar and punctuation. There is also a program called ‘Grammarly‘ which will analyze your text. Personally, I liked it to a point. I don’t use it now but it is a resource. Maybe the most important thing you can use is an add-on for both Openoffice.org and Libraoffice.org called ‘read text‘. This add-on will READ your text to you. It’s not 100% perfect but it is NOT bad at all and it’s a great feature to use while you are multitasking and you can hear typos. It’s very good for catching the wrong word. You obviously did not want to say ‘a pubic announcement’, but rather ‘public announcement’.

Formatting

If you have money, you can pay someone to do it, if you do not, DO IT YOURSELF. Go to the website of the service you plan to use, whether createspace.com or elsewhere, and slowly make your way through. Some editors can do it for you but they do charge. Others might throw it in with the edit. Either way, you will have to put your product out early (but not promote it), and order a copy for yourself so that you can see how it looks (if it’s paperback). The only real way to save money on this is to do it yourself.

Each free site, be it createspace.com, lulu.com, smashwords.com etc. etc. they all have manuals on how to format your ebook or book. Get your ISBNs from www.myidentifiers.com or simply get the free ones offer by the free services listed above.

Book Covers/Graphics

Book Covers: These are tricky business but necessary. There are a few ways to go about it. The professional way can run you anywhere from $400 or more. If you haven’t saved up all those $5.00 checks from grandma over the years, here are a few cheaper ways to go about it.

1. hire a fellow author. Some authors are quite good at making book covers. Most are not. So choose carefully and always get a second or third opinion from friends with regards to the cover you’ve selected.

2. you can hold a contest. 99designs.com (there are other sites too but I don’t know them) starts at $299 to hold a contest. You basically tell a group of designers what you want, or tell them about your book and they start to make you a cover. Other designers can join and try to win the contest. Once you are satisfied or once you’ve chosen a winner, then you simply walk away with a book cover. You get your money back if none of the entries suit your needs. But keep in mind, if you decide to try them again, people can see that you pulled out of paying for a previous contest, so you might get less offers.

An author I know even held a contest on her own and advertised in groups, on her site and fan page, and through www.deviantart.com. The entries were free in return for recognition.

3. hire a designer. You can find designers all over (maybe even on elance.com as well). Give www.deviantart.com a try.

Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the book cover. The cover is your face, you want to present it well. So dig into your pockets and find some extra change. Whatever you do, don’t do it yourself, have a friend do it at the very least.

I have never used Marcy Rachel, but she comes highly recommended by other indie authors. Website: Marcy Rachel Designs (http://www.marcyracheldesigns.com). I personally have gotten my covers tweaked by Kat Mellon www.katmauvais.com and I recommend her for Facebook Fan pages especially. She has a good eye and knows what looks good.

Book Mockup: If you ever need a mockup and want to do it on your own, you can try out the site www.3d-pack.com. It allows you to make a 3D mockup of your book. Keep in mind, your book gets saved in the gallery. I didn’t mind that. It’s a book I plan to promote anyway.

Promotion

There are a few ways to go about promoting yourself. You hold a giveaway, join a review group and get some reviews on goodreads.com, or you could conduct a book tour. I have not done a book tour yet, so I cannot provide too much detail about it. As far as I can gather, you are interviewed for various different blogs before your book is made available.

Facebook used to have a landing page for the fan page, now they don’t, so you should do your best to utalize your huge banner at the top of your Facebook fan page. If you have not already made a fan page, you should, even if you are not looking to publish right now.

For a good website, find an inexpensive web hosting company (some charge as little as 2.95 per month and can install wordpress for you. Wodpress is a blog but it can double as a website. There are many themes available for it. One pleace to find a good deal on themes is www.elegantthemes.com. You pay a lump sum and you can use a great many themes as well as give these themes to your friends. Your membership gives you access to theme upgrades and customer support. If you ever cancel, you can keep the themes you currently have, and so can your friends or anyone else you gave a theme to. If you can find enough people who can chip in, you can get a pretty decent site for a good price.  Easy to customize and they look snazzy. If you don’t have the money to spend, then there are many free wordpress themes out there.

Pride

Be careful how you conduct yourself on the internet. As you know, nothing is ever really deleted and what you say might one day come back to haunt you.

Be courteous and kind and if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask other authors for it. Don’t get discouraged when other authors say eff off. Not that many do say that but still. Money or no, the path to self-publication is a slow one and it can be overwhelming and lonely. Seek out other crazy writers with whom to share the experience. You’ll be better for it.

Caution

I am not sure if anyone has noticed it, but have you realized just how much indie authors are getting robbed?

Indulge me for a moment. Think about an expensive item, in comparison to an inexpensive one. You might get a few buyers for the pricy one, but you are more likely to get a few ‘well, it’s cheap, let me try it’ first and last-timers for the cheaper item. They probably won’t care if it’s low quality because it was cheap anyway. Or they might care but it’s already too late.

What I mean is this. As indie authors, we’re on a limited budget, so we go with the cheaper item, such as editing or what have you, and we get taken for a ride. Either our own grammar knowledge is too weak to notice it in time, or we suffer some other misstep. POD (print on demand) places are trying to clean our clocks by pretending to as legit services (though they are legit to a point. Nearly all the things that POD do for its customers, the customer can do alone. It just takes time.

The same goes for so-called editors. Stay on your toes and try to use services which allow you to rate a service (like elance for example). Shop around.

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