I told you it was going to start getting heavy around here, didn’t I? As it turns out, self-publishing can be expensive. Between editing services of all stripes, design services and marketing services, you can spend quite a bit publishing. Sure, you can go without all these services, but that leaves your book not getting a fair shake in the self-publishing world. So, what can you do?
First, I would like to note that you can always try your hand at the Traditional Publishing route. If that works for you, great! But this is The Road to Self Publishing, so I won’t be considering this option here.
With that out of the way, what options do you have if you’re dedicated to self-publishing but don’t have the money to get these services straight up? Well, there are some options.
Option 1: just do without. Of course this is an option. You can absolutely finish and publish your book without any of these services. The problem is, every one of these services will either make your work better or give it a better chance of being picked up. Without outside editing, you will miss something. This isn’t up for debate. I don’t care if you are a professional editor with 1000 books under your belt. It’s completely different with your own work. You’re too close to it and you absolutely need more eyes on it. The other two are more debatable. If you’re a good graphic designer or have a huge social media presence, you may be able to skip the cover design or marketing steps. Odds are, neither of those things apply to you. That’s okay! They don’t really apply to me either, but it does mean if we want people to pick up our books, we have to get a professional cover designed and buy some marketing.
Option 2: barter. If you’ve got friends with the skills you need, this can be a great option. Of course, this only works if you can offer a service they need in return. I’ve already used this extensively, and I expect the professional editing services to go smoothly because of my amazing friends. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that you can eliminate the need for all professional services this way, but it is a good way to lessen the cost of what you do need.
Option 3: donation services. If you’ve reduced the cost as much as you can but still can’t cover it yourself? It’s time to set up a crowdfunding page. This has the advantage that even the poorest person can get the services they need, as long as they can make their case well. I’d like to go over a few of the major options here.
- Patreon. For creatives, it’s kind of the 500lb gorilla in the room. It allows people to give you recurring donations to create your work. This works really well for long-running, continual projects, like a podcast or webcomic. It’s great on the other side too, as patrons get exclusive content that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. My problem with it is that this model kind of falls apart for self-published novelists. Especially for me, this is going to be my debut novel, so there’s really nothing for people to support on an ongoing basis. Plus, I have no exclusive content.
- Kickstarter/Gofundme. This is more the classic crowd funding model. You set a goal, and if you reach the goal, you provide the end product to backers first. You can also set exclusive rewards for backing at a certain price. This can work really well for a novel as it’s tailor-made for projects that have a definite end. This does, however, require you to be a good marketer, in order to sell the idea of your book to enough backers to reach your goal.
- Ko-fi/etc. This one represents all the various services that act as a sort of virtual “tip jar”. If you’re doing work besides your novel, this can be a good option, as it’ll let people pay for the labor you’ve already done (if they want to, of course), and you can use it to improve your novel. Personally, I really like this option.
So, what option did I pick? Since I do short stories and articles here, I decided to pick up a Ko-fi page to try and cover my editing costs. I like the idea of a virtual tip jar as it removes the pressure from my audience. Like a story or found an article helpful? Donate if you feel like it. If not, no worries, I’ll still keep doing this stuff. It lets my audience do something a little more tangible than just hitting a “like” button. Here’s a link to my Ko-fi:
I might do an article about the realities of running a donation page later, as I feel like that is increasingly an important part of the self-publishing experience. I hope this helped you and, as always, you can check out the other Road to Self Publishing articles here.