A few weeks ago I guest posted at Patty Henderson’s self-publishing blog. Today I’m returning the favour. Patty is an experienced self-publisher and is here to tell you how to publish an eBook on a shoestring budget. Take it away, Patty!
ePublishing on a Shoestring Budget by Patty G. Henderson
Just to be clear, I’m going to be speaking to the author who is interested in publishing an eBook, not a paper book. I should clarify that I do all my eBook publishing with Amazon through their Kindle Digital Platform and also with Lulu for my ePub editions. I have yet to publish with Barnes and Noble through their PubIt or with Smashwords. It really matters not, since what I’ll be concentrating on is how to prepare and publish your eBook on a shoestring budget.
We all want to save money and still get a decent eBook out, right? But some of us simply do not have the funds to afford editors and expensive book cover artists. Word of warning, an editor is the most expensive hit. Hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll have some inspiration and direction on how to go about it on a shoestring budget.
Now, we all know that shoestrings come in different lengths. I’m going to tell you how to tie your eBook shoes with the shortest shoestring we can find. The first thing you have to do is finish your book. That is the biggest accomplishment any author can have. But it isn’t over after you’ve added “The End.” Go over your manuscript again. And then do it again. It’s called self-editing. There are some really good books out there to help an author self-edit, and one of the best ones is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print. Get a copy and then get back to work on your almost ready manuscript. At the risk of sounding like some literary dinosaur, I’m going to recommend that you edit your manuscript as a hard copy. I know, that means paper costs, but you’re going to catch mistakes on paper that you won’t on your computer screen. Go over your manuscript several times and then print the paper copy and go over it again.
I’m not going to recommend that you send it to an editor. Surprised? Blasphemy? Maybe, but this is ePublishing on a short shoestring budget, remember? We’re being radical here. Controversial. No, I’m not advocating you publish your book without another set of less subjective eyes taking a look at it. Most authors have heard of beta readers but some haven’t. A beta reader could be someone from your writing or reading group. If you belong to an online writing or reading group, some have files of beta readers available or ask in forums. It could be a librarian. It could be another author. It could be someone connected with publishing or it could be someone who is just really good at picking up errors in books. It is not an editor. Editors cost money. Most of them cost big money. Most editing costs are going to run anywhere from $500-$1,200 or even more; it depends on the length of your manuscript and how professional or in demand the editor is
If you nearly lost your coffee, soda, water or tea at the sound of those editing costs, proceed to get thee a beta reader. More than one. I’m going to suggest you get at least three beta readers to work with you on your book. Each one should have separate responsibilities and duties for editing. Have one beta reader do only copy edits. Have another one do more substantive editing with the story and finally have another beta reader do a complete final read of the manuscript. Then it is up to you to do one final edit. Sounds taxing and dreary, right? You’ll be so tired of your story that all you want to do is make it all go away so you can move to your next book. We’re almost there.
I admit that I am a professional cover artist. I charge for my cover art and have done many covers for mystery, horror, fantasy and historical books. However, this post is to help the eBook author publish the best book possible on a shoestring budget. While I would love to hawk my wares, I’m going to help you try a book cover on your own if you don’t have the money. However, a book cover for an eBook will be far less a drain on your budget than an editor. An eBook cover can cost you $100 or less. And many book cover artists will work with you on costs or payment plans. Just a thought.
Anyone can buy the use of a photograph or painting or graphic to use on their book cover for pennies…well, nearly. It isn’t expensive. You usually have to buy the credits in blocks. For instance, if you go to my favorite Stock Photography place, Dreamstime.com, you choose a photo or artwork that you like and then find out how many “credits” the particular photo requires for you to purchase it. For an eBook cover, you should purchase 72dpi size. “DPI” means “dots per inch.” In printing, artwork requires a very high dpi, mostly 300dpi. However, since eBooks are digital, you will need far less dots per inch, 72dpi or 100dpi is all you would need. These are cheaper than the large files.
Find a striking, bold photograph or piece of art or graphic that you feel captures the essence of your book or maybe a scene in the book, buy the credits and then download your photo file. And don’t be afraid to use more than one photo or graphic on your cover. Since you’ve obviously opted to attempt the book cover art yourself, you must be semi-knowledgeable on the use of Photoshop or other digital art program. Work with the photograph and don’t be afraid to try different tools and experiment with funky looks. Choose a font for your title and author name that is bold and won’t disappear with the small online book listings like on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. As a matter of fact, reduce your book cover to small size and see if it holds up well. If your name or title disappears or doesn’t blend well, keep experimenting with different fonts, colors and placement on the cover. Be bold. There are no shortcuts for getting a professional looking cover, though. If you don’t feel adequate, there are several avenues open to you. Try contacting the arts programs in your area colleges. Some art students might be willing to do a book cover for you on the cheap. Or contact an established book cover artist. You might be surprised how affordable getting a professional looking eBook cover done actually is.
Yes, you can do your eBook conversion on the free eBook software, Calibre. However, the results can be erratic. But it is free. Since I use a PC and Microsoft MS Word, I can only advise from that platform. Save your manuscript as a “Web” file. That is the one file you will upload to Calibre. I won’t go into the workings of Calibre because it would be too lengthy. It isn’t that difficult once you get the hang of it. You will have to read and learn how to work the program as I did. Calibre will let you convert your manuscript to Mobi, ePub or many other formats. They have a wonderful FAQ that is actually very clear and helpful.
Another way is to simply just upload your manuscript straight through the Amazon Kindle Digital Platform and hope the conversion goes smoothly. I have had authors tell me their manuscript was a perfect conversion while others could not come up with a good conversion. I have not used Barnes and Noble’s PubIt Self-Publishing platform so I don’t know if they will also convert your manuscript via their site. Please make sure you check the look of your eBook conversion before publishing. You don’t want to publish a messy eBook.
Again, if you think you can squeeze something into your budget and stretch your shoestring to a longer length, try contacting eBook conversion professionals.
So, if you are on a shoestring budget, try going it on your own. Both Amazon Kindle and others have templates that can help with cover creation and also do the eBook conversion, although, with spotty success.
Always remember that it is the author’s responsibility to put out the best product for the reader. After all, it’s our pride and joy that we’re showing off to the world and we want it to be competitive with other books. It is possible to ePublish on a shoestring budget if you can tackle the brave new world and do it all on your own. But don’t cut corners. You can do it on your own and do it right. Don’t skimp on getting as many beta readers as you can and get them to concentrate on separate parts of your book. Follow the templates for book covers and don’t be shy about book cover graphics selections. Don’t choose bland photos or graphics. Make sure your fonts, title and author name are bold enough and legible enough. And make sure the eBook conversion you get done is as close to the look of a real book as possible and that it is clean. Check out other eBooks and see how their formatting is done.
The eBook revolution is an exciting thing and authors can be part of it and realize their dreams of sharing their work with readers. You can ePublish on a shoestring budget and be competitive. Write a damn good book, make sure you put the best possible face on it, and join the eBook Nation
Thanks to Sarah for letting me point out some ways you might ePublish if you have a near zero budget.
Please check out my website. I’m an author and an artist.
Author Website: www.pattyghenderson.com
Artist Portfolio: boulevardphotografica.yolasite.com
The BEST Stock Photo website (my fave): www.dreamstime.com
FREE Stock Photos website: www.sxc.hu
Thanks for guest posting, Patty. If I can throw my own tuppence in here, I use eCub for eBook formatting, so that’s an alternative to Calibre. Also, definitely check out Smashwords, where you can distribute your eBooks to all the major eBookstores. All you have to do is format your Word file in accordance with the Smashwords style guide.