Budgeting for the Self-Published Book: Skimp on This, Not on That

If you had infinite resources, self-publishing would be a breeze. You could print up as few or as many copies of your book as you wanted (no need to worry about economies of scale!), craft the world’s flashiest cover, and hire an entire staff of editors, designers and publicists to launch your book in style.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the kind of resources to revel in self-publishing luxury. Chances are, you’re going to have to make some tough decisions about where to spend your money and where to skimp. Here are some thoughts to get you started.

Never Skimp On: Cover Design

One of the most frequently heard complaints about self-published books is that they just look so amateurish. An unattractive cover will scare potential readers away before they even skim the jacket copy or Amazon description.

If you’re serious about selling books, it’s worth spending the money on a designer who will make your book appear indistinguishable from traditionally published titles. Be prepared to shell out serious money for good design—and be prepared to reap a career’s worth of rewards.

OK to Skimp On: A Publicist

Sure, it sounds glamorous to say you just got off the phone with your publicist—and it is pretty nice to sit back and let somebody else book the radio interviews. But with a little imagination and a lot of patience, you can be your own publicist, and a pretty darn good one too.

If you’re stumped on ideas for promoting your book, head to your local library, bookstore, or online retailer for one of the many book publicity manuals now available for self-published authors. You can also check out one of the many blogs about book publicity or even take an online course.

Never Skimp On: Ghostwriting

If you choose to have a ghostwriter pen all or part of your book, keep in mind that your name will be on the final product. A cut-rate ghostwriter is no bargain if the final product isn’t something you’d want associated with your name, your brand, or your company—or if you need to hire someone else to fix inconsistencies and mistakes.

Experienced, knowledgeable, and diligent ghostwriters come at a price, but it beats risking your reputation on a ghostwriter who won’t do your story or message justice.

OK to Skimp On: Promotional Materials

Business cards, pens, stickers, and full-color postcards might sound like a great idea when you first get book publicity fever, but they can quickly translate into so many boxes full of junk (says one who speaks from experience).

Instead of dropping lots of money on promotional materials when you print your first run of books, be modest in your spending until you figure out what you really need. If you find yourself thinking, “I really wish I’d had stickers to hand out at that reading,” go for it. Otherwise, it’s better to spend that money on editing or cover design.

Never Skimp On: Human Relationships

If word of mouth is publicity gold, readers, booksellers, and thought leaders in your field are royalty and deserve to be treated that way. Write back to readers, send a thank you card to the bookseller who hosted your event, and provide links and retweets to websites and blogs who were helpful in promoting your book.

Building strong networks takes time, but they’re the most important ingredient in a happy, successful, lifelong publishing career.

Have You Self-Published a Book?

What did you spend on? What did you skimp on? What would you do differently?

Leave a Comment