So you want to self publish your book? You may have considered approaching publishers, but realised you didn't have the cash to even send off proposals or manuscripts. Yes this sucks big time, being creative on a low cash flow, but this does not mean you give up. No, far from it.
I was pretty much near a zero budget for publishing my book When Everyone Shines But You I wanted it to look professional, I wanted a book cover designer, I wanted a proof-reader and editor and formatter that would do all the 'work' that was not my cup of tea, but alas, I had nowhere near the funds required, even the minimum. I was managing to keep myself on a cafe cappuccino twice a week (I like cafes, they inspire me to write more), but that was it.
So how did I do it, self-publish on a near zero string budget?
I learned a lot. I educated myself. I read every site going on what looks best in publishing a book. I read up on fonts, what fonts I could legally use (because did you know some fonts you need to pay for? And that you need certain types of font for covers even when its embedded into a PDF file? No? Me neither that was a lesson and a half I tell ya!).
Firstly I needed to work out what free self-publishing company I was going to go with. There are number out there but the two main free self-publishing companies are LULU and CREATESPACE. After reading up on the pros and cons of them both I opted for Createspace because they are owned by Amazon and as much as Amazon is a bit naughty when it comes to taxes it is a place many (including me) go to buy books and investigate new books on the market.
Okay, zero budget or shoestring means you will have to edit this baby yourself. So with a good grammar and punctuation book or a really good friend who loves words and reading you can do this without splashing out. If you have some really good friends once you have completed your drafts, get great friends to proof-read. Only those who you can trust to 100% support you and obviously have the time to do this. As I mentioned in my book, I was guided to keep the whole process to myself so it was me and Mike my friend and editor on our writing island alone for the whole editing formatting phase. We were blessed with the internet and all those great sites I mentioned in How To Write A Book - The Non-Fiction Way blog that got us through it.
Uploading - First Things First Size - Paper - Colour?
I opted for 5.5 x 8.5 inches after looking at many books on my bookshelf from some great publishers out there I like this size the best. When thinking about size look at what looks good on book shelves, too large and if it goes to a bookshop it may not fit well on the shelf space, too small and it may get lost too. The number of pages you have also can mean the difference between an increase in royalties or decrease as it costs more for postage too. A smaller book means you may not have a spine to add a title to.
When signing up to something like Createspace you get the choice of having white paper internally or cream, you get the choice of a glossy or matt cover. I went for matt with a white inside. Below is what my book from Createspace looks like.
Now doing it on shoestring you will probably not be able to pay for your own ISBN number which all books are required to have so that anyone can order it through an ISBN number and recognise your book.
One the proofs were complete, we were down to the final draft and Mike had done my super editing formatting I was good to upload the manuscript to Createspace. If you edit well, have the formatting right, it will upload without any errors and we were blessed that it was OKAYED straight away.
Now onto the cover.
Ups and Downs Of Creating My Own Cover
I have played around a fair bit in the past with graphic design. I have absolutely no professional skills in this area, I just find if a programme is intuitive you can find your way around it. I find reading 'how to' books on graphic design generally dull as dishwater and as I do not have photoshop I had to use free programmes online.
I used a combination of these two programmes (there are others online I believe but I was so used to these from making quotes for social networks).
Picmonkey (Free but you can pay for extra features)
There may be more efficient easier programmes than this but I didn't find them on my travels.
You could sketch out a image for your front cover if you feel able. I did try that but it looked totally amateur for my needs and so I went searching for free photos and came across.
There are others online but this had some great photos. All you need to do is donate a little to the photographers fund and buy them a coffee. And one important point when choosing a photo is you want a high resolution photo for your cover. Createspace will refuse anything that is not clear quality and it needs to be at 300DPI. I used a free programme called IRFANVIEW to make sure the photos I used were at least 300DPI. You do this by uploading to IRFANVIEW go into resize/resample make sure the size is right for CREATESPACE or LULU and near the bottom left make sure it is at 300dpi (I made it around 310 to make sure it was accepted). And resample at 'better quality' and save as a TIFF file.
In picking fonts you will need to use True Type Fonts and open source so you can legally use them. So you will need to look around Google to find the fonts you can use.
For my cover I used Francois One, League Gothic and Chunk Five. Again on my previous post some of the sites I used have some great articles on fonts to use for different genres etc...
Try many different covers, with different fonts, images, colours. You can use the dropper on PicMonkey to get similar colours on different fonts. For example in my umbrella pic I copied the colour from the umbrella into some of the text. Again I used two programmes as I found cutting and doing certain things on PIXLR easier and add photos to layers (for example on my back cover where I had to add my author pic).
If you play around with these programmes you can create a fairly decent cover photo. The hardest part is getting the image to fit the formatting requirements on the self-publishing program. This is probably why many people do it as a full PDF but I got lost on that and I wanted it as easy as possible as by then I was slightly tearing my hair out (grin).
Always bear in mind that text needs to be a certain distance from the edges on your cover to allow for trimming of the book by the self-publisher you use. On Createspace I used their own cover designer where you can if you like use one of their already pre-formatted covers. All you need to do is add your text. This is okay if you want to use a format a lot of other publishers do and it can look quite self-published this way. My advice is play around and be creative. As you can see from above I tried many different photos and fonts and now releasing my perfectionist tendencies deciding on a finished cover was like pulling out teeth so I chose 2 and asked people who did not know me that well on a spiritual community site what immediately caught there attention and so the face was the winner. Some chose the umbrella but I had to go with the overall winner. Different images reflect different feelings depending on mood and what is going on for someone.
E-BOOKS - Kindle/Smashwords
As well as publishing a paperback version ebooks are the way to go. Now, as someone who is not an ebook fan, I love the feel of new books and paper, I knew I had to create an ebook version of my book. With Mikes super helpful formatting help an ebook version was created for Kindle and Kobo and Smashwords. The formatting is different to the paperback, and according to Mike a lot easier. It does not look as pretty as a paperback in my honest opinion but they are the way forward in publishing I am told. Check out the links below for further info. on formatting, these are the least technical Mike found.
Kindle Readers (.mobi, .azw, .prc)
'Building Your Book for Kindle'
B&N, Kobo, Sony, Apple, Google (.epub)
'Smashwords Style Guide'
What COSTS actually were involved?
The main costs for me were ordering my proof copy and paying to add my own url to my weebly website. I would have loved to buy myself a box of my own book, but I could not do this in the beginning, not until sales started to come in. I also needed copies to send out for people to review so this was in the beginning less than I had wanted but some reviewers accepted ebooks, which was a godsend on a budget.
The rest of my costs were in paper and ink for my printer at home as you will need to print off a fair few copies while you are editing and trying out covers. I also needed to print off my cover in actual size to make sure the font on the back cover were readable as computers are very deceptive when it comes to things like that I found out.
And lastly the odd glass of wine when formatting was boggling my brain, enough coffee to keep me going and the occasional bar of dark chocolate to perk up my brain cells. Yes I consciously used some stimulants and relaxants during this process. But all in all it was well worth it.
The Finished Product
So this is the finished product, hardly any money used, a friends help and persistence and focus created what I can only say is pretty damn good for my first time and being self-published.
Now it's your turn. What are you writing about? What are your concerns with self-publishing? I can't promise I can answer all your questions as I am no expert but maybe I can offer a bit of encouragement in the process.
And once published and you are ready to go check out this great Facebook group for INSECURE WRITERS it can help you fledgling flight become a tad easier when you have others alongside you on the same ride.
INSECURE WRITERS SUPPORT GROUP (mainly fiction writers but I am sure any writer can receive support here and get advice on this sometimes lonesome writing road).
AND HUGE good luck! and well done for starting this process of self-discovery and empowerment. You will feel so proud of yourself once you have finished it!
Author of 'When Everyone Shines But You'. Passionate about helping others remember who they are. Manager of an editorial & publishing support business and social media whizz.