Listen to the podcast episode
Taking a break from the indie author interview series. This week I discuss the concept of
"bootstrapping" (essentially, publishing when you have no budget.)
This episode was inspired by a forum post in which an author advocated basically doing everything on your own for free. Because I have, at times, mentioned free or cheap publishing options, I wanted to re-examine and clarify my thoughts on the subject.
From the post in question:
You don't need fancy software to write your book.
Agreed. If you're operating on a shoestring budget and you already have a program like Microsoft Word at your disposal, don't spend money on Scrivener or other writing software. At this stage in your career, your limited funds are better spent elsewhere.
Create a free website and learn to manage it.
Mostly agree. Well after I was earning a full-time living as an author, I was still using a Blogger site as my website. Heck, that's what I'm using for Wood on Words. You might also consider a site like Wix. Free sites aren't ideal, mostly because they tend to come with banners, ads, or popups that call attention to the fact that it's free. Typically, readers don't visit your site until they've already read your work and want to know more about you or your catalog, so a slick website is a great thing, but probably not your top priority.
You don't need to pay for formatting.
Agreed, IF you are willing to learn how to do it and do it well. You can format both ebook and paperback in Microsoft Word. It's not difficult to do once you've learned it, but there is a learning curve.
Don't pay someone else to set up your KDP/D2D/Kobo accounts and upload your books.
Agreed. It's not difficult to do this, and if you don't learn how to manage the dashboards, you'll find yourself in a position in which you have to pay someone every time you want to update price, keywords, product description, etc...
Search for free cover art, download it, and use Paint to add text
No. Just no. It's not 2005 anymore, and Paint wasn't a good option even then. And you can't just snag any picture off of Google and legally use it for your cover. If you want to try your hand at cover design, I recommend a free program called GIMP, which is essentially Photoshop. Download watermarked comp images from stock photo sites to practice on, and see if you develop a knack for it. Odds are you'll be better off paying for cover art. Browse premade cover sites in your spare time, look for good covers, watch for special sales. You can find affordable, professional cover art at very reasonable prices. This is something that's worth setting aside money for.
This was not discussed in the post but it's the other biggie. I don't recommend hiring an editor from the top price tier right off the bat, but do set aside money for quality editing. Also line up as many beta readers and volunteer proofreaders as you can. Whatever you do, don't try to do it all on your own.
What if I literally have no money?
Take your time writing and start saving in the meantime. Look for corners to cut. For my "super secret project" I decided not to use money from my other publishing endeavors, but instead to lok for ways to set money aside.
A few things I did:
Save all my loose change.
Save dollar bills when possible.
Skipped the occasional Starbucks coffee or fast food meal and set aside the money I would have spent.
Cut back my cable plan.
Cut back my cell phone plan.
Cancelled a couple of small subscriptions I wasn't making full use of.
These might not all apply to you, but start setting aside what you can. In the meantime, work on your books, work on your craft, practice your webmaster skills, practice formatting. Don't get in such a hurry that you blow your first launch. You only get one chance (per pen name) to make a first impression.