Author Topic: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free  (Read 11758 times)  

Offline Martitalbott

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New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« on: October 11, 2017, 10:48:43 AM »
First book, not sure it will make you a bundle of money, don't have a lot to spend anyway?

Here are a few tips.

You don't need a fancy program to write your book. Word.docs work just fine.
Spend time learning how to make a free website (Google Sites are free). You'll need to know how to make corrections and additions anyway, once you start churning out more books.
Formatting? Draft 2 Digital will do that for you for free.
Uploading your book? Don't let anyone do that for you. They'll have access to your password and bank account information if you do. Besides, publishing is a breeze.
Cover art? Search for free cover art, find a picture, download it, and then use Paint to add your title, etc. You can always buy inexpensive cover art and let the artist add the title, but I wouldn't spend a fortune on it. Changing your cover art after the book is published is fast and easy. Beautiful cover art may attract attention, but if you don't have a bestselling novel behind it, you're wasting money -- and you won't know if it is a bestseller for a few months at least.

What have I forgotten?

Marti

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2017, 10:54:52 AM »
I have to disagree about the cover. I wouldn't even look at a book that had that kind of cover (unless it was non-fiction that was highly recommended by other people) because I would assume the author didn't give a crap, so why give a crap about reading it. It doesn't have to be a ground-breaking design, but it at least needs to look clean and professional and convey the genre. You can get that for <$100.

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2017, 10:55:31 AM »
First book, not sure it will make you a bundle of money, don't have a lot to spend anyway?

Here are a few tips.

Cover art? Search for free cover art, find a picture, download it, and then use Paint to add your title, etc. You can always buy inexpensive cover art and let the artist add the title, but I wouldn't spend a fortune on it. Changing your cover art after the book is published is fast and easy. Beautiful cover art may attract attention, but if you don't have a bestselling novel behind it, you're wasting money -- and you won't know if it is a bestseller for a few months at least.

I agree with the first part of this. A lousy cover will almost guarantee a book never sells. A decent pre-made cover can be purchased for $25-50.

Editing. Don't publish without it. You may not be able to afford a professional, but find someone (preferably multiple someones) with decent English skills to go through your book and help you clean it up. There are a lot of techniques for self-editing. I have yet to see anyone who edits professionally do it for their own book.

 

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Offline Evenstar

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2017, 11:00:47 AM »

What have I forgotten?

Marti

Proofreading at the very very least!

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2017, 11:01:13 AM »
If you can't afford to pay for advertising, use social media. :)

ETA:  It's not unusual for any small business to take 3-5 years to be successful.  Without money for advertising, it may take a little longer.  Just keep writing and reinvesting as you can into the business.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2017, 11:25:51 AM by Lorri Moulton »

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Offline Martitalbott

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2017, 11:25:01 AM »
I have to disagree about the cover. I wouldn't even look at a book that had that kind of cover (unless it was non-fiction that was highly recommended by other people) because I would assume the author didn't give a crap, so why give a crap about reading it. It doesn't have to be a ground-breaking design, but it at least needs to look clean and professional and convey the genre. You can get that for <$100.

Of course, cheap looks cheap, but spending a little time on learning to construct a new cover can be done for free and look swell. The point is, you don't need to spend money if you're willing to invest the time. There are several free photo editors online that work great especially for sizing a picture.

Offline Martitalbott

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2017, 11:29:41 AM »
Proofreading at the very very least!

I was reading a thread on Facebook where authors say they do not pay proofreaders. I always have. Do you think proofreaders should be paid?

Offline Herefortheride

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2017, 11:32:31 AM »
I was reading a thread on Facebook where authors say they do not pay proofreaders. I always have. Do you think proofreaders should be paid?

Are you confusing proofreader for betareaders? Proofreading is hard work. I don't know anyone one would proofread a novel for free.
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Offline DmGuay

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #8 on: October 11, 2017, 11:37:51 AM »
What you do and don't pay for depends on your background and skills.

For instance, I'm pretty good at copyediting and proofing. I once worked for a book publisher and as a magazine editor doing this. I also have 15 years in journalism with copy editing/style manual experience. So for me, I can do a decent job of this on my own.

I can also format an ebook without too much trouble.

I have graphic design experience, (I once designed display ads for the Employment Guide!), so I can make
promo graphics and use smart objects in Photoshop to put my book on mock-ups. BUT I am crap at covers. So I will always always pay for covers. ALWAYS!!

Do what you can reasonably do, and do well, for yourself to save money. But, most certainly pay for the things you can't do well.
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Offline Bards and Sages (Julie)

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2017, 11:43:58 AM »
Cover art? Search for free cover art, find a picture, download it, and then use Paint to add your title, etc. You can always buy inexpensive cover art and let the artist add the title, but I wouldn't spend a fortune on it. Changing your cover art after the book is published is fast and easy. Beautiful cover art may attract attention, but if you don't have a bestselling novel behind it, you're wasting money -- and you won't know if it is a bestseller for a few months at least.

This advice is a bit dangerous.

1. There is very little "free" art online that is available for commercial use. Unless you are well-versed in navigating these so-called "free" sites and know that they are actually have the right to offer the images, you open yourself up to problems. Many people have been burned by using what they thought was "free" art only to discover later that the real artist never authorized the use.
2. No, you really can't just slap a title on the image and call it day. Cover design is an art. And Paint will often save images at a low-resolution that might be ok for digital, but won't be high enough for print.
3. Your cover is never a waste of money. I'm not saying you need to spend $500 on the cover of an ebook, but it is an important investment because it is your most prominent marketing tool. Heck, some sites won't even approve your ad if the cover is not up to par. A poor quality cover will often deter potential customers.

There is a site called PicMonkey that I use for a lot of cover manipulation. I have a subscription, which is a whole $33 a year, that I have been using instead of an expensive software program. It comes with tons of open source usable fonts, filters, and editing tools. It is a valid business expense I can deduct on my taxes. Storyblocks.com (formerly graphicstock) has probably the most generous licensing terms in the industry and is only $100 a year for unlimited access to their images.  If you are publishing at any sort of volume, the cost is more than fair.

Note: probably not the best site for romance/erotica authors. Not a lot of live model images of real usefulness in that regard and their search functionality sucks. But they have a lot of cool surrealist and abstract images, backgrounds, and spot art.

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Offline alawston

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2017, 11:51:29 AM »
I think commenteers on this thread are in danger of focusing so hard on the details that they're missing the OP's broader message.

Was my Blackberry-snapped photo of a pint of beer and a notebook in a pub garden with frame and cover lines added by Gimp the best way to introduce my writing to the world? Maybe not, but I did OK. And when I did get the cover redone by a Penguin Random House designer... the sales dried up overnight.


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Offline Astro

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #11 on: October 11, 2017, 11:58:56 AM »
 Draft 2 Digital isn't free. They format for free and after they take 15% of the net royalties.

Offline This_Way_Down

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #12 on: October 11, 2017, 12:06:11 PM »
First book, not sure it will make you a bundle of money, don't have a lot to spend anyway?

Here are a few tips.

You don't need a fancy program to write your book. Word.docs work just fine.
Spend time learning how to make a free website (Google Sites are free). You'll need to know how to make corrections and additions anyway, once you start churning out more books.
Formatting? Draft 2 Digital will do that for you for free.
Uploading your book? Don't let anyone do that for you. They'll have access to your password and bank account information if you do. Besides, publishing is a breeze.
Cover art? Search for free cover art, find a picture, download it, and then use Paint to add your title, etc. You can always buy inexpensive cover art and let the artist add the title, but I wouldn't spend a fortune on it. Changing your cover art after the book is published is fast and easy. Beautiful cover art may attract attention, but if you don't have a bestselling novel behind it, you're wasting money -- and you won't know if it is a bestseller for a few months at least.

What have I forgotten?

Marti
Sweet Zombie Jesus! I....Nope! Not getting suckered in.

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2017, 12:09:24 PM »
tl;dr: Bootstrapping is AWESOME, but remember that you get what you pay for, time is money, and it takes money to make money.

I love the spirit of the OP. I myself am in the midst of bootstrapping just about everything I can! And I think it's really valuable to have this conversation come up from time to time, so that aspiring writers aren't scared away by "you must spend $5k to publish" talk, or suckered into buying services they don't need. But I would add the following thoughts:

Bootstrapping everything yourself for at least one title is, in my opinion, an invaluable exercise, if for no other reason than that you walk through every step of the production line at least once. But keep in mind that you do get what you pay for. Making your own cover makes a lot of sense if you have a decent eye and you are prepared to spend a lot of time working out typography, contrast, proportions, etc. in a free program like paint.net or GIMP (I wouldn't rely solely on MSpaint, if that was what the OP meant, but that's my preference. I like all the effects available elsewhere, especially for typography. I made all my own covers except for that anthology I'm in--see sig). But if you really don't have the eye, or the time or patience, then you're asking for a shoddy cover by doing it yourself. So there's absolutely a trade-off there. And with a handful of exceptions, the best bootstrapped cover will, in my limited observation, rival premades, but not the high-end custom stuff. There's a reason you pay $500-$1,000 or more for a really gorgeous custom illustrated cover, and it isn't inflation.  :P   I'm pretty darn proud of my covers, but I have no delusions about them being "as good as" the good stuff. They're bespoke, simple as that.

Someone else's eyes is something you can't duplicate on your own.
If you're fortunate enough to have a wife/husband/partner with editing experience, who will do it for free or for favors, good on you. Otherwise... you're gambling. And, yeah, your gamble might pay off, a la Michael Anderle and his workshop of readers. But it might not.

FB Ads and AMS Ads = Marketing without ads on social media.
I get it, PPC ads are expensive to learn how to use. All that experimenting. Blech. But let's not bury our heads in the sand and pretend that people aren't doing really well by keeping their books high in the rankings with paid ads, or that we can do just as well, as a rule, by plugging to friends and followers ourselves. Check out Michael Cooper's book HELP! My Facebook Ads Suck. If you'd rather spend time than money at first, see what he has to see here on the SFF Marketing Podcast:
http://www.marketingsff.com/mastering-facebook-advertising-for-authors/
and here on the Sell More Books Show:
http://sellmorebooksshow.com/episode-183-bookfunnel-direct-sales-hurricane-relief-and-facebook-ads-with-michael-cooper/
I'll be spending money on my books for the first time when I make my first foray into the world of FB ads in about a month. Wish me luck...

OP forgot to mention blurb/description writing, which is essential, I believe, to hooking a reader. OMG, have you seen this Chris Fox video on his big space fantasy / military fantasy hit? Look at the hook in his blurb. That is some craft, son. https://youtu.be/GJqom_flVtE

OP also forgot mailing list / newsletter, another invaluable resource, according to conventional wisdom. But a handful of providers let you do this for free up to a certain number of subscribers. I'm on mailchimp and haven't had to start paying just yet.

Happily, there are places you can crowdsource a lot of stuff. Join a writing critique group if you need developmental editing but can't spring the cash. Post cover and blurb drafts HERE on Kboards; in my experience, other authors are often very generous with their time and thoughts, and you might make some excellent professional connections just by reaching out for a little help. But enter into these "cash-free" relationships with lots of goodwill. Be ready not only to invest time tweaking your own stuff, but critiquing the work of others as well. Be a good neighbor. You know, like Jake. From State Farm.

A brief caveat: I don't know about all of you, but my time is also worth something. Any time I take to write, design a cover, draft up a NL, or post to KBoards  8)  is time away usually from things I need to get done, not time away from zoning out with Netflix. Good for you if you have leisure time you can trade for craft time. But even then, consider the energy deficit you may accrue. Time is money, so to some extant, saying you can do something for free by spending a hundred hours on it is a load of ballhooey. Pardon my Texan.

And, lastly, just because you can bootstrap this stuff, doesn't mean you necessarily should. You have to take your own artistic and career goals into consideration, and be realistic about what you want to accomplish and what it will take to do so. You want one soda? Great. Put a buck and a half in the machine. You want ten sodas? You need more than a buck and a half. And let's not neglect that other business axiom, it takes money to make money. Because while you certainly can put out a book or ten by spending very little cash if that's what you want to do, and you MIGHT hit the jackpot and make cash from it, it's undeniable that there are people are putting a lot of money in and getting a lot more out, whether by bloating up huge NL lists, floating their books on a wave of FB or AMS ads, or paying to have the best of the best in every line of the production chain. Money makes money.

There's my two cents. Bootstrap what you can, pay for what you have to, and balance your expectations on what you've put in.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2017, 12:22:14 PM by Benjamin Douglas »

Offline Catherine Lea

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #14 on: October 11, 2017, 12:12:39 PM »


What have I forgotten?

Marti

Editing, editing and editing.



There's no such thing as a simple plan.
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Offline Bards and Sages (Julie)

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #15 on: October 11, 2017, 12:22:41 PM »
I was reading a thread on Facebook where authors say they do not pay proofreaders. I always have. Do you think proofreaders should be paid?

I think anyone who works on a for-profit project for you deserves to be paid. 

Publishing is a business. It should be run like one.

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Offline Pandorra

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2017, 12:24:41 PM »
I still have to figure out how to work my way around free marketing.. other than that I picked up the rest pretty quick.
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Offline C. Rysalis

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #17 on: October 11, 2017, 12:26:11 PM »
Editing indeed. New authors are far more dependent on good editors than veterans, and chances are they don't have the knowledge and experience required to self edit. Not to mention the fact that authors tend to overlook their own mistakes because they know what they intended to write.

A cheap proofreader might find most of the typos but won't help a new author become a better writer.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2017, 12:27:58 PM by C. Rysalis »

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #18 on: October 11, 2017, 12:35:02 PM »
Not to mention the fact that authors tend to overlook their own mistakes because they know what they intended to write.

I swear, I am great at editing other people's stuff, but if I ever published my own work before my proofreader went through it, people would think I was illiterate precisely for this reason!

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Offline Martitalbott

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #19 on: October 11, 2017, 12:44:21 PM »


Which is not free and shouldn't be. :o)

Ah, the comment I was quoting was about editing.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2017, 12:48:09 PM by Martitalbott »

Offline Martitalbott

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #20 on: October 11, 2017, 12:45:30 PM »
I think commenteers on this thread are in danger of focusing so hard on the details that they're missing the OP's broader message.

Was my Blackberry-snapped photo of a pint of beer and a notebook in a pub garden with frame and cover lines added by Gimp the best way to introduce my writing to the world? Maybe not, but I did OK. And when I did get the cover redone by a Penguin Random House designer... the sales dried up overnight.
Ouch! - I mean about sales drying up.
My first cover art was a horse on a blue background. I still love that cover.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2017, 12:47:23 PM by Martitalbott »

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #21 on: October 11, 2017, 12:48:37 PM »
I agree that many new authors can publish on a shoestring and get away with it.  You absolutely can do, or learn to do, most of it on your own.  At this point, I have an editor. That's it. I made my Wordpress blog my webpage and started a Facebook Author Page.  I write on word, learned to format myself, upload myself, and make my own covers.  My covers are all right and I'm getting better as I go along.  I have quite a bit of art background.  Learning how to manipulate images on the computer is a different thing entirely, but I'm getting there.  An author made cover does not have to look like a homemade cover.  When I can afford it, I'll get a cover designer.  Until then, other than the editor, my production team is a one-person show.

Is that best practices? No.  But you can do it if you have no other choice.  If you can't make a passable cover, look for a friend who can or buy an inexpensive pre-made.  Your cover will absolutely effect your sales.  That thing about not judging a book by its cover is about people, not books.  Everyone will judge your book by its cover, lol.  First thing I would spend money on is a good editor or proofreader.  Writer's don't see all of their own mistakes, no matter how careful they are. Your time is better spent writing the next book rather than reading backwards or out loud in order to try to find every typo.  Sure, do it if you have to, but if you have the money, spend it on editing. Next, get that cover situation sorted.  After that, if you're making more money, think about jobbing some other things out so you have more time to write.

Just my opinion, of course.  Everyone has to make up their own mind about what it most important to them.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2017, 12:50:49 PM by JulianneQJohnson »
              

Offline Evenstar

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #22 on: October 11, 2017, 01:25:54 PM »
I was reading a thread on Facebook where authors say they do not pay proofreaders. I always have. Do you think proofreaders should be paid?

Yes. Most definitely get a professional.

My first little novella was published in 2013. It was 15k words and I released it without having it edited or proofed, mainly as an experiment to learn about self-publishing. The only thing I spent a single penny on was the cover. It cost me $100 and I sold some clothes on ebay to pay for it. But... then I got some bad reviews because of typos and I learned pretty fast that I needed do have that at the very least.  So I sold some shoes, and for $30 I was able to get my 15k proofed. The reviews instantly improved from 3 stars to 4.5 stars.

Apart from the occasional Freebooksy, I've never spent another penny on that book. It's now a free first-in-series of 8 books and it still gets around 50 - 75 downloads a day on Amazon.

So, if I were telling someone to how to publish for next to nothing I would still say proofreading was the most important thing to spend your money on.

Covers less so (though I am not belittling their importance), especially if you have an artistic eye (which I don't btw). Go on to YouTube and Derek Murphy has some great videos on how to make really nice covers for $1.

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #23 on: October 11, 2017, 01:36:14 PM »
I agree with the other posters. There is no reason to publish a book with a bad or even mediocre cover. You can find a nice premade for under $100, and often under $50.

If you have design skills, my all means DIY. (I'm making my own cover right now. It will not be as good as my other covers, but it will be good enough). But most people don't have any design skills and most homemade covers doom a book to never sell. Why publish a book that isn't going to sell?

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #24 on: October 11, 2017, 01:45:26 PM »
Covers:

I make most of my own covers since moving from trad to self-publishing. (Three covers in my signature were made by pros.)

For my own designs I post samples here for review and let the members rip them to shreds. That exercise always results in a much better cover--to my eyes, at least.

Look at the covers of other works in your genre to get ideas. And when you assess the advice of your peers, look at their covers. Do you like them?

You can't please everyone.

Try everything they suggest and post new versions.

If they don't like your fonts--they never like your fonts--ask for the names of fonts they think would work better. Sometimes that request is met with a stony silence. :)

If you can find pre-made covers that you like, and if they are affordable, that's a good way to go. I don't often find ones I like. But it's not because of the cost. You can pay more for the license to use an image than you'll pay for a pre-made. Pays your money, takes your choice.

--> MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PERMISSION. <--

It's not for everyone. Many authors don't want to spend time on work that a pro can do better. And many other authors don't have the discretionary capital to pay for the work of the pros. I do it because I enjoy the creative aspects of this profession. And because I'm cheap.