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Author Topic: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free  (Read 19627 times)  

Offline sela

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #125 on: October 12, 2017, 04:58:55 PM »
I think it depends on what your goals are.  If you are producing a book that you hope and expect readers to pay you money for, and you want to be a professional about it... you are going to need to pay for some things such as editing and cover art, at the minimum.

Would you open a restaurant and ask people to eat off the ground out of their hands because you can't afford dishes yet? I would hope not, right? And if you did, you probably wouldn't expect anyone to actually eat your food, so hopefully you wouldn't be surprised when nobody wanted to come to your place for dinner...

Publishing is a business. If you want people to pay you for your work, ie this is not a hobby to you, you cannot treat it like a hobby. I mean, you can... but you will reap hobby rewards. The start-up costs for doing this are super low compared to almost any other business out there. You can get going and do a good job for a couple hundred bucks (a proofreader and a nice pre-made cover, for example).

It's okay to publish as a hobby, btw. Not everyone wants or needs to make money or have a lot of readers. But if that is your goal and you are expecting readers to pay you with their time and hard-earned money... please please don't make them eat off the floor. Nobody wants to do that and you will be severely disappointed with your results.

Also... keep in mind what might have worked in 2010 won't fly now. There are a ton of good writers taking the time and money to fund their projects to a professional level that meets or exceeds trad publishing standards. If you want to compete with that, you have to present the best, most professionally created book you can.

Absolutely.

If you can't afford anything, you can still publish your book. It need not cost a dime. However, like Anni says, this is a business and if you want to make money doing it, you usually need to make some kind of investment.

I do want to add that there is a concept of minimum viable product (I think Michael Anderle talks about it) in which you bootstrap your way to publishing and see how you do. Then, you adjust accordingly. If you do it all yourself and don't sell anything? Look at your product. Does the book need editing? Is the blurb compelling? Is it categorized properly? Is the cover genre appropriate so that the potential reader knows the book is what they want? If you tweak those elements and still don't sell anything, then maybe it's the book itself. Maybe get a developmental edit (expensive) or at the least, find some beta readers who will tell you where the book fails for them as readers of  your kind of book. Then, revise and try again.

The great thing about indie publishing is that we can fall flat on our face and then get up, brush ourselves off, create a pen name and start all over again, using the things we learned when we fell.

As Mark Dawson says, there's never been a better time to be a writer!

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #126 on: October 12, 2017, 05:11:12 PM »
I believe the advice here was meant helpfully. At least, I know most of the people giving most of the advice, and they are genuinely helpful. They're trying to tell people what they've seen work, from the perspective of having been at this with success, watching other people succeed, for five years or more. Look, if people didn't want to sell, they wouldn't post here and ask how to sell. Some of us see those posts and think, "That's not gonna work," but we're not allowed to say it. So some of us are trying to say, generally speaking--these are the things we see getting in people's way.

For the record, my first three books cost $300 total. For covers, because like many, many others, my graphics skills suck. I was a copywriter. I was a copyeditor, too. I was smart enough to figure out formatting. I was a pretty good writer who told a good story. I sure as heck wasn't a graphic artist. I spent maybe $100 more on advertising those first four months, then $100 on another cover. That was a different time, and the bar wasn't set as high as it is now in terms of professional presentation, but I still see people who've done great recently with minimal marketing.

But they had killer covers, great blurbs, a hooky title and premise, and a kickass book.

I'm saying, look at what you're good at, and if you can't tell what that is--if you can't tell whether you have a graphics eye, whether your prose is up to snuff, whatever--post here as others have done and ask. If you haven't had professional experience at whatever-it-is, though, you probably aren't ready to DIY to a professional level.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2017, 05:14:53 PM by Usedtoposthere »

Offline sela

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #127 on: October 12, 2017, 05:17:06 PM »
Congratulations on the success. My points are more to be taken in general. The only problem I have with your specific comments is that there will be a lot of newbies who use them to justify wishful thinking about how to make a living. I want to focus on best practices. That's the part of this we can control and leads to success at a far higher rate than a more amateur/hobbyist approach.

To be fair, you did add a caveat.

"No one knows anything." - William Goldman

No one knows.

No one knows for certain that anything will sell. Sometimes, some people may know that a particular thing might sell but the biggest damn book in recent memory was turned down 17 times by people who didn't think it would sell.

Because no one knows, you might as well take a shot. Do the work. Write the best damn book you can. Pay for what you can. Put it out there and learn. If it fails, try again using what you learned.

No one can stop you from trying and learning and growing except you.

Most people who try will fail. It's a fact of this business. There are millions of books indie published that never sell more than a handful to family and friends. Most people who write that book and publish it will fail. But none of us know which books and which authors.

So, write the best damn book you can, do the best with it, spend what you can on covers and editing if you can, and promotion if you can, read everything you can about the business, and give it a try.

You never know if you might be the one in a hundred thousand or million who succeeds when you do it all yourself. 

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #128 on: October 12, 2017, 05:20:57 PM »
Really? It bothers me more that you can't see why it's a good cover.

Fascinating that you and I have such different opinions of the cover.  Neither of us are wrong, just different. :o)

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #129 on: October 12, 2017, 05:41:41 PM »
Saying a new writer should spend thousands of dollars on their first book because successful writers  do so is like saying a kid who wants to win motor races should buy a Ferrari because the people who win races drive them. The kid wouldn't have any idea how to control it and would be off in the grass on the first corner with a big repair bill.

Sure, if I was making a million dollars on each book, I'd farm out all the editing and covers and spend a bunch of money on advertising, because doing the work myself would make no sense when I could be writing the next book. But I'm sure glad I didn't do that when I was starting out, or I'd have quit long ago because I couldn't afford to keep losing money. After a few years and several books, I'm only just about at the point where I think I'd benefit from doing those things.

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #130 on: October 12, 2017, 05:49:04 PM »
Saying a new writer should spend thousands of dollars on their first book because successful writers  do so is like saying a kid who wants to win motor races should buy a Ferrari because the people who win races drive them. The kid wouldn't have any idea how to control it and would be off in the grass on the first corner with a big repair bill.

Sure, if I was making a million dollars on each book, I'd farm out all the editing and covers and spend a bunch of money on advertising, because doing the work myself would make no sense when I could be writing the next book. But I'm sure glad I didn't do that when I was starting out, or I'd have quit long ago because I couldn't afford to keep losing money. After a few years and several books, I'm only just about at the point where I think I'd benefit from doing those things.

I don't think anyone is saying new writers should spend thousands though. I don't see anyone saying that. I see people saying things like "spend on editing and a pro cover and do whatever else you can do yourself if you want" which adds up to maybe hundreds and can likely be done cheaper than that if you are careful about shopping around, using pre-mades etc.

Seriously... this biz is so cheap to get into. 200-300 for a proofread, 50-100 for a good (probably pre-made, but some custom ones can be that inexpensive & still look good) cover... bam! you are in business.  We're talking less than 500.  Nobody is talking about spending thousands. Most of us still don't spend thousands most of the time even though we could afford to.

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #131 on: October 12, 2017, 05:50:39 PM »
I don't see anybody saying thousands. I spent a hundred bucks each on my first books. On covers.

You may well not sell many books even with a good cover--and a good title, and a good blurb. It's just that you're unlikely to sell many books without those things. I actually don't think titles get nearly enough attention. Cover + title--they work together.

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #132 on: October 12, 2017, 05:59:49 PM »
^^ Right, no one has said that. However, I was specifically referring to the launch threads on this forum where (and I could name the certain authors but will not do so out of respect; that's how clearly I remember reading their threads) they listed all their expenses and shot up into high ranks. Granted, I think...story first. They wrote stories people wanted to read. No argument there. However, they've gone on to list 1k for cover, 2-3k for editors, 1k for promotion, and etc. There was one author here on Kboards long ago who stated his budget for promoting his series was 10k. I'm...pretty sure I read that correctly but maybe I didn't. Anyhow, this is what came to my mind.

No one has specifically stated that we should spend thousands. So again, just an observation I've made over the past year or so I've been on this forum that some authors do spend several thousand launching a book. But if they didn't...would their books still shoot up the ranks? Who knows. Just like others here have said, no one knows anything. 

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Offline Evelyn Alexie

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #133 on: October 12, 2017, 06:05:56 PM »
Just like others here have said, no one knows anything.

Excellent! I've found a place where I can fit in.

I'm more nervous about the book I'm publishing myself than the one that's being traditionally published. Even after getting feedback from a beta reader, it's still my name on the cover and I'm the one who has to push that Publish button. If people hate it, well, I'll try to figure out what went wrong and fix it. The next one will be better.
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Offline Becca Mills

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #134 on: October 12, 2017, 10:00:33 PM »
I agree with a lot of this... but covers and fixing typos are easier to change and improve than the actual work, so that gets talked about more than base craft level.  Personally, I wouldn't want anyone to spend a dime until their craft is up to a point where people will want to pay them for their work, but I've found a lot of resistance when trying to say that aloud to people. We all want to believe that our stories are all amazing right out the gate, but... well...

So I guess I would advise if you want to try to be as sure as you can be of producing books people want to read, spend a few years writing lots of things, getting critiques from people who READ those kinds of things (not just any old reader, you want people familiar with the genre you are writing), and by the end of that you'll probably have work worth investing a few hundred into and hey... it'll have been a year or five, so you'll have had time to save up a few hundred to invest.

(and yes, I practiced what I preach (except the having money part, I used debt to fund my last chance at making this work because I was drowning in medical bills). I have six novels that will never see the light of day. Roughly 40 short stories that will also never see the light. Over 600 poems, most of which have never been read by anyone but myself. I stopped counting rejections from trad anthologies, publishers, and magazines after I hit 500 but I'm probably somewhere in the 600-700 range. All of this helped me get to the point that when I was broke, sick, and deciding to max out my last credit card to put wow-factor covers on my last-hope project and do it right w/editing etc... I knew that I could write work other people wanted to read, because I had already thanks to those years of rejections, the sales to trad magazines etc)

As for hobby... it's not a dirty word. There's nothing wrong with writing for a reason other than profit. I bow to Mr. Wonderful's wisdom from Shark Tank... he says that if you have been in a business for 2-3 years and aren't showing a profit, you have a hobby. And there are so many good reasons to write that have nothing to do with making money. It's okay to not maximize your potential in that way. Just manage your expectations in the returns and readership you'll achieve based on the decisions you make.  I think a lot of us long-timers get a little frustrated by things like this because we see people posting post after post asking what they can fix to make money/gain readership etc and so much of that stems from not investing in the business and your books from the get-go.

Final point.. yes, nobody knows what it takes to be successful. But we do know how to increase the odds. I think that once you have all the boxes ticked (great books, wow-covers, clean editing, etc) that then it comes down to writing the kind of story that strikes a chord with your readership. And that just takes writing a lot of stories with the understanding that sometimes you'll fail through no fault of your own and continuing to improve craft, take your storytelling to new levels, listen to your chosen audience about what they want to read and figuring out how to make that your own, etc.  I know a few writers who I think are one right book away from being huge hits, but they haven't written the killer concept yet. Some people have a gift for understanding what readers want, and that can't really be taught. The rest of us just have to keep paying attention and improving.

Hear, hear on the hobby thing! I'm a hobby writer. Sure, I'd love to make it a career, but I'm too incompetent at actually finishing books for that. C'est la vie. It's an extremely fulfilling hobby, and one that adds to the family's coffers. Win-win.

Offline firstdraft

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #135 on: October 12, 2017, 11:43:38 PM »
The key to being a successful indie is being able to understand ones short comings and actually knowing what works for a specific genre.

Some skilled people can do everything on their own for sure, but knowing where you need help and how to do it on a budget will only cost you a little bit more.

For cover art you need to be either skilled yourself or at least have a good eye for design. I see just as many bad paid for covers as homemade ones, although the homemade ones are often clearly worse. You need to know the best artist for the job or in some cases you can find the 1 pre made from 1000 that just works for you.

A lot of best selling covers are not that artistically difficult compared to some of the cover artists work being engaged with on here. Learn to take a nice photo, learn to adjust a photo or use filters and learn to apply powerful and suitable typefaces.



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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #136 on: October 13, 2017, 12:20:13 AM »
Seriously... this biz is so cheap to get into. 200-300 for a proofread, 50-100 for a good (probably pre-made, but some custom ones can be that inexpensive & still look good) cover... bam! you are in business.  We're talking less than 500.  Nobody is talking about spending thousands. Most of us still don't spend thousands most of the time even though we could afford to.

I keep on thinking about the guy I know who started an (excellent) cafe. He had to take out an $80k bank loan. It's a ballsy move, and he's certainly succeeding because he knows his stuff and its a great cafe.... but man oh man, the pressure! He has to stay constantly staffed, constant produce, changing up the menu, all while providing an excellent service. And what happens if he fails and defaults on the loan?! That's not good at all.

Compared to just about every other business model out there, indie publishing is ludicrously cheap, even if you don't do it on "the cheap".

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #137 on: October 13, 2017, 01:19:27 AM »
I'd just caution anyone starting out: don't spend money you can't afford to lose WITHOUT quitting.

My first three books cost me $100 each for covers and editing combined. I could have spent $1000 or more, on more expensive services, on promo... it wouldn't have sold any better. Why? Because I didn't know I was aiming wrong with the cover, trying to copy a British trad pub instead of American indies. I didn't know how to vet my editor and ended up with one who introduced more errors than they fixed.

Because my losses were time, not money, I could justify trying again. And again.

I recovered and re-edited but most of all, I didn't sit in a corner crying over $3k wasted when I already had crippling debt. It meant I had the chance to learn, and the money to try again, to tweak it, to learn.

Those books will never sell 'well' because they're not tropey enough and I guess they just weren't good enough. But I have more books now, more skills,  and more opportunities. I've never had to go into the red to do it.

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Offline Melody Simmons

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #138 on: October 13, 2017, 03:08:53 AM »
For new authors I noticed that some are not aware that there is a very large amount of premade covers available (just Google premade book covers online), made by graphic designers.  It costs something but not that much, and will really make a big difference as opposed to using a free stock image with some text slapped on top.  So many authors have come to me throughout the years to say their home-made cover is really harming their sales and once they get a decent cover they see an increase in sales.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2017, 09:01:34 AM by Melody Simmons »

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #139 on: October 13, 2017, 08:09:54 AM »
I don't think some people realize how privileged they sound. Publishing a book might  not be as expensive as other new businesses, as you can publish on "only" $3-400, but for some people that $3-400 is still a LOT of money. Struggling with finances and not being able to take out a loan (even a "small") one has no effect on how serious someone is about their writing. Calling something a hobby when a person is putting forth all the effort they can muster into a professional product IS insulting. If the book doesn't sell, it doesn't sell, but there's no need to add insult to injury by shrugging your shoulders and writing someone's book off as 'just a hobby anyway'. Do some people write as a side-project? Sure. But not everyone without the ability to pour in money (any money, not just thousands) is looking at their venture as a mere time-killer. In my experience, people aren't holding onto their money because they're trying to be cheap and cut corners-it's because they simply don't have it.
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Offline C. Rysalis

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #140 on: October 13, 2017, 08:15:43 AM »
I don't think some people realize how privileged they sound. Publishing a book might  not be as expensive as other new businesses, as you can publish on "only" $3-400, but for some people that $3-400 is still a LOT of money.

That's is the reality of the business world, though. It's a cold, heartless thing that doesn't care about all the little fish who can't afford to swim in it. None of us are going to change that reality. It is what it is.

I don't have money to engage in stock trading. I'm interested in it, and I think I'd be good at it if I invested the time to learn how it works. But the stock market isn't going to change just so I can join the game, and complaining about the unfairness about it all wouldn't accomplish anything.

In short, there's no guarantee for anyone to make money from a startup business. If there was, billions of books (rather than millions) would get uploaded and KDP's servers would crash.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2017, 08:22:22 AM by C. Rysalis »

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #141 on: October 13, 2017, 08:23:32 AM »
It's common practice to start a side business, while you're still working full time.  In fact, it's often recommended to "test the waters" while you still have a paycheck.

This can be almost any business you can do on the weekends or after work.  So many small businesses do not have to have a brick and mortar location these days.  I don't understand why this is considered a hobby?

To stop working, take out a loan and throw money at an idea (with no proven track record) does not sound like good business.  To go into debt to start a business?  Most people who do this have already worked in the industry.  They know the ins and outs of said industry and then get a loan (based on their credit rating and business plan) to start their own business.

I'm not saying that writing as a hobby is wrong.  It's a great idea!  And so is starting small and improving.  Maybe sales don't take off immediately without a professional cover.  So what?  Is the book going to be out-of-date in six months?  Unless it's written to a very specific genre/market that is hot RIGHT NOW, the book will be just as good next year.

Why the rush?  What's wrong with writing stories, learning the craft and investing slowly? 

I really don't see the need to insist that one business model is better than another. I've done both. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2017, 08:26:05 AM by Lorri Moulton »

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Offline RRodriguez

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #142 on: October 13, 2017, 08:23:51 AM »
That's is the reality of the business world, though. It's a cold, heartless thing that doesn't care about all the little fish who can't afford to swim in it. None of us are going to change that reality. It is what it is.

I don't have money to engage in stock trading. I'm interested in it, and I think I'd be good at it if I invested the time to learn how it works. But the stock market isn't going to change just so I can join the game, and complaining about the unfairness about it all wouldn't accomplish anything.

I didn't say the market was going to change. As I stated, if the book doesn't sell, it doesn't sell-for whatever reason that may be. But I don't see the point in sitting around and rubbing salt in the wound that if you don't have money then your chances of success are almost nonexistent. People aren't stupid-if we don't have money we already know the odds are against us. So instead you try as hard as you possibly can with the resources you have, and that's what I thought the original spirit of this thread intended to be. Try your best.
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Offline C. Rysalis

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #143 on: October 13, 2017, 08:32:02 AM »
So instead you try as hard as you possibly can with the resources you have, and that's what I thought the original spirit of this thread intended to be. Try your best.

I don't think the thread veered off course. I haven't seen anyone suggest someone else should stop publishing because they don't have a huge budget.

But this is a thread aimed at new authors, who tend to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and have unrealistic expectations. When those expectations shatter somewhere down the road, it tends to hurt. Besides, many of them don't know it's possible to make a bit of money with 0 production costs and without Amazon. Not that anyone ever listens to me when I bring it up...  :P
« Last Edit: October 13, 2017, 08:34:20 AM by C. Rysalis »

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Offline ShaneJeffery

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #144 on: October 13, 2017, 08:43:04 AM »
I don't think some people realize how privileged they sound. Publishing a book might  not be as expensive as other new businesses, as you can publish on "only" $3-400, but for some people that $3-400 is still a LOT of money. Struggling with finances and not being able to take out a loan (even a "small") one has no effect on how serious someone is about their writing. Calling something a hobby when a person is putting forth all the effort they can muster into a professional product IS insulting. If the book doesn't sell, it doesn't sell, but there's no need to add insult to injury by shrugging your shoulders and writing someone's book off as 'just a hobby anyway'. Do some people write as a side-project? Sure. But not everyone without the ability to pour in money (any money, not just thousands) is looking at their venture as a mere time-killer. In my experience, people aren't holding onto their money because they're trying to be cheap and cut corners-it's because they simply don't have it.

Authors who quote hundreds of dollars for new authors to spend on each book are usually the ones making bank where hundreds on a book is nothing. If a book is only going to sell XXX amount of copies, don't go blowing a boatload on editing or beta readers or whatever cause you're going to run yourself way out into the red before you can make any profit at all.

I do think cover art is a must, and I think unless you see an AMAZING premade,  custom covers are the way to go. But do your homework and shop around. Find a designer who is skilled / talented and not charging 500 dollars per cover. The cost of cover art is seldom to do with how good the actual work is, and more what the artist thinks they can charge for it. If you're expecting to make 5 - 10k on your next book release in the first 6 months, outlaying 500 bucks is small potatoes.

But if you're a nobody who has nothing on the market the chances of that book turning into a best selling overnight success are virtually zero.

Outliers will often put themselves in new authors shoes without realizing just how far the gap is between them. The truth of the matter is what you spend on each book you release could be the difference in making a profit, or running yourself into debt before you've even had a chance to figure out what you're doing.

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #145 on: October 13, 2017, 08:56:21 AM »
The issue I see is that authors will pay for advertising, try to do cross promo, try for BookBubs, with their homemade covers. Which is throwing your money away. As we've seen in this thread, if you don't have a graphics eye, you may well not see that you can't do your own covers. If you don't have editorial experience, you may not see that your work needs editing. You probably need both things.

If you're going to spend money on ads, spend first on presentation. The most important marketing happens before you publish your book.

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #146 on: October 13, 2017, 09:11:41 AM »
Not everyone can toss down $3-400. But the reality is that to make a living at this business, most people are going to need to go into it with some seed money. Compared to most other small businesses, that amount is very, very modest, but why should we expect it to be zero?

Do you think someone can be a plumber without owning some tools? Or become a Realtor without training for a real estate license, buying a domain and printing business cards, etc.? Start a catering business without getting a food safety permit and having some cookware? Where is the other business that has an entry point as low as this one?

Online cecilia_writer

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #147 on: October 13, 2017, 09:18:59 AM »
But aren't the plumbers' tools just the equivalent of having a computer to write on and an internet connection for uploading?

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #148 on: October 13, 2017, 09:21:12 AM »
I didn't say the market was going to change. As I stated, if the book doesn't sell, it doesn't sell-for whatever reason that may be. But I don't see the point in sitting around and rubbing salt in the wound that if you don't have money then your chances of success are almost nonexistent. People aren't stupid-if we don't have money we already know the odds are against us. So instead you try as hard as you possibly can with the resources you have, and that's what I thought the original spirit of this thread intended to be. Try your best.

I don't see anyone saying that. I published my first book by saving and scrimping. I spent $600 on a cover, and $6 on a book on self-publishing. I spent $50 on the cover of my second book. I spent $250 on promotions. I broke even that year. In retrospect, I should have spent $50 on the first cover, but I didn't know any better.

I have seen people spend thousands to publish books that languish in the millions of Amazon's rankings. I've also seen people launch their first book on a shoestring and make more money than they ever imagined.

But--and this is a big but--in general it takes money to make money. Not thousands, but my best selling book cost me about $1000 to launch. $350 on a cover and the rest on promotions. If no one knows the book exists, they can't buy it.

And yes, you can write a book, edit yourself, cobble together a cover using Gimp, publish it, and become rich and famous. Some people get hit by lightning, too.
 

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Re: New authors - almost everything you need, you can do free
« Reply #149 on: October 13, 2017, 09:22:21 AM »
The issue I see is that authors will pay for advertising, try to do cross promo, try for BookBubs, with their homemade covers. Which is throwing your money away. As we've seen in this thread, if you don't have a graphics eye, you may well not see that you can't do your own covers. If you don't have editorial experience, you may not see that your work needs editing. You probably need both things.

If you're going to spend money on ads, spend first on presentation. The most important marketing happens before you publish your book.

I'm as minimalist as you can get at the moment, but there's a lot of truth in this post.

I'm not going to spend on promo/ads until I have enough back list and with the right presentation to make it worthwhile. That said, I think it's fine to start with whatever resources you have. Some people hit it out of the park regardless, but I think it's better to go in with realistic expectations of how far you can get while bootstrapping.