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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Guys,

I was hoping I could get some realistic advice. I'm a newbie author and have written my first book. I have done seven revisions so far. Including one with Pro Writing Aid and one with Grammarly. I'm aware that most people say software alone is not enough for a full edit/proof read, so I am now in a position where I would like to get advice from you guys. I need to get a book cover done and I'm very keen on getting a trailer made for the book. Now, if I include an edit and a proof read I'm at about £350/£400 roughly from the services I've seen. Then I need to seriously consider advertising, which I'm aware can be very costly with no guaranteed results. I'll explain my situation, this is my first book. It's a stand alone novel. I could potentially write a trilogy but as it stands I have no plans to do this as that wasn't the initial intention. Honestly, this book was me just trying a new creative avenue. I can't say if I'll write another book. I work full time. So I can afford the services I'm looking at. However, I don't want to spend all this money with no kind of recoupment. I'm very aware that stand alone novels struggle to sell, especially with advertising. So I have some questions in regards to self publishing:

1. Considering my circumstances, do you think I should pay for the proof read and editing services?
2. Should I pay for advertising?

I do truly believe in the storyline of my book, so I would like to give it the best chance possible, but I have to accept I may have an unconscious bias. I will also add that my book is urban fiction (not my choice of term) which I am aware is a small, niche, genre so advertising may turn out to be quite cheap and effective. I like to think that my general spelling and grammar is decent, but I'm not going to delude myself into thinking it's going to be professional enough for a book as I have no qualifications in English literature etc. Do a lot of authors on here proofread and edit their own work? For the record, I am taking the book seriously. The reason I'm apprehensive about spending money on it is because I used to make music which was something I spent a lot of money on over a number of years and made no return so I'm just cautious of putting myself back in the same situation as I have a child now. I'm willing to lose a bit of money if it means people are reading my work as that's the ultimate goal but I would hate to be spending £1K plus on this with no money earned back and still not really getting any sales due to having no advertising experience and not doing my campaign right. Any advice appreciated, sorry for the essay.
 

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Be aware that in the Time of the Chinese Plague there are probably a million would-be Authors doing the same thing you are. If you want to hire a proofreader AND a graphic designer of merit, I think your budget is on the low side. You also do not mention professional formatting. At least one formatter who I ordinarily recommend is so busy that she's not taking new customers, and of course we are also coming up on the Holiday Formerly Known As Christmas, which tends to see a deluge of of books needing formatting.

I think your very first investment, if you haven't bought them already, is a Kindle device AND a Fire tablet. As soon as you have them in your hands, download a score or two free samples of best-sellers and especially books in your genre if you're writing genre fiction -- and spend hours STUDYING them. Spend more hours studying the Amazon Kindle pages, especially book covers, book descriptions, and above all the Look Inside This Book samples (and compare all those things to the books' sales rankings).

Meanwhile, study this forum and the KDP community forums; the "Kindle University" help pages or whatever they're called; and the fourth post on my blog.

And be aware that ebook and print editions are very, very different. Don't ever upload a PDF for an ebook, and always upload a PDF for the print edition.
 

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Congrats on the book!  I'm glad to hear that you've made the story that you want to.

As far as advertising, just remember that you have time after it is published.  You could always not advertise right away and use some free book days to give them to friends and family and get some reviews on amazon.  Or use some time to play around with keywords and see if one set up gets more eyes on your book than another.  And, once you've got it in a good place and some reviews are up, then advertising might be more effective.  I guess it just depends on if you want to push sales right away or if you can take a more long-term approach.  And you can always write something new while you are working on advertising and then just have your life ankles deep in this hobby  :D

Anyways, definitely post something on here when you get your book out there.  I'd check it out.
 

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Welcome aboard. Ask 10 authors and you'll get 10 different opinions. Everything below is my opinion.

Yes, pay for a proof edit. Sounds like you've done a good job on the draft. Look on here for services with flat rates of $150 a book or so. Worth the money.

Formatting is a personal choice. The easy route is to buy Vellum if you have a Mac. Well worth the money. The cheap route is to use Microsoft Word and Calibre. If you go that route be sure and double check Amazon's conversion after it's uploaded.

As for paying for advertising, like NotJohn said your book is a drop in the bucket among millions. Personally, I would limit my ad budget for two reasons. One, as a new author no one will take a chance on you unless your book is free or 99 cents. You can't recoup your ad at that level. If you had more in a series at full price and the free or bargain first in series served as a hook to lure readers in, then it's a different story. But right now you just have the one book. So, ads you buy will not recover the spend (and they often don't anyway).

Somebody once suggested not to spend any money on ads until you have at least three books out. I think that's still good advice. But if you must spend money to get your book in the hands of readers, I would personally set a budget of $100 and stick with top sites. I would start with Bargain Booksy in their UF newsletter, with the book priced at 99 cents. Expect somewhere between 50 and 100 downloads, maybe more maybe less that's just a ballpark guess.

Urban Fantasy is a fine genre with lots of devoted fans. The key to success in genre fiction is volume. Produce, produce, produce. It may not be what you want to hear, but one solitary book with nothing else for readers to sink their teeth into does not typically bring in consistent money. Exceptions exist, as with everything of course. Nail your cover since that's what people look at first. Write a fantastic blurb with lots of action verbs, leaving the reader with a strong desire to purchase the book. Price it at 99 cents so it gets legs. Then start and finish your sequel. Rinse and repeat.
 

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Hey.

You can do this on a slim budget.

1. Cover. Find a good premade. That will save you money. I don't know what genre you are in, but there are inexpensive, good cover artists and premades out there. (maybe check out www.goonwrite.com for some ideas. His covers are $75 to $100, if I remember correctly.)

2. Grammar. ProwritingAid and Grammarly are a good start. Will they catch everything? No, but if you're on a budget you can do this yourself. It depends on your background and how good you are with grammar. If you deep down don't think you have the skills? Hire someone. Flat rate.

3. Formatting. Vellum for Mac is the best, but requires $$. The easiest way, with zero learning curve, is to sign up for a free account at Draft2Digital. You can convert your Word files into ebooks there for free, even if you do not distribute books with them.

4. Advertising. YES. You must advertise. But don't do too much at once. Try to master one platform at a time. I'd say start with Amazon advertising. Set up 1 auto target ad (where Amazon chooses your targets), 1 category ad, and choose the category amazon suggests. and 1 ad with keywords you choose. (authors and books similar to yours, and be realistic.) Don't worry about blowing the budget. Amazon rarely spends all of your ad money. Set the keyword bid at 30 to 35 cents, no dynamic, with a budget of $10 a day.

NOW, before you launch, take the time to read Amazon Decoded by David Gaughran and The ultimate book marketing crash course by Nicholas Erik. Spend some real time choosing your categories and keywords (the ones you type in when you set up your book in KDP.) and, work on your blurb and work on it some more. All these things matter. A lot. And they don't take money, they just take time. So give them the time.
 

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I would say save your money on the book trailer.  They are neat to have, but the tales of them being effective marketing devices are few and far between. Put that money elsewhere, like maybe into static FB ad graphics.
 

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It's your first book. You don't know what you don't know. Get some unbiased outside feedback. Paid editor is one option. But there are others that don't cost so much. Online critique groups and such. Paid beta readers which are cheaper than editors, but won't know craft details--they'll just let you know if it's a good read. Some writers forums let you share chapters for critique. Etc. Figure out if other people feel the same way about the quality of the book as you do.

Assuming it's okay, a self-published stand-alone novel tends to sell under 200 copies in its lifetime, even at the cheap prices self-publishers tend to charge. That means most lose money, or were published on a shoestring and basically break even. If money is tight, assume this will be you. How much do you want to spend (have to lose) in that situation?

"Good" books don't always sell. The things that seem to move the needle in order of importance:

1) Story clearly focused on a reasonably popular subgenre.
2) Genre appropriate pro-quality cover.
3) Write in series
4) Ad/marketing skills/budget
5) Good blurb
6) Craft/storytelling/proofreading elements (yes, sadly, last, but matters the most for selling book 2, which is where the money is made. book 1 is basically a loss leader.)

(Book trailers are worthless. Press releases and other paid media support are worthless. Paperbacks and bookstores are worthless. Your friends and family buying your books are worthless--even detrimental. Your path to success, if it exists, is ebooks on Amazon sold to hardcore readers of your genre.)
 

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.

+1, the book trailer is a money sink. It's a fun diversion.

+1, go for proof reading. "Phone a Friend" to get them to proof read and catch the most challenging errors that software cannot find for you such as wrong words spelled correctly like Two Too To.

Either get a pre-made cover or get gimp.org software, free open source and many youtube videos on how to use, and make your own cover. The image is way less important than the fonts and font placements to make the title readable and convey the genre at a glance. Look up the original "Twilight" books and see how they used photographs of still life 'things' and clean font styles. Seek out Font Squirrel and DA Fonts and probably a few other options out there now. A readable font is important for the title. See what the covers of the top 100 selling in your genre are using and fit with the trend. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0AIalzE6iA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-9HbK2YWc8

Learn to format your own book. There are tools and full method descriptions using free software. I grabbed these quick, they are based on MS Word but the techniques translate easily to Libreoffice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNHCROT3TxU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHh0ZaY2Xnk

Write the next book. Always more money and fame with more books than more advertising ... because more books advertise your other books. Especially with Amazon's algorithms.

.
 

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A few years ago before I published my first book, a really great successful Indie writer advised me to edit my own books and pay around $200 for a good cover. That totals the cost to only $200. She also advised that I look at my genre on Amazon and learn what's out there for marketing. This is in line with ^^DmGuay's advice.

Now, I didn't follow the above advice, not because it's wrong--I think in the cost/benefit analysis, it is spot on--but because I have the funds. I try to make my books the very best they can be. In fact, my first book went through three professional edits :eek:. Now they go through two: a copy edit and proofread. Hopefully, in a few years, I will only run them through one proofread. I feel like I write very well, but I do not hold an English degree. Getting books properly edited, like the Big 5 trad publishers do, can cost you over a thousand dollars. This, btw, in my opinion, is one of the advantages a traditional publisher has over us Indies. They foot the bill for a lot of the stuff we have to cough up on our own (like your interest in advertising. Proper advertising will cost you a lot). If you have the funds and want your books to be the absolute very best they can be, do this.

Whatever you choose, welcome to the club and best of luck. It's a rush :)
 

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Also, you can make a book trailer for free at Lumen5.com.
I use those. Book trailers don't produce sales, but they are fun to have. So don't spend $$.
Think of them as an extra fan bonus to post to your YouTube, Goodreads profile, and Amazon author central page.

They're like sewing fringe on the bottom of a curtain. Extra.
 

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notjohn said,
Be aware that in the Time of the Chinese Plague there are probably a million would-be Authors doing the same thing you are.
Is that true? I've been hoping to run into a statistic somewhere that suggests one way or the other. Most people I know are too depressed for the future to focus on writing long enough to get anywhere on a book they've started and too frantic with kids running around at home to even begin writing their big book idea.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
First and foremost, thank you for the heart warming welcomes and advice posted. I really appreciate it. Yes, the services I'm looking at are on the cheap side. The main reason being is that from all the research I've done, I'm quite aware that trying to get a single book successful from a debut author in this day and age (no matter how good the book is) is like trying to win the lottery, which makes me apprehensive about splurging too much on the book as I'm cautious that the odds are not in my favour of this book doing well, so I'm trying limit my losses, basically. I guess this is a bit of a loser mentality, but after doing music for years and not really getting anything from it, my mentality is skewed. So another question, in my position:

1. In my position, is it better to do KDP select?
2. Should I sell my book for free, 0.99 or more?
3. I noticed book formatting mentioned, what is that? Is it making the book format to be read on kindles/tablets etc?

I think I should get a good few sales off my work colleagues so that will give me a good start but I couldn't say a solid number. I wanted to sell the book a bit higher (say, 2.99) to help recoup expenses but will that put off potential readers/buyers? I'll post my blurb to get some critique shortly. I'm not sure if I should start a new thread or just put it in here. Thanks again guys.
 

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Yes to all the above advice, but I would also like to stress a few other things.

Your first aim should not be to make money, it should be to find readers. The two go hand in hand, but it's a fundamental mindshift.

The other thing is that grammar and style is *not* the most important part of writing well. It's storytelling.

Storytelling is an art, and it needs to be learned. Now it could be that you're the most amazing storyteller ever, who naturally writes great plots and great characters and everything just flows naturally. But it's more likely that you're like the rest of us poor saps, and you're... not. You need to learn.

Therefore, don't invest too much in your book at the start.

Personally, I would advise that it's best to take the work to some other people first, like a developmental editor, or do this for free in a writing workshop. More than a grammar nerd, you're likely to need someone who knows about building good narrative arcs and characters that support the arcs. You'll  need to know about how to maintain POV, pace and tension.

But. I also get that this is probably not the right  moment for you to step back (even though I think it would be good if you did).

If you publish anyway, be prepared to learn on the job and bootstrap your way up.

But whatever you do, by all that's dear, write the next book, and the next one, and the next one. Because that's the best way to learn.
 

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Shawn86 said:
First and foremost, thank you for the heart warming welcomes and advice posted. I really appreciate it. Yes, the services I'm looking at are on the cheap side. The main reason being is that from all the research I've done, I'm quite aware that trying to get a single book successful from a debut author in this day and age (no matter how good the book is) is like trying to win the lottery, which makes apprehensive about splurging too much on the book as I'm cautious that the odds are not in my favour of this book doing well so I'm trying limit my losses, basically. I guess this is a bit of a loser mentality, but after doing music for years and not really getting anything from it, my mentality is skewed. So another question, in my position,

1. In my position, is it better to do KDP select?
2. Should I sell my for free, 0.99 or more?
3. I noticed book formatting mentioned, what is that? Is it making the book format to be read on kindles/tablets etc?

I think I should get a good few sales off my work colleagues so that will give me a good start but I couldn't say a solid number. I wanted to sell the book a bit higher (say, 2.99) to help recoup expenses but will that put off potential readers/buyers? I'll post my blurb to get some critique shortly. I'm not sure if I should start a new thread or just put it in here. Thanks again guys.
I'm going to say go into KDP Select and price it at 99 cents. You'll get 35 cents for each sale, but more when someone in KU reads through your book, depending on how long it is.

You can certainly experiment with a variety of things such as different prices and going wide when your 90 day commitment to Select is up. But in my opinion, for a first book I would definitely go Select and price at 99 cents to get it off the ground. You likely won't ever recoup expenses on this book unless and until you write more books under the same pen name and in the same genre.

While in Select, Amazon lets you price the book for free for 5 days. This allows you to get it out there in the hands of people. Hopefully they'll read it and leave reviews. I would not try to go permafree since you have no follow up books yet. Permafree is a strategy to hook readers into a series. They read the first book free then hopefully pony up the cash for the next ones in the series. You will just have the one book, so there's no point in making it permafree at the moment.

Book formatting involves submitting the manuscript to Amazon in a format they can convert to be read by a Kindle. It's also referring to the logistics of the electronic text with things like spacing between paragraphs, division breaks, the way chapter headings look, justified margins or not, etc. Programs like Vellum do it all for you hassle free, and will also format the book for printing if you ever decide to go that route.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Once again, thanks for the continued helpful responses. OK, so I think I'll go with the advice given and go with KDP Select. I've also done some research and found some critique forums, so I'll post a chapter or two on there to get feedback on the general flow of my writing/grammar/storytelling. Thanks for the website with the free course/handbook to read, also. I'll sink my teeth into that over the next couple of weeks to get as prepared as possible. Following advice posted, I'll create my own trailer and use that (if good enough) and use that money elsewhere. I'll put my blurb up shortly to get some feedback. I like to think that as this is my first book and writing stories isn't my forte, that I'll be able to step back as advised and accept good critique and acknowledge my flaws. Hopefully, my unconscious bias/bruised ego won't get in the way of that. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the thread. Much appreciated, and good luck to all you guys with your books. I hope we can all have some sort of success from our work.
 
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