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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Clemmer

5 Myths about Self-Publishing Budgets

Self-publishing has exploded as an industry in the past ten years. It went from being a niche tactic used largely by failed and unsuccessful writers to being a popular choice for authors who want more control over their work and a larger share of the royalties.

With the relatively recent explosion in the success of self-publishing, it's no wonder that a lot of myths have sprung up. Some people claim that the process of publishing a book successfully is so expensive that no rational person should bother attempting it while publishing houses still exist. Others claim that the process is completely free and easy for anyone who's even the slightest bit curious about publishing a book.

The truth isn't really that simple. Let's take a look at some popular self-publishing budget myths and uncovering the truth behind them.

Myth #1: You can successfully self-publish a book for free.

After all, it doesn't cost anything to push the publish button on most platforms. If you're avoiding vanity press, you don't have to pay for any copies of your book for the right to sell it. You can find free stock photos all over the internet, and anyone with the right tech know-how can format a book to near perfection.

If you do everything right, you should be able to successfully self publish on a $0 budget, right?

Not exactly. A few years ago, I decided to experiment with this idea by publishing a series of 5000 word short stories on a $0 budget. It's true that I published them for free, and it's true that I made royalties. However, these royalties never exceeded about a dollar a month and were usually closer to about ten cents.

Publishing is certainly possible without money, but is it successful? My verdict is no.

Myth #2: A successful self-publishing job costs at least $2,000.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have people saying that your self-publishing efforts will go nowhere unless you are prepared to invest thousands of dollars. This is backed by a study done on Reedsy, which measured the budgets expected for a standard 60,000-word novel, And including assets like editing, layout and cover design, and advertising.

While it’s true that authors who invest more in their books can expect more in return, you don't need to break the bank when you're starting out. Depending on your genre, you might be able to buy a good cover on Fiverr that can compete with most of the covers on the Kindle marketplace. You could also replace the cost of a proofreader entirely by using a service like ProWritingAid to boost your writing.

Once again, in my experiment where I published a book with $0, I still technically made a net profit. Everything that you choose to buy beyond that is gain.

Myth #3: A good cover costs at least $200. A good interior layout can cost even more.

$200 will get you a brilliant cover from 99designs, where you can pose a challenge to artists to design a cover that will specifically match your book. In some circles, that's considered a good price. Even cheap.

However, many writers who encounter this fact and are looking to save money will decide to run in the other direction and skimp on cover costs. That's easy enough to do. After all, you can always find a stock photo on Pixabay or Morguefile that will have what you want for free. And cover typography can't be that complicated, can it?

If you're not a graphic designer, you should never design your own covers. Even if you don't think you're that bad of an artist. It turns out that effective cover design is a whole new ballgame than most people are prepared for. It's more complicated than it appears, and while anyone can design a cheap cover, it takes true talent and industry knowledge to design a cover that will sell.

The good news is that there are options for people working with a strict budget. Sites like sell unique, pre-made covers at a discounted price, frequently from $50 to $100. If that's still too much, there are cover design artists on Fiverr who will give you an even lower price.

Be careful if you choose to go this route. Fiverr designers usually do rushed, cheap jobs that don't hold up to quality covers. However, I’ve found that Fiverr typically delivers better than I can design by myself. If you're just starting out and don't want to work too much in during the beginning, you might want to look into this.

As for interior layout, I wouldn't worry about it if you're sticking to ebook sales. Even if you have a paperback in the works, most readers won't care if you use a generic template versus a custom design. Only pay for a book layout if you have the money to spare or if the design makes a substantial difference for your readers’ experience.

Myth #4: Facebook and Amazon ads are a cheap way to get massive exposure.

It might not cost much to set up an advertisement on Facebook or Amazon, but if you want results, be prepared to spend. Testing an ad successfully will probably cost $5 to $10, but expect expenses to stack up after you decide on a daily amount. If you really want to see results, you will probably have to spend about $100 at least.

Ads aren't vital to a successful self-publishing campaign, but they will give you a substantial boost around your launch. In the end, if you decide to go this route, be prepared to make an investment and stick with it.

Myth #5: Readers will know if you don't invest a fortune.

One of the myths I hear the most often is that if you're not willing to invest a good chunk of money, you'll never make it as a self-published author. Many studies of successful authors (including this one on Reedsy) will show that they spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars with every book released. Considering that most of these authors also release multiple books a year, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and too poor to create a good book.

You need to remember that readers won't take your book nearly as seriously as you do. Readers won't care if you spend $5, $50, or $500 on the cover they see in the store. They only care that it catches their attention and appears to be a good book.

Readers don't care how much you spend on ads, if anything, as long as they discover you. If you can create a good presentation of your book to make known to the public, and if you can make yourself as discoverable as possible, you don't need to spend a fortune to get out there. Every purchase you make is an upgrade that will simply boost your chances of success.

Please join me in my Facebook group for further discussion, and let me know what myths you've encountered about self-publishing and how much you spend on your books. I look forward to getting in touch.


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