Recently, I reviewed a manuscript for a potential client. Her intriguing story needed work, so I gave her a sample edit—and a bid that didn’t fit her budget. The writer lamented the fact that she might not be able to afford the professional help needed to publish the quality book she wanted.
Many writers fail to count the cost before they begin. They also fail to explore options that may whittle huge expenses into affordable services. How can they create their own high-low publishing project?
Join a writer’s group, but be selective. Visit them. Are they a good fit for you and your work? (Check out both local and online groups.) Listen. Ask questions. Which writers self-pub? Who edits their books? (If they don’t use editors, run the other direction. This group doesn’t value their time, work, or intended audience—they won’t value yours.)
Search for an editor early in your project. Do you need one to help you through the writing process? Or are you comfortable with one who will edit your finished manuscript? Interview potential choices. Ask for references; check them out. Talk about your work and your goals. Does she listen and offer relevant, positive suggestions; or does she tell you how she sees your project? Request a short sample edit of your work. (It should be free.) This will identify the editor’s technique and provide insight into what your working relationship will be. Is her pricing fair? Does she reduce her charge if your manuscript is clean? (Check out standard editing rates here.) Walk away if you’re uncomfortable with anything. You and your editor must “click” on all levels for the sake of your book.
Join online groups in your genre that will help you in your writing journey. For example, "Murder Must Advertise" is a great interactive group monitored by Jeffrey Marks. As the name implies, it caters to mystery and suspense writers. (Go to Yahoo Groups. Then type "Murder Must Advertise" in the search window.) Excellent groups also exist in other genres, but you need to search online for them.
- What do you envision for your cover? Unless you’re an artist with publishing experience, you should get names of designers from group members or online. Cover design pros should have a web page with multiple examples of their work. Many excellent designers charge very reasonable prices; check them out. Ask for references. If they don’t want to share this information, they might not be right for you.
- Interior design requires different skills. You can hire a professional to do it or get a good layout program, study books with eye-catching interiors, and learn to do it yourself. One possibility is Adobe InDesign, a great program that can be “rented” on an annual basis from Adobe and charged monthly to your debit or credit card. Because book layout can be pricey, the Adobe Creative Cloud is a good alternative.
- Look online for others. You also need to check the requirements of your printer to be sure your program meets them.
- Use beta readers. Request a general overview as well as specifics about dialogue, character and story development, flow, etc. Also, you might exchange manuscripts with fellow writers and critique one another’s works.
- Compare self-publishing with services offered by local or regional publishers. What’s the cost difference? Do you need to register your publishing company with your secretary of state? Who will do your printing? Ask for samples of books they’ve printed. Do they offer POD? Get prices. Be sure you aren’t required to place an expensive minimum book order.
- Create a sharp, inviting website. Sign up for Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest—whatever is getting the most traffic. Support writers and others whose offerings interest you. They may support you in return.
- Add up the costs of the professionals. If the total shocks you, consider your options. Can you barter with one or more providers? Offer six months of housecleaning to your editor? Care for the yard of your cover artist? Then take on whatever elements you can do yourself—and learn to do them well.
Do you see a learning curve here? Embrace it, follow it, and give it your all.
How do you afford needed professional services on a limited budget?
Linda Lane and her editing team help writers to improve their skills. Writing should be fun, but it should also be good. Visit her at www.denvereditor.com.