Yesterday we talked about the costs of editing and the value that professional editing brings to your work. But what about authors who still can’t afford to publish their book? Even a fee of a couple hundred dollars can be out of reach for some. What can those authors do to get their work out there?
What you should not do – and this will sound familiar if you read yesterday’s blog – is publish an unedited book. If you try to take on the job of editor or cover artist without any training or experience in those fields, it will show in your work. Readers will reject your book, even if it’s the most amazing story ever told. Don’t sabotage your work. Instead, try some of these options:
Hire carefully. Spend time interviewing editors and looking over their sample edits to find the person that will bring the most value to your project. You don't want to have to do this twice! Find someone you can work well with, and someone who can help you reduce wasted time and money while still getting your book into publishing shape.
Use beta readers. Your editor should never be the first person to read your work after you write it. In fact, your editor should be the last person to read it before publication. Put your work aside and self-edit. Have your friends and family read it. Get critiques from your writing group. Ask beta readers to give you their thoughts. Take a few months to get the manuscript into the best shape you possibly can, which will mean less work for your editor and thus a lower fee.
Self-edit. Not only do I mean going over the work again to pull out any errors, but consider trimming unnecessary text if your genre can support a shorter length. Most editors charge by the hour, even if your quote is a flat rate. A book that is 100K words takes a lot longer to edit than one that is 60K words. Your rate can be lowered correspondingly. If your story absolutely can’t be shortened, you might also consider releasing it in sections as a serial. That will give you time to manage the cost of editing each section instead of the entire thing.
Consider getting a manuscript evaluation done instead of full developmental editing. Developmental editing can be incredibly useful, and offers suggestions on how to improve the readability and marketability of the book in a number of areas both large and small. A ME is done on a one- or two-page synopsis of the book, and is less detailed. However if you are confident about your craft, a ME can do your double-checking and simply highlight any potential major issues before publication. Because your editor only reads a short synopsis, it’s also a fraction of the cost.
Combine edits. In the past, it was typical for a manuscript to go through several rounds of editing. Developmental, line editing to improve the language, copy editing to clarify, proofreading to catch any errors, and formatting to ready the text for print. While many books still go through this process, and are better for it, it’s also possible to put a good-quality book out with only one or two rounds of editing. Ask your editor what they offer.
Choose an editor who offers payment plans. Sometimes the cost of editing is accessible, just not all at once. Breaking the fee down into smaller payments over a matter of months can make the cost much more manageable.
Crowdsource your book. If you have tried all the other options and still can’t quite afford professional book services, consider crowdfunding. This method of fundraising has become popular in recent years, and it can be a great way to build a fan base as well as get the services your book needs. Donors might be friends and family, but also strangers who love good books. Many will be happy to accept a copy of the finished book as a supporter gift, at no cost to you. Well-known crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo can be used, or consider a crowdfunder specific to book publishing, such as Publaunch.
Don’t let money be the deciding factor about your success as an author! If you have a great book that you want to get into reader’s hands, you can find a way. These ideas should give you a solid starting point. If you have any other tricks for lowering publishing costs, drop me an email and let me know; I’ll try to feature them in a future blog post so other authors can benefit.