Imagine this scenario: you’ve poured your heart and soul into crafting your book, and you’ve chosen the scary-yet-exhilarating path of self-publishing. You can already envision your manuscript being transformed into a masterpiece, ready to captivate readers. You excitedly request quotes to make this happen, only to find that the costs involved seem beyond your budget. Many sighs and a deflated feeling follow. You start considering plotting a bank heist or selling valuables to aid in bringing your literary vision to life.
If this sounds all too familiar, fear not dear indie author. There are ways to finance your self-publishing venture that don’t involve a life of crime or reliance on a lottery win. Keep on reading for some tactics and creative ideas on how to fund your self-publishing journey. Buckle up and grab your pens, it’s going to be an exciting one!
Why self-publishing is not free…and why it’s not a bad thing
With self-publishing, you’re not just an author, but also the captain in charge of steering the ship safely into harbour. Yes, it’s true that self-publishing means shouldering all the production costs involved in transforming your manuscript into a polished gem, but don’t let the initial shock of the unexpected publishing costs deter you. The perks of self-publishing make every dime you invest worth it: higher royalties and control and ownership over your content being only some of them. What’s more, you get to assemble your ideal crew, hand-picking the professionals tasked with bringing your book to life. The best part? You remain firmly at the helm throughout the entire experience.
Sure, enlisting a team of experts to transform your words into a market-ready masterpiece comes with a price tag, much like any other professional service you need help with. My grandmother always says “goedkoop koop is duur koop” (which loosely translates to “a cheap buy is an expensive buy”), and these words have never rung more true for me than last summer when my new sandals – that I purchased for a bargain and were so excited about – unexpectable broke just as my workday started. And by “broke”, I mean completely fell apart beyond all repair, forcing me to either drive home for a different pair of shoes or spend the day at the office barefoot (don’t worry, I didn’t subject my coworkers to my toes all day).
Think of these initial book expenses as an investment in your dream, an acknowledgment of your team’s invaluable expertise, guidance, and time. The result should always be a top-notch book that demands the attention of your readers.
The typical publishing costs to budget for
- Cover design: Just as outfitting yourself in quality clothing that will last can feel costly but so worth it in the long term, so is getting a quality outfit for your book that will leave a lasting impression.
- Editing: This is one of the areas where it is most obvious when an author has skimped on it. A professional editor will guide you through evaluating your manuscript, followed by dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s (sometimes literally) to ensure that your message reaches your readers in the clearest way possible.
- Layout/typesetting: When opening up a book, it is so easy to tell at a glance when it has not been professionally typeset or when the layout is not up to scratch. Typesetting is truly an art that’s worth budgeting for.
- eBook conversion: eBook conversion is the process of changing an document, such as a Word or PDF file, into a format that can be read on an eBook reading device such as an Amazon Kindle or even your cell phone. This step requires specific technical skills to ensure it’s done right the first time.
- Publishing on Amazon KDP/other platforms: Just as bookstores have different shelves for different genres of books, Amazon and other online platforms have different categories that serve the same purpose. The categories are further informed by keywords: those search terms a potential reader might type in the search bar when looking for a specific title or a book covering a certain topic. Ensuring that your book is listed with curated keywords and in the correct categories gives it a much better chance of being discovered by new readers.
11 Ideas for funding your self-publishing journey
1. Find publishing sponsors
Involve your network and get businesses, friends, family or followers to sponsor the costs of publishing. Many self-published authors have done this successfully and have even offered a shoutout, a dedication or the chance to name a character in their novel as an incentive. Or, for the entrepreneurial among you, consider publishing through your company: you may be able to put it through the books as a marketing expense, depending on the type of book you are looking to publish and the nature of your business.
2. Selling advertising space
Sell advertising space within your book’s pages. Your book designer can help you to easily and organically incorporate these adverts into your book so that it enhances the reader’s experience instead or detracting from it.
3. Involve local businesses
Should your book’s content relate to the work a particular business does, meet up and discuss them submitting a sponsored chapter.
4. Apply for an author grant
Organizations such as ANFASA., or even our National Library, give yearly cash injections to deserving local authors to help them along on their publishing journeys. The National Arts Council also offers grants for certain publishing projects within South Africa. These applications might take some time and effort but are certainly worth it.
5. Enter a writing competition
Keep an eye out for any South African writing competitions and enter them. Plan accordingly, it’s never too early to start prepping your applications.
6. Make use of crowdfunding platforms
Online crowdfunding platforms are becoming more popular in the self-publishing space to source the funds from kindly donors. This includes websites such as backabuddy.co.za, thundafund.com or kickstarter.com. These sites are not just for weird and wonderful inventions that only cater to niche interests; there are many inspiring success stories of indie authors who have funded their publishing journeys this way.
7. Fill up your publishing piggy bank
Setting aside monthly contributions into a “publishing fund” that’s only accessed once your book is ready to be published. Set up this fund when you first start writing your manuscript and you might be surprised at how much you have amassed by time it is finished. Get some advice from your bank or another money-savvy person you trust on what your options are and make an informed decision based on what is best for this purpose.
8. The power of pre-orders
Pre-sales or pre-orders of your book are a great way to generate some buzz around your book while simultaneously getting advance funds in to get it published. This is often used as an effective marketing tool and can be a very heartening part of the process when you start generating advance sales. Many online platforms offer this capability and there are many guides online on the exact steps that need to be followed, like this one.
9. Play host for a night
Host a fundraising event to help your marketing efforts gain some traction. This is another great opportunity to get local businesses involved, whether it be getting access to a venue, them providing refreshments for the event or sponsoring prizes for a raffle or giveaway. Bonus points if you can theme the event around your book and get some dazzling pictures to share on social media for an additional marketing boost.
10. Align with a non-profit
If your book has a hook that could benefit a nonprofit association, don’t hesitate to reach out and propose a partnership. For instance, if your book revolves around mental health, a prominent nonprofit focused on mental health awareness might be keen to support your work and help spread the word. Surprisingly, many larger nonprofits often have extra resources earmarked for marketing and raising awareness for their cause.
11. Make some moola with freelance writing
You already have the writing skills, whynot start making some more money quicker by freelance writing? A great side-effect of having your name featured in magazines, newspapers or blogs is reaching more people in a weekend than your brand-new book could in a year. It could be a great launchpad for your credibility and recognition as a writer. With each published piece, you’ll be climbing the rungs and, by the time you’re ready to unveil your book, you won’t be starting from scratch; you’ll already have a loyal readership in your corner.
To make the most of this momentum, it’s essential to carve out your digital footprint. Consider creating an author website or blog to serve as a stage to proudly showcase your writing your achievements and connect readers to your published works. Being widely featured online also helps you rank higher in search engine results. The more articles you scatter across the web and onto your website, the easier it becomes for eager readers to find your writing. It’s like leaving breadcrumbs to lead them straight to your book and then the checkout page.
Online platforms to find freelance writing work:
- Fiverr and Upwork are likely the most well-known and widely used freelance platforms
- Funds For Writers
- Freelance Writing
- Worldwide Freelance
No matter which of the above you choose to make use of, having engaging marketing material can only help in getting potential donors or contributors excited about your book and willing to help financially in getting it published. I strongly recommend creating an advanced information (AI) sales sheet with your book’s cover and all the bibliographic information on it, or even an engaging book trailer that showcases your book’s key selling points. Canva has many great templates for marketing material that can be adapted to showcase your book, whether you want printed material or audio-visual content.
Generating funds to self-publish your book doesn’t have to be an experience filled with dread and worry – leave that for the dentist’s office or our Home Affairs. It can be an exciting and fulfilling journey that offers you the opportunity to use your creative skills in a different way and get more actively involved in marketing your book and the business side of being an author – all great areas for growth. Have fun with it and be sure to share these ideas if you found them helpful.
PS. If you were considering taking a loan or borrowing to fund your book I recommend reading my thoughts here.
- For those of you who manage to secure radio and/or TV appearances to promote your book, check out this insightful article on media training for authors.
- Check our this article from Writer’s Digest on how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign.
- This article from Medium has some great ideas on how to market your book on a budget (you do need to sign up with an email address to access the article, but I’ll leave that decision up to you).
A big thanks to Sunè Raspel for the word-magic 🙏