How to Write a Book You’re Proud Of – Even on a Budget

In December 2016, the Huffington Post published an article titled ‘Self-Publishing: An Insult to the Written Word?‘. The title sounds like click bait, but it wasn’t. The author loathes the idea that you – yes you! – can write a book, publish it, and have it for sale beside one of her traditionally published books. She says:

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers. From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature.

She goes on to explain that every self-published book she’s ever read is trash and is only similar to a traditionally published book in that it has “words on pages inside a cover”.

The article went viral in the publishing communities – with most people being horrified, angry and disgusted at her archaic view. New York Times Bestselling authors who launched their careers by self-publishing shot her down quickly. Realizing she’d clearly made a huge mistake, she posted a sincere and pleading apology on her Facebook page and indicated that she’d asked the Huffington Post to take it down. Instead of removing it altogether, they allowed her to make a significant update to the original piece.

The new toned down piece is more neutral – calling for more controls over what can be published. She still says, “It shouldn’t be something that you can take up as a hobby one afternoon and a month later, key in your credit card number to CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing before sitting back waiting for a stack of books to arrive at your door.

But, is Laurie Gough, the author of the article, wrong about self-publishing?

She was wrong to paint all self-published books with the same brush – and she realizes this now. But, she wasn’t wrong in her assessment of many of the books that are self-published.

I’ve bought a lot of self-published books – even highly rated and well reviewed books – from Amazon. Sometimes I’m stunned at the poor quality. One book, on writing and marketing a book, lacked all the elements of an actual book. It did not have a copyright page, a bio or a table of contents. It was not professionally edited, it looked like it was typed on a basic word processor, and the cover was a stock photo with some text.

I was pretty disappointed with the book even though the content wasn’t too bad.

Today, you can write and publish a book without money, experience or anything to say. You can even get it to Amazon Bestseller Status without having any content in the book! Brent Underwood did it with his fake book, Putting My Foot Down.

You don’t have to spend much money at all to publish a book. There are so many free resources out there. With minimal effort and expense you can be selling your book on Amazon.

Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you should.

Do you want people to type your name into Google or Amazon and find out that you published something barely worthy of recycling?

My name is my most important asset and I want it associated with things I am proud of – especially published works! You probably should too.

How to Write a Book You’re Proud Of – Even on a Budget

First – start with the end in mind.

Why are you writing a book?

The first step to writing a book is to ask yourself why. There are a lot of very good reasons to write, publish, and promote a book, but knowing what your primary goal is before you set your budget is important.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you writing this book primarily to get the status of Best Selling Author?
  • Are you hoping to reach new potential clients?
  • Will you use the book to sell your product or service?
  • Do you have an important message to get out into the world?
  • Is it important that your book generate revenue directly (from book sales)?

You probably want to achieve all of the above, but you need to know what is most important. That will help you prioritize and make decisions.

When you know the answers, your budget choices come down to this question:

Do I spend money, or do I spend time?

Some stages of self-publishing require you to invest both time and money.

Often, however, you can choose to ‘do it yourself’ to save money, or you can hire help to save time. There’s always a price to pay – but when you understand the costs and choices involved you can better plan your budget.

Please note – unless you are publishing a very small book (less than 100 pages) you should be prepared to invest at least $3,000 into your book project to create a high quality product.

In most cases, you can expect to invest at least $5,000.

To create a high quality product, you will have to invest some money in hiring professionals to ensure it’s the best possible product you can produce. When you do that, you’ll find that it’s also far more likely to grow your business, build your brand, and establish your status as an industry expert.

Just remember:

There’s publishing a book on a budget … and there’s doing it for cheap.

How to write a book … the Book Launchers way! We break it up into 5 Phases that take you from Concept to Copies in Readers’ Hands:

1 – Pen to Paper: Writing Your Book

2 – Process

3 – Publish

4 – Platform

5 – Promote

If you want a complete guide to help you estimate the costs and plan your book publishing project on a budget, you can download this workbook:
Click Here to Get Your Workbook
It’s free.

Phase 1, writing your book, will be the focus of the rest of this article. We’ll cover Phase 2 and 3 in our next post. What you choose to spend on Phase 4 and 5 is really subjective. Editing, layout and design are required to create a book you’re proud of.  An author platform, PR, and other promotions are really dependent on your goals, the subject of your book and your resources.

To give your book the best chance of success, you should do some research before you start writing.

Consider:

  • Who will be buying your book? This is two parts – who is your ideal reader, and who is already reading books like the one you’ll write?
  • What books will you be competing with? This requires you to research the categories your book is most likely to fit in, and read some of the books that are tops in those categories. Then, you want to understand how you’re different and what need your book will fill that isn’t being filled right now.
  • How will you market your book? Do you have a strong author platform to promote your book to right now, or will you be relying on other sources? What book is most likely to appeal to the people in your current platform or in the other sources you are connected with?

Starting with a plan for marketing, the final product sets the entire book up for a greater chance of success. Doing this first also ensures that the material you write has a unique angle that will stand out to hungry readers.

With a strong foundation in place, you’re now ready to create a book outline.

If you have never written a book before, you may want to find someone who can help with this step. A writing coach or someone who has experience writing books. Or, perhaps, you’ll want to do some reading about what makes a great book outline. Reading a lot of books in your niche will also help you get familiar with outlines and formats. Then, you set aside the time to write a bit every day until you get your first draft complete.

BUT …

What if you don’t like to write?

Or, what if you’re not a good writer?

Or, you just can’t find the time?

How to Write a Book without Writing:

There are a lot of good reasons to write your book yourself.

Writing your book ensures that it’s your voice coming through the pages. Readers (future potential clients, business partners, and contacts) get to know you, trust you, and want to work with you when it’s your voice. And it helps you solidify your concepts, collect important business stories, and improve how you explain what you do. This is all useful in business. It also makes you a more interesting guest for media, podcasts and conferences.

However, you don’t have to write your book to become a published author. You can dictate your book and then work closely with editors to refine the work, or you can hire someone to write your book for you (a ghostwriter).

How to Dictate Your Book:

Once you have an outline of what will be in your book, it should be fairly easy for you to then record yourself talking about each chapter.

Imagine you’re explaining each section to your friend or a client. Record your voice using Voice Note on your iPhone, Garage Band on your Mac or Sound Recorder on a PC (or any other way you have to record an MP3 or audio file). You can then send those files to a low cost but high quality transcription service like Rev.com.

Once transcribed, read through it, fill in some gaps, and then hire a content editor. A great content editor will ensure that the material is coherent, complete, and communicates your message in an engaging manner. You’ll spend more on editing this way, but you could save a lot of time and pain if you’re really not into writing.

The cost of transcription will vary depending on the minutes of content created. Editing costs depend on how much work is required to refine the material. But, this is an option many time crunched authors are turning to. It’s often easier to talk for 30 minutes than it is to sit down and focus on writing for the same time.

Hire a Ghostwriter

Alternatively, you may wish to hire a ghostwriter to do all the heavy lifting for you. A great ghostwriter will write your book for you. To do that, they will conduct research, interview experts, and spend a lot of time interviewing you. They need to know you and your material so well they can write as though they are you.

This costs money!

A good ghostwriter is expensive (typically more than $10,000 for a standard sized non-fiction book). You’re not likely to hire a high quality one on Fiverr. You’ll need to get referrals and check references to make sure you’ve got one you’ll be happy with.

And, for many non-fiction authors, it’s a great option to get a book done.

There’s a great article on the process and costs  over at Jane Friedman’s website. There’s also a chapter on it in my book, The New Brand You (yes, that was a shameless plug!).

Writing your book will cost you time and money no matter how you choose to approach it. Writing it yourself will cost a lot more time and much less money, but hiring someone to help you will cost a lot more money and still take some time. It’s your choice.

Here’s some rough estimates of what you can spend, and how long it can take:

 

Item Cost Range Estimated Cost for a 200 Page Book Time to Complete
Research Book Category, Title, & Competition* $200-$800 $300 1 month
Writing the draft manuscript on your own 0 0 3 – 12 months
Writing Coach for outline support* $250-500 $300 1 week
Writing Coach for Accountability and Manuscript Creation* $500 – 3,000 $1,500 3 – 6 months
Transcription Service $1/minute $500 3 days
Content Editor for Transcribed Material* $30 – $60/hr. (can complete roughly 2-3 pages per hour) $3,000 3-6 weeks
Ghostwriter Wide Range Depending on Quality and Scope of Work. $5,000 and up $7,500 3-6 months

 

*Your Book Launchers membership includes some or all of these services (check your membership level to confirm what’s included).

If you’re investing time and money in writing a book, no matter what your budget, make it something you’re proud of. Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Make sure you have the right support to keep you moving forward. Most people need accountability and guidance. Many people start a book and never finish.

It can be a long journey if you do it alone. Plan to bring on some support in the form of an accountability partner, a writing coach or join a mastermind group for support.

If you want a guide to estimate the costs of entire process, grab the Self-Publishing on a Budget Workbook:

Print vs Digital – Do You Need to Publish Your Book in Both?

When I went to publish my first book, I never asked myself the question of print vs digital. I knew that I wanted my book to be published in a physical form.

Without holding my book in my hands, signing copies, and seeing it on book shelves, I would never feel like an author. 

That’s me, though.

Your goal may be to publish at the lowest possible cost or, to make the most money on every copy of your book sold. Because of that, you may be thinking that a digital only version of your book is best. But, is that really the case?

Print vs Digital? Or, do you need both?

The answer is, it depends.

Whether you go print vs digital, or do both, depends on your niche, your goals and your target market. And, to a smaller extent, your budget may play a factor in the decision.

If you write fiction, you may not need a physical book.

If you’re in the romance genre specifically, digital is going to reach a huge portion of the market. For a great break down of the numbers on this check out Author Earnings presentation at Digital Book World 2017.

If you’re a non-fiction author the print vs digital decision is simple.

You should have both print and digital formats for your book. 

Print vs DigitalLooking at three years of sales data (June 2013 – June 2016) for my first book, More than Cashflow, 14% of my retail sales were from the digital format.

If you add in the 1,500 copies of my book sold at the back of event rooms and as part of speaking packages, the percentage of books I sold in digital format was even smaller.

More importantly, a digital only format would have limited my ability to use the book for a lot of marketing. Without a physical copy, I wouldn’t have been able to partner with Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazine to do a big promotional campaign. They wanted physical books to give away to new magazine subscribers. If my book was only in a digital format, real estate clubs across Canada wouldn’t have bought my books for author signings when I came to town.

Now, that’s just a couple of marketing methods that worked really well for me. What about you, and your goals? Maybe you aren’t considering selling your book with those kind of promotions, where does the print vs digital decision land for you. Here’s my thoughts …

Print vs Digital: 5 Reasons To Publish in Both When You’re a Non-Fiction Author:

  1. Costs Aren’t Much Higher When You Look at Print Vs Digital. Most of the costs you’ll incur as a publisher are going to be incurred no matter what.If you’re producing a high quality product, you’re hiring an editor (or maybe a few different editors), a layout designer and someone to create a compelling cover design no matter what version of your book you are doing. (If you’re wondering what each element might cost – download our Book Publishing on a Budget Workbook).

    You’ll spend a little extra to have your book formatted to suit digital as well as print formats but many  layout designers will include it in a design package.

    For my first book I paid an extra $500 to have it laid out for digital. Three years later, for my second book, that formatting was included in the layout charge. When I hired a cover designer one price included digital and print covers, as well as thumbnail and 3-D versions of the cover.

    And, the days of having to pay for a big print run to get copies of your book are gone. CreateSpace and Lightning Source’s Ingram Spark really support the indie author with print on demand solutions. You, and your distribution network, can order books as needed, one at a time.

    For roughly less than $7 USD you can get a copy of your book printed. This blog post breaks down costs for a 202 page paperback. There are no minimum orders and you don’t have to mess around with taking orders or shipping.

    So, really, except for the fact that you’ll incur costs to buy and ship copies to give away for marketing purposes, the costs involved with printing a book minimally more than that of creating a digital copy.

  2. The Sales Happen in Print: 70% of Non-Fiction Books Sold are in Print. Author Earnings studied print and digital sales, and found that non-fiction authors should pay close attention to print. 72% of books sales are happening online, but non-fiction readers are still buying print.
  3. Print Books Have a Long Marketing Life. Very few people will throw a book out (unless you don’t create a high quality book… another reason to produce a book that is comparable to a traditional publishing house). When your client gets your book, it usually sits on their desk or shelf for awhile. Other people will see it. Your client will be reminded of you. It may even get people talking about you. When they are done with the book, they will probably give it away rather than throw it out – so now you get to reach new people your business card or pamphlet never would have reached. A digital book doesn’t get any of this marketing juice.
  4. Your Marketing Opportunities Are Endless. You can use your digital book as a free give away when you speak, or as an opt-in gift online.

    If you’re a speaker, many organizations will pay you to speak and buy a copy of your book for every person in the audience. I had a lot of real estate clubs who would buy a case of my books when I was in town. They would promote my presence at their events to draw people to their event and offer a certain number of signed books as an incentive to get there early. Or, they would sell the books at the back of the room.

    I also used my books to generate revenue at events that I spoke at. If I sold my book for $25 I would make about $15 a book. At a larger event, that allowed me to pocket another $600.

    Digital books can be given away as part of other author’s promotions too. This is a high value give away to the author and potentially great exposure for you, with no out of pocket expenses.

    As a non-fiction author, you’re probably writing the book to share your message, help people solve a problem and make more money for yourself, right? That means the more marketing juice you can squeeze out of your book, the better you’ll do. Because of this, print vs digital isn’t really a question in my mind.

  5. Book Events are Weird without …. BOOKS! Try getting your local library to host a book event for you if you only have digital books. You have nothing to sign! Book stores won’t carry your book on it’s shelf in digital format.

    My two favourite moments as an author were seeing my book on the shelves of Chapters Indigo in Canada, and signing books after speaking at a major event.Plus, for events, an e-book just doesn’t have the same perceived value as a physical book. And, nobody is ever going to carry your e-book around waiting for you to sign it!

Ultimately, given the data and the market, the REAL consideration is:
First, what type of book are you writing? Fiction or Non-Fiction

Second, and most importantly:
What is YOUR GOAL for your book?

But, here’s one last thought to consider. It’s even more difficult to stand out if you JUST do an e-book.

There are over 4 million titles today in the Kindle Store on Amazon. This is from the New York Times in late 2015 … so those numbers are even higher today.

Your single biggest issue when you write and publish a book is:

How can I get my ideal readers to find my book?

How do you stand out?

When you focus on e-book sales you face a lot more competition. And, your competition prices their book anywhere from FREE to $19.99.

So … it is a tough battle ahead if your goal is sales volume and you go e-book only.

Every option has trade offs … but let me ask you this:

Are you REALLY going to miss out holding your book in your hands?

I don’t think I would have felt like a true published author without an actual copy of my physical book in my hands.

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And … if you enjoyed this, here’s something else you might like.

Wondering how to hire an editor. Here’s a video I created to help you: