We live in a time where almost anyone with a computer can self-publish their own novel. No longer are authors at the whims and mercies of traditional publishing companies! What an age to live in! But this article isn’t about whether traditional or self-publishing is best for you, or even the pros and cons of each method. In this article, I’m going to tell you how you can self-publish your own novel for less than $5. Or better yet, for free!
How do I upload my book?
Putting your novel aside, first of all, you’ll need an account with Amazon, which you can get at Kindle Direct Publishing. You’ll need to enter your personal information, such as address, banking, and tax. If you live outside the US in a country that has a tax agreement with them, this is very simple. Just provide the information they ask for and you’re done! Long ago you needed to call the tax department in the US and get a special number to allow you to operate as a merchant there, but that’s no longer the case. So long as you have a tax number in your own country, that’s all you need.
Now you can upload books! When the time comes, click “Create ebook” and follow the very simple instructions. Done.
How do I create my book?
All you need is a document in mobi format. There are several ways to do this, but I’ve found the easiest and most reliable way is to create a mobi file through Scrivener. The full program costs $45, but you can download a free trial for 30 days of use. That’s 30 days of use; if you only use it once a week, it’ll last for 30 weeks. If you use it twice a week, it’ll last for 15 weeks, and so on. So, if you do all your writing in another word document, when it comes time to compile you can simply add it to Scrivener and do it there.
There are hundreds of tutorials on the internet for how to get the most out of Scrivener; I’m not going to get into that here. At its most basic, you can go into File – Compile, select the settings you want and it’ll do all the work for you! Now you have a mobi file you can upload to KDP!
What about a cover?
Your book cover is important. Regardless of what people may say, people will judge a book by its cover. This is where you need to decide for yourself how much you want to spend on a cover, if you’re going to spend at all. If you want a good artist to create something unique for you, that can cost up to several hundreds of dollars. If you don’t want to pay that much, you can use a service such as Fiverr to browse for ebook cover designers and pick someone you like from there.
Keep in mind: you get what you pay for. Yes, you can get a cover for $5. Will it be amazing and groundbreaking? Probably not. But it doesn’t mean you’ll get total crap, either. I got my cover for Kowabana from Fiverr, and I’m more than happy with it!
If you’re not concerned with trying to have a best seller that stands out from the crowd, or you’re quite handy with graphics, there’s always the option to make your own cover. Again, I wouldn’t recommend this unless you really know what you’re doing, but the option is always there. It’s possible to do everything for free, but you must keep in mind your goals for the book and have realistic expectations for it. You can use free photoshop programs such as GIMP to help you out.
What about editing?
We’ve all read novels that are full of typos and questionable grammar. With self-publishing, it happens more and more often. Again, I can’t state this enough, if you’re trying to make a living off self-publishing, you should have your work edited by a professional. Even if you’re not trying to make a living off it, professional editing will take your great book and make it absolutely amazing.
But what if I don’t have a spare $500 to pay a professional to fix my mistakes? At the very least, you need another set of eyes to look at your work. A friend, a relative, a partner, a sibling. I recommend beta readers regardless, but they can and often will spot all the small mistakes you yourself will miss. If you’ve spent several months looking at the same words over and over again, they tend to blur together. Fresh eyes will spot the mistakes yours won’t.
There are also several writing aids online that you can use to find the most glaring mistakes. Sites like ProWritingAid, Grammarly and Hemingway Editor are all useful in their own way. Bear in mind; they’re only computers. They don’t understand human nuances and are far from perfect. These can never replace a professional editor. But if you can’t afford that, these are better than nothing. Test them out and use your own judgement. The more eyes you get looking over your work, the better.
How do I market?
Marketing is another area you should be spending money on if you want returns. Why is Coca-Cola one of the most well-known brands worldwide? Because of intensive, non-stop marketing. You cannot sell a product unless people know that product exists. But what if you don’t have any money for a marketing budget? Well, first of all, you should be prepared to get what you pay for. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost!
Social media. This will be your biggest marketing platform.
- Create a Facebook page and invite all your friends. Find ways to get them to like and share your posts. Be creative. Find ways to keep people coming back.
- Create a Twitter account. Hashtag your tweets so people can find your work. Follow people and engage with them. Don’t just promote your book. Make friends. Give advice, listen to advice, have fun. If your Twitter is nothing but promotions for your book, people will quickly abandon it.
- Create an Instagram account. Again, use hashtags. Post pictures of your pets, everyone loves animals! Post pictures from your daily life. Everyone loves to snoop into what other people’s lives are like. Engage with people and create connections.
- Create a website. You can create free blogs at WordPress to keep people up-to-date on your work and build an audience.
- Create a mailing list. Make an account at somewhere like MailChimp and gather your audience. The best way to address someone is straight to their email. Give people a reason to join; offer them something in return for giving you their email address. A free story, a sneak peek at something, exclusive stories each week/month/etc.
- Participate in websites such as reddit. Find relevant subreddits with the same topic as your book and post there, regularly. Don’t just post a link to your book and leave; trust me, no-one’s going to click it, and most subreddits have rules against doing that anyway. Participate in discussions, contribute, and when the opportunity is given to promote your works, promote it then. People are far more likely to check it out if they already know you and have seen you around.
All of these accounts are free to create. You just need to put in the effort to make them work.
And that’s it! It’s possible to create and promote your very own novel for next to nothing. This isn’t saying that it’ll be successful, or even good. The great majority of self-published books on Amazon never sell more than 100 copies over the course of their lifespan. You need to spend money to make money, but that doesn’t mean you can’t publish at all, especially if you’re just doing something for yourself, or for your family and friends!