I self-published my first book, The Long Shadow on the Stage, over 6 months ago and I’m currently editing the second book in my psychological thriller series. Prior to publishing my first book, I had no idea what I needed to spend money on. I overspent on certain things that I now regret, so I want to help my fellow indie authors from making the same mistakes. I’ve developed a much better grasp of which aspects of the self-publishing process should not be skimped on and which things can be skipped. This blog post will provide a few useful tips for the things you NEED to spend money on when self-publishing.
*Disclaimer: none of this applies if you’re writing and publishing as a hobby and don’t care about making money from it.
1) The Book Cover.
The book cover is without a doubt the most important thing to spend money on when self-publishing. First of all, your book cover is (usually) the first thing the reader will see/notice about your book. Therefore, the cover needs to immediately grab the reader’s attention. It’s important to hire a professional book cover designer because book covers need to be formatted a certain way to be properly uploaded to Amazon KDP, IngramSpark, or whichever POD company you choose. Each POD company has its own specific requirements, so the cover designer needs to understand how to create the cover so that it will upload correctly.
You don’t want to hire someone to design a book cover who’s simply “really good with Photoshop,” but has no clue about what typical book covers look like in your genre, doesn’t understand the specifications and requirements for book covers, and can’t create a book cover that will make the reader want to buy your book. You don’t want to have a book cover that looks unprofessional or cheaply made.
Hiring an editor for your self-published book is incredibly important because traditionally published authors’ books go through multiple rounds of editing before they’re published. If you’re an indie author trying to make a profit from your books, then hiring an editor to give suggestions and feedback about aspects of the book like character development, plot, style, voice, word choice, and so much more, is essential. The book cover is one of the things that make the reader initially interested in your book, but fantastic editing can help make a good story even better so the reader won’t be distracted by plot holes, inconsistencies, or typos.
If you absolutely cannot afford to hire an editor, find beta readers (avid readers for your genre) to provide feedback for multiple drafts of your manuscript. Then, at a minimum, use free grammar or editing software like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor to catch any blatantly obvious mistakes.
ISBNs are necessary if you plan on publishing your books wide (i.e., on more than one platform) and if you want to sell your books in bookstores and stock them in libraries. If you live in the US, Bowker sells ISBNs for $295 for 10. If you plan on publishing more than one book, this is a great deal. If you buy 1 ISBN at a time, they cost $125. ISBNs never expire, so you can use them years later if you want. It is also important to note that a different ISBN is required for each format of your book, so a book published as a hardcover, paperback, and eBook would need 3 ISBNs.
4) Copyright Registration.
Some indie authors may not want to pay the $45 to electronically file copyright for their book. Technically, as soon as you write something, copyright protection is automatically applied, even if it is only the first draft of an unpublished work. However, registering for copyright for your book is essential if you have to deal with copyright infringement in the future. Registering for copyright also makes your book searchable in public records.
There are other aspects of self-publishing that you can spend money on if you value your time over money and have the additional money to spend. These include things like formatting and marketing/promotion, but if you have the motivation and willingness to acquire new skills, you can learn how to do those things yourself for free.
In my opinion, spending money on the aforementioned four items when self-publishing your books is essential to creating quality books that readers will want to buy. In turn, it will result in helping you build a profitable business as an indie author. Comment below if you have other things you would add to the list!