What if I Have a $0 Book Budget? And Other Questions Authors Ask

Over the weekend, I asked my loyal readers if they had any questions about editing, publishing, or writing. These are some great questions, and I hope my answers will set you all on the path toward bookish success.


Craig asks,

What do you do when you have a $0 budget?

This is a tough one, because I believe quality work comes with a price tag, so I won’t advise you to go the cheap route. You can always try a Go Fund Me or Kickstarter campaign. If that’s not your cup of tea, ask your editor or designer if they allow payment plans. Many of them do. 

Another option is to pull a Dave Ramsey and save, save, save. Buy and resell furniture. Sell items on eBay. Have a garage sale. You’d be surprised how quickly you can save up for your book budget.

If none of those appeals to you, then hold off until you’re ready. Yikes! Not a fun answer, huh? As an author, it is your duty to deliver your best work. If you can’t afford a good designer and a good editor, you wouldn’t be offering your best work. Like I said, I won't advise you to go the cheap route because that would be damaging to your book (and your credibility). 

If you aren’t financially capable of doing that just yet, that's okay! Just wait until you are. You will be so glad you did.

Melanie asks,

I am nearing the completion of a first draft. When it comes to editing (prior to submitting to a professional editor), I've had some people tell me to put the manuscript aside for a few weeks before starting edits. Others told me to jump right in while everything is still fresh. Any advice on which works better?

I wholeheartedly believe that you need to hide your complete manuscript for a few weeks to clear your brain before starting the next draft. When you take a timeout and come back to it, the errors, plot holes, and inconsistencies are clearer.

But while you’re pausing, make good use of your time and work on your marketing plan.

Matt asks,

Can I get ideas on selling more Kindle copies?

I highly suggest reading Make a Killing on Kindle by Michael Alvear. It offers a clear, effective strategy to help indie authors sell their e-books.

He’s done some incredible research and provides specific plans to accomplish the end goal. There are a couple of chapters he could probably cut, but one of my authors followed his book religiously and had outstanding success on Kindle.

One of the best ways to sell your book is to have book ambassadors who sell it for you. I talk about this often because it’s the truth. You know how word of mouth is the best form of advertising? Well, it’s the same with your book. “Oh, I’ve already got people sharing my book all over social media.” But do you have people selling it?

Do you know what sells a book? Fangirling sells a book. If I were to quickly share a post about your book and not say anything about it, how many people would purchase it? Hmm.

But if I go all-out fangirl and say, “You. Guys. Stop what you are doing right now and listen to me. Redefine Rich changed my life. I couldn’t put it down. For the first time, I feel empowered. If you’re serious about finding enrichment in your life, you have got to check out his book on Kindle. I hear it’s only $2.99!” 

Would you be more inclined to check out the book—and buy it? Yes. So let me ask you this: are your readers fangirling all over the Internet yet?

Cathleen asks,

Should people try to get an agent before sending work out to a publisher? How much of their work should be finished before contacting an agent? Is it important that new writers have an agent?

Before sending any manuscript out to a publisher, use Writer’s Market and make a list of the publishers you want to submit to. Once you’ve done that, you’ll know which ones take unsolicited manuscripts (no agent necessary).

During your Writer’s Market research, if you find that you’ll need an agent, then yes, get one.

If you’re a fiction writer, you need a complete manuscript before contacting an agent. Here’s how you can write a query letter. If you’re a nonfiction writer, you can submit a book proposal outlining what you’re going to write.

Is it important for new writers to have agents? Many of the small- and medium-sized publishing houses allow unsolicited manuscripts; therefore, you won’t need an agent. That’s why the first step is so important: choose which publishers you want, and then get an agent if the publishers request one.

Clark asks,

There are numerous methods available in social media for promoting a book: Facebook ads, webinars, tele-seminars, being a guest on podcast shows, guest blogging, speaking engagements, workshops, etc. I was wondering if you had any sense of the best method or if there was any data out there on the best method for promoting a book. If you are self-promoting a book, what venue or media method gives the best results per unit of time/monetary investment?

Many of the options Clark listed are excellent ways to promote a book. The problem is that not all of them work for specific genres or audiences. So here’s what I suggest:

Step 1: Who is your target audience? Find this out before you choose a method.

Step 2: What is your book helping someone to accomplish?

Step 3: Bring those two answers together and pinpoint which social media method they react to the most. Understanding demographics will help you tremendously: How old are your readers? What’s their gender? Location? Occupation? 

As an author who writes about, let’s say, photography, I might do well to reach my target audience on Instagram or be interviewed on a podcast (“Where do you get your inspiration?”), but am I really going to reach my target audience in a webinar? If I’m a speaker, booking speaking engagements and having my books on hand in the back will do wonders for me. But should I really spend all of my time on Instagram like the photography author?

When you find out which method works best for your niche—and as a nonfiction writer, you better have a niche—then get as many speaking engagements as possible, or whatever method you choose.

Quick Tip: I suggest visiting Simply Measured and downloading their free State of Social Marketing Report for 2015.

There’s no way to actually point at one method for every author and say, “That’s it! That works the best.” Each method works better for different authors. 

Do you have a bookish question? Reply to this e-mail, and I will answer it for you!