7 tips for self-publishing a beautiful book on a shoestring budget

Timothy Pike

by Timothy Pike

Releasing a book that looks and feels like it was traditionally published is of utmost importance if you want to attract as many readers as possible—yet sometimes you may feel forced to choose between saving money and releasing a quality product.

What if I told you it’s possible do both?

Here are my top seven tips for creating a gorgeous book while saving tons of hard-earned dough:

1. You can design a book cover for free. Your cover is what readers see first, and they will judge your entire book on it. A good graphic designer can affordably create a fantastic cover for you, but what if you don’t have the cash? Fortunately, Amazon offers a tool called Cover Creator that you can use when you publish through their KDP/CreateSpace platform. You can upload your own image or use the ones they provide, then choose between several placement options for displaying your title on the front and your author photo and bio on the back. Tinkering around with this tool can save you loads of dinero, and if you have an eye for design, you could end up with a book cover that really turns heads.

2. Your readers can help you cover costs. If you’re an author who’s been active on ChapterBuzz lately, you’ve probably been earning ChapterBucks. For example, you could receive ChapterBucks from a reader who enjoys your chapter, or from a fellow writer who appreciated your feedback. These are just a couple of ways you can start earning ChapterBucks simply by getting involved and staying active in our community every day.

The ChapterBucks you earn can be redeemed for Publishing Rewards—services that range from professional book cover design to our all-inclusive Deluxe Publishing Package.

3. Microsoft Word is your friend for interior layout. The inside of your book is arguably just as important as the outside. If your pages scream “homemade,” your readers will run—probably also screaming—for the hills. A graphic designer will use specialized layout software (and it looks amazing, by the way), but if you’re on a budget, Microsoft Word is your best bet. And you can make your interior much more attractive just by keeping these three aspects in mind: font choice, headers, and styles.

When it comes to choosing a font, try to avoid Times New Roman. It’s fine for a business letter, but that’s about it. It’s overused, and doesn’t look as elegant as other fonts. Garamond, Palatino, and Minion are beautiful fonts that are widely available and will give your pages a distinguished, literary look. Sans serif fonts (letters that don’t have “tails” or “feet”) can look amateurish—and are also harder to read.

Next, headers (and footers) allow the same small bits of text to appear at the top and bottom of every page. For example, you could create a header with your name aligned to the left on even pages and your book title aligned to the right on odd pages. Your footer could display a page number at the bottom of every page. Note that as a general rule, headers should not displayed on pages that begin a new chapter.

Styles, in Microsoft Word, provide consistency and give you flexibility for making changes. For example, you can create a style that tells Word to display chapter titles in a certain font, a certain size, and centered on the page. If you apply this style to every chapter title, they will all be displayed the same way. If later on you decide you want the titles to be slightly larger, simply change the style and all of your chapter titles will reflect the change instantly. Spending fifteen minutes to learn about styles can save hours later on.

Amazon has a video tutorial series on formatting your book’s interior with Microsoft Word.

Sound like too much work? Our all-inclusive Deluxe Publishing Package comes with your book’s interior professionally laid out from front to back, making it look like it came straight out of a New York publishing house.

4. You can get an ISBN and barcode for free. To sell your book online or in a bookstore, you’ll need an ISBN and a barcode. An ISBN, which stands for International Standard Book Number, is a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies your book, and it’s used both for tracking sales and helping readers find your book. The barcode, as you may have guessed, allows your book to be scanned at a checkout register. Many authors purchase their own ISBNs because they want to use their imprints. An imprint is a trade name you make up—I might choose “Books & Buzz Press,” for example—that makes you look more professional.

Amazon will issue an ISBN and barcode for free, but the tradeoff is that the publisher will be listed as “Independently published” instead of your own imprint name. This is fine if your sales are online, but brick-and-mortar booksellers would be hesitant to make a large purchase and stock your book in their stores.

Our Deluxe Publishing Package comes with your own ISBNs for both your paperback and Kindle book, plus a barcode for your paperback.

5. Reach more customers by converting your book to Kindle for free. Amazon has a tool called Kindle Create that allows you to convert your print book into e-book format for the Kindle. It’s a program you download onto your computer, and it’s free. Making your book available as an e-book for Kindle helps you reach all those readers who prefer the convenience of e-readers and don’t want to lug around physical books.

Our Deluxe Publishing Package includes conversion to Kindle format by a professional graphic designer.

6. Reader feedback can help reduce editing costs. One of the greatest benefits of being a ChapterBuzz author is the feedback you can get on your work. Since most freelance editors will assess your manuscript before they agree to take it on, you want it to be as polished as possible before you submit it. Some editors might charge more if your manuscript isn’t up to a certain quality standard, and on the flip side, other editors might even give you a break on the total cost of the project if it looks like your manuscript presents a smaller challenge. It all boils down to time; the longer it takes to edit your novel, the more it will cost.

Check out my guide, How Feedback Can Help You Write the Perfect Novel, to learn how powerful input from your readers can be.

7. A membership to ChapterBuzz can help you reach your goals faster. I mentioned how valuable ChapterBucks are, and how they can drastically reduce—if not eliminate—the costs of publishing your book. In addition to getting involved and earning ChapterBucks as you write, read, and give feedback, you can also put your earnings on autopilot when you become a premium member of ChapterBuzz.

In addition to all the other benefits of an upgraded membership, we’ll deposit ChapterBucks in your account at the beginning of every month. This allows you to focus on writing and fine tuning your novel, while every month you automatically get closer and closer to earning your first Publishing Reward—and starting the career of your dreams as a professional author.

Timothy Pike is the founder of ChapterBuzz and editor-in-chief of Books & Buzz Magazine, and specializes in helping authors publish beautiful books on Amazon.

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