How to Self-Publish a Book On a Shoestring Budget

Let’s say you want to know how to self-publish a a course in miracles, and you want to do it in the least expensive and best way possible. Is this contradictory? In fact, on my web site at Write and Publish Your Book, the two questions I’m asked the most are how to self-publish a book and how to do it on a shoestring budget. They also, coincidentally, want to know the BEST way to do this.

But for now, let’s focus on this question of the best and cheapest way to publish a book. In fact, these are two entirely separate questions. The first question is, “What is the best way to publish my book?” Then, the second question should be, “What is the cheapest way to publish my book?” See, most people who ask me this question are really just new to the business. It’s a perfectly legitimate question, especially if you’ve slaved over writing your book for two or three months (again, the timeline for writing a quality book is the subject of another essay). So let’s take these two questions apart.

Write an outstanding, must-read book that is unique, provocative, controversial, a literary masterpiece, or is endorsed by someone like Oprah. No, really. That’s the best way to publish a book. Take for example Joseph Finder, author of the best selling corporate espionage book, Paranoia. He’d had moderate success with his previous well-written CIA suspense novels, but didn’t hit it big until he inadvertently created an entirely new genre with Paranoia. In his words, “All I was doing was trying something new – a thriller with a fresh setting, a fresh cast of characters.”

Or, how about Nora Raleigh Baskin, popular author of middle-grade novels such as In the Company of Crazies (HarperCollins). She’d had a knee-high stack of rejection letters until she wrote the book she’d always wanted to write – not because she wanted to be published, but because she wanted to write this particular book. That one book, which she wrote from her heart, got her on the road to a successful writing career.

Many people have a great idea for a book, and many of these books are from their life experiences. They have no experience as a writer, but the strange thing is that they almost always ask first about publishing the book before it’s even written. Even if they do ask how to self-publish a book, they’re still thinking in terms of publishing their best seller before they’ve even determined if there is a market for the book!

For example, remember the story about the guy who had to saw his own arm off with a dull knife in order to save his life? Aron Ralston didn’t just come up with the idea to write his book Between a Rock and a Hard Place. His story was popularized well before the book was ever written. Contrast that with the woman who wants to write about her experiences with domestic violence. Unfortunately, this is not an unusual story. As much as I’d like to see an end to this horrible sickness, the story won’t necessarily sell books.

And selling books is what it comes down to. Will your book sell? That’s the ultimate question you need to answer if you want your book published. The question of the salability of your book applies whether you’re self-publishing or attempting to sell your book to a publisher. Either way, it’s got to sell or it just won’t go anywhere. There’s no easy answer to this question, and the answer you get will depend on who you ask. I think a lot of it depends on you, the genre of your book, your experience as a writer and in sales, and your intentions for the book.

Self-publishing is ideal for a business person who wants to use the book as part of his or her overall business strategy. It’s a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your field (assuming the book is well-written and informative). The book can be “repurposed” into E-books, teleclasses (telephone conference-call classes), Webinars (seminars held on the phone and Internet), and eventually advanced courses sold for thousands of dollars. Thus, the book itself is printed at a loss and is generally given away to seminar attendees.

Self-publishing is also an option for novelists who really believe in their books, but because they’re new can’t find a publisher for the book. The key here is that you’ve at least tried to sell your book to a traditional publisher.

Self-publishing with an aim toward eventual publishing with a major publishing house will require a tremendous amount of energy and perseverance to market and sell your book. If you can show that the book sells, you’ll find a publisher. Just putting it on Amazon won’t do a thing. You absolutely must work at marketing your book.

There are many self-publishing options, ranging from “free” (Lulu) to several thousand dollars. Perhaps the worst option is to go with what’s called “Vanity” press. These are companies who will publish your book for two to ten thousand dollars, print 2500 or more copies, and do a minimal amount of marketing. You’re stuck with a garage full of books and an empty wallet. Beware those companies who want to print your book in bulk.

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