• Darryl Keck

Self-Publish Affordably!

If you've written a novel and are not quite sure how to get it from Word to the next level, don't worry. It is possible to produce a book somewhat inexpensively. What I'm talking about here is regarding a typical novel, not a coffee-table book full of images. Although some compositors or design houses want you to believe it will cost thousands of dollars, a more-significant investment will not always ensure a larger payout.

With it being easier to release a self-published book, this means there are so many other titles competing for the attention of the reader. With Kindle Unlimited, the payout divided between the authors that have signed up is a lure that makes everything feel like enrichment is just around the corner. Naturally, the lion's share will probably be going out to the established writers that get positioning with lots of titles available. Unless you have the type of book that will connect with a broad audience, you may not see quite the return you expected. Therefore, spend what you can afford on the production.

No writer wants their book to get lost in the shuffle. Without a catchy cover, a decent title, and an interesting subject matter, finding an audience is difficult. I've heard that a decision to read a book is made in less than 10 seconds of seeing the cover. I find this to be an unfortunate figure, but I'm sure I've been guilty of it myself. I tend to avoid any romance book with a muscular, shirtless bad boy on the cover. That decision is made in less than one second, so I'm not helping that statistic. I'm not knocking those titles, but those covers only connect with a specific audience.

The fantasy covers also look almost identical. The models are always similar, and many books seem to follow trends rather than aiming for originality. But being original on a cover doesn't always pay. When you look at the ranking and the number of positive reviews, those books are definitely being read.

So, how can you create a fiction title for under $200? It is quite possible depending on your own talent to ability to multi-task. Of course, this does not include the cost of the computer, Microsoft Word, or camera equipment. A cover is very complicated if you want it to compete with the books you'd find at Target.


Naturally, a professional editor is smart to have in the production budget, but for your first couple of titles, it may not be feasible. Therefore, a great start of the editing process is to get away from your novel for a bit after your first or second draft. Once you have some distance, it becomes easier to decide what material should stay and what should go. Some books throw everything but the kitchen sink into the story. Learn where to cut. If part of the story is not keeping your interest, maybe it doesn't belong there.

At one point, I removed an entire character from In Dark Places because she was slowing down the story and almost felt like she didn't belong. I treated her character as a writing exercise. This reduced the chapter by eight pages. Being so close to the work, editing is often a difficult thing to do. A professional editor will tell you to cut certain parts that slow down a story, so it's best to figure out where to cut when necessary. To learn a lot about proper editing, read Emily Giffin. She has a very natural way of condensing parts of her story where she doesn't need to extend all the dialogue. I long to have that same rhythm. The more you read, the more you'll start learning this technique.

For an editing program, I highly suggest subscribing to Grammarly. This subscription is $29 a month or three months for $59. A yearly subscription also exists, but this example is about finishing a single title. You may think using Microsoft Word will catch everything with the built-in grammar checker. Even with the same options selected in the preferences, Grammarly goes much further by offering suggestions and finding repetition. You'll be surprised by the errors the program will locate.


If you want to create a print book in addition to a Kindle title, the internal pages can be created using a layout program like InDesign or QuarkXPress. Depending on the computer and operating system, you may be able to get an older version of these programs on eBay and save money. You don't necessarily need the latest version to complete your task. If your operating system is up-to-date, Adobe has monthly fees to subscribe to their software. I would recommend getting Photoshop and InDesign. These two programs allow you to do the internal pages and the cover at a fraction of the cost. I do not suggest doing the layout in Word because the finished product often looks amateurish. Word is great to use when getting your Kindle pages ready. I will discuss doing Kindle cheaply in a future blog.

Many resources are available to learn a layout program. YouTube has a multitude of videos related to these programs. The upside is the videos do not cost you anything to watch other than sitting through a short advertisement at the beginning. The problem is having so many titles to dig through in order to find what you are requiring. For an in-depth class on using the software, can instruct you to use these programs from the ground up effectively. You may not need to watch everything to learn enough to create the book. It's worth at least a one-month investment to gain this knowledge.

Lacking Time or Ambition

If you primarily want to concentrate on writing, or you may not have the ambition to accomplish these tasks, many businesses are equipped to create the layout and the cover. Some of the prepress companies are more expensive than others, but some can give you a product with all the bells and whistles or just a basic look. It all depends on what type of finished product you are aiming to receive for the amount of investment.

From being part of the textbook publishing industry for the past 25 years, book production has become similar to a reflex. Even with this knowledge, I do understand that it can be daunting if you've never tried to do this work. I've completed the production on my books as well as some titles for other authors. If you would like a quote on how to bring your ideas to life, write to me at I can come up with a solution that will fit your budget or help you reach this on your own.

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