Get Your Book Published for Free or Cheap

25 July 2012

If you've read my bio here at Bargainmoose, you may have noticed that, along with being a nerd and having a head the size of a standard home hot water tank, I am also an author. I've written and published one book and I've done it for free. Best part about it? I'm making money off of it.

So, that being said, I thought I'd pass on some basic steps on how to write a book, get it published and be loved by millions. Or at least by the people who buy your book. Assuming it's good. Ok, listen, there are way too many variables here on that love thing so pretend I never said it.

Step 1 - Writing

This is the easy one. Grab your nearest computational device and start writing. Remember, we're self publishing here so you don't have deadlines. If you need to write your entire book in 20 minute chunks on the train ride home after work, do it.

There are some free tools you are going to want to take advantage of while in the writing process. The first is a backup mechanism of some sort. I, personally, suggest Google Drive. It integrates cloud storage and Google Docs. This means you can store a document (like your book) and also open and edit it, all in your browser. I'd, of course, suggest you put as many copies in as many different places (other cloud services, a thumb drive at your mom's, another computer, etc...) as you can manage, just so you are sure you won't lose it.

The second is a good word editing suite. If you don't have Microsoft Word on your system already (Word, not wordpad, big difference) you should look into getting OpenOffice or LibreOffice. I like OpenOffice but I've been using it for 10 years so I'm a bit biased. They are both great so check them out.

Step 2 - Editing

Hey! You wrote a book! Good for you! There's a problem though. You missed a comma. Or you used too many adverbs. Or you started three sentences in a row with the word "or."

This is why you need an editor. You can't edit your own work (well, not entirely and not effectively) so you need someone else. Editors are expensive. So what do we do as internet people? CROWD SOURCE!

Crowd sourcing is the act of "sourcing" something from a "crowd." Right, I'll elaborate. Let's say you don't know how to clean cheese off of your Millennium Falcon tutu and you have 150,000 twitter followers. What do you do? You ask your 150,000 twitter followers what is the best way to clean cheese off of your Millennium Falcon tutu. You've just crowd-sourced.

Crowd sourcing editors is all about the crowd. You want to hit two crowds. The first crowd is people you don't know. You can get these people by asking them to edit your book. You can ask the barrista at Starbucks, you can ask a friend of a friend of a friend you met at a party two years ago. The reason you need someone you don't know is that they will tend to be honest. If you ask them to tell you what sucks, they'll tell you. If you ask your best friend, they might be afraid to hurt your feelings. While they are demolishing your book, ask them to fix any typos, spelling errors or grammatical errors.

If you have a way to talk to a bunch of strangers (Examples would be a bunch of twitter followers, people who read your blog or people on a forum), then you can even open a Google Doc and give out the link for people to edit. Just make sure this is not your primary copy because it will probably get vandalized.

The second crowd you need to source is your friends. These people are there to go through and make sure the people you don't know didn't slip in the word "cankle" into your romance novel 57 times. They will also help in picking up errors and, if you're lucky, they'll tell you what sucks.

After all that is done, go over it again yourself at least once to make sure there is nothing that was missed. You might ask why you don't do the editing yourself? Well, it's because you read your work the way you wrote it. Other people do not. Something that, to you, is very clear, might be very confusing to someone else. It's only clear because you know the intent of the words. The other main reason is that your brain knows what word should come next. You can  (and I have) read over the same typo dozens of times without noticing because you know the word should be "vuvuzela" and your brain reads it like that even though you wrote vucuzella." A quick spell check will show you how many REALLY obvious mistakes you made.

Step 3 - Publishing

This is the fun part. You've written your book, you've edited it and now it is time to publish it. What do you do? Send it to a publishing company? No! What are you, Amish? A caveman? An Amish caveman? An Amish caveman with a vuvuzela!?

So from here you could bring it to a publisher if you wanted to but then you'd likely have to do some travel and you'd be looking at lawyer fees and maybe a literary agent. There is also the fact that, let's face it, you probably won't get published by them. It doesn't matter if your book is awesome, the odds are against you.

So we go to the internet. We're going to self publish. We have two stops along the self publishing line.

First and most important is Amazon. Amazon is where you will make almost all your sales. I make 30 sales for every one sale I make on Kobo, Nook, Sony, Diesel, iBooks and all the others book stores I'm on. So, sign up at KDP and follow their instructions on how to publish your book.

I use a service called Smashwords to publish to all the other platforms. Smashwords isn't the best platform but it does all of the other eBook stores in one shot instead of having to submit a copy to Sony, Kobo, Apple, etc... The guy who runs Smashwords, Mark Coker, has a Smashwords Style Guide (fittingly enough, published as a free eBook on Smashwords) that gives some great tips on putting your book together. Very helpful even if you aren't using Smashwords.

If you happen to want to make a physical book (not very economical of you!) you can check out another Amazon property called CreateSpace. It's a print on demand service that sells your book on Amazon.

Have some money?

Not super cheap? Have a bit of cash laying around? Well, if you have any troubles doing any of these things (mainly editing and publishing, not so much the writing) you can always find people online to edit, format and publish your book for you at pretty decent rates. A good place to start looking for these kind of people would be Freelancer.com.

Any writers here on Bargainmoose? Anyone published a book? Please leave some thoughts or tips in the comments below.

(Image credits: joe.ross, Lollyknit)

21 comments

  • Krista W.
    I loved this! Some really great ideas that I would have never know unless I read this. My sister, mom and I have been doing a cookbook for fun but I might just have to take some of this advice and get it on Amazon!
    • Shawn M.
      A kindle cook book would be awesome. I say go for it. I'll buy a copy. It would be really nice on the kindle app for a tablet or phone. That way you could see the colour pictures and the what not. Make sure you let us at Bargainmoose know so we can all get a copy!
  • moi
    I would go with www.lulu.com Awesome site to self-publish. Started by a Canadian (former Owner of the Hamilton Ti-cats) Seriously. Good stuff!
    • Shawn M.
      LuLu is great too. The only reason I would choose createspace is because of the Amazon tie-ins.
  • @SnyMed
    I enjoyed your article, thanks for writing it! One of the hats I wear is Freelance writer. It seems that writing a book has become easier these days, when you can skip the publication (and rejection) process, and go straight to Amazon. Have you ever thought of a free e-book giveaway to help your book rise in position on Amazon? Book position affects how your book appears in "also boughts". Quite a few authors have done this and have given away 18,000 to 25,000 copies worldwide. Jenna (@SnyMed)
    • Shawn M.
      My pleasure. I like to help. Giveaways are a great way to promote. I usually take part in Smashword's free giveaways when they come up.
  • M.P. J.
    Some great advice here. I pulished my first childrens book "They Shoot Birds, Don't They?" for Kindle last year - it is pretty straightforward to do yourself. But the real challenge is for a self-publisher to be an effective marketer to get noticed amongst hundreds of thousands of titles!
    • Shawn M.
      I agree. My biggest mistake during this process was not marketing my first book properly. I'll not make that mistake again.
  • Ann
    Have you tried Scrivener? It's great for long works like books and novels (though I do like LibreOffice as an office suite).
    • Shawn M.
      I have not but I have heard a lot about it. A lot great tools in there but it is $40 USD and I'm cheap! I suppose that's why I write here...
  • Dar
    Thank you for this article! Since my father passed a few years ago my mind has been working a million miles an hour about his life. This just might be the push I need to put it all down in words and maybe open some eyes up! I have saved this advice!!
    • Shawn M.
      This is the perfect candidate for a book on the Kindle. It' a book that probably wouldn't get picked up by a "traditional" publisher. My aunt (Gayle McGuire-Tremblay) is a published children's author. She tried to get a book published called "The Shoebox Baby" which was a story about my grandmother. My Grandmother was born premature and when they got her home they made her a bed in a shoebox and she slept in the warming shelf above their stove. This was early 1900's in northern New brunswick so leaving her in the hospital in an incubator in the NICU wasn't an option. Anywho, all that to say that my aunt was never able to get it published. A story like that or one about your father cannot be turned down if you publish it yourself. There are no corporate muckymucks to say it wont make any money. If you want to publish a book because you are passionate about the subject and don't care about the money then this is the way to go.
  • Cindy
    I never knew that this was even possible! So many people in school told me that I'd make an amazing author someday. But I've never used Amazon before so I'm wondering how you would self publish with that exactly, post an ad and if someone buys it then you send them a copy of your book? From MicrosoftWord?
    • Shawn M.
      It's all done by you. You get the final product in microsoft word (or a few other formats, fi you want) and then submit it to Amazon. They put it on their website within a day or two. The real challenge is making a good product that will look nice on a kindle. There are guided all over the place on how to do this and people who will do the editing/formatting work for you. kdp.amazon.com is where you sign up to submit the word document.
  • Zoe
    It is important to realize if you do want to publish traditionally, you should not self-publish that book as it will be very difficult/unlikely to get taken on by a traditional publisher. Also, the sale may be taken into account by a lit agent if you try to get one in the future. However, for a niche market like non-fiction it can be the best choice.
    • Shawn M.
      That's a good point. If you want to get your book picked up by a traditional publisher, don't do this. It will not help you at all. That being said, there are Cinderella stories out there of people getting movie deals and traditional publishing contracts from their self published eBook works.
    • Ann
      Amanda Hocking *cough* John Locke *cough, cough*
      • Shawn M.
        Andrew Mayne.
  • Susan C.
    My book has been on Kindle for several months. Most recently I have added it to Barnes & Noble and Kobo ... it seems Kobo is popular in Canada. I'm looking for my first Kobo review for THE RELATIONSHIP SHOPPE: A Novel. It's women's fiction and its 99 cents. http://tinyurl.com/cagrzm8
    • Shawn M.
      Hope it's selling well! =)
  • Susan C.
    Also, thanks for the tip about Google Drive!

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