How Much Can An Indie Writer Do For Nothing? (Jam Not Included)

carries mini office

So let’s consider this question: how much can an Indie writer do for nothing?

It’s actually one of those ‘how long is a piece of string?’ type questions. Let me begin by saying that, in theory, an Indie writer can ‘do’ everything for nothing.

I’m assuming a) you have a computer with a word-processing package and b) you have internet access. So many people have these as a matter of course nowadays that I’m always a bit thrown when I come across someone under the age of, say, 75 who says they haven’t. It just boggles my mind. As you can imagine, I’m pretty dependent on mine. If you are, or want to be, an Indie writer – a self-published or Independent writer – (and ignoring whether or not you want to be fabulously successful) – then you absolutely have to have those two requirements. Prerequisites, I should say. But if you’re reading this, I’m just going to assume you have them – even if you’re logging on at your local library, college or YMCA.

The Indie writer needs to write, edit, proofread (or proofread then edit), rewrite (maybe), publish and promote their book.

And I’m telling you – if you don’t already know – you can absolutely 100% do this for nothing, zip, zilch, nada, nichts, niente. Many – if not most – Indie writers do.

I know many people pay a lot of money for a proofreader, or an editor, or both, to trawl through their manuscript. But if you can’t afford it, you can either learn how to do it yourself, or you can ‘share with a friend’. You can do their book, they can do yours. There is editing software out there, I know people who love PerfectIt, and it’s okay as far as it goes, but in my opinion nothing beats the old-school line-by-line deep edit: reading every – single – word. It may take a long time – but it is a valuable way of picking up all those little bits and pieces you have forgotten about or overlooked – like the fact that Mary’s black hair is suddenly mousy on page 43 then greying on page 79, where her name also strangely changes to May. But it doesn’t have to cost you the earth.

So the writing and the proofreading are done. And so far all your pennies are still safely in the bank. Next you need to find your publishing platform.

Most of us Indies use Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) there are others, but as Amazon are still the market leader, you’d be daft to not at least try it. They will help you put your eBook ‘out there’ for – how much? That’s right – nothing.

True, you can sign up with one of their publishing packages – also offered by many other companies, if you really want to and have no other way to get rid of your money. But – you don’t have to.

You will need a cover. Even eBooks (you already know this, right?) have a cover. With eBooks, it’s just one front page, but with print-on-demand paperbacks with Amazon’s CreateSpace, for example, you need a back too. And maybe a spine if your book is over 100 pages. So get a cover. this will cost as much or as little as you like. Some people – experts – will charge hundreds of pounds to make a nice cover for your book. But you can make your own for nothing. Absolutely nothing. If you don’t want to, you don’t even have to pay for the images (pics!) you use for your cover, if you choose from a royalty-free, fee-free image site, such as I always make my covers in PowerPoint then convert to jpeg or pdf, as required. But you could use Indesign or Photoshop if you have them, or a specific cover designing software.

I have two novels and a novella currently ‘out there’ in the world. In fact, I did pay someone to do the original cover of my first book for me – I won’t tell you who, it’s no one you know. But suffice to say, though I paid for two covers for that book, I never liked either of them, and in the end I made my own. For nothing. When I published my second novel, from the same trilogy as the first, I paid for an image I could adapt as a logo – but that’s all I have paid for. But that was my choice, I could have done it all for nothing.

A couple of tips on covers: a) Make sure the title, your name and your image are clear and easy to read and understand even as a teeny tiny thumbnail on the oldest black and white screen you can find. It’s no good creating something artistic and beautiful if it only makes sense at A5 size. People will trawl through their favourite genre and if they can’t see or figure out your thumbnail cover, they may not bother to go any further. b) Do some research. Take a look at covers of books in a similar genre or field to yours. Note the kind of colours and images used. Usually it’s pastels and brights, with drawn cartoon-type images for chick-lit and cozies; dark and gloomy for crime/horror/porn, usually of a tree or an empty street. Or snow. They love snow. Try to get something that both blends in and yet stands out. Sorry I know that’s a tough one. Try a few different ones out. it’s worth taking a lot of time over this, your cover is as important (some would say more important) as your whole book. c)When creating your cover, especially if you go for print-on-demand paperbacks with CreateSpace, think about the cover styles on offer and how these will work with your chosen image, and with your genre. Some of the styles are better suited to the ‘Please Daddy NO!’ type, others to a more academic content. by the way, the cover creation wizard on CreateSpace is free!

So yes – the publishing platform. If you decide to take the plunge and go t alone, then find yourself stuck – don’t panic!  A wealth of help is available: there are free ‘how-to’ guides on Amazon KDP and CreateSpace, there are blogs, chatrooms and writer’s resource sites which could all help, or you could simply post your question on Facebook or other social media and one of your friends is bound to know someone or something to help you.

So you hit ‘publish’ and sit back. All free so far! Now what?

Now you promote! Use Social media, tell your friends, ask them to tell their friends, tell your colleagues, neighbours, sign up for more social media or professional sharing type sites, make friends, meet people, coo over their book pictures and show them yours, get a blog (free!), create posts, read other peoples’ posts, contact your local radio station, your local newspaper, your WI group, put a postcard up in the supermarket. Tell everyone about your book. Get a white t-shirt and write on it ‘My name is Angelina Badgeworthy and I just published my dark thriller entitled “Auntie Madge Goes Swimming” on Amazon! It’s only £2 so it costs less than your cup of coffee – why not give it a try?’ Wear the t-shirt everywhere! There are all sorts of ways to get the news out there.

And all for free. See – easy!

How much can an Indie writer do for nothing?


6 thoughts on “How Much Can An Indie Writer Do For Nothing? (Jam Not Included)

  1. Great post! So true. Your tips about the cover are particularly apt.
    Admittedly, because it’s free to put your eBook on Amazon’s Kindle (plus the other sites), there is a great deal of competition out there. But good writing will get noticed and when people write reviews saying how much they enjoyed reading your book, it makes all that hard work worth while.
    As a writer whose first four novels were originally published as paperbacks, I find preparing a novel as an eBook requires a very different way of thinking – as you say – covers simpler, and with short titles in larger print than for a physical book. And inside – more white space! Long paragraphs are a no-no.
    I agree with you Caron – the advice is – Go for it!


    • That’s so true – some people won’t spend the price of a cup of coffee on an eBook yet it can be read again and again. Or like me they can spend £7 or £8 on a paperback and drop it in the bath – completely ruined and never read! It seems readers still don’t see eBooks as ‘real’ books. we can only wait for things to change, i suppose.


      • Some folk are different Caron, there is just no accounting for taste. I was selling print books at reduced rate today and it was like pulling teeth. I even had 3 eBooks on a new 8 gig usb stick for 10 bucks and it felt as if I was some snake oil salesman. 😦


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