Can you get published without spending a lot of money?

I recently received an email asking how a woman who had just finished writing a book could get it published without spending a lot of money.

To answer a questions like this, I need more information. (1) Is this a novel, memoir, or non-fiction book? (2) Has she made sure it’s well edited in regards to spelling, punctuation, and grammar, as well as content? and (3) Is the manuscript properly formatted.

I need to know if the writer has queried any agents to see if one would represent her? There is no cost to that nowadays since most agents take queries via email.

If the writer is thinking of self-publishing her book, is that because she doesn’t believe it’s good enough that a traditional publisher would take it or is it because she feels the audience appeal would be too small for a traditional publisher to be interested? (The larger, Big 5, publishers are corporations and the bottom line is of most importance to them, which eliminates a lot of really good books.) Smaller publishers also need to make money, but they are much more willing to publish books that will only sell a small number of copies. Many of the smaller publishing houses can be contacted directly. The writer should check out their websites and see if her book might be a match.

As I said above, it’s important that the book be edited. This is true whether she’s sending the manuscript to agents or editors or planning on self-publishing. If this writer doesn’t want anyone editing her book, then I see a big problem. We writers rarely see flaws in our own writing. We need outside editors. If it’s the cost of an editor holding her back, the writer needs to consider the future of the book. Does she want something she can be proud of? If so, she needs to hire a GOOD editor and that will cost her money. She should shop around, ask for examples of the editing that person does, and find the best one that she can afford.

If she’s self-publishing, she’ll also need a good cover, and that will also cost money. (Again check out cover artists, see what they have produced and compare costs.) A good cover can sell a book; a bad one can lose sales.

If self-publishing, once the writer has had her book edited, had a good cover created, and formatted the manuscript to meet standards, Amazon’s Create Space will publish a book for no up-front cost. (They take a cut from each sale.) But simply getting a book published is only part of the process. Unless the writer plans on going around hand-selling her books, she will need to find a way to get them distributed. And she’ll need reviews.

She should check out other self-publishers in regard to what they might offer (distribution/reviews/editing/etc) and decide what will work best for her. Self-publishing does not need to cost a huge amount of money (Do beware of publishers who promise a lot, cost a lot, and deliver much less), but if a writer becomes his or her own publisher, then he/she is going to have to pay for the services a publisher normally provides.

Simply writing a book and throwing it up on Amazon without taking the necessary steps to make sure it’s a well-written, well-edited book hurts all of the self-published writers who do take this profession seriously.

See Jacqueline Seewald’s excellent June 4th blog on getting published:

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12 Responses to Can you get published without spending a lot of money?

  1. Great post Maris and so true!
    Thanks for sharing
    Good luck and God’s blessings

  2. Good advice, Maris. Unfortunately, the accessibility of POD seems to lead new writers to believe that publishing is easy. It’s not, as you point out, and that can be a hard lesson.

    • Maris Soule says:

      The problem, as I see it, Susan, is it is easy. Books go from being written to being published without the steps that serious writers take, and the results are poorly edited/poorly written stories that then hurt all self-published writers.

  3. Vicki Batman says:

    It does take money to get indie pubbed, especially if you want to do it well. I just did a short collection (already been edited), had to pay for formatting and cover. I did the uploads myself.

  4. Maris,

    Thank you for endorsing my latest blog on this important topic. Too many first time authors will believe they can just dash off a book, place it on Amazon and become instant bestselling writers. As we know, it doesn’t work that way. You offer excellent advice. Good editing and cover art are key components as is access to distribution.

  5. MELISSA KEIR says:

    Great post. So true.

  6. Diane Burton says:

    Very true, Maris. Spending money to get the manuscript professionally edited is money well spent. Same with the cover. Formatting a book takes time. You can pay to have someone format it, but I can do it myself. That’s just for self-pubbing. Contacting agents and/or editors can get the book published by a traditional publisher. That means no money upfront. Editing, cover design, formatting is all done by the publisher. Many small publishers are willing to take a chance on a newbie.