How to publish a book (and promote it!) for under $500

I’ve seen way, way too many self-published authors spend thousands of dollars getting their books ready for publication. That’s just not necessary. Especially when, for most of those people, they’re never going to get that money back.

So if you’re one of those people spending over $500 every time you’re launching a book, and not getting any results from it, this is absolutely the blog post for you.

Basically, there are three main things you should be spending your money on as a new author.

#1. Editing

If your book isn’t well edited, well, you can expect some bad reviews. Every author should be paying for editing, especially given how cheap it is.

How much to pay?

For copy editing, which includes basic proofreading for spelling/grammatical mistakes, as well as watching out for plot issues, sentence structure, and a few other basics, you can usually expect to pay in the $200-$250 range for a 50,000 word novel (I look for a provider generally charging in the $5 per 1000 words range). I wouldn’t bother paying for line editing. Copy editing is fine.

You’ll notice that we’re spending a good chunk of our budget on editing. Well, editing is pretty important. You don’t want to skimp out on something that might end up giving you bad reviews if you’ve made too many mistakes.

If you’re looking for a good editor, try forums like kboards, where editors are listed. The most popular editors are usually booked up pretty early, but they’re popular for a reason. You generally want to stick with those. Whoever you go with, make sure they have good references, whether they be in the form of forum posts, or if you have to ask for them. If you become a member of smaller communities, oftentimes service providers there will offer special discounts to members of those boards.

I don’t recommend it, but if you absolutely, positively MUST self-edit, well I have one piece of advice for you: step away from the book for at least 48 hours. Give your brain some time to forget about what you’ve done for a little while. If you finish your book and immediately go to self-edit, you will miss major mistakes.

#2. Cover

Your cover is the #1 thing that’s going to make people click on your books when they show up in their search results. I’ve seen wayyyyyy too many authors ask me why their book isn’t selling, and then showing me covers that look like this:


Sure, this is an extreme example, but this is the cover of your book we’re talking about. No one’s going to click on that cover I posted above. They’re just not. It looks terrible. And unless you genuinely have years and years of experience with Photoshop, and you’ve spent hours upon hours studying your genre and what the covers look like, chances are a cover artist is going to do MUCH better work for you than you could do yourself.

This isn’t the time to get all insulted about not being a professional cover artist. You’re NOT a professional cover artist. At least, most of you reading this aren’t. Some of you might be. But if you’re not, then buy a cover. At least for your first couple of books.

How much should I pay for a cover?

You can get decent pre-made covers in the $40-$60 range. For custom covers, which I only recommend if you really, really can’t find anything pre-made that fits your book, you’d be looking more in the $60-$80 range.

Again, go to KBoards, or smaller writer’s forums related to your niche. You’ll find great cover artists there. And if you take your time and look around, you’ll find a deal. I’ve seen amazing pre-mades selling for $35 before. Start looking for covers while you’re still writing your book, or even before you’ve started writing it but after you’ve come up with the plot. If you’re not in a hurry to buy something, just being able to have a quick browse here and there can help you find great premades at excellent prices.

#3. Marketing

So now we have around $200 left from our initial budget. We’re going to spend that money on marketing.

Now honestly, depending on what genre you write in, where the best place to spend your money is is going to vary. What I would do, however, is focus on mailing lists. Honestly, I don’t recommend Facebook ads when you’re trying to really squeeze as much as you can out of every dollar. The Facebook ads market has become super saturated after a few courses have come out telling authors about how good they are, and I would personally spend the money on mailing lists like ENT, BookSends, that sort of thing.

I would spend most of the money on one big promotion (in the $70-$100 range) and then the rest of the money on smaller promotions on surrounding days. This is where you really need to find a forum with writers in your genre: they will be able to tell you what sites are worth the money, and which ones aren’t. I can tell you that in romance I’ve had good results with ENT, BookSends, My Romance Reads, The Naughty List, Shameless Book Deals and ExciteSteam.

This of course doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use free sources of marketing – submitting your books to Facebook pages, making sure you have a bunch of reviews, promoting to your mailing list, etc – but paid marketing, when done well, can go a long way towards making sure your book is seen, and it doesn’t need to cost a whole lot.

Watch for my upcoming post with more free promotion methods to get as many eyeballs as possible on your books without having to break the bank. As you can see, we just launched a book fully for under $500. There’s no reason to spend more than that, at least not when you’re starting out. You haven’t skimped on anything, and this way you’re getting your feet wet in the publishing world in a way that makes you more likely to make your money back and then some.

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