It is not true that I’m cheap. Given enough money to spend I could make beautiful music. Now and then – when the prize is really high – I buy a lottery ticket for the joy of spending three days dreaming of all the things I’d spend the money on.
Actually the sad thing is that I’m not really interested in things, as such. The more you have, the more you need to dust. But I’d love to be able to hire people to do the stuff that eats up most of my day. It’s not that I dislike doing it – I actually like cooking, I enjoy certain types of cleaning and sometimes I think ironing (particularly with the super dooper iron, which is recommended for start up ironing services. So, you know I have a fall back) is my zen practice, and I’m fond of grocery shopping because I’m good at finding bargains and if I can drag one of the guys along it’s even more fun. And then there’s all the things I enjoy which I don’t even have the time to try to do – garden, for instance.
The problem is that it’s very easy to spend the entire day picking up this, sifting that litter box, running to the store for a box of eggs… and not sit down to write at all. There’s always any number of repairs around the house (Okay, stupid of me to live in a Victorian) which are waiting for my having two hours to do them.
And then there’s the other stuff. I don’t know how many blog sites I’ve angered because I said I’d do an interview and then it went clear out of my mind. And there’s books due. And there’s mentoree’s stuff to read – since two of those are my kids, I get ambushed at the oddest times with “Mom, have you read?” (Younger kid shows a disturbing tendency to write good historical stories about events that I had no clue he even knew about – I guess he’s been reading from my bookcases?)
And on top of this there’s publishing.
So, if I ever get rich, I want a cook, a house cleaning service, the clothes shall be sent to the laundry, and I’ll hire an assistant to keep my stuff in order.
But the problem with that is that the lottery guys keep picking the WRONG numbers.
So, I have to get real and deal with the fact that I am poor (house repairs, car repairs, two kids in college) and I have a lot of back log to publish, and other stuff I wish to write to publish.
Consider that most short stories sell for 99c so you’re getting 33 c per story, and that short stories don’t sell that well (not as well as novels.) I will sell – on Amazon, I apparently sell more through Smashwords affiliates, but that’s not coming on line yet – about 10 of half the shorts a month. Which means right now, for the sake of simplicity $30 for all 20 (I think I actually have 22) stories out. About $3 for each story.
I routinely hear of people paying $100 to someone to get a cover, edit and put their short stories up. At $3 a month that’s going to take a while to pay back.
Even for a novel, say you make $100 a month. If you paid – and I’ve heard of this — $4000 to get it there and ready, you’re in the hole for… how much?
So below I’m going to outline the process I go through to put stuff up on the cheap. My goal is to have shorts pay for themselves within 3 months. Novels… I have to risk more.
If you’re not up to that, consider a micro-press which has mechanisms to do this. A caveat is to make sure that your contract is for no more than two years. Things are changing too fast for you to keep that property tied up longer. The other caveat is that it’s a game of numbers. Even a micro press (or a small. Or a large one) can’t give you the publicity to make one book fly. But two books, you’ll do better, three books even better, etc.
1- If you’re not an old pro – by which I mean you haven’t published at least ten short stories and three novels, all of which sold either to publishers or sell well to the public – for the love of BOG have someone read your stuff before it goes out.
No, I don’t mean for copy-editing, that comes later. I mean for sense, pacing and general cohesion. I.e. to find out if it’s a story or a cabbage. Even for me, and I’ve written over thirty novels, it’s all too easy to write a novel and concentrate only on the parts that interest you and no one else. Say you really like shopping. Your characters might very well shop more than anyone else has an interest in. Or say you like eating… well, okay, most people like eating, but all the same the novel should not be a succession of breakfasts. [What about dinners?—Ed. Shut up – Sarah.]
You need to make sure the story is actually there. How do you do that on the cheap? Well, find six friends who read more or less what you write. (This is important. There’s stuff I can’t judge because it’s not what I read primarily, so I don’t know what readers of it like. Say contemporary romance.) Get them to read it. If three of them don’t agree on a problem, then don’t change anything. If they do, consider it.
Friends, mind, not your spouse, mother or cat – ie people who either won’t tell you the truth or who are so close to you that they won’t see the holes in your reasoning or your story telling. [Your cats read? – Ed? Shut Up – Sarah]
2. Have the dang thing copyedited. On the cheap? Sure. Either find one of those annoying friends who live and breathe comma placement (everyone has one. I have several) or trade with other indie writers. “You proof mine, I proof yours.” It can be done.
If you can have it copyedited twice, then go over it one more time. You’d be amazed what you miss.
3. Covers. You’d be amazed how much people spend on these. $250 or $500 are counted as “cheap”. This is insane for short stories.
If you have a program like photoshop (though older son does well with paint.net, but he’s a better artist than I am) or paintshop, you don’t need to pay someone for cover design. Go and study covers for your genre at Amazon and your local supermarket, so you know what’s current.
Then… Then there are several sites. This site has a bunch of free ones. (Be aware some of these are NOT properly vetted and pirated stuff falls in.)
I usually cruise by morguefile and if I don’t find what I want there, go to dreamstime. If you set the search for art only (not photographs) and start at lowest price, it is possible to get art for under $2. (Depending on what you write. Sometimes the photos are fine, of course.) For novels, I’ve been known to spend $7 on art for a cover. Yeah, I know, last of the great spenders.
Things to remember: fonts are copyrighted. If they come with a program you own, you’re fine, though. Also, if there’s a recognizable person on the cover, make sure there’s a model release. If there’s a recognizable commercial property (bar, restaurant, shop) make sure there’s a property release.
As with the novel, show it to someone before you put it out. Second pair of eyes HELPS.
Oh, yeah, 3.a – for conversions I use sigil. If I can figure it out, your kindergartner can. So, try that.
And that’s it. Now go and have fun.