What does it cost to self-publish your book?

Here’s the thing: I don’t know. I have yet to actually publish my first novel, Tilted, but I suspect that by the time I finally press ‘publish’ on Amazon, I’ll have spent close to £2000.

And that’s without any actual marketing.

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Yikes! I mean, the dream is obviously that your book instantly sells 500,000 copies, makes you a millionaire and that initial outlay is as insignificant a memory as the steam that wafted up from yesterday’s morning coffee. But I’m only a part-time fantasist, and I think it’s probably sensible to hold off from putting an offer in on the country mansion and assume I’ll make diddly-squat from my (wonderful, marvellous, you-should-definitely-buy-it-when-it’s-released) novel.

So, I guess the first question should be:

Can you self-publish without spending anything?

For sure. For sure. But you’d need one of two things:

  • A really good network of readers and fellow writers/editors/graphic designers who can make sure you’re putting out a solid, good quality product; or
  • The ability to be happy with turning out a potentially (and noticeably) sub-par product.

Believe me, I researched self-editing tools and techniques for hours. I attempted to design my own cover on Canva. I’ve sent my book to about 6 friends to beta-read for me, and received great feedback. I absolutely could have just considered that a job well done and published.

And maybe I would have, were it not for another two things.

Firstly, I’ve read a number of self-published books on my Kindle, and I can usually spot the ones that haven’t had a thorough edit a mile off. And it PISSES ME OFF. Even though I’m a writer, I’m actually not that inclined to cut my fellow writers much slack when it comes to sloppy mistakes like getting character’s names wrong halfway through the book, or poor formatting, or just bland characterisation and plodding plots. In a draft? No problem! But a book you’ve published for the world to read? Nah. I wouldn’t put up with them in a traditionally published book, so why should I have to with an indie book? In most cases, I’m paying exactly the same amount for them.

(Aside: I’m by no means suggesting my novel is perfect, or that readers might not find all of those flaws in it should they be so inclined. Also, I’m a really picky bitch when it comes to stuff like that, I can’t help it. It’s a curse.)

Secondly, I saw the impact that a professional eye could have. I paid for a professional editor to beta read Tilted for me when it was at the third or fourth draft stage. The advice she gave ran to 4 pages and covered marketability, characterisation, pacing and the kind of constructive feedback I’d been craving from my other readers who, understandably, didn’t know enough about the nuts and bolts of writing a good novel to identify the areas I was weakest on/nailing. Then I had a couple of sample copyedits done on my final draft and boy, is there room for improvement. I thought my manuscript was tighter than my toddlers fist when someone asks for one of her raisins, but there was so much scope to improve and tighten and refine. (For example, I used 3 words there that all meant the same thing – they would not have made the edit.)

How much does it all cost?

I guess it differs for everybody, depending on budget, time and whether you consider your novel to be a means to a financial end or not. I don’t. I’m lavishing treats upon my novel in the same way I throw gifts and food and clothes at my kids in the hope that they’ll thrive, without ever expecting to break even. (How do you break even on a kid? Hope they become Oprah, or something?) I love writing, and producing a novel is all I’ve ever really wanted to do. People spend a lot of money on their hobbies, right? This is my hobby.

Also, it’s a pretty public hobby – once my book’s out there, anyone can judge me on it. It’s like doing a dance competition in front of everyone you’ve ever known; you’re not going to want to do that without some lessons, spray-tan and a seriously distracting costume, ammiright?

So I’m anticipating that my costs will end up looking like this:

Beta read: 200USD (about £160)

Editing: c. £1450 (could defo get it cheaper if you shop around and aren’t fussy on the style of feedback you get (and write a shorter novel…!) but I found a great editor I connected with and went with my gut)

Cover design: I’ve budgeted £150, but you can get pre-made covers for a total bargain. I purchased one I plan to use for a future YA novel for £30 and it’s gorgeous.

I also purchased Scrivener a while ago which has made the writing process a lot easier, and might consider using Vellum to format the book, so that could run to another £200 or so.

Total – c. £2000

Is it worth the investment?

The answer to which has to be that you’ll never know unless you do it. Like I said, this book and any future books will be my creative babies, and even if they never earn me a penny back, I’ll consider them totally worth the cost.

Having said that, I’m hoping that by splashing out on my first novel, any future books will benefit from my increased understanding of the process, of what a strong edit involves, and hopefully a good stash of pre-made covers that I’ll snap up as I see them.

If you want to quickly start making out of writing, then maybe this feels like too big a hit. If I sell my book for £2.99 then I’ll have to sell 1000 copies to make back my money. I don’t know 1000 people, and don’t have any money for marketing, so let’s just say I’m not pinning all my hopes on it.

I’m still dreaming big, though. Miracles happen every damn day.

And it’s worth saying, too, that I saved up a pot of money for this exact purpose, which makes the decision to spend it a bit easier.

In conclusion

Unless you are an editor yourself (and I suspect they still need outside editing) I think that you have to spend at least a bit of money on your manuscript if you want it to be the best it can be. You don’t have to. But having read the ones that chose not to, I think I’ll always feel better having done so.

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Copywriting Course Review: The Copywriting Apprentice

At heart I’m a creative writer.  But a while ago I decided it would be useful to add some more strings to my bow in order to make my future career options more flexible.  I read a fantastically inspiring book called The Well Fed Writer about making it as a freelance commercial writer, did my usual ‘I’ve found my purpose in life!!’ dance, and researched some copywriting training options.

Now.  Full disclosure: I secretly did not think I needed official training.  I’ve spent a lifetime writing, and had a job in marketing and communications.  I sort of thought that a course would be a good way to learn some tips and tricks and make me feel more ‘official’.  I was very naive, I’ll admit it.  But you don’t know what you don’t know, and I’m not too proud to say that I had NO idea.  I’ll explain why in a mo.

Which copywriting course to choose?

There actually weren’t many distance learning copywriting courses available that I trusted.  I’d spent a fair bit of money a decade ago on the Writer’s Bureau creative writing course, and never made it past the first module.  I’d lost confidence, lost my way, and because it’s not really in the course provider’s best interests to chase you up on it when they’ve already got your money, nobody got in touch to see why I was stuck and the whole thing just felt very disappointing.  My fault, but disappointing.

So I was wary.  The two courses I was choosing between were the Blackford Centre for Copywriting diploma, and the Copywriting Apprentice course.  The course contents seemed similar, though I felt more persuaded by Blackford’s slick website and constant reviews.  They clearly have a strong sales funnel.  But after I registered for the prospectus they sent me lots of sales emails, knocking money off left, right and centre, which ultimately made me less confident in what they were offering.

The Copywriting Apprentice course seemed less in-your-face, but felt, to me, like it had more integrity.  Copywriting was the only focus, and it was created by an experienced copywriter.  There were a number of positive reviews with a genuine feel to them.  I received one time-limited discount offer from them, which I acted on, paying around £525.

In terms of timeframes for completing the course, the Copywriting Apprentice had to be completed within a year (which seems like ages until the clock starts ticking!) whereas the Blackford course was open-ended.  Initially I thought that having no time-constraints would be a good thing, but I had a word with myself and remembered I am definitely someone who needs a deadline, however stressful that approaching deadline might be!

Another thing to consider – Blackford offered an accredited qualification upon completion, whereas The Copywriting Apprentice course didn’t.  This wasn’t a dealbreaker for me, though an official qualification would have been the icing on the cake.  ALSO – I liked that the Blackford course claimed to offer real-world client assignments for students to work on, which they could then use in their portfolio.  That seemed really tempting, as pulling together a portfolio from scratch is pretty daunting.

However, with all things considered, The Copywriting Apprentice appealed to me on a more personal level – and I do try and trust my gut instincts.

woman writing on a notebook beside teacup and tablet computer

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

Learning the art of copywriting

When I received the handbook containing the entire course, it seemed strange that I’d paid over £500 for such a small ‘thing’, but it was packed full of information.  It will be a really useful resource for future copywriting activities, particularly some of the more complex SEO and online writing sections.  There’s also a whole online Learning Gateway with loads of resources and information.

There are around 12 tutor marked assignments and a number of ‘sticky tests’ to recap what you’ve learned after each chapter, which were helpful.

My tutor was Joy, the course director, and she was incredibly fair and prompt with her communications, providing feedback really quickly (or letting me know in advance when there would be a delay).  She really knew what she was talking about.  I quickly realised that there was so much more to copywriting than I was expecting, and I really struggled with the online writing sections – I quickly realised that writing SEO copy is a real art form.  And not an especially enjoyable one for someone like me.  This was a real eye-opener.  I’d imagined that copywriting was a largely creative task, but writing for algorithms and search engines is a strange and complex beast.  It’s mostly about finding clever ways to insert keywords into a piece of text without it sounding clunky.  This didn’t come naturally to me, and was definitely the area of the course I most struggled with, and most needed to learn.

For some of the assignments – particularly the online copywriting ones – I received some critical feedback and was asked to repeat the assignment because I hadn’t quite understood it or missed the mark.  Initially, this made me very cross.  I do not take criticism well.  I’d slam my laptop down, storm around the house cursing the course and my tutor and feeling general maligned.  Then I’d give it an hour, analyse the feedback, think of my rebuttals, and realise that my tutor was – of course – bang on the money.  When I sat down to do the assignment again, I had clarity and felt as though I’d taken a positive step forwards.  My good grades reflected this.

Has the course made me a better copywriter?

Undoubtedly.  I’ve always been able to write well, but now I can write commercially, which I couldn’t confidently do before.  I’ve learned to cut extraneous words.  I’ve learned how to improve headings, and now understand the structure of websites and the importance of metadata.

Doing the course – whilst stressful at times, thanks to getting pregnant a few months in, looking after my toddler and going through a big restructure at work – was an enjoyable learning experience, and the course director, Joy, was a real pleasure to be mentored by.

However, I realised halfway through the course that my career goals had changed.  The thought of being a freelance copywriter suddenly seemed less exciting, and I can’t put my finger on why that was.  I think the realisation that most copywriting now is website-focused and therefore beholden to savvy keyword use, pandering to ever-changing algorithms and chasing page ranks just showed me that my fantasies of copywriting were a bit off base.

The techniques and tools I’ve learned will still be fantastically useful – both in my personal writing career and in my day-job, but for the time being, the course didn’t do what I initially intended it to do, which was play a large part in launching my freelance copywriting career.

There are some things I wish I’d done differently.  I think that my tutor would – had I sought it out – have provided much more clarification and advice on the areas I found confusing.  She was very open to discussion and advice, but I’m a natural ‘Oh, I won’t bother them’ sort of woman, so I stupidly just sucked it up and struggled on in silence.  The course also promised two telephone ‘check-ins’ with the tutor throughout the course, which I was never prompted to do and – not being a big telephone fan – didn’t chase up myself.  (I really am no help to myself at all, am I?)  They would have provided a useful opportunity to discuss things in person and ask questions.

There are loads of online resources included with the course, hardly any of which I looked at (time-constraints, mostly) but which I believe are still available to me beyond my completion, which will be really helpful in the future.

So would I recommend The Copywriting Apprentice course?  Yes!  I would – particularly if you are absolutely raring to go with your freelance career.  Freelance copywriting is often described as a great career to fit around being a mother – which is probably true – but I perhaps bit off more than I could chew doing it whilst pregnant, with a toddler, whilst also trying to write a novel!

As the fabulous Douglas Adams once said, “You live and learn.  At any rate, you live.”

 

 

Book review: Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran

It’s taking me a really long time to admit to myself and the world what it is I really want to do. I get easily distracted, or inspired by other people, and suddenly find myself going off on tangents… Maybe I can make a range of baby clothes?! Maybe I can become a life coach?! Maybe I could actually put my experience and training to use and become a freelance Copywriter?!

Gotta face facts: I want to write stories. I want to write stories and get paid for doing so. I want to spend my life creating, writing and looking after my kids. That would make me happy.

The reason it has taken me so long to realise that this is what I truly want is largely fear and intimidation; I assumed that the only way this could be my reality was if I did things the traditional way: find an agent, get a publisher, wait for the royalties to flow in. (Hahahaha)

But there are many flaws to that plan, not least the fact it stops me at the first hurdle by playing right into the hands of my inferiority complex. Deep down I doubt that I’m good enough, so I don’t feel excited or confident enough to fight for an agent.

When I read David Gaughran’s book, Let’s Get Digital: How to self publish and why you should, it was as though the clouds parted. People – like me – have done this. They have written books, published them, found readers and made money. And they don’t seem to have regretted their writing path one bit.

I highly recommend this book, whether you need inspiration or a clearly laid out map of how to get your book from your computer onto other people’s e-readers. The author is down to earth, realistic and uplifting.

He breaks down some myths surrounding Amazon’s Kindle Store, and gives some effective ways to get your book noticed, starting from getting a brilliant editor and front cover all the way to running promotions and connecting with readers.

The part I found particularly insightful was the background to the publishing industry, and the impact that indie authors has had on it. Most eye opening was the royalties you can achieve as a self-publisher: 70% of the sale price, depending on the price you set, compared to around 14% for an average traditionally published book. More excitingly, self-publishing gives the author so much more control, speed and freedom to make money however they choose. It’s hard work, but it’s all to play for!

It made me see the possibilities and allowed me to gently, and without regret, give up on my dreams of being traditionally published. There’s another way and it’s exciting.

I’m now in the process of getting a professional critique of my first novel – I’ve been fiddling with it for too long and now it needs to either be finished or shelved – and to start outlining my next few novels. The key to success with self-publishing seems to be quality and quantity, so I need to find ways to streamline the planning and writing process so that I can publish as prolifically as possible.

I’ll be reviewing some books that offer advice on how to do this in the future, not to mention sharing my self-publishing adventures and mistakes!

And as always, I’ll be fitting all of this around my mothering career, housework career (please someone fire me from this one) and general life-administrator.

My cup truly runneth over…

Love

C x

3 Brilliant Books – for mind, soul and career

I’m only just getting to the stage where I have big enough chunks of time available for writing; until now, all I could manage was holding my Kindle in one hand whilst feeding baby and dreaming of all the words I was itching to write.

But thanks to all this lovely reading time, I’ve discovered three fantastic books (amongst the twenty-odd I’ve read these past few weeks) that I’m itching to recommend. Without further ado (the baby’s 5-minute cooing sesh is turning rapidly to grunts that could go either way) here they are:

FOR THE MIND – The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton

Part Sherlock, part Groundhog Day, part murder mystery evening, I bloody loved this book. Couldn’t put it down. It’s set in a creepy old house called Blackheath, trapped within a never-ending forest. The whole place is haunted by memories of a child’s death years ago, and the main character is set the task of solving a murder that’s about to happen. The story is told from one character’s perspective, but through the eyes of a number of key witnesses to the murder itself, and it’s SO CLEVER. Honestly, I wish wish wish I had the brain and the commitment to write this myself. I don’t want to give away any more, as discovering it all myself was part of the deliciousness of this book, but go and download it or order it. Unless you are looking for something light-hearted and frothy, in which case probably don’t bother – it’s not gory or gritty, but it is intense and full of unhappy, complicated characters. Top notch stuff.

If you are craving giggles and smut, may I recommend ‘Hot Mess’ and ‘What Fresh Hell‘ by Lucy Vine? I love her writing, and really relate to her characters. I laughed out loud on more than one occasion, which I rarely do in real life (whilst reading, that is. OBVIOUSLY I laugh out loud all the time when going about my normal, hilarious life).

FOR THE SOUL – The Inside-out Revolution, by Michael Neill

The tagline for this book is ‘The only thing you need to know to change your life forever’ which screams overpromising to me, but then I honestly can’t get enough of personal development and self-help books. I tear through them like trashy romances. More about my addiction another day though – for now, suffice it to say that I’ve read A LOT, and this book is probably the one I should have started with, because then I probably wouldn’t have needed to read many more.

The author, some sort of life coach (isn’t everyone a life coach these days?) puts into very straightforward and compelling words the principles of mind, consciousness and thought, or very very simply: the way you think about something creates your own version of reality, and by realising that everything you experience is created by your own thoughts, you have the power to change your reality. If it sounds very woo-woo, then fair enough, but it made an awful lot of sense to me. I had a lot of ‘of course!’ moments whilst reading this, and it has given me many insights into how my mind works that are really improving the quality of everything I do. I’m even sleeping like a dream after reading this, and I have a 10 week old baby. (I made her read it too)

There are many other books on this topic I’d recommend but this was the one that left me feeling the most excited about all of the possibilities out there in the world (or in here, in my head-world, I suppose) and also is the one that is least likely to make you take the piss out of me for my reading choices. (Oh my god I’ve read so, so, so much worse you have no idea).

FOR YOUR CAREER – Be A Free Range Human, by Marianne Cantwell

This one has another tempting tagline: ‘Escape the 9-5, create the life you love and still pay the bills.’ I mean…yes please!

Again, I’ve read quite extensively on this topic – creating a portfolio career –  because though I love my job (or at least, I don’t dislike it) I’ve always suspected there must be other, more flexible and personally fulfilling ways of making money. And with two kids, it’d be lovely to spend more time with them.

(LOL, I mean, not ALL of my time with them, I’m not insane. I love them, but Mummy Pig needs a break weekly/daily/hourly.  Shout out to all stay-at-home-mums – you guys are hard as nails).

Anyway – I thought this was a very uplifting and motivating book about the potential of creating your own working life. It’s a kick in the face to the idea that one 9-5 style job is all any of us should be aiming for, and left me feeling inspired to consider alternatives. It’s quite focused on people who might like a career that allows them to travel more. This is so far from my own desires right now, but was still a great read. It can’t tell you what you should do with your life, but there are exercises and questions throughout the book to get you thinking, and I’d recommend you do them because I found some of what I came up with a real eye-opener.

Again, there are other great books on this topic – I reviewed one of them (The Idea In You) and if you like a structured approach, there are books like ‘Screw Work, Break Free’ and ‘Screw Work, Let’s Play’, both by John Williams. Also, a special mention for ‘Creating the Impossible‘ by Michael Neill, who wrote the book I recommended above – this one is a 90 day process of bringing a seemingly impossible ‘thing’ into the world, whether it’s a business, a product, an idea or even a specific amount of money. I enjoyed it a lot – great for breaking free of self-doubt and inertia that holds so many of us back from doing things we dream of.

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Welp, hopefully that’s enough for you to be getting on with for now – I know not everyone has 9 solid hours of one-handed reading time available to them each day, but if you can carve a little time out to feed your mind, soul or desire for something a bit different, then give them a whirl.

My daughter has been cooing on her changing mat for 40 minutes, and has now fallen asleep there. I don’t know whether to feel neglectful or triumphant? I’m going to go with triumphant (she seems pretty content down there) and go and make myself a deliciou- Oh, no, she’s awake now. Some other time, luncheon, some other time!

 

Making money: the siphon approach

Show me the money!

Part of my approach to building an exciting life for myself has been the pursuit of increased wealth without actually having to…you know…sacrifice anything. Or make that much effort. Most approaches to wealth accumulation involve investment, hardcore budgeting, a serious savings programme and/or starting an incredibly lucrative business.

Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aimed at ultimately having a ‘portfolio career’ filled with lots of opportunities to make money doing lots of different things I enjoy, but at this particular point in my life (and every other point so far) I’ve just had the one job. It’s not the kind of job where I can ask for a pay-rise (it’s a grade-related system) and it’s not the kind of job that I necessarily want to aim for a promotion (it’s the public sector – higher grade = significantly more stress than I’m willing to take on).

I always got frustrated at this point in my money-making research, because the options seemed to run out. I didn’t want to have to change that much to be able to feel more well-off. Selfish and lazy? Maybe. I did set up a standing order to invest in some sort of stocks and shares fund (I know, grown up) and downloaded a budgeting app… but deep down I suspected there was a way to feel richer that felt more…fun.

And there is.

The Siphon Approach

This does not involve siphoning money off other people in nefarious ways (though I always think: if we all just asked everyone we knew for £1, then assuming we know a) enough people and b) not tight-arses we’d probably be well on our way. But that’s not a sustainable way of making money, I do know that.)

Mais non. This approach involves taking control of the cash you do have, and sacrificing a bit in the short-term for more in the long-term. Much like the Childcare Vouchers scheme that I have literally just got around to doing 2 days before the deadline because it took me too long to actually understand how I could save money in the long-run.

Anyway, the Siphon Approach works, people. It makes you psychologically richer AND leaves you with more money to actually play with. Guilt free.

Step 1: Set up multiple bank accounts

If you’re lucky you can do this online – I had to physically go into my bank to do it. Quite frankly you can set up as many accounts as you want, but it sort of depends on what your goals are here. My goals were:

  • To be able to treat myself to really nice things
  • To have spare money to spend on my side-hustle-projects (like self-publishing my novel, or buying a domain name etc)
  • To save for my dream home

If you have the chance to actually name your accounts (as anything more sexy than ‘current’ or ‘savings’) then definitely do – and yeah, ‘Treats for Big Mama’ is a totally acceptable account name.

Step 2: Set your amounts

This a fairly well-established technique (I’m not creating a new #movement here) and from what I can tell, most people recommend putting 10% of your salary each month into whatever ‘savings’ accounts you have. That really spooks a lot of people. For others, it doesn’t seem like enough to make a difference.

I guess the key here is to be as ambitious as you can afford to be. There’s no point increasing your wealth by stretching yourself too thinly every month – but equally, until you take the money out of your account, it may not be crystal clear exactly how much you just spaff away on….God knows what. I’m pretty sure I mindlessly spend £100 a month in the canteen at work, which I could definitely cut down on. £3.80 for a salad wrap, anyone? 80p for a KitKat? Come on.

For me, it works best to put money in weekly – daily works even better. Like I said, each working day I probably spend £5 a day on lunch I don’t need to fork out for. If I dropped that into my ‘Treats for Big Mama’ fund then that’s £80 a month – into an account dedicated to treating myself. Not too shabby. And I’ve been able to find similarly small-but-significant amounts scattered across the rest of of my spending to put in my other accounts.

Set up an automatic transfer or make a diary note to transfer the funds each week/day – do whatever you can to make it so automatic you don’t have to think about the money leaving your main account in the first place. Otherwise, you’ll mentally assign it for other tasks.

And remember – small amounts are better than nothing, so if you can only spare £2 a week into each of your siphoning accounts, that’s still money you are building up for a specific purpose that won’t be eaten up by just general bills and stuff.

Which leads neatly onto:

Step 3: Protect your funds!

Set a clear purpose for each account and don’t dip into it for any other reason. In any other scenario than for the one you originally set, just pretend that money doesn’t exist. Otherwise one unexpected bill or payment will wipe your accounts out and you’ll be right back to having no money for yourself, and worse, feeling a sense of lack and defeat about the whole shebang.

Obviously, if your whole life comes crashing down around you and your family are put into seriously dire financial straights – yeah, crack into the ‘Babs needs a Mulberry’ fund. But as far as you possibly can, PROTECT IT. It’s your passport to feeling richer – both mentally and in actual funds to spend on the things you really really want.

Zig a zig, ahhh.

This probably seems like the most basic financial advice ever, right up there with ‘don’t spend more than you earn.’ But how many ladies are sticking to that rule every single month?! Give it a go – it has really changed how I feel about money, which has had a knock-on effect on how much money I need to be happy, and subsequently, I can’t remember the last time I couldn’t afford something I wanted.

Let’s see how we get on with two kids in childcare though, hey?

Any useful spendy/savey advice you’ve got to share?