Answer to an Important Question Posted on Quora.

Quora is a forum where you can ask questions on any topic and lots of people from all over the world will answer you. The vetting of answers comes in the form of upvotes, downvotes, and comments on the answers. I’ve recently been weighing in on a lot of questions about self-publishing. Here is an example of one of my answers to the often asked question, asked in many different forms, “What’s best way to self-publish a book?”

Is publishing a book expensive?

Jini Ellyne
Jini Ellyne, Full Time Self-employed Writer. (2005-present)

In the bad old days there were only two ways to publish. One involved convincing a publishing company to publish your book. If you’re one of the less than .001% of authors who can accomplish this these days, congratulations! Buy a lottery ticket. Lady luck favors you. This approach won’t cost you anything. You just have to be lucky. The second way in the bad old days was to pay a vanity press to have your book published.

These days there is a third way: self publishing. Yay! One of the bad answers given to your question suggests that, if you want to self publish successfully you must pay lots of money to a great host of helpers. Wrong! Self publishing is either Free or it’s just a modern form of vanity publishing.

Wikipedia defines vanity publishing like this (and the definition tells you why it’s a bad idea): A vanity press, vanity publisher, or subsidy publisher is a term describing a publishing house in which authors pay to have their books published. Additionally, vanity publishers have no selection criteria as opposed to other “hybrid” publishing models. The term appears in mainstream U.S. publications as early as 1941. In contrast, mainstream publishers, whether major companies or small presses, derive their profit from sales of the book to the general public.

I won’t judge you if you go the vanity publishing route but you should realize the chances you will make back in royalties what you pay the helpers are slim to none if you’re a new author. The reason is that most people don’t buy books written by new, unheard of, authors — period. It won’t matter how pretty your cover is or how smoothly edited your manuscript if nobody knows your name. Okay there are people to help you with that too. They will want more of your money and their efforts to publicize your name and your book won’t fool cynical buyers who can tell real Amazon reviews from phony ones and real news from paid-for “news.”

Here’s a way to self-publish FREE. First find an author whose books read well, indicating they had a good editor or have good self-editing skills or both. Contact that person and offer to trade editing with them. You edit their work and they edit yours. I have been fortunate in finding such a person. Editing doesn’t cost me a penny. It does involve a lot of work, I won’t kid you. My time is free though since I’m a full time writer. This is my job.

Now submit your well-edited book to Amazon KDP to have it turned into an Ebook and a paperback. Use Amazon’s Cover Creator tool to make your own cover using your own photos or public domain art. You should attribute even public domain art on the first inside page of your book and then it’s perfectly okay to use. Sure, I can tell which covers have been done by professional graphic artists and which were done by self-publishers but I don’t care when browsing for a book to buy. I base my buying decision on recognition of the author’s name and the first few pages of the sample provided on Amazon. I venture to guess this is how the vast majority of buyers base their book buying decisions. Isn’t this what you do? Come on, be honest.

For self-marketing, I recommend you download from Smashwords, Mark Coker’s excellent, FREE and very comprehensive book titled Smashwords Book Marketing Guide as opposed to buying someone else’s book on self-marketing. It’s better and it’s FREE.

There you have it — self-publishing for FREE. Good luck! I hope this helps.

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Read Jini Ellyne’s answer to Is publishing a book expensive? on Quora

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