Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On a Budget: Write Your Book without Going Broke

As I’ve said here before (not that it’s any big revelation), there’s not a lot of money in books. So most of us authors (even big sellers like Jonathan Franzen, I was pleased to learn) go about our lives in a less-than-extravagant way.

Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank to write books. A few thoughts on where you can cut corners—and where to splurge:

·         I understand that some writers prefer to record their thoughts in beautiful, expensive journals as a way of honoring their work. But my thinking is exactly the opposite—I like to be messy with my ideas, and I don’t want to cling to words that aren’t worthy just because I wrote them on expensive papaer. So I use spiral composition books for all my writing, purchased ten for a dollar at back-to-school sales. In the red ones, I keep my weekly to-do lists, one page per week; in the blue ones, I keep my creative work—quotes, ideas, revision notes, brainstorming; in the purple, my notes on production and promotion. The rest I reserve for specific projects.
·         I’m addicted to writing with certain pens, but I keep my addiction affordable—Uniball 207 signos that I purchase in bulk, for about a dollar a piece.
·         In addition to an external hard drive, I use Dropbox (free) for file backup; I save everything there as a matter of course.
·         To extend the life of my laptop (five years and counting; wish me luck), I use a netbook when I travel.
·         I use Mailchimp (free) for my e-newsletters, and I use PicMonkey (also free; maybe a cousin to Mailchimp?) for certain projects, like audiobook covers.
·         Obviously, a good word processing/spreadsheet/presentation program is essential—and you should learn how to use it. After much resistance, I finally upgraded to Word 365, a subscription service ($99 per year). The time I’ve saved thanks to its enhanced features (not to mention the free tech support) makes me glad I switched. I’m no whiz at Excel, but I know it well enough to save myself all sorts of time by using it to keep track of everything from research material to mailing lists to marketing plans.
·         A book budget is essential—no respectable writer can do without reading, including the work of your friends and colleagues, which you’ll want to buy new. For other titles, I keep a reading list in the back of my creative notebook and pick up them up at Powells (used) and also at the library.
·         For books I bring out independently, I prefer contracting a la carte for the parts I can’t do myself, such as cover design, as opposed to purchasing an author services package. (I love working with Cyrusfiction Productions; Cyrus is professional and affordable.) For print books that aren’t with a publisher, I use Print on Demand through Lightning Source and CreateSpace so that I don’t have to deal with inventory and warehousing.
·         For promotion, I’ve learned that a whole lot of what sells books doesn’t cost a thing, other than some time, which I personally limit to 20% of my overall time for writing, so that my primary focus remains creative.