Published: February 22, 2021
Short answer: It takes forever, it won’t be great, you’ll probably regret it, and…it’s almost impossible anyway.
If you know you need help creating a book that stands a chance, check out our services for self-publishers.
If you don’t want to believe our short answer above, you might want to stop reading—you’re probably not going to change your mind. Still, we’d like you to consider this question: what does “for free” mean?
What does “for free” mean?
You’ll find hundreds of articles, tutorials, even books (not always free) arguing that you should publish for free and explaining how to do so. Except that at line seven or eight, all of them admit you’re probably going to need some help when it comes to editing, interior layout, cover designs, ISBN registrations, and few other things. Are all these things free? Sure, you can ask your cousin or that friend of yours who’s good with Photoshop—they may be happy to help in their spare time and you can get some basic results after several weeks (or months). But who cares? It’s free!
We can probably agree that professional editors, illustrators, and designers do their jobs for a living. They sell services, whether reading and correcting your manuscript, formatting your story, or creating a cover that draws readers to your book.
So here is the question: How much do you value your book, and how much are you willing to put into your project to make it successful?
If your goal is to publish a book for fun and you already have some of the required skills, you have lots of time, and you’re keen to learn everything, there’s nothing wrong with doing everything yourself. Go for it and have fun!
But what if you don’t have months to spend—months you could be writing—on watching tutorials and googling and reading articles about putting together a book (and then an ebook)? What if you want to make money with your book, or have a professional publication you can use to boost or start your career?
Just as you would hire a contractor to remodel your kitchen or a baker to create your wedding cake—assuming you’re not a contractor or a baker and you care about your kitchen or your wedding—you want to hire experienced professionals to build your book.
Is that inevitable? Well, let’s look at it this way: most articles you read omit an important piece, a simple equation with three variables.
Quality vs. Time vs. Cost
There will always be a trade-off: if you want high quality, you’ll have to invest either time or money. The good news is that today it’s much cheaper to invest your money than your time.
What does “publish a book for free” mean today?
Technology has improved dramatically in the last twenty years, allowing anyone with tech skills to achieve semi-professional results in many fields. Design is one of them. Publishing? Also. But please bear in mind we are talking about semi-professional results and with over one million books published every year, competition for readers is steep.
To produce a well-published book that finds its way to readers you need:
- Editing: No matter how good you are, you must have your manuscript edited. Can you self-edit? Sure, we wrote a piece with some advice on how to do it, but we are far from suggesting it.
- Interior formatting and design: Part of the pleasure of reading a book—whether it’s a printed or an ebook version—is not having to think about the design. If your book is hard to read because it’s not well-formatted (the font is too large or too small; spacing makes the page too dense or too empty; weird characters you don’t see on your page get printed; the ebook version is awkward on different devices), readers will get tired and put down the book. You won’t get any positive reviews, you won’t gain visibility, and your book won’t sell.
- Book Cover: The cover of a book is the most effective marketing tool. It’s often what decides the initial success of a book. Just think about it: which book will a bookstore manager showcase? The one that has a catchy, professionally designed cover or one with a cover with a free stock image and competing fonts? Same with online—it’s easy for readers to pass over a confusing, hard-to-read cover and click instead to a more compelling one.
- ISBN number and registration: If you want to be able to sell and distribute your book on any major retailers (online and physical), you need to get an ISBN number. There are ways to obtain one for free, but that will limit your ability to sell your book through multiple outlets.
- Marketing: No matter how well-written your book is, it’s not going to sell itself. And if you think marketing is not part of the self-publishing process, that it’s something that maybe you’ll have to do at some point later, you’re wrong. You need to plan in advance, start building your audience long before your product is available, and you need to promote your work long after it’s published.
There are many reasons why you should spend money on producing your book. And let’s be clear, even if you take a full DIY approach, you’ll have to spend money anyway.
If you edit the book yourself, you’ll need to buy software to help you.
Do you want to design the interior or the book cover? You’ll probably end up downloading basic templates and using apps or software that will not deliver professional results. Professional programs cost money and require many hours of training to use well. It’s not the software that makes the book. It’s the person using the software.
Now we want to be absolutely clear about one thing: we are not talking about vanity press publishing. We are not saying you should pay to get published—in fact, you shouldn’t. But you should want to pay experts to do what you are not so good at doing. Acquiring professional help won’t make you less of a self-publisher, won’t decrease the value of your work, and won’t ruin your chances of being picked up by a traditional publisher, if that’s your hope.
Luminare Press has worked with authors for more than ten years, offering professional services to those who want to focus on writing and selling their books.
Our designers have worked on hundreds of books and spent thousands of hours designing them.
Luminare Press offers self-publishing packages—if you want a turn-key service that includes all you need to have a book ready to hit the market—and individual design services for a fraction of the cost.
Feature image by https://fastgood.cheap/