When I was just starting out, I didn’t have to worry much about making money writing. I was living at home, going to school, and the most common expenses I had to worry about were paper and ink for printing, but I didn’t really have to worry about those, since my parents supplied both. Occasionally, when I was feeling brave, I would need envelopes and stamps, too, but of course my parents supplied those as well. They even supplied (with the help of the public library system) the books and magazines I read to help improve my craft.
After I got married and left home, my expenses consisted of those same things, though now I had to pay for them. Even as little as the cost was, my writing operated at a loss for many years. Things changed. Even as my need to write resurfaced with a vengeance, so too did my need to support my family. I wrote when I could and went to business school. I worked hard, graduated summa cum laude, and started a business. I used the last of my school money to fund the start up. I invested in my business. Though I didn’t have much, I did my best to balance the need for quality with the need to keep down expenses. Now, I have a profitable business. Not so profitable that I don’t need to worry about keeping expenses down, but profitable enough to contribute to my family’s living.
So, why am I sharing this with you? This doesn’t apply to you, does it? Certainly not. After all, I was starting a business. I was trying to reach out to clients. All you want is readers, and maybe a publisher. That isn’t a business, is it?
Except, the funny thing is, in all that time that I was just writing, I spent hundreds of dollars on paper, ink, postage, books, and magazines—and I earned a grand total of $10 for one lousy poem.
It was only after I decided to invest in my writing as a business, with about 75% of that investment going into my copywriting business, that I started to earn money as a writer. Sure, most of the money I’ve earned has either been as a copywriter or a resume writer. But, I’ve also earned more as a freelance writer than I spent in all those years investing in paper, ink, postage, books, and magazines. By taking myself seriously enough to invest in my writing, not just to learn, but to market myself, I have succeeded where I so often failed before. I’ve had my work published and I’ve been paid for it.
When you publish a book—whether you self-publish or whether you publish through a traditional publisher—there will be additional expenses if you do it right. Like a business, you have to invest in the success of your book. You can produce many of the marketing materials you need on your own, but you’ll still need to invest your time and your effort in learning how and in doing it well. You may need software or equipment you don’t have now, which is one form of investment. However, you may not want to learn or you may not have the talent to do a good job. Then it’s time to invest in the help you need.
There are service providers for just about anything you may need, from editing to fact checking, from book covers to book trailers, and just about anything else you can dream up. You need to choose what you can do yourself and what you must have someone else do. You need to look to your contacts for what help you can get for free, and you need to determine what you’ll have to pay for. You need to compare that to what you can afford. You need to prioritize what can wait and what has to happen now. You can find service providers who are also just getting started and may be able to work out a payment plan with you so you can get what you need within the budget you can afford.
What you shouldn’t do is skimp on quality. Marketing sends out all sorts of messages. Poor quality marketing sends out a message you really don’t want to share with your readers—I don’t really care about my work, this book isn’t really worth much, ect. Make sure the quality you produce speaks for itself and that the message it speaks is the one you want others to hear. If that means less marketing, then go with less marketing. A few good pieces of marketing are a far better investment than many poor ones.