As was in my “Future Plans” post, I’m currently working on three writing projects simultaneously: The third Law of Swords book, the Fennec Fox Press House Style Guide (which is typically added to only as issues come up) and — in those times when I NORMALLY work on this blog — a book entitled “This Book Cannot Make Any Money.”
Work on “This Book Cannot Make Any Money” won’t prevent this blog from being written, however. Instead, it is intended as its own blog series, allowing me to go through the process of self-publishing a book in a tutorial form, or (since I intend to actually publish the end-product of this series) maybe more like a “lets play” (to borrow from the Gamer vernacular) of self-publishing a book for my blog readers. This is my second try at this kind of project; the first time it got bogged down and eventually swallowed by the need to deal with other things, but this time I have a more developed plan for how to handle this.
So let’s begin.
Once you’ve completed your first draft, I recommend setting a budget based on your projected worst-case-scenario projection for sales. I should add the caveat that I mean REALISTIC (not optimistic, not pessimistic) worst-case scenario. If you mishandle things, yes, it is possible to never sell a single copy of a book, but that’s a pessimistic projection. From past performance, I would project the worst case scenario for any of my sci-fi\fantasy genre novels as two hundred fifty ebook sales. At $4 profit per sale (when I set the eBook price at $5.99), that means I could set a budget of $1000 and realistically expect to break even in a worst-case scenario.
But this isn’t one of my genre novels; this is a collection of material that I’ve read, or for which I’ve been told, or which I’ve even decided for myself “Cannot Possibly Make Any Money.” With that as the premise for this project, I (at least for purposes of this blog series) project earning… no money from this book. So my total budget is zero dollars, of which I can spend zero dollars on software, zero dollars on the cover, zero dollars on the editing, zero dollars on the book design, and zero dollars on marketing. Okay, that was easy!
The rest of this blog series is going to be on overcoming the obstacle of having zero budget when self-publishing; how, with no budget, I can acquire the necessary software, create an original cover, get the book edited, and (easiest of all, though you might not believe it) market that book without spending one penny.
I have, or can and have borrowed from my mother:
1. Microsoft Office Suite 2007 (IIRC, it was bought at an extreme discount through a program my workplace at the time was offering)
2. Adobe InDesign v.6 (received as a gift; the last non-cloud version of InDesign. I recommend sinking the costs of any software you buy in a purchase rather than creating a recurring cost by leasing it over the cloud)
3. Scrivener, purchased during one of their half-price sales. (I think that, with NaNoWriMo just around the corner, that’s about to come up)
4. Photoshop Elements v. 10 or v.15 (I may be purchasing Photoshop Elements 2018 soon; v.10 came packaged for free with other software, and v.15 is borrowed from my mother)
5. Corel Draw (whatever the latest version is; it’s on my mothers computer)
…and probably a few other pieces of software I’ve bought for my writing business (or my mother has bought for her quilting business) that I’m not thinking of right now.
But, since we’re maintaining the rule that I have zero budget for this project, I’m going to pretend I haven’t bought ANY of this, yet, and find substitutes.
I do have to make certain concessions for the series as a whole before we begin: I have a blog, access to the internet, etc. My blog is on a paid-for site, but its using a resource that is free and can provide a free host if necessary (WordPress). These things I could manage to access from my local library, but the library usually won’t allow you to install software on their computers. They might, if they’re equipped well enough, have some similar software installed on their computers you can borrow, but you can’t count on that.
So, it is a bit of an assumption that — even with zero budget to produce your book — you own or have access to a computer on which you can access the internet and are permitted to install software. If you don’t, well, I’m sorry, I’m not sure what to suggest.
So, with the limitations of zero budget (minus that concession), what options in the software department are there?
In place of Microsoft Office: Anything that I would normally do with Microsoft Office, I will instead — for this project only — do with the LibreOffice suite. Now, both Microsoft Office and LibreOffice are suites of tools, but to replace the ones I actually use for my publishing work, I only need LibreOffice Writer (for word processing, replacing Microsoft Word) and LibreOffice Base (simple database software replacing Microsoft Access. I use Access to maintain some of my notes, such as character records, which need to be kept across books of a series; due to the nature of “This Book Cannot Possibly Make Any Money,” however, I won’t be using it for this book). LibreOffice is available for free (it better be, or I’m already breaking the rules), and will work with Windows, Macintosh, or even Linux. (You do need to download the correct version for your operating system, of course).
An alternative to LibreOffice is Apache OpenOffice. LibreOffice was, in fact, originally OpenOffice, but (skipping one long, complex, boring story to explain why) they split up into two organizations developing similar suites of software from a common ancestor. LibreOffice is generally considered to be the better option, containing much of the original design team, but some people still prefer OpenOffice
To replace InDesign I’ll choose Scribus. Scribus is also free, open-source software designed specifically to do, well, the same things InDesign does. It’s been going strong for many years, now, and most of the bugs are already worked out! (A word of warning: They recommend that you install ‘Ghostscript‘ first. I made the mistake of not doing this the first time I installed Scribus, and it caused several problems with my initial set-up.
Outside of Scribus, the only other free software I can think of that works as a replacement for InDesign is… InDesign. A couple years back, Adobe offered a free download of a no-longer-supported earlier version of InDesign (in fact, a whole suite of programs InDesign was part of a package of), version 2.0. It’s a bit hard to track down, and requires a software key (they provided one for the public domain at the time) which may no longer be listed anywhere, but if you can find it you can get the entire Adobe CS software suite for free. Because of its obscurity, however, I’ll stick with Scribus. (Scribus has a few more modern features, anyway). If you do have the budget to BUY this sort of software, however, I wouldn’t recommend the current, cloud-only version of InDesign; instead, I would go with QuarkXPress. A bit expensive, but it has a lifetime license (and thus is a sunken cost).
Scrivener is an odd one. It’s a word processor designed specifically for creating books, but the Windows version (which is the only one I have) is missing several key features available on the Mac version. Scrivener has promised a new, updated version soon (Scrivener 3.0) which should EVENTUALLY bring them up to near identical versions, but even with that the Mac version will be the first release.
The long and the short of it is that I only use Scrivener for eBook building, after the book has been edited. Since that’s all I use it for, I will compare it not with other word processors but rather with other eBook-making utilities. I’m at least somewhat familiar with Sigil, so that’s what I’ll be using, but I understand Calibre is popularly thought to be more intuitive and will likely have more tutorials for its use. Nevertheless, I’ll be using Sigil to produce an ePub, which I will then convert to .mobi for uploading to Amazon. (Calibre can do the conversion itself; Since Sigil can’t — at least not as of the latest version I’ve downloaded — I’ll instead be using a simple tool called ePub to Mobi).
The graphics suites are all that we still need to worry about. As a substitute for Photoshop I’ll be using the popular (though a bit tricky-to-use) GIMP. As a substitute for Corel Draw, I’ll try Inkscape (an open-source vector-based graphics utility I first saw in a package of “best open-sourced software” back in 2009. I’ve often installed it but never used it, so this will be a bit of an adventure). Not sure if I’ll need both of these programs, but at least I’m set up if I do.
Okay, software is taken care of. Next time on “This Book Cannot Possibly Make Any Money,” I’ll start using these bits of software to ‘create’ the book’s content (which is already written… or is it?). See you then.