How to turn your blog into a book on a budget

“The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.”
* Stephen King

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Photo credit: Iulia_L, Shutterstock

If writing a book is on your to-do list, there is no better time to get on with it.

The conditions will never be ‘just right’. You’ll never have more time (time has a habit of filling up no matter what stage in life you’re at). You’ll never be in a perfect financial position that allows you to take time off to write (plus you can squeeze writing into spare pockets of time so you don’t need to give everything up to focus on it full-time). And if you’re avoiding doing it because you’re scared of the tech and the costs involved (like I was for so long) then the only solution is to learn as you go and take it a step at a time.

The spark for Don’t Panic! A Practical Guide to Twins, Triplets and More began when was expecting my non-identical twin boys in 2009. I saw a gap in the market for a book for parents of multiples that was actually written by parents of multiples. I started my Tales of a Twin Mum blog as an author platform a couple of years later and I began going along to writing conferences. After some pauses for major life events (like having a third baby, renovating our house and relocating our family from the UK to Australia – yes the last few years have been insane!) I finally gave myself the time and space to finish the book and get over my tech fears.

Here’s a mini guide to self-publishing and the lessons I learned…

I found that breaking the process down into stages helped me to focus and make progress. Once you’ve finished your manuscript, there are four main stages involved in getting your book ready for launch: 1) The final edit, 2) Formatting, 3) Cover design and 4) Distribution. Here’s what you need to know.

1. The final edit
I’m a freelance writer but I still felt it was important to have someone with a fresh pair of eyes look over my manuscript. I appointed social media manager and blogger Joanne Brady as my professional editor. It was worth every penny as she found all of the little mistakes I’d overlooked and she had my manuscript back to me in just a few days.

How much a professional edit costs depends on the length of your book and how polished it is. Some editors charge per word, others per hour. As a very rough guide, a professional book edit could cost from as little as £50 up to £250.

If you’re on a tight budget though you could buddy up with another blogger to swap manuscripts, or swap one of your skills in return for an edit.

2. Formatting
You can format your book for free and have it available online for sale the same day – it doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. I used Adobe InDesign for mine (which is available for a monthly subscription) along with a book template that I bought separately online. It was a steep learning as I’m not a designer (thank goodness for YouTube videos!) but there are lots of other formatting options.

You can format your book in Word for free, or there are other routes like Scrivener, Vellum (Mac only), Blurb and many more. Take a look at the options before jumping in and making a decision.

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3. Cover design
I didn’t want to spend much on my cover design, so I tried four of the top-rated cover designers on Fiverr to see what I’d get back. Unfortunately, I didn’t like any of them. Next I mocked up designs on Canva, but I knew I’d never feel 100% happy with any of them so I searched for a professional designer. I found Angie B Studio on Twitter and Angie designed me a fantastic cover for a very reasonable price. I’ve had incredible feedback from people so I know it was definitely the right decision for me. Your cover can make or break a sale, so it’s important to get it right. A professionally designed cover costs between £100 – £200.

4. Distribution
There are so many ways to sell your book, and I found having so many options paralysed me for a while. I now realise the important thing is to make a decision and move the project forward. There are no right or wrong ways with book distribution – only better ways to do it next time!

Amazon is the most obvious place to sell your e-book as it has the largest market share. You can sell through Amazon solely as part of their KDP programme (which limits you to only sell through them for 90 days but comes with perks like being able to do price offers and being part of their lending scheme), you can submit it to every store individually (i.e. Sony, Apple, Nook etc.), or you can submit it through an aggregator like Smashwords. Aggregators like Smashwords send your book to all of the main online stores apart from Amazon (which you need to do direct). You can then manage everything from the one dashboard rather than needing to log in to multiple accounts to check your sales figures on every platform. Aggregators usually take a commission for every sale made.

There’s also a site called Book Baby that can distribute your book for a fixed fee (instead of charging a commission on every sale) and they do print books too. Ingram Spark does both e-book distribution and print on demand, and Createspace is Amazon’s print on demand solution.

You can also sell directly from your blog using solutions like Gumroad or Selz if you want total control.

In the end, I decided to launch my e-book with Amazon KDP, then in 90 days I’ll review it and may start using Smashwords. I’ll do a print on demand book a little later this year for a secondary launch.

Self-publishing on a budget
You can get your book out in the world for free or you can invest a few pounds in the process upfront with the aim of recouping the costs through sales. If you’re interested in reading more about the process of putting a book together, I’ve written a more detailed behind-the-scenes post on my blog.

In my next guest post for Britmums, I’ll be writing about the book launch process and harnessing your community, so watch out for that next week. If you’re thinking about writing a book, or you’re getting ready to launch one, then I’d love to hear from you on my social channels (links below). Come say hi and feel free to ask any questions about the process as it has been one huge and exciting learning curve for me. One final thing… Do you know anybody who is expecting twins or triplets? If so please send them a link to Don’t Panic! A Practical Guide to Twins, Triplets and More as this is the book they need in their life!

Karen Bleakley

Photo credit: Karen Bleakley

About the author:
Karen Bleakley is a blogger and freelance writer who relocated from the UK, halfway across the world to Brisbane, Australia! She has three children (a girl and twin boys) and is the author of Don’t Panic! A Practical Guide to Twins, Triplets and More. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and at her blog www.talesofatwinmum.com.

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BritMums is the UK's largest parent blogger collective. We offer bloggers the latest support, advice and how-tos as well as feature great content on food, travel, relationships, health, charities, crafting and much more. Our social network is free to join and helps bloggers connect with others; our BritMums Pro programme connects bloggers with brands on our high-quality projects and our annual conference, BritMums Live, is the blogging event of the year.

6 Responses to How to turn your blog into a book on a budget

  1. Alexis 17 April 2016 at 08:26 #

    Hi Karen

    I’ve been following your blogs for some time now.

    It’s been great to read how your book started. As always your blog is well written, easy to follow and has great advice.

    Looking forward to the next one.

  2. Belinda 17 April 2016 at 09:18 #

    Thanks Karen, most helpful. I’m at the thinking and panicking about it stage 😉

    • Karen @ TalesofaTwinMum 19 April 2016 at 12:49 #

      Thanks Belinda. Don’t think and panic – just start getting stuff out of your head and on the screen or on paper! Getting started is the hardest part. Well, apart from formatting which wasn’t fun at all 🙂

  3. Amanda 17 April 2016 at 11:17 #

    Well done for following your dream, overcoming hurdles and life challenges and completing this project! Now for the next one 😊

    • Karen @ TalesofaTwinMum 19 April 2016 at 12:53 #

      Thanks Amanda! I can’t believe how all consuming it is launching a book – it has been a great learning experience and I’ve already started work on my next project. It’s a little bit addictive!