I may have mentioned somewhere along the way that I’ve competed on the “pro bbq” circuit in the past. I enjoy cooking (mainly because I enjoy eating!) At one point, I considered launching a small BBQ joint and even consulted the Small Business Association about it. “The most important thing in a new venture like this,” the advisor told me, “is being able to limit waste.” It’s not any different in other businesses, either. And that’s what writing is: your business.
I was sitting off to the back of an after-party at a comicon with another author (cuz that’s where they stick the writers… actually, we migrated there naturally,) and we were laughing about places/things that were an absolute financial suckhole–things that were a colossal failure to even make back the money paid. These are usually author services or advertising avenues. Most of our experiences were the same, and we universally agreed that dollar for dollar, we wish we’d have spent the money on editors, instead.
Without further ado, here is a list of the top worst places to spend money for authors:
- Blog Tours & social media blitzs (twitter tours)
- Press Releases
- Writers contest entry fees at print journals
- Online Writers Courses or Classes
- Manuscript submissions services
- multiple books on the art and craft of writing (moreso if you never get around to reading them–buying them can be a form of procrastination for many)
- subscriptions to writer’s websites
- Travel for Conventions outside of writers’ areas (conventions/conferences are a great investment, but there are usually ones close enough they don’t require airfare)
- Professional Video Trailers for Books
- Paid Beta Reviews
- Writing Software that went unused
Granted, this is not by any means an exhaustive list—but it’s the items that were repeatedly noted by other authors on a couple forums and writers groups I belong to. They might prove profitable for some people, so this list isn’t a “never use these things,” kind of warning. It should, however, tell you that if you’re going to pay for any of the things on the list you should certainly count the cost and understand that it might be wasteful, there might be ways to achieve the same end result for free, and if you’re on a tight budget but planning to spend cash those dollars might be better served elsewhere.
Another thing comment that came up from many authors alongside those large money holes were time wasters. Spending too much time on bad promo efforts was big. Copy and pasting the same message to four-hundred Twitter feeds or Facebook groups is a huge time-suck; nobody pays attention to those things anyway—their full of bots and fake accounts and incredibly cluttered (even if you get a sale after those four hours, four hours spent doing marketing correctly will pay off better in the long run.)
Where money is best spent, in my experience, is in editing and cover art. A solid cover helps open the door and pique a reader’s interest. Inevitably, they will crack it open and read a couple paragraphs or click the Look Inside feature. If the first things they see are clunky writing, boring writing, or errors they are apt to pass on a purchase.
As I’ve promised to so many people, you can DIY Indie publish your book with no cash out of pocket. It is absolutely possible! Most people don’t have the full skillset required and everyone should try to outsource things like edits and beta reads so they get fresh eyes and perspective on a story. Some people will sprinkle in some wisdom and set a budget, even a small one, and try to step up their game. If you are pooling some money to invest in your book the best expenditures you can make are 1.editing and 2. cover art… and in that order.