This week authors J. Thorn and Crys Cain discuss different ways you can cut the costs of creating a book without sacrificing the quality.


Crys: Hello and welcome to The Author Life Podcast. I’m Crys Cain with my co-host J Thorn.

J: How you doing?

Crys: How’s it going, J? It’s been a month, we’re not in rhythm.

J: No, we’re totally out of sync.

Crys: Oh, so what’s been happening in your writing life the last month?

J: Turmoil. I’ve had a busy month in my personal life. I’ve had a lot of things I’ve been dealing with.

I haven’t done much first drafting. So, I have a few things on pause and things I’m trying to decide if I wanna move forward with or not. Not a high production month, but definitely have things that I’m inching forward. What about you?

Crys: Let’s see, it’s been a little over a month, or about a month since I got back from the States. And I didn’t really get into writing mode until August because the kid was sick off and on and my schedule was disrupted. But in August I’ve been pretty consistent on my first drafting words. I’ve been getting back into doing some more of the basic marketing stuff that I had given like up to my co-writer, let her do those kinds of things. I’m like reloading those on, getting more involved in newsletter swaps, and different like group promo kind of things that I’ve just basically ignored for two or three years.

J: Yeah. Yeah. So you’re catching things where you can, it sounds like.

Crys: Yeah. Yeah. I’m trying not to overload myself all at once. Like making the words the most important thing, and slowly like bringing on all of the other things that I did a lot of when I was first starting because I needed to get my name out there. And I got lazy once things hit an equilibrium of sorts.

J: Yep, know the feeling.

Crys: Yeah. Today, I wanted to talk about something that is a question that just about all of the writers we work with struggle with. Not everyone, but almost all of them. And that’s often, how can I lower the cost of creating my book without lowering the quality of creating my book? And with cost, we’re thinking about things like your editing, your cover design, your website, your format. Like anything that you do before you launch that book that you have to pay for can get really expensive. So what are some tips and tricks we have to people to not sacrifice the quality when they do have to cut costs?

J: I would say the first question you have to ask yourself is which currency you’re using to pay for your books. It really comes down to two. You can pay money or you can pay with time. And knowing what you have to spend is important. Clearly, if you have more money than time then you should be hiring people to do things that you don’t have time to do.

If you have more time than money then you should clearly be trying to do more on your own and saving up for the things that you know you absolutely cannot do by yourself. So I think that often gets overlooked and I think, too, part of the problem is there’s an assumption that there’s a very strict deadline or timetable involved here.

So one of the things I’ve told clients in the past is like, wow, if this cover’s gonna cost me $400, that’s a lot of money. Like I don’t have it, what should I do? Should I go on Fiverr? Should I have my son’s art class take a shot?

And I’m like, or you could wait. Or you could save the money as you can until you have it. You don’t necessarily have to cut corners either. Again, time is a factor, right? If you have a day job and you’re writing in your free time and you don’t have an audience that’s demanding your next book and you don’t need those royalties to pay the bills, like what’s the hurry? Save up and do it the way you want it if you don’t have the money now.

So that’s probably more of a macro answer as opposed to a micro answer, which is what you asked me for. Sorry.

Crys: That’s all right. That’s a good place to start. And you’re a big proponent of paying for the education early on. Like hiring an editor who’s worth their salt, even if it’s expensive, because you’re going to learn so much from it those first few books.

And I was actually on a private round table with an Australian author who has, I think, 10 books out or so in a couple of series. And she’s full-time author now. They’re doing really well. And she hired a New York Times editor for those first 10 books. She learned a lot from her. She wouldn’t have given up that experience for the world, but it was very expensive.

Now that she’s full time, she’s planning on upping her production schedule, which would also mean upping her costs. But one, the editor that she has is already pretty booked and won’t be able to accommodate faster schedule. And two, she’s learned so much from her that she feels she doesn’t need that high level of editing because she’s already incorporating everything she’s learned from those 10 books into the books she’s currently writing now. So she’s been able to cut down on her costs for an editor now that she’s got the education and needs less intensity.

J: Yeah, absolutely. I wholeheartedly agree with that approach. I think it’s more money upfront, but it’s well worth it in the long run.

Crys: One of the things that I do that I think is the best balance, it is when you’re shopping around for service providers, whether it is a cover designer, whether it is an editor, I say you ask other authors because two people can be providing the same level of quality at vastly different price points.

My proofreader I think criminally under charges, but she’s very happy working at the level that she works at, and she’s insanely good. So I use her. It would be very hard for me to switch to somebody else because she’s cheap, she’s fast, and she’s excellent. And you normally don’t get all of those in one bucket. But I’ve used other people who were same level of quality, far more expensive, just because she wasn’t available.

So you wanna shop around and ask people. The only way you’re going to know for certain is by hiring someone and trying them. But the way you can be more certain before you’ve tried them is getting reviews from other authors.

J: Yeah, I’ll add on to that. If you have more time than money, then bartering or trading is not a bad idea as well. If you can’t outright pay to have an editor, but you know that that editor is also an author who needs a cover design and you’re a cover designer, there’s opportunities there.

And that’s one of the great things about the Author Life Community, is we have folks in there with all different levels of experience and skillsets. And so there are opportunities to trade services, which can work out well.

Crys: Yeah, I’ve used this quite a bit and continue to use it. For instance, I’m doing an editing job for a Costa Rican author who translates her own work into Spanish. I don’t think that someone on a Costa Rican salary could pay the levels that I charge as an editor. But she offered to do some translation work for me, so I was like, excellent. This is an excellent bargain for both of us because the translation costs would be quite similar to what my editing costs would be.

J: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good approach.

Crys: I would like to ask our listeners: what ways they have used to cut costs without qualities that we haven’t mentioned? Because there’s so many ways to do this author business, you’re not limited to one. And I would love to share the knowledge.

Thank you so much for joining us this and every other week, if you would like to have more of these conversations in real time, you can check our out our community at