There’s a good short piece in Publishers Weekly about Mike McDonald, a nature photographer who decided to self-publish a picture book about the (seemingly) unlikely subject of wildlands near Chicago. The book has done well.
PW asked McDonald what advice he would offer other self-publishers. He offered several ideas. One was to listen to the experts, but apply individual judgment. He says he was advised to stick to an e-book format for his book. For a picture book? I wouldn’t advise that even for an all-text book, but his counsel to apply personal assessment is solid.
Likewise the idea of trying to pre-sell copies of a book where possible. (I’m guessing he may have found organizational support for his nicely-wrought regional picture book.) Good advice if you can do it, though most authors may not be able to.
The point worth expanding on (and this one caught me since I’m working on a book about how to publish on a shoestring) was this: Be willing to spend money, notably “Hire at least one editor, just like every great writer in history.”
Certainly getting a good editor to work through your book is good counsel. Every writer can use one; it’s damn near essential. (Readers can pick up quickly on when a book is written sloppily enough that it hasn’t been edited; that’s been a top complaint of e-book buyers for years.) And hiring a good editor will cost you some money, sometimes in the lower four figures.
But if you’re strapped, there may be options. Cast your net around your social network; you may be able to find help for discount, or even for free. Do you know an English teacher or a newspaper editor? They may be able to help.
Spending some money, wisely, can be a good thing to do. The “wisely” part is key; there are endless ways to throw money away in book publishing. There was a time when I would have said that advertising was high on that throwaway list, but it’s not that simple. A number of authors have build steady, solid business on the back of carefully crafted and tested Facebook advertising (for one example).
Sometimes, things that work may be unexpected. Deciding where to spend can be one of the more difficult decisions in publishing.
Maybe start with this: Do all you can for free or close to it, first. Then you’ll find, when you can press that no further, you may have a little more money available where you need it.