I kicked around the idea of writing a book many times before I actually did it, but one of the things I always wondered about was how much would it cost me to write and publish a book.
Can you Write and Publish a Book for free? The short answer is: Yes, You CAN write and publish your first book for free with absolutely no budget.
Now, like anything else, there are ways to make the process faster or more efficient by using paid tools, and in some circumstances, I think paying for tools or services is actually in your best interest.
However, in this article, I want to give you a step by step guide to writing your novel for free. I feel like most people are writing their first novel on a limited budget, and I want to take away any barrier I can for you, we don’t want to deprive the world of its potential next great author because of wallet constraints.
So in this article, I will show you the path forward to writing and self-publishing your next book completely while keeping your wallet shut. I think the easiest way to do this is by covering each of the essential steps that go into creating and self-publishing a book while giving you a few ways to complete each of them completely free.
Step 1: Brainstorming- Great Story Ideas is Always Free
Ok, this part has always been and still is free. But I wanted to make sure I hit all the broad steps in writing a book. Every creative has their own process when it comes to brainstorming ideas, and most of us love this part of the process. In fact, the world is filled with great ideas shelved by would-be writers that never followed through with the rest of the process.
So make sure that you put the time into brainstorming your story ideas, but if I had to guess a lot of you are like me when I first started my self-publishing journey, you probably already have a great idea or three, that is just burning inside of you and you need to get it out, that might actually be why you are reading this article.
How to brainstorm a great story idea for free:
- Set time aside for brainstorming: it’s a highly creative process and you want to make sure that you have time to get in the flow and stay in the flow when you are brainstorming, so try booking 30-45 minutes aside to write down 1-3 line story ideas, don’t pass judgment on them right now. Just write them down. One good brainstorming session could have you avoid writer’s block for years to come
- Find a location that inspires your creativity and is far away from distractions. Once I had the best brainstorming session of my life on cold bleachers on an empty soccer field in the middle of the winter. The key is to be left to go down your own rabbit holes, one after another, completely unabridged and unapologetic.
- Use an organized method to capture your ideas, but make sure the method you chose doesn’t interfere with your creativity. For instance, if you hate typing this is not the time to hunt and peck your way on a keyboard. You want to use a method that keeps you in a creative flow for the entire allotted time. So if you are most comfortable using a pen and paper then take out the old notebook, if you feel you are most creative while moving, you may want to go for a walk and record your idea by dictating into your phone. If you are collaborating you may want to use a big whiteboard and just write your ideas on a board, while your partner does the same without talking, and then step back and discuss. Or maybe you are the type of person who needs to rapid-fire ideas off of someone, then do it. The key is making sure each idea is being captured for you to go back to later.
Step 2: Plotting Your Story – Outlining is Priceless but it too can be done for free
Ok now that you have a notebook or wall full of great ideas that are just waiting to be turned into the next great best seller. It’s important you choose one and outline your story, I know some of you are pantsers, in fact, I used to be one myself. But I’ve since started to migrate over to being a plotter, and I wouldn’t say I’m as meticulous about plotting every single last detail but I do make sure I have the story arc, story beats, and scenes outlined to make my writing more efficient. I would definitely recommend that you find an outlining process that fits your style, but still maximizes the speed of your writing.
Regardless of what extent you plan on plotting your story, take solace in knowing you can do it for free. So here are a few options you have to plot your novel.
- The Index Card Version: This is a method I’ve used a bunch of times, and really like. What you do is get a pack of index cards and write down 1 scene per card. The best part about this method is that you can then place the cards in the order you think works best for the story, but then you can easily shift them around as you make changes. This method will give you a visual representation of your entire novel. I like to Include the basics on each card:
- Who is in the scene
- Where does it take place
- Point of view of the scene
- Why is the scene important to the overall story
- Use a notebook: If you are more comfortable with pen and paper then go that route. This option gives you an ability to also include a paragraph or two describing what happens in each scene which will make your writing that much smoother moving forward. But you lose the ability to see the entire story mapped out in one location, and shift the scenes around visually as needed.
- Word Processor: If you prefer to type out your notes, then you can simply open up whatever word processor you have on your computer and essentially duplicate the process you would have done in the notebook.
- Notepad App: on your phone or computer. If you are using an iPhone or Mac, the notepad app makes it easy to jot down notes, and the reason this might be a good free option to plot your novel is it lists all your entries. So you can create a new entry for each scene and have a list of your scenes kind of simulating the index card method.
Step 3: Writing Your Story Using Free Tools
Ok, this is where the magic happens. This is where all the prework starts to come together and develops into that next best seller. With that being said, you still need a way to do the writing, and keeping with the point of this article I will share a few ways you can write your novel for free. I know these ideas are mostly obvious, but still, I promised I’d cover all the major steps in writing and self-publishing your first book for free and I want to keep my promise.
- Handwritten: Believe it or not some great writers still hand write there work, at least the first draft. I wouldn’t recommend this since I always like to balance the importance of finishing your writing, and to do this I think efficiency is important. Plus my handwriting is complete garbage so I couldn’t read it anyway. But if this is how you do your best writing then go for it. But you will need to eventually get your work typed and converted for publishing so it just adds a step.
- Word processor: Crack open word or works on your computer and type out your novel like any other document. You can format it later.
- Google Docs: Use google free word processor to write your book. The advantages here are that you can pick up your document from any device, this is great if you travel a lot. It’s backed up on google. Also, if you are into dictating your novel, the google dictation works pretty great for a free tool
- Grammarly.com: is a free online word processor that has some paid options, but you can definitely use the free options to type out a novel, and the good thing is their editing program is pretty good and really easy to use.
Step 4: Editing can be done at no cost.
Hopefully, by now, I’ve established that choosing to spend money when writing your first novel is completely optional, but Editing is NOT! This is probably one of the areas I would recommend spending some money if you have it and you’re serious about doing this long term. But again, I promised I would give you some ideas on how to do it for free, so let’s get into it.
- Self-Edit: This is actually really hard to do, most writers are not good editors, and it’s even more difficult to do this when you’ve written the book, to begin with, because you know it so intimately it’s hard to see flaws or gaps in the stories. Also, when you are line editing your brain may fill in words that aren’t there or are misspelled. But it is a viable option if its the only option. So if you are going to self-edit here are a few tips to make sure you succeed.
- Make sure you give yourself a break between writing and editing. At least 1 week, but the longer the better.
- Read each line out loud and slowly to make sure you don’t miss anything or even worse add words that aren’t there.
- Print out your work and break out the red pen. It’s much easier to make edits on paper, ok let me rephrase that, it’s easier to make the actual edits on the document but easier to make sure you catch all of them on paper.
- When you are making edits on your document, make sure you have a method to save each version, don’t delete old versions. So have a file saving method that is easy to understand
- Phone a Friend: Many of us are blessed with great friends and family that are avid readers and have a penchant for being type A Grammar police. They can be great for editing, in fact, I would always recommend making sure you have a second pair of eyes on your work, they can help you find copy editing issues like plot problems or help with line editing if they are great with grammar. Just make sure you know what their strengths are and aren’t. Give them enough time to complete the edit, but make sure you get a commitment on a timeline.
- Grammarly: Again there free online word processing platform is great, or you can get their free chrome extension also helps if you are writing on another platform. But you can take your writing and plug it into their site and it makes it easy to get the I’s dotted and T’s crossed. In fact, I use the plugin on all my blog posts.
Step 5: Book Cover Design Can Also Be Done For Free
Now as much as a writer would like to think a prospective reader would pick up their book based solely on the merit of their writing alone, the truth is book covers are insanely important to have success with your book launch. Earlier I said if you had a budget to spend one of the areas I would suggest using it was editing, well book cover design is probably the other.
But if you wanted to design a cover yourself for free it can, in fact, be done. You have a few options here.
- You can use the built-in cover creator on Amazon.com, but honestly, this option is pretty limited. I would definitely suggest one of the other options below. Competition for writers is getting tougher every day, and you want to make sure your cover is up to the task.
- Barter with a graphic designer, friend to make your cover.
- Open up a photo editor program on your computer or mac and create it yourself. The most common program is Adobe Photoshop, but that’s not free. So if you want a free alternative, I would suggest GIMP. You can download it free here.
- If you aren’t down for learning how to use a photo editing program, I would suggest trying a free online program called CANVA, They have an Ebook Cover template that is easy to edit, and you can download your cover for free.
Step 6: Free Formatting Manuscript to Kindle
To format your novel from most word processors like Word, Pages, or google docs, basically, files that end in .doc(x) can be turned into Kindle book for free by using Kindle Create, which you guessed it, is free. You can download Kindle Create for free here.
Step 7: Publishing Your Book to Amazon Kindle costs nothing
You can self-publish your new masterpiece to the world’s largest ebook platform in the world for free. Once you’ve converted your file to the Kindle format, you can sign up for KDP for free and make your book available for the masses.
Sign up for KDP here.
Step 8. Now You Know that you can write and publish your book free, there is one last thing to do…Start.
Start. Follow the process outlined above and start bringing your story to life. The hardest thing about writing a book is continuing to the conclusion. But know while writing a book is not easy, never let a worry about potential cost deter you.
In this article, we’ve put out a guide that will allow you to write and publish your next book for free. This will hopefully give you the confidence to pursue your dream of becoming a published author. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I hope this article not only shows you how to write and publish your first book for free but also inspires you to take action.
Thanks for reading and writing!