Most writers are already masters of economizing; we usually know where to get the paper, toner and office supplies at the lowest prices. I still recycle my old draft stories and manuscripts by turning them over and printing out new material on the blank side of the pages, and whenever possible I send out things via e-mail versus snail mail to save postage and shipping. My B&W laser printer may not be glamorous or cutting-edge tech, but it's dependable and allows me to make as many copies as I want for half the price a copy service would charge.
I can't say enough good things about the move toward electronic copy-editing that NY is doing. I may gripe about the problems involved (and I just did a few days ago) but what I like most is not paying $95 to overnight a copy-edited manuscript back to NY. Which is what it would have cost me for the last one if we'd done it on the hard copy. Whenever possible, send as much as you can to your editor and agent via e-mail or electronic copy.
I think promotional materials, ad space, mail outs, blog and web site hosting, travel expenses, conference fees and hotel rooms are probably the average pro writer's biggest expenses. Even the writers who are not yet published can still spend a great deal of money if they regularly attend writer conferences and events. None of these things are necessary to do our job, but I won't try to persuade anyone to give them up just yet. What I hope to do is encourage writers to try alternatives.
Promotional materials, ad space and mail outs -- these all cost a bundle, and once they're distributed and used up they have to be purchased again. Consider how much you'd pay to have 100,000 people take a good look at your work, and then hand them a copy of your backlist. That's what I've been doing for the last year, and it hasn't cost me a penny. All it took was posting my free stories and novels on
If you're bound and determined to pay for your advertising, think about partnering with another writer or two and doing some group promotion, ads, mail outs, etc. You can split the costs two or three ways and still do the same thing.
Blog and web site hosting -- you get what you pay for, yes? Paperback Writer costs me nothing. Zero. It's a free blog. It's always been a free blog. And while I'm sure all those gadgets and doodads writers get with their expensive blog/web site hosting service are fun to play with, they aren't necessary for a successful online presence. Great content, not fancy bells and whistles, are what bring visitors back for more.
Again, if you'd rather keep your pricey site, again consider bringing in some other authors, doing a group site and splitting the costs.
Travel expenses, conference fees and hotel rooms -- if you're a writer and you're going to writer conferences to market your books, you're not marketing to readers. You're marketing to other writers. Unless you're a member of RWA, which I think has a 9 to 1 ratio of unpubbed to pubbed writers, this is just a waste of time. The $2000.00 you spend for the privilege of hobnobbing with the big names and signing maybe a dozen books at the charity book signing at a single con could be spent instead on an entire year of giveaways of your books to readers at your (hopefully free) weblog or web site.
Should you still want to go, go to reader conferences. RT is the big one for romance writers; I hear these comic cons are great for SF, fantasy and UF writers. Also look for conferences that are within driving distance of your home or within a day's travel by car versus the ones you have to buy an $800.00 plane ticket to get to.
Something I always advise unpubbed writers do to save conference $$$: make it a rule from now on that for every writers conference you attend, you write, finish and submit one new manuscript. Otherwise, what's the point?
And before anyone says "But if I don't do this stuff I'll never be a successful writer." I'm a successful writer, and I don't do any of that stuff. You're looking at all of what I do, right here.
What are some of the creative ways you writers out there are economizing? Let us know in comments.