Self-publishing on a tight budget (or no budget) means we have to do a lot of the work ourselves in order to save money. Luckily, there are a lot of free, useful tools available that do the jobs we need done. Here is a list of useful resources that have worked for us:
Photo Stuff: Pixlr.com is a great and free photo editor. I love using it for quick fixes, resizing, and cropping etc. There are more features available, but I haven’t used them. I just go to the site, click on the editor, upload my picture, do stuff to it, save it to my desktop, and close out the web browser. I don’t even have to have an account. It’s great. Gimp is the free version of Photoshop. It’s an app you have to download and it crashes sometimes, but I can do extensive photoshop stuff with it. I often use it to make photo collages for my family when I am too poor to participate in mass consumerism.
Graphic Design: Inkscape is a free app akin to Adobe Illustrator. The interface isn’t the greatest, and it can be a pain, but it’s free and I have done a lot of my graphic design work in it. It also has vector stuff, which is important for graphic design quality for reason Brooks has explained to me but I’ve never cared to remember. I think he said it’s because printers are stupid.
Art/Illustrations: I originally wanted to try and do my own illustrations. I started out tracing and manipulating Internet pictures in Inkscape, which was slow going and not the highest quality. I considered learning how to use the free apps Unity and/or Blender. Unity is a free app that you can design and build video games in. Blender is a free app that is used for modeling and animation. I figured if I could learn how to use one or both of these I could build scenes and turn them into shots, and turn those into illustrations. Learning how to use either of them was too time consuming, so instead I used Fiverr (I would like to eventually learn to use them, though).
Fiverr is a site where you can hire independent artists to do work for you. It is very cost effective for someone with little to no budget. It’s a little controversial because the artists are from around the world and do the work for relatively cheap. I was conflicted about using the site at first because I definitely believe artists should get paid properly for their work (myself included). What made me finally decided to use it, besides my destitution, was that the conversion rate for some of these countries was a decent amount of money for some of the artists, and because I am so poor that it makes sense for a poor artist to hire another poor artist.
Video/Audio: Ever since high school when I took a technology class where I learned how to digitally edit video (from VHS/old people technology) I’ve LOVED making videos. I didn’t start to actively make videos until graduate school, when I had access to high quality/expensive video-making apps for free. I learned on (and currently use) Final Cut Pro X, which cost me $300 when I finally bought it. But while I was in school I could use it for free, and that is how I learned to make videos with it (also, if you are a student, universities tend to have free or discounted apps for students). How did I learn to use it? I never took a class, I never worked with a teacher. I had a project I wanted to do over the summer, and whenever I didn’t know how to do something I looked up tutorials on YouTube. There are an endless amount of great people on YouTube making short videos that show you how to do specific things. You just have to search for keywords. That’s how I learned to make great videos: I had a project, and I had YouTube tutorials.
When making videos, or audio excerpts, there is a great free app called Audacity. I do all my audio work with it. There is a range of features, but I really only use the basic stuff. How did I learn how to do audio work in Audacity? YouTube tutorials. Obviously YouTube didn’t teach me all of this overnight. I learned how to use all of these apps over three years and multiple projects.
Writing: When it comes to the actual writing, there are two free online tools that were very useful to us. Google Drive is a great place to work from. It’s easy to share my manuscript with my editors and proofreaders, and it’s a great backup. Once every so often I download the document and store it in backup drives. The only warning I will give you is to break the manuscript in multiple files by chapter. Otherwise, when editors start commenting etc. the files gets so big that it gets bogged down, and you can’t break up the document later and keep the comments/revisions.
Sigil is a free EPUB editor. This was a valuable app and we wouldn’t have been able to easily create an EPUB file of the book without it. It also converted the EPUB into a perfect mobi file. This saved me from a lot of stress. Brooks taught himself how to use it and generated the files for me (because he is an awesome boyfriend like that).
So there are a lot of free, useful apps out there to help with self-publishing endeavors, and there is a wealth of tutorials and forums on the Internet to help with learning how to use it all. So good luck!