The holidays are here and maybe you’re wondering what to get the self-published author in your life. As a self-published author, myself, I’ve got some ideas for all budgets — including no budget at all.
But first….As you might have noticed, this month’s blog post is a little different from what I usually write. But since Christmas in 1870 is known as one of the saddest in Paris’s history and I prefer to spread holiday cheer, I figured I’d give this topic a go, especially since a few people have asked me about it.
And one more thing: Nothing on this list is sponsored. It’s 100% honest.
So, without further ado, here are twelve gift ideas for self-published authors, for all budgets.
Big budget gifts for self-published authors
If you want to go big for the self-published author in your life, you could give them money to help fund, or entirely pay for, things that would help take their book to the next level. These include:
● a professional proofreader (This is especially useful if their book hasn’t been published yet). It doesn’t matter how many people have read their book or manuscript, nor how skilled those people are at grammar and language. NOTHING beats a professional who is hired to carefully comb each line, on the lookout for unfortunate typos. Just about any author I’ve talked to, traditionally published or self-published, agrees. The problem is, a professional proofreader can be (understandably) pricey, so not all self-published authors can afford to hire one. This would be a precious gift!
● a professional translator. Some self-published authors may dream of having their book available to readers in other markets. Like proofreaders, professional translators who have experience working with literature are expensive but worth it if you can afford it.
● an audiobook adaptation. There are some free or inexpensive ways for authors to commission an audio version of their book. But the self-published author in your life may have a specific voice artist in mind or may be picky about another detail. This could be the gift of their dreams!
Mid-range to expensive gifts for self-published authors
● money for advertising. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to get the word out about a book that are totally free (some are included on this very list). But most authors can’t rely on those alone to reach the most readers possible. The self-published author in your life might want to invest in ads on Amazon, Google, or Facebook, for instance. Or maybe they want to pay for a publicity spot in a targeted magazine, website, or other place where they think their ideal readers might see it.
The cost of advertising can vary widely, so this doesn’t have to be a fixed or large amount. You could give your self-published author friend a check for 50 or 100 dollars, for instance. Even $30 or so could cover spots on lists like The Fussy Librarian or printing costs for things like some promotional flyers or postcards.
● money for a book cover. Just about every guide to self-publishing warns writers that if they can only invest in one thing, it should be the cover of their book. This is what most people’s first impression of their work will be and it has to draw them in.
There are lots of book cover artists out there. Most can be found via their own website or on a platform like Fiverr. Prices can vary widely, from something in the thousands for a totally personalized, unique cover, to around 30–75 USD for a premade cover.
Many cover designers will offer an option that lets authors ask for minor changes to a premade cover, sometimes for a small fee.
For instance, I worked with the lovely and patient Natasja Hellenthal of Beyond Book Covers for Hearts at Dawn’s cover design. Most of what was on the premade cover I chose looked similar to the version that’s on my book, but I needed to make a few changes. The male figure’s hair had to be more accurate to 1870 and the floral motif more evocative of a Parisian stairwell carpet. I also wanted a suggestion of the heart of the city, Notre-Dame, in between my two figures. And it was important to me that the female silhouette be more full-figured, to reflect what Claire looks like in my book.
Some changes, like my name and the book title and font, were free, while others cost around ten dollars each.
One thing to keep in mind if you choose this gift: A book cover is important and also highly personal. So it’s probably best not to choose the cover designer yourself. Instead, give your self-published author pal a check or budget and tell them it can go towards a cover. If they don’t know of any cover designers, you could suggest a few. But I wouldn’t tell them they absolutely have to choose one in particular.
● hire someone to format and post their book to their publishing platform(s) of choice. Most self-published authors I know (myself very much included!) struggle with formatting and getting our books onto publishing sites and platforms. No matter how easy these platforms may make it seem, technology is involved, so things could go wrong.
But sites like Fiverr let you find someone who you can trust to upload a book onto a platform. Some cover designers may also offer this option. If you go with this option, always choose a professional with good reviews (check to see that the reviewers’ books really were published).
Or, if you’re technically savvy or experienced with these sites and platforms and feel 100% confident that you won’t mess it up, offer your own services to your self-published author friend for free!
Small budget gifts for self-published authors
If you’re looking for a little something for the self-published author in your life, consider getting them something printed with their book cover. This can be a fun way to show support and maybe even do some incidental advertising. You never know where curious potential readers might be!
You can gift your self-published author something like a tote bag, mug, t-shirt, cap, bookmark, etc., with their book’s cover printed on it. And if you like the cover, maybe consider making one for yourself, too, in order show your support and possibly promote their book.
Lots of websites offer printable items in the $5–30 range, including VistaPrint, Zazzle, and more. Or go to a print shop in your area to support local business.
Free gifts for self-published authors
So far, the ideas on this list cost money. But if you’re on a budget — or even if you’re planning to gift the most expensive thing on this list but want to do a little something extra — here’s some great news: There are tons of free gifts you can give a self-published author!
Here are just a few:
● ask your local library to order their book. A friend and her mom did this for me at their local libraries, and it felt so special to know that they supported me so much and to think that now, copies of Hearts at Dawn live on library shelves, among other books I love, just waiting for readers to discover them.
You can show that you’ve done this by taking a photo of the filled-in library request form. Then follow up with a photo of their book once it’s arrived at the library.
● get your book club to read their book. In my book marketing journey, I was surprised to find just how hard it is to break into a book club! Book clubs often pick out their reads far in advance, or may be choosing their books based only on bestseller lists. If you think the self-published author in your life has a book that would be a good fit for your club, try to get it on the roster! Not only will this mean sales and people actually reading their book; it could also create interest from other book clubs, or maybe members will like the book so much that they’ll recommend it to friends and family members.
● babysit. If the self-published author in your life is a parent, they may have a hard time finding peace and quiet to write. Even if they’ve managed to finish their book, they may have to research things like marketing strategies and pay-per-click advertising. A few hours where someone they trust is watching their kid(s) sure would be helpful!
● write a review. You can post reviews to social media, Amazon, Goodreads, and so many other places, completely for free. But reviews are a priceless gift for most self-published authors. They help books gain visibility and credibility with readers and even with other platforms and services. For instance, many bargain book newsletters or book bloggers ask for reviews when describing your book or as a way for their readers/subscribers to see that a book is legit.
Even if your self-published author’s book is selling well and getting noticed, they may still be lacking in reviews, since most people won’t leave them.
From what I’ve discovered, even if readers really enjoyed a book, they often feel too busy or intimidated to post a review on a site like Amazon. But it’s important to remember that no matter how “literary” a book, reviews of it don’t have to be. Just a few short sentences about how you felt about the book, maybe your favorite thing (Great characters!, Compelling story!, I loved the way the author….), without spoilers, is perfectly fine.
Trust me, your self-published author friend will love it. For most of us self-published authors, reviews, especially Amazon reviews, are like the X-Box Series X of gifts.
And bonus if you can also encourage your friends and family who’ve read the book to leave reviews, too.
I hope this list helps you find the perfect gift(s) for the self-published author in your life!
A Beauty and the Beast retelling set during the 1870–1871 Siege of Paris, Hearts at Dawn has been selected as a Historical Novel Society Editors’ Choice book. It’s currently available in Kindle and paperback formats and is part of the Kindle Unlimited Library. I hope you’ll give it a read!
And if you do, I’d be forever grateful if you left an honest review on Amazon and any other sites or social media platforms where you post. Reviews help books gain more visibility and credibility. Even a review of a short few lines can be incredibly helpful.
Until next time!