Both have good points, and I've got no plans to disagree with either of them. What I do care about is making sure that the problems the DA article pointed out are addressed so that Filipino writers like you and me continue to survive (or even thrive) in today's publishing scene.
WHAT SHOULD YOU SPEND ON FOR YOUR FIRST BOOK?
I know a couple of authors who do their own covers and really great ones at those. I can't remember, though, if the fact that they do their own covers is something they acknowledge in public so I won't name names. But the fact is, they do exist and so it IS possible that you don't have to pay for your own covers. But the question is, CAN YOU DO YOUR OWN COVERS?
If you can't trust yourself to be honest then look for someone artistic and someone you trust to be honest with you. Ask his or her opinion about your cover. If they think it sucks then it sucks.
Remember, though, that you don't have to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on your first cover. A lot of cover artists today offer pre-made covers and these are always cheaper than customized ones but NOT NECESSARILY uglier or cheap-looking. My cover artists are Kellie of Book Cover by Design (from UK) and Clarise of CT Cover Creations (who's Filipino-Chinese like me). Both of them offer affordable ebook cover designs.
Please take note I specified ebook cover designs. I suggest that you don't focus on looking for a paperback cover just yet. That's an added and unnecessary expense for now.
When getting someone to do you covers, just make sure you decide early on what your branding is. I learned about this a little too late so I had to redo a lot of my covers. By branding, I mean that people take one look at a cover and they immediately know it's YOUR book and even what SERIES it is. If you check my Greek billionaire romance series, you'll notice that I'm using the same font for GREEK. You'll also notice that I always use the same font and style for my author name for all of my books, whether they be contemporary or paranormal.
PROOFREADING AND EDITING
You absolutely must pay for this. I won't even go to explaining why. You must. My editor is Wendy, a.k.a. The Passionate Proofreader. Like Clarise and me, she's Filipino-Chinese and like Clarise, virtually 99% of her clients are from the US.
Some types of ebook marketing are free but still effective.
- Reach out to reviewers. Word of mouth always helps. If they can post their reviews on multiple sites, so much the better. Don't just limit yourself to Filipino readers. You want readers from the US and other countries, too, because with ebooks, the entire WORLD is your market.
- Give away a free ebook or create a free sampler of your work. It's not as effective as before but it will still get you readers.
- Make use of the "free days" promotion and Kindle Unlimited service available from Amazon's Kindle Select program. Just remember that when you do this, your book can't be available OUTSIDE Amazon.
- List your new releases with websites that offer free promotions. I recommend WTRAFSOG (Jamie McGuire herself mentioned it in one of her interviews) and other similar pages on Facebook.
- Use hashtags when posting or tweeting about your book. Every little bit of strategic marketing counts.
- Create a newsletter and get your readers to subscribe FROM DAY ONE. This is important. EXTREMELY important. I cannot emphasize it enough.
- Blog tours. It's a hit or miss, but when they work, they REALLY work.
- Paid ads (such as Facebook and Bargain Booksy). They won't cost you as much money as you fear as long as you've targeted the right audience for your ad and you have a compelling image for your ad. Make sure you use an affiliate link to track clicks.
WHAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO PAY FOR...AT THE MOMENT
Most of the authors I know format their own ebooks. They say it's easy to do and I believe them. The only reason I don't format my own books is because it's covered by my publisher. Money saved is still money saved so please take the time to learn this skill. It should serve you well.
Paperback cover design and formatting
As mentioned earlier on, I don't recommend focusing on this if you're new and you mean to focus on selling ebooks. If you have other priorities then sure, it's up to you. But if you want to be smart and practical and you don't have any existing readership base who'd buy your paperbacks, why spend time and money on it?
The only thing I paid for is my domain name. The rest, I did myself. I use Weebly as my web host (it's very beginner-friendly and considerate of tech-challenged peeps like me) but a lot of people say Blogspot and WordPress are great, too.
Print and offline advertising
Not at this point. 'Nuff said.