Want to know more about the costs of self-publishing? Check out these articles.
The Real Costs of Self-Publishing a Book (Miral Sattar)
“Launching a book is like launching a startup. Putting together a quality book involves not just writing it, but getting it edited, then formatted, designing a cover, and having a marketing strategy around it.”
Ten Best Self-Publishing Websites (TC Nixon)
“So you are considering the self-publishing journey? My advice to you is to think carefully before you start. Yes, I've made money on the deal. Yes, the folks on the list below have made more money than me on the deal. That being said, many people lose money on it. If you want to self-publish, but you do not want to be in business, walk away now. Self-publishing is a business, pure and simple.”
“You start out intending only to purchase editing and a cover but end up spending WAY more than anticipated. As any money-saving guru will tell you, the way to avoid this black hole syndrome is by going in with a plan, a specific list of items to purchase and blinders to costs not essential to your task.”
“For many writers considering self-publishing, cost is the first question and concern. The range authors spend to self-publish varies dramatically. You can choose to self-publish completely free doing everything yourself, or you can spend thousands upon thousands of dollars paying for printing, marketing and other services. The trick is to find the happy medium of buying what you need and doing what you can on your own.”
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What Publishing Really Costs
From Editing to Marketing, Know the Price Tag
Publishing and promoting a book on your own can be harder—and more expensive—than you’d think. If you really want to sell a clean, polished product, quite a bit of time and money has to go into your dream.
Think of it this way—publishing houses spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to create their lists. There are so many steps in the bookmaking process (which you can learn more about here): acquisition, editing, design, PR, printing, manufacturing, distribution, marketing—the list goes on. It’s not crazy to expect that there will be some costs associated with these services, especially if you’re publishing on your own.
The most important thing is to create your budget and be aware of how much the necessary services costs. (Check out “How to (Self) Publish: The Ins and Outs of Popular Publishing Paths” for the basics of how to publish.) Below, I’ve listed out many of the most important steps and costs that go into publishing your book. Keep in mind that each project is different, but that no book will be free.
Breaking It Down: Editing Costs
Let’s say you’re a strong writer with a good grasp on grammar and fact checking (if needed). Here are some of the basic pre-pub costs you’ll be looking at:
- Copyedit: $300-$500. Copyeditors are a bit less expensive, but for many people are essential to creating an error-free manuscript. Some copyeditors charge per page (an average price is about $2-3/page, while others charge by the hour.
- Proofread: $150-300. Proofreads should be less expensive than copyedits as the manuscript should be in almost perfect shape by this time.
Final Editing Costs: $500–$1,000*. Of course, every book is different and needs its own brand of TLC in the editing area, but even the cleanest of books should at least invest in a copyedit.
*Some authors also choose to get a developmental edit. Not every book needs this service, though it’s what you get from an acquisitions editor if you were publishing with a traditional trade house. Most editors will charge around $30/hour for a developmental edit. For a 250 (MS Word) page book, you can expect a developmental editor to spend between 20 and 30 hours on your book.
For more info on working with editors, check out these articles: “The Freelancer Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need to Know About Freelance Writers and Editors” and “Editor Insider: The Best Tips from an Editing Pro.”
If you don’t happen to be a graphic designer by day and an author by night, you’ll definitely want a professional to help you out with your cover and internal design. If you’re publishing a novel that is simply text on the inside, your costs will be lower than, say, a heavily designed textbook or work of nonfiction.
- Cover design: $50–$500. Depending on who you’re publishing with, the cover design might be a part of your package. But either way, you’re going to have to shell out a little cash for the artwork, the image, or the design.
- Internal design…is very dependent on the book. Like I mentioned before, certain genres require lots of fancy sidebars, photos, and other elements, all of which will make the interior design more expensive. Some books can cost as much as $500 or $1,000 to get the internals in the right shape.
Final Design Costs: $50–$1,500. When you begin thinking about how you want to publish, be sure to consider your design needs, as this is an area that can quickly get expensive.
How much does it really cost to get your book in e-book (or print) form? In his article titled
"How to Self-Publish an Ebook", David Carnoy talks about the pros and cons of different platforms including Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, B&N’s Pubit, Lulu, Createspace, iBooks Author, and more. If you also want to learn about what goes into creating a print product, check out his article “Self-Publishing a Book: 25 Things You Need to Know.”
Getting your book formatted into an e-book can be free if you’re working with a company that provides that service, or you can look at costs ranging from $200 to $1,000, depending on the complexity of your book. Do be wary of the sites that pop up saying they’ll convert your text into an e-book on the cheap—instead look for name-brand companies with reputations you trust.
Have a friend in the publishing biz? Ask for a recommendation. You can also take a look at publishing services firms, which can help you do everything from get your manuscript edited to create and e-book to market your book. This might be a slightly more expensive route, but you can be sure you’re in good hands.
Post Publication Costs
- Distribution. This comes as a part of your package when working with many self-publishing companies, but make sure you’re hitting all your target markets.
- Marketing/PR. How much buzz do you want to create around your book? How much time can you personally put into this? If you’re not sure how to go about getting reviews, media interviews, or blurbs, or if you’re not able to spend a lot of time promoting in person and through social media, you’ll probably want to hire a pro. Marketing costs can range from the low hundreds to the low thousands based on what kind of package you want.
Other Costs to Keep In Mind
- ISBN: $125. Yes, even e-books need ISBNs. To learn more, click here to see Bowker’s ISBN FAQ.
- Royalties. If your book is up on Amazon, remember that on average you will get 70 percent of each book sold, while Amazon will take the other 30 percent.
- Your website. Website costs vary from person to person, but keep in mind you’ll need to build and host the site, get a domain name, etc. Every author should have a website (though not every book needs its own). To lean more about creating a nice-looking and multi-functional website without breaking the bank, check out this article about Wix.com from IP’s Craig Manning: “From the Tech Desk: Wix Makes Building a Great Website Easy."
So when you add up all the bits and pieces, you could be looking at a several-thousand-dollar investment to get your book out there into the world. Of course, there are places where you can pinch some pennies and get good deals, but even at best, creating a good book is pricey.
The real question is: Is it worth it? And the answer is yes. Everyone and their grandma (and their grandma’s trained monkey) can publish a book. It’s not hard to push some buttons and upload an e-book or PDF. But we are already inundated with so many books—and so much junk—that investing some extra money into your project will make it stand out among its competitors.
Stay tuned for next month when I’ll go into ways to fund your book and get the most bang for your buck as you embark on your publishing journey.
Jillian Bergsma Manning is a contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English. She welcomes any questions or comments on her articles at jbergsma (at) bookpublishing.com. Follow her at @LillianJaine.