The Costs of Publishing (as an indie writer)

There are many costs in producing a book whether you are a big press or a self-publishing independent. Some of them are obvious and some much less so, especially if you don’t live in the United States.

For example, to produce a professional-quality book (note, I didn’t say, “bestseller” or “best-written”) there are several things you need to have and do.

The one cost I don’t talk about is the cost of time. That’s a given. To produce anything worthwhile will take time. You’ve got to be prepared to invest that.

Editing

There are two main types of editing that I’m talking about here: developmental and line. You need both. Some editors do one kind, some the other. Occasionally you get lucky and find someone who does both. Typically, the editor(s) charge per word. Be prepared for that. Shop around and don’t be afraid to ask for samples. When you find someone who you trust and can work with, don’t ever let them go. They are worth their weight in gold.

And don’t skimp on just one or the other. Both are key.

Cover

A great cover can be the difference between someone picking up your book or passing it over for someone else’s. No matter how good the writing inside your book, this one item could be a deal breaker for you. Make sure you find an artist you like and find out what they charge. Prices can vary depending on what you want. For example, if you want someone to paint a picture for your cover, expect to spend $1000’s. Graphic artists who use stock pictures may be in the low $100’s.

Ensure you can use it for both eBooks and print. Also make sure you have the right to reproduce the cover in posters, bookmarks and other promotional material.  It might cost you extra. Don’t assume it’s included.

Layout

A well laid out book is a joy forever. Yes, MS Word has the ability to do layout, but is it the best choice? And do you know some of the layout standards that publishers employ? If you don’t, you might want to pay someone to do your layout for you.

Marketing/Promotion

Entire books have been written about promoting your book. Suffice it to say, whatever you do, whether you are hiring someone to do it for you or you do it yourself, there needs to be a promotion budget in place. You can try simply using Social Media tools – which can work – for very little cost, but LOTS of effort.

Physical Copies of Books

If you are like most other authors out there, you will want physical copies of your books in your hands. For this, of course, you need to go to a book printer.

If you only want a few copies for yourself, you can go to your distributor (Lulu, CreateSpace, Ingram, etc.) and order those. If you want lots that you plan to handsell or place on consignment in bookstores, large orders of books may be required.

This is where location plays a big role.

In my case, I live in Canada. I can go to a printer and order large quantities of books to get my per copy price down. If the printer is in Canada, I don’t have to worry about things like exchange. If the printer is outside of Canada (like the US), exchange rates play a massive part in my book’s cost.

Understand what your cost per book will be with everything factored in. That will tell you if you can even afford to put books into bookstores (hint: consignment costs are typically 40 – 45% of the book’s cover price. A $10 book will get you $5.50 back from the store; make sure your per copy cost is less than that).

Distribution

This is pretty darn important. Many of the printers out there do distribution (yes, I’m thinking about CreateSpace, IngramSpark and Lulu), but you can’t assume they do. Some of the big printers (and small printshops) can produce great quality books but they will only warehouse them for you. Distribution is on you. In cases like that, you will need to find a distributor.

Do you homework on this one. Again, don’t assume distribution is included and if it is, it may not go everywhere.

Summary

Those are some of the major costs you will find when producing your own books. They look like a lot and they certainly can be. If you have a network of editors, layout professionals and artists, you might be able to do some of them more cheaply. Just remember, at the end of the day, you control the final product.

To get a book you are happy with is ultimately up to you and the decisions you make. Good luck.

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4 comments

  1. Thank you Mike. That was a good article. I still can’t justify editors, but I do have a few beta readers who have taken editing classes or have English degrees so they catch a lot of stuff. Others who are voracious readers that do more of the development editing. I once had your partner in crime Jeff Hite edit one of my stories for an anthology and that was an awesome experience. He had loads of great ideas, fixes and feedback. Once I start generating more revenue from my books I’ll have to look at finding an editor. For now though, I just can’t justify shelling out the kind of money that even the cheap ones charge.

  2. I totally understand where you are coming from and there is nothing wrong with using talented friends and acquaintances to do your editing. They may not be charging because they love doing it or are trying to build up their own profile.

    If you are happy with the work they are doing and trust them, what they do or do not charge is irrelevant. 🙂

    -Michell

  3. Thanks Michell. It’s not ideal but it works for now. I look forward to the day when I have a budget for hiring an editor because I do think they’re incredibly valuable!

  4. You will get there, my friend. And keep in mind, that amateur editors you use today may be professionals tomorrow. 🙂

    -Michell

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