Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What It Really Costs to Self-Publish



I will show you the money.

Although it is possible to publish a book yourself, there are so many steps and skills involved that there really isn't such a thing as free self-pub. 

I have an out of print book that I am getting ready to upload and it's going to cost me at least $500, and that's with connections and favors that will save me about half the out of pocket costs.

So, here goes:

You need 2 ISNB #'s - That's $150 each or $300 (you need 2 #'s because you have 2 editions - print and Ebook).  Unless you know someone who can give you a discount, there is no way around these costs.

Cover - You need a professional cover.  If you do a print edition, there is an extra cost for cover flaps and the back page.  This will run anywhere from $50 to $200, although NY publishers routinely pay $600 to $1500.

Formatting/Converting - This needs to be done and will run you at least $100.  If you don't have someone who knows how to do this for you, your book will look amateurish and it will be the first thing people complain about, probably in your Amazon review.

Uploading - You can do this yourself, but someone who does it for a living will do a better job.  This will cost you anywhere from $50 to $200, depending on how many places you list it.

Copy editing.  You should have at least one other set of eyes look over your book.  This will run you $100 to $300.

If you are going from a print book to a digital file, that will cost about $100.

So, the eternal question of whether to self-publish or give your book to an epub needs to take into account whether or not you want to lay out $500-$1000.  You will probably make that back, but if you go with a publisher, you will start making a profit instantly and not have to worry about all the details that go into publishing.

10 comments:

Johnny Murdoc said...

I don't disagree with your overall statements, because it does cost money to publish something, but your numbers are off on US ISBNs: $125 for one, $250 for ten (https://www.myidentifiers.com/isbn/main).

Lori said...

Amazon gives you free ISBN's which All Romance accepts. CreateSpace costs nothing to make a print edition.

I can format my own books which costs me a day of work and professional look. My editor is a flat fee of $75. and I have three beta-readers also.

I buy stock images for my covers ($9) and my cover artist makes gorgeouss covers for $30.

Your numbers are off.

davidgaughran said...

I'm glad you're covering this topic, but I must take issue with some of your points.

"You need 2 ISNB #'s - That's $150 each or $300 (you need 2 #'s because you have 2 editions - print and Ebook). Unless you know someone who can give you a discount, there is no way around these costs."

You don't *need* to purchase any ISBNs. Amazon don't require them. Neither do Barnes & Noble or Kobo, and Smashwords provide them for free (through whom you get to Apple, Sony, and a smattering of other smaller e-bookstores). That's 95% of the e-book market covered (and Google is probably best avoided). Even if you are doing print editions, Createspace also provide free ISBNs.

"Formatting/Converting - This needs to be done and will run you at least $100."

I learned how to do this in a couple of days - and I do it the right way: I hand-code the HTML and compile the e-books through Calibre. The result is far better than the shoddy automated tools that publishers use. And, no, I didn't know HTML beforehand and I'm not in IT. Anyone with a reasonable amount of computer literacy can learn to do the same. And, if not, formatters are super cheap.

"Uploading - You can do this yourself, but someone who does it for a living will do a better job. This will cost you anywhere from $50 to $200, depending on how many places you list it."

This is a dangerous piece of advice. You DO NOT want anyone else doing the uploading for you. That will mean a loss of control over your account, someone else receiving the royalty checks, and an inability to view your (near) live sales reports (which is crucial to measure the effectiveness of any promotion you might undertake).

It makes no sense. Uploading is a trivial task, and you really want to do it yourself to ensure the correct keywords and categories are chosen, and that you don't relinquish control of your account.

There is nothing complicated about uploading.

"So, the eternal question of whether to self-publish or give your book to an epub needs to take into account whether or not you want to lay out $500-$1000. You will probably make that back, but if you go with a publisher, you will start making a profit instantly and not have to worry about all the details that go into publishing."

Here is where I take real exception. Writers SHOULD worry about "all the little details that go into publishing." This kind of attitude has allowed a curious mystique to attach itself to the publishing process - which is really a series of rote steps that can be learned by anyone - outsourcing where necessary (for things like cover design and editing).

All writers would be served well by learning more about the publishing business, and the actual process of publishing, and I can't think of a better way to do that than self-publishing something.

As for the money side of things, saying "if you go with a publisher, you will start making a profit instantly" is more than a little disingenuous.

A typical writer may spend a year or more querying, at least six months being shopped by their agent (at least), then is likely facing a further eighteen months (or more, depending on required revisions), before their book actually hits the shelves.

Whatever advance the publisher pays will be split over three (or more) payments, with the final one not due until the book is out. The first of those is due after deal is signed (but the writer won't receive the check until several months later). And that, of course, will be around two years after the writer started querying in the first place (if they beat the overwhelming odds and get a deal in the first place). Of course, during that two year spell, the writer could earn considerable money self-publishing.

I'm all for a discussion on the pros and cons of self-publishing and pursuing a traditional deal, but I think everyone would be served better with a little more accuracy in our pronouncements.

Tara said...

I did not *need* to purchase ISBNs to upload to Kindle, Nook and Smashwords. I did not *need* to pay someone to upload those books for me when these sites provided simple instructions. If this article was meant to discourage the writer from taking the indie route, I think it only succeeded in making the blogger appear to be grossly misinformed.

ryan field said...

The only thing I can add to this post is that after self-publishing five books, digital only, the author has to think like a business person and handle details he/she normally would not have to handle. And all that takes away from writing time. Then there's distribution to get that book into as many web sites as possible. As I said, it all takes away from writing time and it's not as simple as it looks.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy what you guys are usually up too. This sort of clever work and coverage!
Keep up the good works guys I've included you guys to my own blogroll.

Also visit my site :: cash advance with

danew1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

There iѕ nо one waу will work for you thе
business enԁ-сonsumеr. In 1972, my businеsѕ рагеntѕ -- еveryone but
mуѕеlf. Fiгst аnd foremost, you
neеԁ to present your оn paρer.
Where to Get TrаіnedAll this stuff іs cοmрletelу usеlеss if уou
dοn't charge your potential sellers for these items. Always be willing to maintain a positive impression on your clients and executives. The concerns are real.

Look into my weblog internet marketing ebook

Anonymous said...

They analyze your website and product through the same.
Fortunately, Blogger introduced a tag to let you know exactly what
resonates, with what search engine optimization audience, and why you need to make your business distinct form others by adopting useful and result oriented techniques.
Only a fraction of second.

Feel free to visit my webpage - seo

Anonymous said...

I'm a writer from Gouda, Netherlands just sent this onto a colleague who is conducting some sort of research on this. And she actually bought me lunch just because I discovered it for her... lol. Actually, allow me to reword this.... Thanks for the food... But anyhow, thanks for spending some time to talk about this subject here on your web site.

Feel free to surf to my web page: www.scufgaming.com