The 10 Top Costs of Self-Publishing
By Michelle Weidenbenner
You’ve been writing for years. And waiting. You’ve gone to writer’s conferences and met agents and publishers. You’ve written at least fifty query letters and a few book proposals. Maybe you’ve landed an agent and waited another year and you still aren’t any closer to finding a publisher for your novels.
That was my scenario for almost ten years. In the meantime, I kept writing and doing all those important things the agents tell you to do—start a blog, build your email list, join all the social media sites, build a following. I joined LinkedIn, Pinterest, Goodreads, and FB. I found thousands of followers on Twitter and blogged at least three times a week. It was exhausting.
And still there were no bites on my manuscripts. After months of research, gallons of coffee, and a lot of “selfie” lectures trying to build myself up, I decided to go it alone. After all, why should a publisher take a risk on a no-name author like me if I wouldn’t? And that’s what I was—a risk. There were no guarantees that readers would buy my books or like them.
It’s been thirteen months since I became an Indie Girl. I’ve published two novels and one children’s chapter book. In that time my books have won awards and been Amazon bestsellers—as high as #1 in their categories. #PinchMeMoments
But the truth is this: Self-Publishing Costs Money. To be successful, authors have to be entrepreneurs who invest in their business. They need to invest their time, resources, and money.
Here are TEN of the larger costs:
- Editing – This was the greatest cost because I wanted a developmental edit and a line edit. When publishers and agents continually say NO we begin to doubt ourselves. Is our writing good enough? For that reason, I wanted to be sure I nailed the story and the writing. Also, the NUMBER ONE key to success is a good story and a well-edited book.Editing costs are between $1000 – $2500 depending on your word count and editing needs.
- Kindle and Create Space (CS) – KDP Publishing and Create Space are FREE. As long as your books are in the right format you can load your book today. For FREE. It’s that simple. The big catch: If you only sell your books at Amazon you will never make the NY Times or the USA Today Bestseller lists. This changes everything because hey, I have high hopes to some day make it to the top. You should too! So loading books to the other sites cost money. (See below.)
- Book Cover – Guess what? Readers judge books by their covers. How many times have you lifted a book off a bookstore shelf because you were intrigued by the cover? A good cover can make a difference between no sales and great sales.A professional cover will cost you around $300. Don’t think you can do this yourself. You’ll wish you hadn’t. I used Cathy Helms from Avalon Graphics. Cache a Predator’s book cover won the RONE Book Cover Award in the suspense category.
- Formatting – Before you can load your books to the multiple sites that sell them—Amazon, B & N, Apple, Smashwords—you will need to have them formatted. Almost every place has a different file requirement. Paperback formatting costs around $100, ebooks are approximately $85. Create Space can format your books at their Amazon site. Their Kindle fee is $79, and the paperback professional interior layout starts at $199 and go up to $579 a book.However, your books need to be formatted in different ways depending on where you’re submitting them. Unfortunately, not every company has the same requirements. This takes time to learn and money to hire someone to help. I use Allen at ebFormat.com. Here’s his site.
- ISBN – You can buy one number for $125 or ten for $275. Some Indie authors publish a new book every three months so they buy 100 ISBN’s at a time for $575. It’s the best savings. If you use Create Space to print your paperbacks they will GIVE you a FREE ISBN. Such a deal. But guess what? If you want to sell that paperback through Ingram-Sparks you’ll need your own ISBN, a different one that what CS uses. Each single book takes several different ISBN’s. For instance, for the same book you’ll need an ISBN for Create Space, a different one for your Kindle file, and still another one if you load the book at SMASHWORDS.
- Reviews – I’ve never paid for a review. However, there are blogs that do promotional blog tours. You hire them to feature you and your books to 20 – 30 sites over a few weeks or a month’s time. Those “mommy” blogs feature authors, read your book, and load their reviews at all the sites. You pay anywhere from $100 – $250 per tour depending on who you hire. Those wonderful people contact all the bloggers and build the calendar for you. It’s really worth the expense. I’ve used Promotional Book Tours and Beck Valley Tours to coordinate my blog tours.
- Promotions – Readers forget about your book if you don’t bring it back to life now and then. A great way to give it CPR is to have a promotional sale where you offer your book for less. When you decide to do this you notify advertisers. Here are a few I’ve used: BookBub, BookSend, BookBlast, BookGoodies, BookViral, Ebook Readers, PeopleReads, BookGorilla. Some of these are free and some cost money. BookBub can cost up to $460 for one ad depending on the genre you choose. Is it worth it? BookBub is! You make up for it in sales. Some of the other advertisers maybe not. This business is always changing so what works one day might not the next. The catch: Not all advertisers will take your money. Isn’t that crazy? They decide who to advertise and who to skip. The trick is to never give up. I had to apply for my BookBub ads three times before I was accepted.
- Contests – Use must enter contests to win. Typically there’s an entry fee. Before I published Scattered Links I submitted the first 500 words to the Write On Contest sponsored by The Reading Room and won first place, $1000, and an appointment with Catherine Drayton, The Book Theif’s agent. It was amazing! I paid $6 for the entry fee. Some of the other Indie Contests are way pricier though. But it’s worth it because winning attracts readers!
- Launch Parties – Some authors choose to have giveaways or FB and Twitter parties. It sounds silly, but these events help get your books in front of readers. Goodreads giveaways cost as much as you choose. You decide how many signed paperbacks to give away and which countries to send them to. Goodreads handles all the other stuff. It’s convenient. I typically run an ad with Goodreads at the same time. I like to blast a new release. FB and Twitter parties cost around $100 if you have someone else manage them for you, and the cost depends on if you host one for an hour or four. And yes, some authors hold four hour FB parties. (Warning: you’ll get muscle cramps in your hands from typing so fast.)
- Writer’s Conferences – You’ll still want to attend these even though you might not want an agent or publisher. You’ll have more time to meet other authors, study the craft, and stay current with publishing news. Just think how much more relaxed you’ll be! I love the connections I’ve made at conferences. They can last a lifetime. Choose locations that are close to where you live so you don’t have the additional flying expense.
There are also other expenses like swag—rack cards and bookmarkers. Book trailers and audio books are another option.
What if you publish with a small press? You’ll still have many of these expenses. You’ll be expected to help promote your books too. However, you might not have the cover or formatting expenses, but the flip side is that you might not have much say in your book’s cover design. Keep in mind that if you go with a small press you won’t keep all the profits either.
If you have realistic expectations before you become an Indie author it helps. If you have money to invest in your career it helps even more. The most important thing is to keep writing because the more products you have to sell, the more money you’ll make.
Michelle Weidenbenner is an award-winning author, blogger, speaker and encourager. She teaches “How to Get Published” at her blog, Random Writing Rants, and “How to Write a Novel in 30 Days,” and “The Secrets to Self-Publishing Success” at conferences. Her novels Cache a Predator, a Geocaching Mystery, Scattered Links, and Éclair Goes to Stella’s are available at Amazon.