04 Feb How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish?
How much does it cost to self-publish?
You want me to give you a quick answer? Okay, $10K.
You want a longer answer. Okay, again.
Obviously, $10K is a generalisation. If you are just making an ebook (and/or print-on-demand), you could do it for a lot less than that, and if you are making an illustrated book, the costs might double. But factor in marketing, storage, postage, website creation/hosting, marketing materials (and don’t even think about including your time!) to your book production costs and many authors are well on the way to spending $10K. Better to know now than later.
Fixed and Variable Costs in Book Publishing
There are fixed and variable costs involved in making a book.
Fixed costs include the work required to make the book, such as editorial, design and proofreading, which are one-time expenses. (And then there’s marketing.)
Variable costs include printing, which changes according to the specifications of the book and number of copies being printed.
Other variable factors which determine the profitability of a book are RRP and retailer discounts. But discussion of profitability is for another post. We’re talking here about costs.
The Cost of Making Your Book
Step one, you’ll need an editor. Depending on the length and type of book you have written, and how polished the manuscript is, expect to pay $2000+ for a full edit. A manuscript assessment will be a lot less (maybe $500), but it’s not the same thing at all.
Step two, you need an internal design template for your book. If it’s fiction, this will be simple (just choosing typeface and perhaps chapter openers) and might cost $250. If it’s an illustrated or complex non-fiction title, with lots of elements, you can expect to pay double that.
Step three, you need to a designer or typesetter to layout your book. I’ve heard you can get this done really cheaply overseas, but as experienced professionals we charge $5+ per page, depending on the complexity of the book.
Step four, you need a cover. I’ve heard you can get this done really cheaply on Amazon (perhaps those designers are responsible for these) or you can do it properly. Expect to pay $1000 for the latter.
Step five, you need a proofreader. Expect to pay $2.50 per page for a professional proofreader to do what’s needed to give the final polish to your book.
Step six, you need ‘print-ready’ files. These might be ebook files, traditional print files, or print-on-demand files. Expect to pay up to $500 for these files, depending on what you need.
Step seven, you need an ISBN for each format. This isn’t expensive, about $42 each or less if you buy in bulk.
Step eight, if you are not prepared to do all of the above yourself, you need a project manager to do it all for you. Budget $500.
The Cost of Printing Your Book
The more you print, the lower the per unit cost, but the higher the overall investment.
This sounds simple, but it becomes quite a conundrum, particularly when printing 4-colour books. The costs are much higher for 4-colour printing than black and white, and small reprints are very expensive, putting pressure on to print more in the initial printing. Printing 4-colour books is a topic that deserves a separate post – I’ll get to that one day! – so I’m just going to talk about black and white printing here.
Black and white book printing can generally be done locally, ie in Australia. We often use Griffin and they produce books of excellent quality. They must do a lot of work for self-publishers, as they have an easy step-by-step process for you to follow on the home page of their website.
Back to the money. How much will it cost? About $1500. Again, ‘it depends’ on your page extent, book format, print run and any embellishments you request on the front cover (such as a spot lamination). I’ve based that rough estimate on a C format book of, say, 288 pages, and a print run of 300 copies. You can go south or north of that figure depending on your book’s specifications.
Don’t have the money to invest in a print run? You can always try print-on-demand instead. To learn more, read this post.