Tuesday, 20 August 2013

How much does it cost to (self) publish a book?


Perhaps the most common question I get is 'How much does it cost to publish a book?'

There is no definitive answer. You can spend very little, and get a book on sale, but at the upper end the sky is the limit.

 Let's have a look at a few possible spends:


Basically Bankrupt: £0/ $0

Our basically bankrupt author has no budget. At all. Not a single penny. How does he get published?

Item Needed
Spend/ Way to avoid spend
Editing
£0 = Skip it/ use critique partners or beta readers
Proofreading
£0 = Skip it/ borrow a friend/ family member
Artwork
£0 = Skip it/ use free online images / use Amazon's cover builder
Formatting
£0 = DIY. Typically a quick 'word simple style / export to filtered html / Sigil / Calibre job'
Reviews
No free print copies, only eBook. DIY finding all reviewers. Use LibraryThing but not NetGalley.
Print version
Homemade art, digital proof, no expanded distribution
Marketing
No paid adverts. Typically, this means using twitter, facebook, goodreads and organising your own blog tours

 

Pros = No risk. If the book tanks, you'll still make a profit.

Risk s = It'll be poorly edited, and look like crap. Other authors will laugh at you. Readers will take the piss.

Recommended for... No one, unless you are literally about to go bankrupt unless you can make a quick £50 or so selling your work to friends and family.

 

Cheapskate: £12

The absolute minimalist approach... but less crap looking.

Item Needed
Spend/ Way to avoid spend
Editing
£0 = Skip it/ use critique partners or beta readers
Proofreading
£0 = Skip it/ borrow a friend/ family member
Artwork
Use a professional premade cover from someone like goonwrite.com (and no, James has not paid me to plug him!) £12
Formatting
£0 = DIY. Typically a quick 'word simple style / export to filtered html / Sigil / Calibre job'
Reviews
No free print copies, only eBook. DIY finding all reviewers. Use LibraryThing but not NetGalley.
Print version
Homemade art, digital proof, no expanded distribution
Marketing
No paid adverts. Typically, this means using twitter, facebook, goodreads and organising your own blog tours

 

Pros - Very low risk. Still looks professional at first glance.

Cons - Still pretty amateurish, absolute time sink, may not get much (any) exposure

Recommended for... Short stories in niche markets that have little to no chance of earning out on a decent spend.

 

Still a bargain:  <£150 / $225 - £220/ $330

Keep costs down by using inexperienced freelancers

Item Needed
Spend/ Way to avoid spend
Editing
Use a cheap editor looking for portfolio work to show off (read, new to editing) $200/ £130 - $300/ £200 (dependant on length)
Proofreading
£0 = Skip it/ borrow a friend/ family member
Artwork
Use a professional premade cover from someone like goonwrite.com (and no, James has not paid me to plug him!) £12
Formatting
£0 = DIY. Typically a quick 'word simple style / export to filtered html / Sigil / Calibre job'
Reviews
No free print copies, only eBook. DIY finding all reviewers. Use LibraryThing but not NetGalley.
Print version
Homemade art, digital proof, no expanded distribution
Marketing
No paid adverts. Typically, this means using twitter, facebook, goodreads and organising your own blog tours

 

Editors often do bargain basement deals when starting out to build a client base. This low cost option combines cheap artwork, and bargain editing to deliver a semi professional finish.

Pros: You've been through one edit, you've got good art

Cons: No proofing so there will be errors, you'll have to DIY an awful lot

Recommended for... Those on a shoestring budget.

 

Mid range investment: £313/ $460

Keep costs down by using inexperienced freelancers

Item Needed
Spend/ Way to avoid spend
Editing
Use a cheap editor looking for portfolio work to show off (read, new to editing) $200/ £130 - $300/ £200 (dependant on length)
Proofreading
Use one proofreading pass to eliminate most minor errors - from $160 / £107.
Artwork
Use a professional premade cover from someone like goonwrite.com (and no, James has not paid me to plug him!) £12
Formatting
£0 = DIY. Typically a quick 'word simple style / export to filtered html / Sigil / Calibre job'
Reviews
No free print copies, only eBook. DIY finding all reviewers. Use LibraryThing but not NetGalley.
Print version
Homemade art, digital proof, no expanded distribution
Marketing
No paid adverts. Typically, this means using twitter, facebook, goodreads and organising your own blog tours

 

Editors often do bargain basement deals when starting out to build a client base. This low cost option combines cheap artwork, bargain price editing and one proof to eliminate most erors

Pros: You've been through one edit, you've got good art

Cons: Minor errors will creep through - one proof-reader isn't enough, you'll have to DIY an awful lot

Recommended for... Those wanting a good finish without New York budgets

 

Getting serious: £450 / $675

Keep costs down by using inexperienced freelancers

Item Needed
Spend/ Way to avoid spend
Editing
Use a cheap editor looking for portfolio work to show off (read, new to editing) $200/ £130 - $300/ £200 (dependant on length)
Proofreading
Use two proofreading passes to eliminate most minor errors - from $160 / £107 to $200/ £130
Artwork
Use a professional premade cover from someone like goonwrite.com (and no, James has not paid me to plug him!) £12
Formatting
£0 = DIY. Typically a quick 'word simple style / export to filtered html / Sigil / Calibre job'
Reviews
No free print copies, only eBook. DIY finding all reviewers. Use LibraryThing but not NetGalley.
Print version
Homemade art, digital proof, no expanded distribution
Marketing
No paid adverts. Typically, this means using twitter, facebook, goodreads and organising your own blog tours

 

Editors often do bargain basement deals when starting out to build a client base. This low cost option combines cheap artwork, bargain price editing and two proofs to ensure a professional polish.

Pros: You've been through one edit, you've got good art

Cons: Still a newbie editor/ You'll have to DIY an awful lot for formatting and marketing

Recommended for... Those wanting a bit more professional polish than 'Mid range investment' buy willing to put a lot of work in.

 

"I hope I make this back" = £1250/ $1875

Keep costs down by using inexperienced freelancers

Item Needed
Spend/ Way to avoid spend
Editing
Hire an established editor at circa $25 per hour. Expect to spend $800-$1600 dollars depending on how rough your work is.
Proofreading
Use two proofreading passes to eliminate most minor errors - from $160 / £107 to $200/ £130
Artwork
Use a professional premade cover from someone like goonwrite.com (and no, James has not paid me to plug him!) £12
Formatting
£0 = DIY. Typically a quick 'word simple style / export to filtered html / Sigil / Calibre job'
Reviews
No free print copies, only eBook. DIY finding all reviewers. Use LibraryThing but not NetGalley.
Print version
Homemade art, digital proof, no expanded distribution
Marketing
No paid adverts. Typically, this means using twitter, facebook, goodreads and organising your own blog tours

 

This buys you a solid, experienced edit but not a big name.

Pros: You've been through one very good edit, and two proofs

Cons: You'll have to DIY an awful lot for formatting and marketing. Still using cheap art.

Recommended for... Those willing to take a risk, and writing in a big enough genre to pay them a decent ROI (i.e. if you're writing something so niche you'll only sell a few hundred, this will see you lose money.

 

"I hope I make this back" + "I'm a bit lazy" = £1300 / $2000

Keep costs down by using inexperienced freelancers

Item Needed
Spend/ Way to avoid spend
Editing
Hire an established editor at circa $25 per hour. Expect to spend $800-$1600 dollars depending on how rough your work is.
Proofreading
Use two proofreading passes to eliminate most minor errors - from $160 / £107 to $200/ £130
Artwork
Use a professional premade cover from someone like goonwrite.com (and no, James has not paid me to plug him!) £12
Formatting
Reviews
No free print copies, only eBook. DIY finding all reviewers. Use LibraryThing but not NetGalley.
Print version
Homemade art, digital proof, no expanded distribution
Marketing
No paid adverts. Typically, this means using twitter, facebook, goodreads and organising your own blog tours

 

This buys you a solid, experienced edit but not a big name.

Pros: You've been through one very good edit, and two proofs

Cons: You'll have to DIY an awful lot for formatting and marketing. Still using cheap art.

Recommended for... Those willing to take a risk, and writing in a big enough genre to pay them a decent ROI (i.e. if you're writing something so niche you'll only sell a few hundred, this will see you lose money. Only do this if you can't manage your own formatting - It's not too hard if you're technically savvy (and remember to put important stuff on recto, less important stuff on verso when doing print designs)

 

"I'm really starting to think hard about whether I'll lose money"  = £1400 / $2150

Keep costs down by using inexperienced freelancers

Item Needed
Spend/ Way to avoid spend
Editing
Hire an established editor at circa $25 per hour. Expect to spend $800-$1600 dollars depending on how rough your work is.
Proofreading
Use two proofreading passes to eliminate most minor errors - from $160 / £107 to $200/ £130
Artwork
Get a decent designer to do a custom cover - mid range. £100/ $150.
Formatting
Reviews
No free print copies, only eBook. DIY finding all reviewers. Use LibraryThing but not NetGalley.
Print version
Homemade art/ no back, digital proof, no expanded distribution
Marketing
No paid adverts. Typically, this means using twitter, facebook, goodreads and organising your own blog tours

 

This buys you a solid, experienced edit but not a big name.

Pros: You've been through one very good edit, and two proofs

Cons: You'll have to DIY marketing.

Recommended for... A bit more risk, but decent art and decent editing. A solid mid-range spend for a serious self publisher. Only do it if you're pretty confident you'll make it back.

 

"My book needs a pretty picture too!"  = £1700 / $2150

Keep costs down by using inexperienced freelancers

Item Needed
Spend/ Way to avoid spend
Editing
Hire an established editor at circa $25 per hour. Expect to spend $800-$1600 dollars depending on how rough your work is.
Proofreading
Use two proofreading passes to eliminate most minor errors - from $160 / £107 to $200/ £130
Artwork
Get a top end design - £400/ $600 is not unusual for those with decent portfolios. Think Damonza, Carl Greaves or similar here. This level of spend buys you someone with a proven track record in designing covers for bestsellers.
Formatting
Reviews
No free print copies, only eBook. DIY finding all reviewers. Use LibraryThing but not NetGalley.
Print version
Digital proof, no expanded distribution
Marketing
No paid adverts. Typically, this means using twitter, facebook, goodreads and organising your own blog tours

 

This buys you a solid, experienced edit but not a big name.

Pros: You've been through one very good edit, and two proofs. Seriously good art.

Cons: You'll have to DIY marketing.

Recommended for... The confident second timer. Once you get into this territory, it's hard to recoup your costs. $2150 = 6450 sales at 99c. That's some serious moolah to outlay if you aren't willing to lose it.

 

 

"Best of both (art / edit)!"  = £4500 / $6750

Keep costs down by using inexperienced freelancers

Item Needed
Spend/ Way to avoid spend
Editing
Hire a big New York editor at circa $70 per hour. Expect to spend $2800-$5600 dollars depending on how rough your work is.
Proofreading
Use two proofreading passes to eliminate most minor errors - from $160 / £107 to $200/ £130
Artwork
Get a top end design - £400/ $600 is not unusual for those with decent portfolios. Think Damonza, Carl Greaves or similar here. This level of spend buys you someone with a proven track record in designing covers for bestsellers.
Formatting
Reviews
No free print copies, only eBook. DIY finding all reviewers. Use LibraryThing but not NetGalley.
Print version
Pro art, digital proof, $25 for expanded distribution
Marketing
No paid adverts. Typically, this means using twitter, facebook, goodreads and organising your own blog tours

 

This buys you editing from a big name editor with serious blockbusters to their name AND an amazing cover. If you've got a solid manuscript, this should give it a solid chance at top 100.

Pros: You've been through one AMAZING good edit, and two proofs. Seriously good art.

Cons: You'll have to DIY marketing.

Recommended for... The big spender who needs serious editorial assistance. Not for small markets, and not for those writing 'rule based' genres.

 

"Are you f****ng serious?" = £5600/ $8390

Keep costs down by using inexperienced freelancers

Item Needed
Spend/ Way to avoid spend
Editing
Hire a big New York editor at circa $70 per hour. Expect to spend $2800-$5600 dollars depending on how rough your work is.
Proofreading
Use three proofreading passes to eliminate most minor errors - from $160 / £107 to $200/ £130 to $320
Artwork
Get a top end design - £400/ $600 is not unusual for those with decent portfolios. Think Damonza, Carl Greaves or similar here. This level of spend buys you someone with a proven track record in designing covers for bestsellers.
Formatting
Reviews
Netgalley - $400 for 6 months (less if using a coop)
Kirkus -  $425
PW (25% chance approx) - $150
Goodreads giveaway - cost of copies + shipping ($20 ish per copy for worldwide)
Blog tour - from $100 -$400 dependent on stops
Print version
ED - $25, Proof - $15
Marketing
No paid adverts. Typically, this means using twitter, facebook, goodreads and organising your own blog tours

 

Only the best money can buy - but still only one editor (two can spot stuff one won't). Still no marketing spend fort direct adverts.

Pros: You've been through one AMAZING good edit, and three proofs. Seriously good art.

Cons: You've spend your retirement fund!

Recommended for... The compulsively competitive type who is happy to take a huge gamble.

 

The sky is the limit = $10,000+

Keep costs down by using inexperienced freelancers

Item Needed
Spend/ Way to avoid spend
Editing
Hire a big New York editor at circa $70 per hour. Expect to spend $2800-$5600 dollars depending on how rough your work is.
Proofreading
Use three (or more) proofreading passes to eliminate most minor errors - from $160 / £107 to $200/ £130 to $320
Artwork
Get a top end design - £400/ $600 is not unusual for those with decent portfolios. Think Damonza, Carl Greaves or similar here. This level of spend buys you someone with a proven track record in designing covers for bestsellers.
Formatting
Reviews
Netgalley - $400 for 6 months (less if using a coop)
Kirkus -  $425
PW (25% chance approx) - $150
Goodreads giveaway - cost of copies + shipping ($20 ish per copy for worldwide)
Blog tour - from $100 -$400 dependent on stops (each tour)
Print version
Big offset print run - $thousands.
Warehousing - Hundreds +
Returns - Up to half of print run
Marketing
BookBub
BookGorilla
ENT
POI
BookBlast
Goodreads
Facebook
Kboards
Etc etc etc

 
Recommended for... The compulsively competitive type who gets into dick measuring competitions, and has no idea at all when it comes to business. This is only the best money can buy - for the author who has way too much money, and is doing this to impress rather than to make money.

 -----------------------------
This isn't a definitive list. You could spend much more on things like foreign translation, audibooks travel, launch parties, media swag bags, book trailers, freebies, merchandising, banners, etc etc.... Apart from audiobooks & foreign translations, we strongly recommend minimising all other expenditure. The ROI is terrible. You might also include provision for things like electricity, computer products (inc toner/ paper for printed editing).

These budgets are all examples - you could mix and match to suit your book and budget. Don't think this is a bible, but feel free to use it as a solid ballpark estimate for your costs. This all assumes a novel of around 80,000 words. Big tomes, and short works will vary considerably.

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