The quick answer is ‘how long is a piece of string?’ as prices can vary so much – often depending on your own existing knowledge, whether you are self publishing as an ebook only or if you are printing as a paperback too. Another factor that affects costs depends on if you can do some of the non writing work yourself such as creating your own book covers.
There’s now quite a number of self publishing businesses whereby they will undertake to edit and publish your book, holding your hand every step of the way. I’m not a fan of this method as I feel it will have added costs built in plus you are limited to their editorial and design staff. I prefer to outsource to various experts that I find myself.
Experience of Four Authors
This post reveals the costs from four self published authors (and thank you to Clare at The TBR Pile for including it in her curated post where I discovered it).
To summarise the results from the featured authors’ Self Publishing Costs
Editing costs varied between being free (using beta readers only) to $1500. Those paying higher costs were using structural editors, developmental editors, copy editors and proofreaders. However, one writer quoted the $1500 as the cost for one editor and a proofreader so it’s unclear what the full editing cost was for this writer.
Front Cover design costs varied from free (author did it herself) to $360.
Formatting costs varied between free (doing it herself) to $299.
Printing costs – all of the authors recommended using Create Space and print-on-demand to save costs.
As you can see, costs vary hugely. Some authors will do a considerable amount of the work themselves which is certainly brave. However, is it sensible? I think it is impossible to edit your own work. You may be able to create your own cover design if you have graphic design or photoshop talents though! You will also need a website / blog so people can find you online and of course, your blog should lead to more sales. Catherine Ryan Howard developed her own wordpress site and many other authors will use the free wordpress platform too. However, if you want a customized website or an ecommerce platform, you’re probably going to need to pay a web developer.
For comparison purposes, here are my costs for self publishing Would You Marry A Farmer?
Note my prices are in euro and those above are in American dollars.
Editing - (general editing and proofreading of 50,000 words) €300
Front cover design and 20 illustrations – €500
Formatting - I formatted the manuscript for the paperback myself (although I almost went grey while doing so) but had to get the printer to insert the illustrations. I had to get an expert to format it for the ebook version which cost €250.
Ecommerce website design – €900
ISBN numbers – €170 for ten numbers (if I remember correctly)
Photographs – €130
Printing – I opted for hardbacks for my first print run of 1000 copies which cost €5,500. Subsequent print runs of 1000 paperback copies have cost €3000. What was nice with my third print run was that I received 1080 books but only had to pay for 1000.
Printing your books adds a huge cost. I decided to print partly because I knew my target market (farming families) would prefer the printed books and yes, that has proved to be the case with whole extended families reading the book. I also ran a crowdfunding campaign before I self published which provided me with some capital – not to mention more confidence in my investment. I know some authors have ordered a box or two of their own books on Create Space to supply local shops.
If you are wondering how much do I make on each copy, the wholesalers take 55% of the purchase price. For each copy sold in bookshops, I make €3 per copy. Regarding copies sold from my own website (as I include postage to Irish addresses within the purchase cost), I make almost €7. As you can tell, I’m not going to get rich any time soon. I’ve sold about 2000.
Pat Fitzpatrick is another author who has shared the self publishing costs of his novel as an ebook, totalling at €1517. I’d consider a minimum spend to be €1000 for most authors- for editing, front cover design and formatting. On a positive note, I’ve heard of two authors who each received €2,000 in grants towards their writing. Some of the Local Enterprise Offices provide grants via their Art Links and previously, the Partnerships were giving grants if your subject matter ticked the right boxes. I haven’t applied for any grants so I can’t advise on the ease or difficulty of getting a grant but it’s certainly worth investigating.
What will I be spending on my second book?
I’ll be paying about €650 for front cover design and illustrations, then the editing cost, there will be a developer cost for changes to the website and I will probably invest in getting it formatted for paperback and ebook unless I can work out how to slot in the twenty illustrations! I’ll decide on the size of the print run nearer the time but it is likely to be 1000 books which will cost about €3000.
Is Self-Publishing A Hobby or A Business?
Self publishing a book means that your book is now a business in my opinion. However, even if it is a hobby, most people spend money each week on enjoying their hobbies so perhaps perfecting your writing could carry a weekly cost too. Books need to be marketed, just like any other business. Every small business owner realises that they need to invest in their business be it investing in a website, social media training, printing of business cards and perhaps advertising. Authors need to invest in their products to ensure that their book is formatted, edited and designed to such a standard that it can stand in a bookshop and compare well with traditionally published books.
Perhaps partly because I am a self published author, I really want to see all self published authors flying the flag high and presenting books that compare well to all traditionally published books. Barter by all means but do recognise your own limitations and hire professionals to do what they are good at. Authors should also invest in using social media, not just to help sell their own books but also if they are hoping to land a traditional publishing deal.
Have you self-published? Were you able to get a grant? Do you think the costs of self-publishing are off-putting to authors? I’d love to hear what you think.