Note: My work with new clients often begins with a conversation on the options they have for publishing, the timetables associated with those choices, and the costs. The majority of my clients choose to self-publish for various reasons, among them that they are unknown, their work is simply for their family and friends, or they don’t want to wait to get their work out into the world. I’m following up a two-part series on traditional publishing versus self-publishing with a series on the topics I counsel authors on as they consider which road to choose. This blog looks at the cost of publishing your book.
About half of the initial conversations I have with new authors who want my help publishing a book go like this, after I begin to outline the costs:
“Well, I don’t have a budget for this, but I will share the proceeds with you when my book starts to sell.”
“Many people think book selling is very lucrative,” I respond, “but the sad truth is, it is very difficult to recoup the cost of publishing a book, so I don’t make that kind of arrangement with authors.”
My comment deflates those who want to get their book into the world simply as a business endeavor; they tend to become resigned at that point and decide not to do anything with their idea or manuscript. Or the information makes clear for them the decision to go the route of traditional publishing.
Those who have a passion and drive for their story are happy to keep moving toward self-publishing even when they know the cost range. My clients have pride in their work and passion for their idea because it is personal or purposeful—or both.
I’ve told you about the work that’s involved in publishing a book, whether through a traditional publishing house or self-publishing. In this post, we’ll look at the cost of the services, starting with traditional publishing.
If you wish to have a traditional publisher, you’ll need to write a book proposal and query letter, and you will need to find an agent. Of course, there is no cost for this—except the cost of your time.
Once you find an agent, and if he or she is able to pair you with a publisher—and that’s a very big “if”—you will receive an advance and the offer of royalties for your work, and you will sign a deal with your publisher. The agent’s commission will typically be about 15 percent of your payment.
Say you strike a $6,000 deal, you will walk away with $5,100; if your contract is for $12,000, you’ll net $10,200. From these funds, you may be asked to cover the cost of photography or illustrations for your book. I know one author who just spent more than half of his advance on photos to illustrate his book.
A large chunk of the cost of marketing your book will also fall on you.
Publishers will get your book in stores, libraries, and catalogs, but they do not take on the cost of promoting your book, which is huge. They do not plan your book tour, pay for your travel, write your press releases, or do much in the way of media pitching.
Whether you publish or self-publish, the cost of marketing is mostly on you, and that can range from $4,000 to $10,000 or $15,000 a month. You can also do the work yourself at no cost; you would need to know how to schedule your events, how to promote them with the media, and how to create lists of journalists, bloggers, and podcasters to pitch to in hopes of securing interviews and publicity.
Also with self-publishing, you have the costs that lead to the work being printed, which would include photography or illustrations. Many of my clients use family photos, their own artwork, or no art.
As we discussed last week, you will need an editor and a designer if you self-publish. The cost of editing could range from $1,500 for copy edits only, if your manuscript is clean and clear and hangs together, to $4,000, if your book is long or needs heavy content edits, help with organization, or other structural assistance.
If your manuscript is extremely complex, or if someone is helping you write it or ghostwrite it, your costs for writing and editing could be over $10,000.
For design, you should expect to pay from $1,500 for a very basic layout with no photos, illustrations, or charts to $3,000 and up, depending on your book’s length and complexity of the material.
Finally, with self-publishing, there is a print cost per book. I use a printer that has no minimum requirement for books. I have had one client print only five or six copies as the book was a gift for family members. Other clients have printed 100 to 700.
The cost of printing is relative to the quantity with price breaks at 50, 100, 200, and so on. A book of about 75 to 100 pages might cost $5-6 per book. The more pages, the higher the cost. And if you are using color inside, that will also boost your costs.
There is a lot to process as you consider how to publish your book! I’m happy to talk with you about it or answer questions you might have. Feel free to reach out.
Next week, we will wrap up this series with a look at how to market and sell your book.