For many authors, self-publishing is a first option instead of a backup to traditional publishing. Two years ago I broke down the costs to self-publish a high-quality book. The costs covered how much a traditional publisher typically spends on a book.
The book publishing industry is one of the last industries to go digital, and things are constantly in flux. What worked yesterday might not work next week.
Putting together a quality book involves not just writing it, but getting it edited and formatted, designing a cover, and having a marketing strategy around it.
The rise of new tools, platforms, and new entrants to the publishing space have made it even easier and faster to get a book out into the world.
As a follow-up to my first piece, I’ve written a piece on how to publish on a budget.
1) DEVELOPMENTAL EDITING
Once you’ve written your book a developmental editor is important, especially if this is your first book. A developmental editor can help shape your manuscript. On the low end it can cost a couple thousand, on the high end upwards of more than $10,000 if you’re looking for Penguin Random House quality editing. Not everyone has bucket loads of cash lying around. An alternative to hiring an editor is taking a class or participating in a workshop. Enrolling in a class at Gotham Writers can help you get this done for less than $200.
2) COPY EDITING
Once your manuscript is in good shape, you’ll need a copy editor to go through the manuscript and catch typos and inconsistences. On the low end, the cost for this could be a few hundred dollars, but to hire someone who really is good it can cost in the thousands. However, if you are looking to lower your costs, you can hire a graduate student for as little as a few hundred dollars if you’re comfortable with them charging less with less experience.
3) BETA READERS
If you really don’t have a budget for a developmental or copy editing, get a beta reader. A beta reader reads your work with a critical eye and can offer you feedback on your manuscript. Bibliocrunch (the site I run) has great beta readers. You pay anywhere from $25 to $50 to get feedback on your manuscript. Beta readers test your content in the market before it goes out into the world. Sites like Widbook, Scribophile, and Wattpad are great places to post your book chapters to get feedback.
4) COVER DESIGN
Readers judge a book by its cover. They will judge how it looks next to other books on a physical bookshelf, they will judge how it looks on a thumbnail-sized image on an iPhone, and how it looks on a black and white Kindle. Your book cover must be optimized for all screen sizes. If you want someone who has experience at a ‘Big Five’ or ‘Big Six’ publisher, you can expect to pay $1000 and up for a quality design. We don’t recommend doing a design yourself if you’re not a cover designer. However, you can find an art student to do a great cover for you for $150-$300 if they are looking to build up their portfolio. You can even buy pre-designed book covers from great cover design artists like The Cover Counts or Mallory Rock. Before you get a premade cover, do check to make sure the designer removes the cover from sale once someone has purchased on. A premade cover can cost anywhere from $50-100.
5) BOOK FORMATTING AND LAYOUT
There are so many tools that let you format and layout your book. If you’re a Word Document pro, you can purchase a template from BookDesignTemplates for less than $60. If you want to use online tools, some great tools are PressBooks or EBookArchitects where you pay a subscription fee to format your book.
Most of the big retailers allow you to upload Word documents. However, if you really want your book to look professional, you’re better off converting to the various e-book and print file formats yourself.
I recommend getting one for each format, but you can forgo this and just use the default ISBNs that the retailer provides. The downside of not getting your own ISBN is that you will not be listed up as the publisher of your work. Also, to be counted towards the various best-seller lists, you should have an ISBN.
When your book files are ready you can hire a proofreader your book to go through , or load up the files on a device yourself and go through the book one last time.
You can do this by yourself by following the instructions for each retailer. Or you can go through a third party like Draft2Digital or Smashwords that distributes your book to stores, libraries, and the major retailers. However, keep in mind that they do take a royalty on top of what the retailer would take.
9) GETTING REVIEWS
Services like NETGALLEY give discounts to authors and author groups to send their book to potential reviewers. Alternatively, authors can search for bloggers and reviewers on Amazon and reach out to them directly to get reviews if you don’t want to spend the hundreds of dollars it costs to get Kirkus or Publishers Weekly.
10) MARKETING AND PR
You can create a budget be selective about where you want to spend your money. You can say you want to spend $500 on advertising, and if you get accepted into a site like BookBub or Riffle Books, you will most like make back your money. The great thing about those sites is you don’t pay unless your book gets accepted but it can result in thousands of sales.
11) AUTHOR WEBSITE
You don’t need to spend several thousand dollars developing a website. You can use the author templates that WordPress or Wix have.
According to Guy Kawasaki, the average self-published authors spends around $4000 on publishing a book. You don’t need to do everything out of of pocket. Editor Ben Lovejoy of 9to5Mac outlines his process on how he raised money for his book. Sites like Kickstarter, IndieGogo, and Pubslush help you raise funds for your books. You don’t need to pay back the money instead you give people who contribute to your campaign rewards.
If you’re really good at building websites or amazing at social media, you can always barter your services with other professionals like designers or editors.
It’s an exciting time to be an author because there are so many publishing options available. However, you decide to spend your time and money, just keep in mind that publishing a book is an investment. What you put is what you will get out.
Correction: This post has been updated to correct the spelling of Scribophile.
Miral Sattar is CEO of Bibliocrunch, a platform that matches authors with trusted, prescreened book publishing professionals. Miral loves books and loves helping authors fulfill their publishing dream. Her company Bibliocrunch has helped numerous authors hit the Amazon best-seller list. Miral just published her free e-book, A Self-Publishing Guide for Writers. She and her writing have both been featured in numerous media outlets including BusinessWeek, BBC, TIME, Forbes, Money Magazine, Consumer Reports, PBS, and other media publications. She has a MS in Publishing (NYU) and a BS in Computer Engineering (Columbia). Miral describes herself as 1/3 engineer. 1/3 entrepreneur. 1/3 writer. You can find her on Twitter @miralsattar.