Aspiring authors: understanding the hidden costs of publishing a book

In an August post, I wrote about the costs of publishing a book, whether you’re an indie author or a traditionally published author. Hopefully, I dispelled any illusions that it is both likely you can spend $0 on production, promotion, and marketing, AND see your book become an overnight success.

Now, I’d like to delve deeper into where you are likely need to spend money, depending on your current skills and how public you want to be as an author. I’d like to thank Derek Haines for providing some of these numbers via his site, Just Publishing, in a recent post about publishing scams.

Applies mainly to Indie Authors:

  • Book design and layout** - $30 - $500+ depending on whether you purchase a pre-made (boring) cover or purchase custom design services (better ROI)
  • Proofreading/Copyediting services** - $200 - $400+ for basic proofreading for a smaller book (~80k words), although I’ve seen even higher quotes than that
  • Editing - prices for editors really run the gambit, but I’ve seen quotes that range from $50 - $1000, depending on the editor
  • Self-publishing and POD services - i.e. setting up your project, conversion of your project, etc.; price depends on your chosen service provider, but typically, $0 - $250
  • Proof copy (print only)** - again, price depends on your POD service and the project complexity, but typically, $5 - $12/copy

Applies to Indie Authors and Traditionally Published Authors (midlist and below):

  • PR/promotional services - $500 - $3000+ depending on the publicist or agency, and the services you sign up for (this is where I’ll plug Smith Publicity, which handles my projects)
  • Book marketing - be aware that a lot of “book marketing services” can be a scam (see Derek’s post), however, I lump pay-per-click (PPC) and book ad services into this category, so $0 - $5000, depending on how involved and complex you want the marketing to get
  • Book shows and book competitions (i.e. New Apple Book Awards) - $50 - $600+ depending on the book show and whether you decide to participate in book signing events, and same goes for the competition you’re entering your book into

To wrap up, just know that the old adages “You get what you pay for” and “You have to spend money to make money” hold true in the publishing world as in the rest of life. However, none of the above is meant to say, if you’re not willing to go broke, don’t try to publish a book. More money spent doesn’t always equal more dollars returned to you in book sales.

Some things, you’ll be able to skip as an indie author, like expensive promotional services or book competitions. I’ve double-starred (**) the items you really don’t want to skip as an indie author. Some things you’ll be able to ask a friend to help out with, like proofreading, further reducing your investment costs.

It’s just a matter of knowing what you’re comfortable doing on your own and what you’re comfortable paying for. Those levels are different for every author, indie or traditional.

Have questions about writing and becoming an indie author? Send them my way.A.M.