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How much does it cost to self-publish?

While it doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive, getting a book published does require some money to do it in a way that will give you a real chance at success. As I’ve discussed here before, using a "self-publishing company" will only lead to heartache over the long run. People are now thinking that "if I just e-publish I won’t have to pay anything." This too is faulty thinking as you will see.

What we need to remember is that self-publishing is a business and, like any business, there are costs associated with running it. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but depending on how much you can do for yourself, you will have (minimally) costs in this range whether you e-publish or p-publish:

Business set-up: $20-$500+ depending on whether you set up as a sole proprietor, LLC, or corporation and what the laws are in your state regarding licensing, taxes etc.

Business tools: ($50-$2,000) computer, software, bookkeeping/checking account, business cards, stationery, website - some things you may already have, some you may have to acquire.

ISBN: block of 10 costs $250 from the US ISBN agency, Bowker. NEVER buy your ISBNs from someone else and never buy a singleton. The numbers identify who the publisher is and if you buy one or more from someone else - they are the publisher, not you. As a small press, you don’t need any of the other services offered by Bowker.

Book Production: This includes editing (about $500-$2,000 depending on what needs to be done), cover design (roughly $200-$1500), interior design and typesetting (depends on complexity and book length $200-$2000). If you can do some of these tasks yourself, then those costs can be reduced or eliminated, however, I don’t recommend skipping editing or editing your book yourself, even if you are professional editor - you are too close to it.

Marketing: $500-$5,000+ - depends on your goals for your book, how you will distribute it, what types of publicity you want to do (print, broadcast, internet & live appearances), and, again, how much knowledge you have to do some tasks yourself.

As you can see, the only cost that e-publishing avoids is printing, which runs from about $1.50 a book on up depending on size of print run (and whether it is off-set or POD),  format & size, page count, color usage, etc.

Because the book business is so hyper-competitive with about a million new books being produced each year, you really can’t cut corners if you want a professional book that will get noticed and garner sales in a range to be profitable. But successful publishing is a business and has costs like running any business.

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4 Responses to “How much does it cost to self-publish?”

  1. Walt Shiel says:

    Nice, comprehensive overview. I wish more would-be self-publishers would spend more time developing realistic budgets.

    The other critical thing is a realistic time line. Too many are too eager to get to publication, an almost certain recipe for failure.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks Walt -

    Maybe that should be my next blog post.

    Carol

  3. Judy Cullins says:

    Carol, I just wanted to acknowledge this blog post. The publishing costs are reasonable when you think of all the mistakes newbies make–and even long time professionals.

    I always coach new people to start a budget account yesterday. Most don’t think of it.

  4. Dave Bricker says:

    While the self-publishing education establishment is weighing in, I’ll add my voice to Judy Cullins’.

    There are so many “you can do it - it’s easy” books out there. Yes, you can do it, but it’s not easy and it’s not free. Beyond the costs of production, publishing requires tremendous dedication and tenacity.

    Thanks for telling it like it is.

    Dave Bricker

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"And I thought after 40 years of writing, I could write a sales letter... WRONG! Carol White's letter went beyond my imagination and into the sales stratosphere. Thanks, Carol! " -- AD Walker