Have you written or are planning to write your first book and wondering how much it costs to self-publish? You’ve come to the right place!
In this blog, we’ll be looking at how much it costs to self-publish a book, the self-publishing process, and the benefits of self-publishing versus traditional publishing.
Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
So, why would anyone choose self-publishing over traditional publishing?
You can get a book into readers’ hands at a remarkable speed. There is really no limit. It all depends on how fast you and your contractors can work together.
Self-Publishing Has a Higher ROI (Return on Investment)
When both a literary agent and a publisher are taking a cut of your advance and royalties, that doesn’t leave you with much. If you are willing to forego the big financial boon on the front end and save it for the back end, there is an opportunity to make a lot more money.
Self-Publishing is Freedom
You choose the content, the formatting and size, the cover, the release date, and the retail price. The world is your oyster when it comes to self-publishing!
And, you get to respond directly to what your audience wants.
For instance, when I pitched Keep Teaching to my literary agent and publisher, they didn’t think there was a big enough audience for devotional books for educators. But I knew otherwise.
I had been a teacher myself and had spoken to countless teachers across the nation in my travels as Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year. I knew people would love it.
So, when no publisher wanted it, I self-published. And that book has sold more than all of my others combined, including my traditionally-published titles.
So, if you have decided to self-publish, how much does it cost? Well, that depends. You can go the super-cheap route, but you really get what you pay for.
Personally, I would think of it as an investment in making the best possible book, and refrain from taking short cuts.
Here is my advice if you self-publish:
Hire an Editor
This is so important. Good editors may charge a flat fee for the project or charge by the word. Check online for current prices before you sign a contract. It really depends on the length of your book, but a general guideline is $1,000-4,000.
Hire a Book Designer
Please do not try to do this yourself. Your artist friend is not the best choice, either.
There are important design principles for both the cover and interior that are specific to a book, and the software required to typeset a book is far too complex to learn on a whim.
A novice would never be able to create a professional book. A full manuscript is a massive amount of text, so it’s best to call in the experts.
I can spot books that were created on Microsoft Word from 50 yards. You will never be sorry you paid an experienced designer.
People really do judge a book by its cover, so your designer is taking on an enormous job of helping you sell your book and they are worth every penny.
Readers will never get to the inside of your book until they are drawn to the outside of your book.
A good designer will charge about $1,000-4,000.
Obtain Your ISBN and Barcode
Your ISBN is your International Standard Book Number, and it differentiates your book from any other book, even with the same title.
It is a ten or 13-digit number that you register with Bowker Identifier Services found at www.myidentifiers.com. You can purchase one ISBN or a block of ISBNs for future use.
When you register the ISBN, you will need basic information, including your dust jacket copy and author bio.
Your ISBN will be associated with a barcode, which you can also purchase with Bowker. Your designer will want to put it on the back cover of your book.
Plenty of videos on YouTube will walk you through obtaining your ISBN and barcode with Bowker. These two purchases will run you about $125 at the time of writing this blog post.
Choose Your Type of Printing
The cover designer will deliver a PDF of your cover spread, as if you were looking at your book opened wide, with both the front cover and back cover showing at the same time.
They will have used a precise spine calculation to determine the exact measurements, based on the number of pages in your book and the width of the paper you have chosen.
It is a specific process that is one more reason I insist that you use a designer instead of trying to create a book cover yourself.
The interior designer will deliver a PDF of your interior pages, in a single, page-by-page view.
Now you need to decide how you will print your books. There are three ways:
Option A: Offset Printing
This is a form of printing that provides high-volume printing for the lowest price per book but the highest expense upfront.
An offset printer will create giant metal plates from your PDFs of the cover and interior, and they will print your books by loading the ink onto the metal plates and running paper through a printing press.
With offset printing, typos and mistakes are costly. The metal plate must be recreated, even to fix one letter.
And if you have already printed 5,000 books, then all of those books will still have the mistake in them, even if future books do not.
When books are printed this way, they must be stored in a garage or warehouse and shipped when purchased.
One of the dangers is that the longer the books wait to be sold, the more chances there are that they will be damaged by accidents, temperature, insects, or passing time.
Offset printers will only print large print runs at a time, so it is a significant investment to go this route.
Also, there is the additional detail of having page numbers in multiples of 16. Offset printers use paper that has been folded into sixteen sheets, called signatures.
That means you may need to include advertisements if you have some blank pages at the end. Or you may not be able to include advertisements, if there are not enough pages left in the signature.
Depending on how many copies you want to print, this could have a price tag in the tens of thousands. This is because they will not print less than 1,500 books in each print run.
I off-set print my first self-published book in 2011, and I paid $7,500 for 1,500 copies.
Option B: Digital Printing
If you choose a digital printer, you have a lot more control, but you pay more per book.
The price to offset print a book might be $1.50 while the price to digitally print a book might be $7.50.
The advantages are that there is no minimum print run. So, you can print a small amount of books for a few hundred dollars instead of a large amount of books for tens of thousands of dollars.
Digital printing does not require metal plates to be created because it works more like a large computer printer, rather than a printing press with ink.
Therefore, making a change or correcting a mistake comes at very little cost and almost no additional time.
A digital printer is not tied to a specific number of pages per book, either. You do not have to work in multiples of 16.
You will still have to store and ship the books, but you won’t have to store as many.
Offset printing offers ink that is slightly more durable than digital printing.
It is possible that the colors may have slight variations and, on very rare occasions, may smudge with digital printing.
But most readers will never be able to tell the difference between a book that is digitally printed and one that is offset printed.
The quality of most digital printers is fantastic. I use them all the time.
Again, the price tag for printing this way depends on how many copies you desire. You can choose much smaller batches. The most recent digital printing order I made was $600 for 100 copies.
Finally, if you choose either one of these printing options, think about where you are going to put all of those books.
Please avoid storing your books in your garage. Inevitably, they will be damaged, and you will grow to hate them.
Treat yourself like a professional and invest in warehousing.
If you are looking for a distributor with warehousing space to store your books and systems to take your orders and ship them with ease.
Option C: Print on Demand
Known as POD, this is by far the easiest way to self-publish, although it has the smallest profit margin.
But the beauty is that you don’t have to pay anything to publish your book. Ta-dah!
When a book is print on demand, it doesn’t exist until a consumer clicks the purchase button.
When that happens, the wheels go into motion immediately, and a book is printed and sent directly to the reader.
There are no warehousing or shipping concerns for the author. The sales tax and shipping costs are incurred by the online retailer, which is such a relief.
The online retailer also gets a cut of the sale, which means the author gets even less than if they had chosen digital printing, but there might be even more sales because online retailers are search engines in and of themselves and can bring in some readers that wouldn’t have found you any other way.
If you choose to work with a print-on-demand printer, I recommend Ingram Spark.
You will be able to find many up-to-date instructional videos to walk you through the process of uploading your first book. The moment you do, it will be available on Amazon and most major online retailers. You will be compensated for book sales every 90 days.
The freedom available for a self-published author is outstanding.
As long as you are willing to take on expenses on the front end, as well as the responsibility of project management, you stand to create more income on the back end.
And if you are anything like me, you will cherish the choice that comes with self-publishing.
I am hesitant to give up the control over design and content now that I have learned how to make it work so well.
But in order to be a self-published author, you are going to have to develop a powerful ability to choose more than just production elements. You are going to have to learn to choose yourself.
There are no gatekeepers to tell you if your book is good enough, like there are in traditional publishing.
You have to be the one to take the risk and allow readers to respond to it before you feel ready.
With the right perspective, that won’t be difficult.
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