What’s it Cost to Publish? A Breakdown of Expenses

If you do a quick Google search for ways to make money from home, one thing that will often come up is “write an ebook.” Technically it is correct. Writing an ebook is a way you can earn money. However, what those articles often ignore is that that writing a book is an expensive process, both in terms of time and money. I’ve had trouble finding a good resource that actually breaks down the costs of publishing, so here is what I’ve learned both from publishing myself and from talking to other authors who self published.

Money
Hope you’re ready to pony up!

1) Actual Publishing – $0, 1 hour.

The act of publishing is fairly simple once you have everything set up. It doesn’t cost anything to publish through Amazon, Smashwords, or other self-publishing sites. You can just create a login, add your bank information, and make some selections. I suggest allocating an hour for this process, just so you don’t rush and miss any important steps.

Funnily enough, the publishing process is the easiest thing you’ll do if you decide to self-publish a book.

2) Writing the book – $0, 10 – infinite hours.

This is what you’ll spend most of your time on. Actually writing the book. I put a minimum time here of ten hours, since a short story could be written in this timeframe. As far as how long it’ll take…there’s no real limit to how long you can spend on writing a book. However, if you’ve been working on the same book for over a year, you should probably take some time away from that book to work on something else. You’ll benefit from a bit of distance and perspective. That’s just a personal feeling though – you’ll find what works best for you with practice and time.

Write now
So get that pen to paper and get to work!

3) Cover – $50-$350, 0 hours.

Note that for this one, I’m assuming you’re not an artist yourself. I am most emphatically not an artist, so don’t know anything about that part of the process. If you have artistic skills, you can definitely make your own cover.

Unless you’re a very, very good artist, however, I’d suggest you hire someone to do this for you. Because if there’s absolutely one area you need to hit the mark with your book, it’s with the cover. I wrote a whole blog post about the importance of a good cover here, but the highlight is your cover is the first impression your book gets to make on the world, so it’s essential you get this right.

There’s a caveat I want to add here. I’ve seen authors spend 400 dollars and more for cover art. While I can understand the impulse, when I compare the 800 dollar covers to ones that the author spent 200-300 on, the difference in quality is barely noticeable. Expensive covers aren’t required. You don’t want to break the bank on these. You just want to make sure they’re good.

Also, if you’re going to publish a paperback version, factor on an additional fifty to a hundred dollars to have the artwork made into a wrap-around formatted properly for print. If you have photoshop skills, you can save money this way – and unlike most of these, it’s much more manageable without any expenses. 

4) Professional Editing – $500-$3000, hours vary

Fail
It really does feel like this sometimes. 

I’ve heard a lot of indie authors say they do their own editing, and there are merits to this method. For one, it’s free. For another…actually, that’s really the only benefit to doing your own editing. I’d strongly suggest that you don’t editing your book yourself, if you can afford an editor. No matter how good you are, you’ll miss things in your own work. It’s part of how the human brain functions – just like your eyes edit out your nose from your vision most of the time, your brain will edit out mistakes because it knows what to expect. (Note that if you do decide to edit yourself, at least take a couple weeks where you don’t look at your book. Let your brain ‘de-sync’ with the words, so you’ll have a cleaner eye to spot them.)

You’ll pay based on your word count in most cases, either on a per-word basis or a flat rate depending on what ‘range’ your book falls into. Check out this blog post I wrote breaking down word counts. You might find an editor at a lower price than I mention above. If you do, awesome.

I strongly, strongly recommend you either ask them for references from authors they’ve worked with before or make your first job with them a fairly short (and therefore inexpensive) work. Someone charging less than $500 to edit a large project could be just starting off and looking to establish themselves or might just have a life situation that allows for that, or they might be prone to rushing to get things done.

The hours depend on what type of editing you have done. If it’s a copy-edit, you probably won’t have to invest much in the way of time. If it’s a developmental edit, where you get advice on fixing plot holes and how to improve your overall writing, it can take longer than initially writing the book did.

I’d suggest, if you can afford it, getting both done. If you can’t afford both, then it’s time to make a judgement call – are you betting at catching spelling and grammar mistakes than you are catching story structure mistakes, or is it the other way around?

5) Marketing – $0 – Infinite, 0 hours to Infinite hours

brickwall
This one is the barrier that sits between your book and sales. 

Technically this isn’t part of the cost of publishing, but it might as well be. Remember that you are, essentially, tossing your book into a sea of books. If you don’t market it, it’s very unlikely anyone will ever find it, let alone read it.

I will do a post at some point about marketing, but when it comes to what you’re spending, it really is a balancing act. You can spend time to work on social media to save money, or you can spend money on advertising and promotion to save time you would have spent on social media marketing your book manually.

Decide what’s most important for you. If you want to free up time, feel free to spend money on marketing. If you want to save money, devote some time to the process. I’d suggest that, if you’re uncertain, that you spend time rather than money. If you spend your time and it doesn’t go well, you’ll still have learned something from the process. If you spend your money and it doesn’t go well, then you’ll be a bit poorer and only have learned that spending your money in that way doesn’t work well.

 

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