Why I Chose to Self-Publish my Book and How Much it Really Cost me
What does it take to get the book published?
I asked myself this question when the story I was carrying inside spilled into the computer document and declared itself a novel. Now, what was I supposed to do with it? I've never written a book before, but once it decided to come out, I felt a sense of responsibility to let it see the light of day. So, after getting over a few self-doubts, I decided to do some research.
If like me, you're wondering what's the best way to handle your book baby and whether or not you should do it yourself, then keep reading.
First of all, let's start with the pros and cons of different routes: traditional, self-published, and hybrid.
1. When you get a literary agent (it's recommended that you do as most publishing companies won't deal with you directly), you'll have an experienced person on your side, rooting for you and helping you navigate the industry.
2. Once you get a contract with a publishing company, you don't have to worry about editing, cover, formatting, etc. - it will all be done by a team of professionals. There are also no upfront costs, and you might even get a cash advance.
3. Your book will most likely be placed in the bookstores (for an initial trial period - then it all depends on how well it sells); you will have some of the initial marketing done for you to increase your visibility and reach; more doors will be open such as certain awards.
1. It is extremely hard to get noticed by a literary agent and to have your manuscript accepted. Then he or she will have to find a publishing company for you, and it's not a guarantee. Even after you get a publishing deal, it can take 1-2 years to get your book on the shelves.
2. You lose rights to your book and also some of the control over a creative process in terms of cover design, title, and even the story itself if the editor wants revisions. Plus, there might be other restrictions in the contract that you need to watch out for and even hire legal help.
3. Besides getting a small % of royalties, you probably won't even get paid until you make up your advance. Here is some more information on how that's broken down.
4. The marketing support you will receive from the publishing house is very limited unless your book is an instant success, and there are even no guarantees it will make it to the bookstores.
1. You have full control of the creative process, publishing, and marketing. Changes can easily be done at any time to the story, price, cover, strategy, etc. It's all in your hands.
2. Getting your book out to the public through online stores, bookstores (although it's much harder), and libraries all depends on how fast you can get everything done and ready to go.
3. Your books are your business - you get to be your own boss, decide where and how to sell, build your own platform and brand, reach different markets, retain all your rights and profits.
1. All the costs associated with publishing a novel are on your shoulders and they all have to be paid upfront before you even know if you'll get a return on your investment.
2. There is a learning curve while you figure out the ropes of publishing and marketing. It takes time away from writing as you have to wear two hats, and marketing is hard for some people.
3. Finding and hiring professionals to help you along the way is going to be your responsibility as well. Getting the right people on your team can take time and mistakes can be made.
4. There is no validation, support, and prestige that's normally associated with traditional publishing. You'll have to prove yourself to your potential readers and knock hard on some doors.
1. There is a better chance that your story will be accepted and the publishing process is less complicated. Also, there is more flexibility with different options in terms of support and costs.
2. Most of the time you get to retain your rights on the manuscript and have more say in the creative process while still getting the support you need from the professionals at each step.
3. You get a higher percentage of the royalties, typically up to 80%, and still get the support of industry experts as well as distribution and marketing help.
1. You will be expected to pay a significant amount of money upfront, more than you would if you did everything yourself. Here is an example of one package.
2. You would have to trust someone else to handle your investment for you and hope that they will do a good job with it.
3. Finding the right hybrid publisher can be tricky. Be careful who you chose - look at their testimonies, distribution channels, previously published books. There are companies that would take your money and do very little. Here is a hybrid publisher criteria.
4. To get your book selected and published is still a process that may take months. True hybrid publishers still pick and choose the best books as well as have a waiting period for the release.
So... if you have the time, patience, and confidence that your book is destined for commercial success - learn all you can about pitching a literary agent. If you are looking for someone to take care of the publishing process for you so that you can focus more on writing - find a good hybrid company. And if you're ready to publish and want to have full control - do it yourself.
What are the costs associated with self-publishing?
As with any small business, to start is always difficult. You have to put the money in before seeing any profit for months, maybe years. But the biggest investment is your time. The hard part about self-publishing process is that you will need to find time to write more books while publishing and marketing your existing ones.
It is pretty much impossible to be successful as an author without continually putting out more books. But if you can't figure out a way to get your stories into the hands of readers, then it's simply a hobby that you're maintaining for yourself. Nothing wrong with that.
So, first of all, I think it's important to determine what your goals are. Do you want your books to be read by thousands of people? Do you believe your story can change many lives? Make a difference? Is it something you want to do as a career? Then there is a cost in terms of time, effort, and money.
With self-publishing, the results depend on how much you're willing to put into it. Also, there is a continual learning to stay on top of the changes in the book marketing trends. What was effective years ago, might not bring any results today. It's constant trial and error, but the possiblities are also endless and self-publishing community is very supportive. There are a ton of free resources out there from fellow authors.
In this post, I want to share a few necessary costs, but if you're willing to do more work yourself, there are ways to save money. Here is my list:
Editing - this is by far the biggest cost and a very important one. You don't want to skip out on it as readers expect the story to be free of errors and polished. There are three types of editing: developmental, line editing, and proofreading. Usually, one editor does it all or has an assistant to help. The cost can add up to over 10k for a full-length novel. If you can get support from other authors, beta-readers and family members that are handy with English and/or story development, you can just get a good proofreader on Fiverr to do a final read-through for a few hundred dollars. Shop around and always ask for recommendations from other authors.
Formatting- for a fiction novel with no illustrations this shouldn't be more than a few hundred dollars, but if you're planning to write more than one book and have a mac, buy Vellum. It's easy to use, and you don't have to bug your formatter every time you want to make a change.
Cover - this is also a wide range, depending on how fancy you want your cover to be. Again, you can get it for under $100 on Fiverr, but do your research first and see what's selling in your genre. Ask for recommendations from others or try 100covers.com A few hundred dollars is pretty reasonable, but the cost could easily be over 1k.
ISBN# - buy these in bulk - U.S. $295 for 10 on Bowker.
Marketing - when you launch your book, expect to spend at least a few hundred dollars on promotions. I put my book on free and 99c sites to get the word out. Some of them are more effective than others. Here is a big list. Ask around and see which ones other authors liked. Facebook and Amazon ads require more training to master, but you can start with a free class. Without them, your book, simply won't be seen.
Some free alternatives: build social media platform, work on your e-mail list, spread the word locally, reach out to book bloggers and podcasters, start a blog yourself, exchange newsletters with other authors (you can start with this free platform). The bottom line, marketing never stops. That's the only way to get your book seen by readers.
There are other miscellaneous costs that are not really necessary. If you want to open an official business, there is a state-based fee for LLC registration. If you want to have a website, you might need to pay for one or simply use a free platform for a landing page. You would also need an e-mail marketing software such as mailerlite or mailchimp, but it's free initially. There are various tools that can make your life easier as an author, and there is, of course, always a cost of continual education. But to publish the book on Amazon or through IngramSpark, all you need is formatting, cover, and ISBN. Here are the steps. And here is what to do before you upload your book on one of these platforms.
As you can see, with a little bit of research, publishing a book is not that hard. What's hard in my opinion is getting the book into the hands of readers. With so many novels out there, it's not an easy task to grow an audience. But as long as you know yourself, know who you're writing for and why, you'll find them. And if you believe your story needs to be out there, do your research and just go for it. If you can't get the approval of the publishing industry, find peers and readers who can give you feedback instead. Plug into the community of readers and writers online - you don't have to do it alone.
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