Let’s not pretend that the phrase “Self-Publishing” doesn’t have its negative connotations. It does. But if you ask me, there is a BIG difference between an author who writes a book and uploads it right away, versus an author who has their work developed, copy-edited, and formatted professionally.
I prefer to call the latter of the two groups “Indie-Authors” as opposed to “Self-Published authors.”
To me, “self-publishing” implies that you did everything yourself. “Indie” means you are simply short a publisher. You’ve taken all the same steps a publisher would take, and used a team of people to get you published; only you did it independently. Anyone who’s read self-published books can spot the difference immediately. I’ve read some that should probably have never seen the light of day, and others that I could have easily picked up from Barnes and Noble.
But there are always exceptions to the rule. Some people are amazing at formatting, cover art, and copy-editing. But in reality, most of us either aren’t, or don’t have the time and patience to learn.
When I was searching publishing options, I had a lot of trouble getting to the bare bones of what indie-publishing would cost me. Just a simple google search will tell you that a developmental edit can cost you anywhere from $100-$2,000. My first thought was that the highest price was probably the best. But through the publishing process, I’ve learned that’s not always the case.
So, what does independent publishing really cost? I will tell you averages of what I paid and the range of reasonable prices I discovered along the way. Not all of these services are musts, but all should be considered.
Developmental Editing – $100-$250 (Can go as high as $2,000).
If you have a lot of quality beta-readers, you may decide to skip this step, and that’s fine. But for many, having your aunt read your manuscript won’t give you the kind of knowledgeable, honest feedback you need. Look for a DE who works in publishing. There are plenty of literary assistants out there who do this kind of thing on the side. Alternately, you may want to hire another author, someone who you KNOW writes well, and has a proven track record of success.
You want someone to be honest with you, to pick apart your work. If you get DE feedback and you don’t want to cry just a little, then they didn’t do their job right. A developmental edit should force you to reevaluate your story and question things you may have been avoiding.
Copy-Editing – $400-$1000 (More likely to be around the $600-$800 range for a 100,000 word novel). Copy editors will typically charge either per 250-word page or per 1000 words. Costs can range between $3.50-$6.50 per thousand words, or $1.25-$4 per page. I wouldn’t pay any more than that. There are so many great editors out there who work within these ranges.
DO NOT—I repeat, DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP EVER! There are always cases of an error of two getting into print, even in traditionally published books, but a bad copy-edit can kill your book FAST. Unless you’re 100% confident that you are the BEST copy-editor that ever lived, don’t do it! Also, don’t forget how difficult it can be to miss your own mistakes. You need a FRESH pair of eyes on your work. Books that have not undergone a good copy-edit are what gives “self-publishing” a bad name. So PLEASE don’t skip it!
Proofreading – $100-ish
This can be an optional step, and you can also use your beta-readers to catch errors. But you may want to hire a separate editor to give your book another once over. I skipped this step with my first book and now wish I didn’t.
Formatting – $100-$250
This is another important step that can’t be ignored. It is hard to figure out the formatting for every different distributor, and I know that I certainly don’t have the patience for it. If you do have the time, make sure it’s as perfect as it can be, because bad formatting can be a big problem for readers.
Cover Art – $5-$450
YEP! That’s a big price range, isn’t it? I can tell you that I stayed on the higher end of that spectrum, although, I have many writer friends with gorgeous covers, who paid a lot less.
People DO judge a book by its cover. Especially ebooks. You HAVE to have an eye-catching cover in order to grab a reader’s attention. Some people are amazing with graphics and do their covers all by themselves. They know how to choose the right stock photos and manipulate them into gorgeous covers. If you’re not one of those magically talented people, please don’t choose the “create your own cover” option on free websites. Find covers you like and look in the acknowledgments page of the book; usually the author thanks the cover artist. Or ask around. There are so many artists out there and so many price options, but FREE, should never be one of them. Mmmkay?
Book Tour – Free-$150 (I wouldn’t pay more than $150).
There is some debate as to whether or not a book tour actually helps sell books. I’ve done two tours. Both cost me $100 each. One tour was amazing and definitely sold books, the other did absolutely nothing for me.
Ask around to find a tour company that’s right for you, your budget, and your book. Does the tour find blogs to review your books (this is what you really want), do they do interviews, or do they just do a spotlight?
Alternately, you can save money by recruiting blogs hosts yourself. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Some blogs work exclusively with tour companies, while others are so bogged down with requests, they don’t have time to take your book on. If you can find somewhere around 15-30 blogs willing to host your book, you’ve got yourself a blog tour.
ARCs, Giveaways, and Swag – ? (So far I’m at about $350-ish)
This is an ongoing expense for me. Initially, when I first began promo for my book, I ordered 20 paperback copies for giveaways. At my cost that’s $5.50 per book, which cost me a total of $110. But then you have shipping costs to consider. Within the US, shipping a book costs $2.98. To Canada it’s $10. And to anywhere else is obviously more.
Some authors think ebooks are a better giveaway option because they’re “free.” But emailing a book file isn’t always a great idea. Sure, it’s fine if you trust the person, but there is always a risk of your book file ending up on a pirating site. And you don’t want that.
Instead, it’s a better idea to “Gift” your book from Amazon, B&N, Kobo, or whatever reader the winner uses. You can also set up a “Free” code on Smashwords that allows the user to download your book at no cost.
Gift cards, mugs, magnets, etc…I have not done any of this for giveaways. I’m still not convinced that they help sell books. I’d much rather give my books away and gain readers than have someone’s caramel macchiato in a mug with my book cover on it.
Business cards vs bookmarks – I bought business cards a few months ago. They are gorgeous and have my book cover and author photo on each side. I think I paid around $45 for 500. But now I’ve figured out that they were probably a waste of money. What I should have done was order bookmarks. Most of us don’t keep business cards, or they get lost in the bottom of our purses and junk drawers. But bookmarks…I have a ton of those and use them all the time.
Recently I contacted my cover artist and asked her to create a bookmark that went with my book cover. She came up with an amazing design and it only cost me $30. Printing and shipping for 100 will cost be around $35. The bookmarks have all the same info that’s on my business cards, but I bet people are going to keep them around a lot longer.
The Grand Total – $605-$2,200 (with an additional $350+ for promo items).
So you see, the cost can change dramatically based on what you can do for yourself (on a professional level). There are also other expenses to consider like advertising and such, but that’s not important here. What’s important is understanding what’s involved in creating a quality book—one that people WANT to read.
These costs are based on the services I used. I’m sure there are other authors out there who’ve had different experiences, but I’m guessing for someone like me, who can’t format, make my own cover etc.…these costs are pretty accurate.
There is also a lot of time involved in getting these things done. You didn’t just sit and write a book for months or years. You had to research, find the right people, and then wait on them while they did the things you hired them to do.
THIS is the difference between “self-publishing” and “indie-publishing” and the end product will reflect the amount of effort and money put into it.