You’ve written a book, but just how should you go about publishing it? And – more importantly if you’re on a tight budget – how much will it cost?
The cost of publishing a book can vary a lot depending on the type of publishing route you take. Some people spend less than $500 publishing a book. Others spend up to $20,000.
Traditional publishing vs Self-publishing
Traditionally, the only way to publish a book was to go through a publishing company. Nowadays, more authors are choosing to self-publish their own works. There are pros and cons to each approach.
When you go through a traditional publisher, you generally don’t have to pay anything up front. In fact, in many cases, they will pay you an up front sum. A traditional publisher also takes care of tasks such as editing and formatting for you. You still have to market your book, which is where you will likely have to spend money.
So what are the cons? A traditional publisher may take 80 to 90% of all royalties (usually 90 to 95% of all physical book sales and 70 to 80% of all e-book sales). This means for every book sold, you only make 20 or 10% of the profits. The publisher also effectively ‘owns’ your book, not you. This means that they can decide how the cover looks and how it’s all formatted.
Self-publishing is more expensive and more time-consuming. You need to source editors, formatters and cover designers yourself, as well as marketing your book.
The advantage of this route is that you get to keep more of the royalties, making more money from your book. While you’ll spend a lot more money, you could make a lot more money back. Having complete rights over your book also allows you to decide exactly how it looks and how to market it (while publishing houses still expect you to market your own book, they put in force restrictions as to how you market it such as whether you can use the cover art).
The costs of self-publishing
When taking the decision to self-publish your book, there are several main costs that you’ll want to consider. The amount of money you spend on each of them can vary depending on who you hire and what level of quality you’re aiming for.
Every book needs a cover. You can design your own, but if it looks amateurish it won’t attract many readers. Most authors hire a cover designer, which can cost anywhere between $100 and $600 depending on whether you choose a freelancer or a professional design agency.
The formatting of your book is the way in which it is printed and arranged on the pages (including the way it is presented in an e-book). A professional design agency may be able to do this for you alongside designing the cover. Alternatively, you can hire a separate designer to handle formatting. This should cost between $50 to $300.
You don’t have to get your book proofread and edited, but you probably should. The best writers in the world all still fall victim to errors or clunky phrasing. With the help of an editor, you can ensure that your book reads well and is compelling as it can be. A professional editor may charge anywhere between $300 to $3000 depending on the length of the book and the nature of the content (a children’s fictional novel is going to be easier to edit than a college-level non-fiction book on quantum physics).
It usually costs around $1 per copy to print a book, with an added shipment cost of top of this (usually no more than $5 per shipment). Hardcover books cost slightly more – sometimes $2 per copy but rarely any more than this. This is a cost to consider if you’re planning on printing your book, however some authors nowadays exclusively sell e-books.
Promoting your book
Whether you’re going through a publishing house or self-publishing your book, you’ll need to find a way of marketing it to the masses – otherwise no-one will know it exists.
The cost of promoting a book is very hard to put a figure on because it depends how hard you want to promote it and what channels you’re willing to use. On average, most authors spend $50 to $200 on marketing.
You can set up a website and social media pages for free. You should then consider pouring money into advertising – using Google and Facebook Ads you can direct people to your site and social media pages. You could also try contacting book blogs and book journalists to review your book to help generate further buzz. Some authors pay a PR company to do this for them, but if you’re a first-time author you might prefer to save money by doing it yourself.
How to fund it
Most self-published authors will spend $2000 to $3000 on publishing. There are several ways in which you can fund this process:
Take out a loan: Just as many people take out business loans when starting a business, many authors use a loan to cover publishing costs. Personal loan calculators can help you to budget the cost of a loan. This could help you to get the best interest rates when comparing loans.
Start a crowdfunding campaign: You may be able to get friends, family and complete strangers to crowdfund the publishing process using a GoFundMe page. This is a route that a lot of authors have started taking.
Use savings: Alternatively, you may be able to use savings. Some authors start saving while writing up a book. There are business savings accounts with high interest rates that you can use to save up money more quickly.
You could make back the money that you pour in
If your book is well-written, designed well, promoted well and priced fairly, it could sell in volume, allowing you to make back any money that you pour into publishing. If your book takes off, you could even make a significant return from it and even start a career as an author.
Of course, making money may not matter to some people – it may be a case of simply earning readers. If this is the case, consider publishing an investment similar to spending money on a hobby or a passion.