Over the past few months, I have been talking a lot with other self-published authors. For the most part, they’re rather tight-lipped about how much their upfront investment is. When I was researching before I started my journey to becoming a published author, there wasn’t much information out there, either.
I intend to use my knowledge and my platform to help other newcomers to the self-publishing space. Part of how I intend to do that is demystifying the process. It’s incredibly overwhelming. In fact, it’s intimidating to the point that I put off publishing my romance series until I had already written five books! In short, I wished there was someone to hold my hand through this process and spell it out for me in big, bright block letters. So, let me, my experiences, and my failures, be the big flashing neon sign you need to guide you through this sticky, incredibly overwhelming process.
Here are a few things you need to know going forward: My calculations will be based on a 60k word manuscript, and all prices will be calculated based on industry standards (middle-of-the-road) pricing. I am also accounting for wanting to publish a paperback, as well as an ebook with a custom book cover
Let’s talk about developmental editing
Developmental editing is an invaluable tool. Especially for first-time authors. A developmental editor helps you fine-tune your work until there are no plot holes, redundant plot points, or other stickiness that takes away from the overarching storyline. They will help you with convoluted/repetitive dialogue, and really finesse the text until it’s the most marketable storyline it can be. In short, these editors will make your story as mass-market desirable as possible. This stage of editing happens during your revisions.
The average developmental editor charges $0.09 a word.
Next up, what is line editing?
Line editing is no less intense than developmental editing, though, on the bright side, you won’t have to worry about shifting too much structural stuff around! Line editing focuses on your flow — your voice as a writer. They look at tone, sentence structure — their job is to make sure that your book is as legible and enjoyable to read as possible. This stage of editing happens during the revisions-while-getting-ready-to-publish phase.
The average line editor charges $0.05 a word.
And copy editing?
Copy editing is the last round of edits your manuscript should ideally go through. Your copy editor will go over your manuscript with a fine-tooth comb to find any typos and grammatical errors.
The average copy editor charges $0.03 a word.
Alternatively, you can hire a proofreader for $0.008 a word.
Now your manuscript is all polished and beautiful!
What’s the theoretical damage if you did all of the edits?
A butthole clenching $10,200 on the high end, and a chest-clutching $8,880 on the low end.
Realistically, do you need all that editing?
Yes, and no. If you’re saving up for this process and you want your book to be the absolute best that it can be? Yes. If you have the money to start off? Go for it! I will never discourage a writer from polishing that piece of coal until it becomes a diamond.
However, it’s not practical for a lot of authors. Especially those just starting out. I want to first start by saying that nothing will ever take the place of a proper editor. They get paid the big bucks, and with good reason. However, if you’re hurting for cash, and are of the mindset that you want to make money before you invest too much (I hear you), find yourself a group of authors who are happy to do peer review. It’s not the same as a Developmental Editor, but at least you have a small sample pool to see what the market might favor/want more of from you. And who knows, maybe they’ll help you out with some stylistic issues and help you polish your voice!
You can’t fully replace a line editor, but you can subscribe to Grammarly and let it point out weak areas in your writing (your delivery, your tone, etc.) Again, it’s not the same as having human eyes on your work, but it’s a start. I’ve learned a lot about my writing from Grammarly slapping me upside the back of my head.
If you can only afford one kind of editing make it copy editing. Or, if that’s still too pricey for you, find a darn good proofreader. Typos and overt grammatical issues make your book look unprofessional, and often puts off the reader.
Let’s Move Onto Cover Art
I’ve talked about book covers in a blog in the past (more specifically, DIYing them). But, I understand that not everyone has the eye, the time, the knowledge, or the will to try their hand at making their own cover. After all, as much as we shouldn’t, a lot of us judge books by their covers. It makes sense to outsource to a professional.
Based on my research, the average price goes as follows:
Ebook: $100 – $500
Ebooks and Paperback: $250 – $700
So, keeping with the trend, assuming that you want both an Ebook and a Paperback…
Now, let’s get to formatting!
It would be so much simpler if we could just upload a .docx file and let our distributor do what they must. However, nothing about self-publishing is easy or direct. There are a few DIY options for formatting that I will be happy to cover in a later blog if anyone is interested. However, for the sake of keeping up with the theme of outsourcing entirely, let’s look at what it would cost to hire someone to format your books.
According to kindlepreneur, the expected price for a basic book can be anywhere from $30 to $300. Keeping with the trend of going with the middle-of-the-road option, that would make the supposed total…
Don’t forget your ISBNs!
An ISBN is an Industry Standard Book Number. A lot of publishing services will allow you to choose a free ISBN. While tempting, it’s important to remember that your book will technically be published by the owner of that ISBN, which could be draft2digital, or Daddy Bezos. I mean, Amazon. Owning your own ISBN ultimately is the better investment for you and your book’s future. If you spend money on nothing on this list, spend your money on an ISBN.
Establishing a Printer/Distributor
There are free distributors and printers. Namely, the popular Amazon KDP, known for its free-to-start platform (which has its own issues I will be covering in a blog sometime in the near future). There is also draft2digital, and IngramSpark (and many more I haven’t listed).
Assuming that you do your research and settle on IngramSpark (not sponsored!), you’ll be forking over a modest $49 for ebook and paperback. Which, looking at the rest of these price tags is a steal!
And here we are. The book is now done. It’s ready to be advertised! Ready to be yelled about from the mountain tops! Fortunately, the budget is completely up in the air. You can set it as low or as high as you’d like! I have paid for promotions all of once in my writing career, but, for the most part, I have an incredible network of wonderful, supportive readers, and friends. Not to mention that the bookish community is incredibly supportive! All that to say that it’s possible to do it for free, but not necessarily feasible for everyone. For the sake of our tally, let’s say we’re going to go with a middle-of-the-road $150 budget.
So, what’s the damage?
At most? $11,057.
At minimum? $1,337
Obviously, this price can change based on the service providers, or the amount of work you take on yourself (or whatever programs you use — free or otherwise). However, this is the baseline.
Long story short, self-publishing is not a cheap business. If you’re going to start, don’t go into it broke!
If you’d like to learn more about some DIY programs and measures you can take, let me know!
Authors! If you’re comfortable sharing, I would love to know how much you paid to get your book up and going!
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