Tip #3: The Cost of Doing Business

Posted: June 5, 2011 in Writing
Tags: , , ,

So, you want to self-publish?  It’s gonna cost you!  And, just like building a house, you’ll be better off if you know the costs upfront so you can budget.  Here are most of the line item expenses you can expect, with an estimated range next to each.  If you have other expenses that you notice are left out, shoot me an email/comment and I’ll add them!

Forming your own publishing company: Be it LLC, corporation, whatever, it’ll cost you some dime to set up a company with your state’s Secretary of State.  It’s a pretty easy process (in Colorado at least, where you just have to fill out a form) and only costs $50 in Colorado.  Check your state’s requirements and costs.

Purchasing your ISBN number: Some of the self-publishing companies will provide you an ISBN number  “free of charge.”  Only catch, the ISBN is theirs, not yours.  Recommendation is to get your own ISBN, and it costs $125 for one through Bowker.  Go to www.myidentifiers.com to get yours.

Bar code: Again, some self-publishing companies will provide these for free, and there doesn’t seem to be a downside to accepting the bar code for free.  If you’re a DIY freak and won’t even take free stuff, there are free bar code generators online.

Cover design: Don’t judge a book by its cover?  Yeah right!  If that were the case, why not omit the cover and just jump into the text? One of the most distinguishing factors between a book published by a traditional publishing company and one self-published is oftentimes the cover.  And, people judge a book by all of its visual cues, most of which derive from the cover.  My recommendation–DON’T SKIMP ON THE COVER.  Find a great cover designer you can work with to create something that is visually on-point with your book, and that grabs a potential reader.  Especially if you are self-publishing, don’t give readers a chance to write your book off before they even buy it.  I used a freelance graphic artist named Brianne Pickert, with Izonu graphics.  Her email is Izonu@mac.com, and she was excellent!  Crowdspring also seems like an interesting way to get your cover design done, because you can submit a price for the “job” and then have multiple graphic artists submit their work for your selection.  Expected cost: Approximately $400-$1,000.

Author photo: This follows cover design in that you want something that looks professional.  Now, if you’ve got a good camera, or a friend with some skill, then you could probably save yourself a couple hundred bucks.  Expected cost: Approximately $150-$300.

Website development: A lot of websites that will offer you templates for your own website.  Because of that, it doesn’t make much sense to try to learn HTML if you don’t know it already.  They charge a monthly fee which varies based upon what kind of services you are receiving (i.e., the number of templates you want to choose from, if you want to add e-commerce, what type of customer service options you want, etc.).  Wix.com was a great way to build my website, and Wix supports flash, which makes a website stand out.  Note that flash is slower to load, and is only now becoming something you can view on mobile media devices such as smartphones.  Flash will give you a much better looking website, but don’t go crazy with it.  The yearly cost for a website through Wix is about $100.  Expect to spend 30-40 hours building your own website and developing the content.

Of course, you can also decide to hand the website development off to someone else.  The cheapest price I’ve seen for website development and hosting is about $500, but expect to pay more like $1,000-$1,200 for someone with skill.  That will get you a webpage, some design/creative process time, hosting, and 4-5 pages on your website.

Email blasts: Proper marketing includes getting the word out, and one of the best ways to get the word out is to send email blasts to people you know through work, friends, spouses, activities, groups, etc.  Imagine anyone that could fall within your target audience, and let ’em know what you’ve got to sell.  There’s literally nothing to lose except the sale(s) of your book.  If you’re gonna self-publish, there is no room for being timid!  There are a host of companies that help you with email blasts, including giving you templates for the blast itself.  CNET did a nice review of the Top 10 companies here CNET. Expect to pay about $10/month for their premium services, and for about 500 contacts on your emails.  Prices go up with greater amounts of contacts.

Business cards: You can design them online.  Again, don’t skimp out.  Don’t mortgage the house for ’em either, but select some of the upgrades that will make you look professional (i.e. gloss on cards, or better stock).  I used Vistaprint and got 1,500 business cards I designed myself for $64 shipped.  Excellent deal!  Expect to pay about $50-$150 for 1,000 to 5,000 business cards.

Miscellaneous: It would be silly to leave out a category for miscellaneous expenses, because they inevitably come up.  For instance, you’ll need to pay for shipping on your proof, and then shipping of books you buy and intend to sell yourself.  Maybe you will want other promotional materials than business cards, such as pens, flyers, notepads, etc.  Perhaps you will pay for a professional review or press release regarding your book.  Will you pay someone to format your book, or will you?  (Expect to spend approximately $300 if you pay someone else for this service).  Will you pay someone to edit your book, or will you?  (A professional editor can cost anywhere from about $500-$1,200 for their review).  This is where your budget can really inflate, so make sure you know what your budget is going in and then you can determine how much of this icing you can slather onto the cake!

Bottom line: In short, you’re probably looking at a minimum of $1,200 to do your own book right and if you are a pretty aggressive DIY’er.  You could easily spend $3,000-$4,000 if you don’t do a lot of the aforementioned things yourself.  If that is the case, remember to determine what your expected profit per book will be, and then calculate how many copies you will need to sell in order to break even.  Not much point running an operation that loses money!!

  1. Derek,
    Thanks for posting this. I’m leaning toward the self publishing route myself and I appreciate the summary.

    • derekblass says:

      Hey Rebecca–thanks for the comment! It’s pretty grueling in terms of a time commitment, but VERY rewarding to see everything come together and know it was ALL you. Best of luck!

  2. Mel says:

    This was so helpful-I plan to self publish next year. Thank you for being so detailed about the process. You can check out my writing on my blog: http://tmblr.co/ZmmWNqvodDvG
    Thanks again!

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