How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book?
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Today we're talking about self-publishing! I’m breaking down the exact cost of publishing my most recent novel, The Savior’s Sister. I'm going through all of the line items of my publication and letting you know all of my thoughts on those expenses. That means I'll let you know if the expenses are comparable to the norm, if I got a great discount, or if I overpaid.
A few disclaimers: first and foremost, this video is about self-publishing, not traditional publishing. If you are publishing through a traditional publishing house, they should be covering all of these expenses. All of them! If you're paying for your cover art or editor or copyright, they're conning you. Run for the hills! And second, I will only be covering publishing expenses, not marketing expenses. I have a very large platform, and the larger your platform, the more free marketing comes your way. Thus, taking a look at my marketing expenses would probably create a very false impression, and I don't want to do that to you guys.
(Psst! For more information on the self publishing process, you can check out my class on Skillshare: How to Self-Publish Your Book from Start to Finish. By clicking the link, you can get access to a free trial of Skillshare, which means you can take my class for zero dollars!)
On to the publishing expenses! I can feel my pockets emptying already...
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Expense Number 1: The Developmental and Line Editor
The developmental edit is your first round of edits. They're there to tackle the major structural issues or plot lines or character arcs. A line edit analyzes your writing on a sentence and paragraph level checking for style, flow, and consistency. Developmental edits tend to be the most expensive. I've seen rates anywhere between half a cent to three cents per word. However, rates are typically somewhere in the middle. Line edits tend to be cheaper, maybe half a cent to two cents per word.
Now, you might be looking at the dollar amount I spent and thinking, “Fuck that!” But keep in mind, my book has roughly 160,000 words in it, and since editors usually charge by the word, we're gonna be lookin’ at a hefty price tag. When you compare the word count to my expense, especially considering the fact that I got a package deal of two types of edits, we're actually looking at a pretty good deal. That said, most books are about half the length of The Savior's Sister, so please take that into consideration when analyzing these figures. Basically, I got a really good deal on a package edit, but it looks extremely expensive because there were a lot of words to get through.
Expense Number 2: Copy Editor
The copy editor covers your work on a word by word basis. I'm talking grammar, syntax, and punctuation. This is the edit most writers skip, and they should absolutely not skip it, because bad grammar and punctuation destroys the reading experience. Since it's an edit on a much smaller scale, it tends to be less expensive than the developmental edit. I've seen rates that were less than a cent per word to about a cent per word.
I love my copy editor; she did a fantastic job, her rates are super reasonable, and she even gave me a slight discount because she was a few days late getting my manuscript back to me, which I didn't even mind–it was just a few days. With all that considered, the amount I paid for the copy edit was a good price. It came to about half a cent per word. Again, $762 might sound like a lot, but keep in mind, we're talking about a 160,000 word book. If your book isn't as long as mine, and it likely isn't, your editing bills will likely be much cheaper.
Expense Number 3: Cover Art
When recruiting cover artists, you're paying for however many covers you need, and each format of your book needs its own cover. I created an ebook, paperback, hardback, and audiobook for The Savior's Sister, which meant I needed four covers. Obviously, the front cover is mostly going to be the same, but a paperback is going to need a back and spine, the hardback is going to need inside flaps, and the audiobook is gonna be a teeny tiny square. All that considered, I can honestly say that I definitely overpaid for my cover art.
From my previous release, The Savior's Champion, I got four covers as well as four professional formatting packages. That meant I got two versions of my ebook formatted, I got paperback formatting and hardback formatting on top of the covers, and I still paid less for that entire package than I did with just the four covers for The Savior's Sister. Basically, my TSC package was double the size of my TSS package, and it was cheaper! $717 is a lot for cover art. You can definitely find a quality cover artist with much more reasonable rates.
Expense Number 4: Formatting
Formatting refers to the formatted pages of your book. Making sure the title page is pretty, the pages are perfectly aligned and spaced, the chapter headers are clear and professional. This is a tricky expense to cover because technically I didn't pay for formatting; I formatted The Savior’s Sister myself. However, I did purchase the program that I used to format The Savior’s Sister, and that program is Vellum. Vellum allows you to format your paperbacks, hardbacks, and ebooks quickly and professionally. I am obsessed with this program, because the end result is so beautiful! It does not look self-formatted at all. Plus, it is a one-time purchase for an unlimited number of books, which means from this point forward, I will never have to pay for formatting ever again.
I basically spent $250 for unlimited book formatting, which is an absolute steal. When I’ve hired professional formatters in the past, it was as low as $275 dollars to as high as $500 just to format one book. If you want to save money on formatting, I cannot recommend Vellum enough! I have an affiliate link here if you want to check ‘em out! You can download the program and format your entire book before you decide to actually pay for the program. That's what I did, and it was super worth it!
Expense Number 5: Proofread
The proofread is the final check of your manuscript. After it's edited and formatted, you hire someone to read through your book and check for any lingering mistakes or typos. This does not refer to major mistakes like plot holes or cliches. We're talking missing words or redundant words. Little things.
The reason I spent $0 on professional proofreading is because my professional proofreader bailed. In her defense, this was around the time that COVID got really crazy and people were leaving work abruptly. So, I'm assuming that's what happened in her situation, but I honestly don't know, because she ghosted! I am so lucky because a handful of my colleagues who are all professionals within the writing industry offered to band together and proofread The Savior's Sister for me for free, and I am forever grateful to them because I was about to shit my pants!
Anywho, that's why I paid $0 for the proofread. That is not normally the case. The proofread is usually the cheapest edit. I've seen rates that are typically about one-fourth of a cent per word.
Expense Number 6: The Copyright
Once your book is done, you gotta submit it for copyright. A copyright is basically a legal protection letting the world know that this book is yours. You wrote it. Back off, bitches! The copyright fee that I paid was $60, which tends to be the standard fee. So yeah, not much to say here.
Expense Number 7: IngramSpark Publication Fees
If you've published through IngramSpark, then you know that they tack on some fees for publishing through their website. IngramSpark is a distribution platform mostly for paperbacks and hardbacks, but they do ebooks as well. A lot of self-published writers publish through them because they have the paperback and hardback distribution available, but fees are never fun. I believe the publication fee for a physical book and ebook bundle is about $50, and any changes or modifications you make to that bundle is $25 from that point on, but I'm honestly not 100% sure, because it's been years since I've had to pay these fees. Nearly every time I've published through IngramSpark, they've had promo codes floating around that waived these fees entirely, and that's exactly what happened here!
Thanks to their promo codes, I did not have to pay the publication fees for The Savior’s Sister, so before you publish through IngramSpark, check to see if there are any promo codes floating around. There probably will be. Snatch ‘em up, save some money!
Expense Number 8: Proof Copies
Proof copies are the copies of your book that you receive before it's published. The point is for you to analyze the book and make sure there aren't any mistakes. Are the pages formatted correctly? Is the cover clear? Are you using the right kind of paper? When ordering proof copies, you typically pay cost plus shipping. That means you are not paying the sale price of the book; you are paying whatever it costs to print the book, plus the shipping fee.
With that said, how the hell did I pay $274 for proofs? Because I had to order a million proofs! As you guys recall, I overpaid for cover art and I also had a tricky time working with my cover artist. The files they sent me were not printing properly, so I kept having to request new files and then ordering new proofs to make sure they were printing properly. So many proofs! I also had to pay for rush shipping because this was during the height of COVID and it was taking a month at a minimum to process every proof. It ended up taking three or four rounds of proofs to get the cover right. So, that's six to eight books when you consider that I have a paperback and a hardback, plus all that rush shipping.
So considering this, please take this figure with a grain of salt. That's not to say you won’t spend this much; it's pretty common to need multiple rounds of proofs, but obviously it depends on the situation. From my experience, proof expenses are a crap shoot. It depends on the quality of your cover art and the quality of your formatting and whether or not they were done right the first time.
So these are all my publication expenses!
Grand Total: $3,770
Again, this does not include marketing expenses. It also does not include the expenses for printing and shipping ARCs, because I consider ARCs part of the marketing process. For a book as fat as The Savior’s Sister, I'd say this is a very reasonable total. And this is mostly because of the editor fees that I paid; the editors I hired had very affordable and competitive rates. Again, keep in mind my book is beefier than the average book, which is going to affect my editor fees. Also keep in mind that I overpaid in some areas and I didn't spend a dime in other areas. But hopefully this breakdown gives you an idea of what to expect when you self-publish, and maybe some tips and tricks that can help you save money, as well as mistakes that you can avoid!
Have you gone through the self-publishing process? What’s one thing you wish you knew sooner? Let’s chat about it in the comments!
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