This topic bubbled to the surface recently, after I blogged about how to self-publish a book, or first 5 and second 4 circles of Hell. Namely, people asked me how much it cost me, specifically, to self-publish Siren Suicides, my first trilogy. And the answer is, it cost me $170. How is that possible? Well, let me tell you my story and let me outline the process I went through, and let me give you prices that people cited to me, and from that you can calculate a range of cost, from nothing to thousands of dollars. Before you read any further, know that I have collected this information from people I worked with and I might be a bit off. If I am, feel free to correct me in the comments, deal? Well then, here we go.
Editing. I'm not including writing as the first step, as I'm assuming you don't have a ghost writer who wrote your novel for you. Let's assume that you're the one who wrote your novel, however many drafts it took you. Now you're ready to send it to a professional editor. Well then, how much does it cost?
- What did it cost me. I was lucky to have befriended Colleen M. Albert on Twitter, an independent editor, and I was lucky to have been chosen her pro bono project of the year. Editing Siren Suicides cost me nothing.
- What it usually costs. From what I heard, if you hire an independent editor, it may cost you anywhere from $500 to $2000 per book and up, $500 considered cheap. This has been calculated from .0060- .010 per word, for a book of around 75K words.
Book design / cover / illustrations. Great. Your book has been edited and now it's ready to be formatted, but you can't usually format a book unless some design decisions have been made. Just for the sake of simplicity, I will bundle all three things here into one. They can all be done by one artist, several, or not done at all (CreateSPace offers pre-made book covers, for example). So, what's the cost?
- What did it cost me. For book design I made decisions myself, based on books which I loved, like Harry Potter or 1Q84. My daughter, who is a design student, illustrated all three books for me and created book covers as well. Therefore, book design, cover, and illustrations cost me nothing.
- What it usually costs. I have seen people bundle book design together with formatting, but I do not know the specific price for book design only (I covered in detail what I mean by this here). A friend of mine recently hired a professional illustrator to do a book cover and illustrations for each chapter, and it cost $7,000 total for both. There are separate artists who do only book covers. I have seen prices from $500 (cheap) to $2,000 and higher.
Formatting. Once you have made your design decisions, got your illustration art and book cover files, you are ready to format your book. That is, it has to be technically prepared for publication, have proper margins, fonts, etc. Now, to the cost.
- What did it cost me. I have met Stuart Whitmore on Google+. After he has heard about my futile attempts to format the books myself, and because suicide happens to be an important topic for him, he picked me to be "a special almost-pro-bono project" for $75. I also contributed by helping him promote his company Crenel Publishing. Therefore, formatting all three Siren Suicides books cost me $75 total.
- What it usually costs. From what I have seen online, and based on what Crenel Publishing offers, professional formatting can be anywhere from $300 to $500 per book and higher.
Printing. I have self-published my books through CreateSpace, and so this is the only printing source I am familiar with. The cost is minuscule (unless you want to print drafts of your book, then read this blog post).
- What did it cost me. Since all three covers of Siren Suicides books are very similar, and the files have been created very similarly, I have only tested one printed proof of the book, and it cost me $5 for the book and $15 for the expedited shipping.
- What it usually costs. That is the cost on CreateSpace for proofs, $5, although I am not sure if it changes depending on the thickness of the book. Add shipping, and you got it.
Distribution. Again, because I have published via CreateSpace on Amazon both paperbacks and ebooks for Kindle, this is the only distribution channel that I paid for.
- What did it cost me. I have paid $25 per book for extended distribution to book stores and libraries, so for the whole trilogy it ended up being $75 total.
- What it usually costs. If you buy CreateSpace extended distribution, it costs $25 per book, flat fee.
There are more costs that you may incur, for example, cost of marketing. I'm not including here the cost of my website - it happens to be my primary vehicle for marketing, like a base station. Any time I tweet a link to my books, I usually use the link to my website's Books page. It costs me about $15 per month. Without this cost, if you add it all up, it comes out to $170 total. That's all. The rest of the cost comes out from book sales, and I get the rest in royalties. The good thing about this is, I don't have to pay money upfront. Have you self-published a book? How much did it cost you?