How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish? Answered! (sort of)

As I’ve been working on my book, NEVERMOR, and getting it ready for self-publishing, I’ve been looking into many different publishing/marketing ideas. I’m sure that there are many things that I haven’t discovered,  but there is one thing that all of us who are going out on our own are concerned about:

How much does it cost?

This is the question that everyone wants to know the answer to. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so simple. I say it depends on the person and what you hope to accomplish. It might cost you nothing, or else you might potentially spend thousands!!!

Let me tell you about how it could, theoretically, cost you nothing to publish an ebook – or even a print book: Find a service that only takes a cut of your royalty, but you don’t have to pay them up front. Like Amazon’s Kindle and CreateSpace – or Lulu.com. With these simple programs, pretty much all you have to do is write the book, throw a cover on it and set your price. You might get lucky and a few people will buy it, but if you don’t take other measures, you risk your book slipping into obscurity.

There are also free ways to promote, like Facebook (to people you already know) or Twitter (for people who follow you) but how can you make a real impact for your book? Can you really do that for free? There are ways, I’m sure, but even some of the “cheaper” ways to promote yourself still cost something.

Here are a few things I’ve spent money on so far, or considered for the future (perhaps not a lot of money, but it adds up):

wattpadCover Image: My current image was made using stock photos. I wanted it to look original, so I combined several images into one.  I don’t have an enormous understanding of computer art programs, but I at least like to think that I have an artistic eye. Perhaps you have neither, or you have both better than I do. Excellent. Making your own cover is a great way to knock out a lot of the cost. To have an artist or service make one for you could cost….well, anywhere from a couple hundred to a thousand depending on the service or what the artist charges! Choose your route carefully, because your book cover is going to HEAVILY influence sales. Maybe that’s something that you’re willing to spend a chunk on.  I know I’m not the only one who has judged a book by its cover before. Yes, we’re all guilty. HOWEVER, most stock images cannot be used for Print-on-demand services of something you are selling, but are okay for an eBook. Be sure to read the fine print.

Book Trailer: I made mine myself from stock images which I had to purchase, but they are fairly inexpensive. You can get 5 from Shutterstock for $50. I tried to make the trailer with as few images as possible and yet still give it a large impact. I used a few images I had already purchased (like the ones from my book cover), bought more, and dedicated my own time to putting it together, but I’m sure that was about $100 or so in images right there. You can hire someone to make a trailer for you if you aren’t computer savvy, or just don’t know what to do, but most of these services that I’ve seen are upwards of $300.

Here is the final product, in case you’re interested to see how it turned out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jbGhOEWuFjE

ISBN: With Kindle, you don’t need an ISBN. For CreateSpace and Smashwords distribution, you do. Some of these services will provide you one for FREE when you use their service, but this company will be listed as the publisher of the book. So far, I am not sure what effect that has on anything. You still retain rights to your book, but will it cause problems later? If, for instance, a larger publisher wants to pick up your book?  No idea, but a fresh  ISBN will be around $100.

Business Cards: I’ve had a few cards printed so that I could easily distribute an advertisement whenever I saw an opportunity. I got mine through Vistaprint, and it was a fairly inexpensive service. It was around $17 for 250 cards, in color, front and back. Not a bad price, but yet I wonder if that expense will pay off – other than it just being so cool.

Copyrighting: Technically, your book is protected by copyright as soon as you write it, (at least in the US) but if you want to make it completely official, then you should register it with the library of congress. Currently, the fees for this standard action are around $65.

Facebook Ad: I’m not going to pretend to understand the elusive Facebook Ad. You can set it up for however much you want to spend, and Facebook will decide what your money will get you. It’s very vague, in my opinion, but I’ll find out shortly, because I put $100 on one that’s scheduled to run along the same time as the NEVERMOR release, so I’ll see what that gets me, if anything.

Other costs? Well, there is the possibility of further cost. You can pay for editing (which I’ve chosen to do myself), marketing packages (which vary depending on who you get them from) and then there is actually getting the book printed if you don’t go through a print-on-demand service, a chunk which could be quite expensive up front.

In the end, it can get pretty darn expensive. Is it all going to be worth it? Will I at least get back what I’ve spent? I guess time will tell. Still, I’ve resolved that it’s worth it to try – to put myself out there and see where it takes me. I’m lucky that I’m not a complete unknown.  I at least have a small fan-base to help me get a jump start.

I do want to be successful, but I think, more than anything, I just want to have my book in my hands and know that it’s out there in the world. Seems like a lot of effort and money just to do that, but it’s been a learning experience that I’ve enjoyed, and if nothing else, a fun hobby.

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