Self-Publishing

I was asked in a writer's message board/forum today about self-publishing and my condensed answer was so long that the reply probably would have taken up more space than the entire webpage, so I'm posting my answer here.  Even so, what I have written is just the tip of the iceberg.

So bottom line, how much more expensive is it to self-publish than try to sell to a traditional publisher - probably $1000 - $4000 depending on how much of the you do yourself.  Because all the money you spend on promotion would be spent by you anyway unless the publisher thought it had a best-seller on its hands. Then, you would save on publicity costs, and your only expense is the creation of the book, which would still cost $1000 to $2000 or more, again depending on how you you spend on proofreading and editing before sending the manuscript to publishing houses..


Self-publishing is evolving constantly and the environment is certainly different than it was 4 years ago.  And practices might change even a month from the time I write this. 

All three of my books were done differently - and a lot had to do with technology at the time, and what kind of reach I wanted with the book.

I won't write about how my thinking (and the industry itself) has evolved because it would take a long time to explain, but here is the decision making process I made for the most recent book, Toe Up to 10K. 

1. I wanted the book to be in eBook and physical format.  However, the packagers that offer both physical and eBook distribution don't offer the best royalties for eBooks, or, in some cases, the physical book.   So, at this point, I decided to utilize one company for the eBook and one company for the physical book. 

2. For the eBook, I then had to decide whether I would convert and upload myslef, or hire a eBook publisher to do it.
    A. The three major eBook devices (Kindle, Nook, and Kobo) all allow authors to upload for free. Getting sales recorded and faster payments are two benefits of uploading to sites yourself. However, that's three separate conversions and uploads you would have to do, and  you would have to create an account with each as well. 
    B. I used BookBaby to do the conversions for me and distrubute it to the ebook retailers. They have several packages.  I used the premium for $299 because  you get 100% royalties from the ebbok retailer as if you uploaded them yourself.  If you use a cheaper package, I think they keep 15% of your royalty share.   The downside is that i have to wait months before the retailers report sales back to BookBaby (I believe it is the same with Smashwords below).
    C. There is a company called Smashwords that is similar, but you have to convert your document to Smashwords compatible and then they would upload it to the various ebook retailers.  They wil distribute for free, but they keep 15% of your royalty share.  If you can't convert to Smashwords compatible, then you need to hire someone and I don't know how much that would cost.

3. If I just wanted an eBook, it would have ended with me using BookBaby for the distribution, and I would be done, but I wanted a physical book, too.  So, I went and compared the self-publishers, and decided CreateSpace was the best match for me. 
      A.  They are affiliated with Amazon, so if a book sells on Amazon, you get an immediate recording of the sale (rather than 2 - 6 months); their royalty rates are good, and they have a do it yourself conversion tool.  I tried, but could not format it properly for them because  it contained tables and outlines, and they too, considered it a complex layout.  This cost me about $700, but if the book were just text, like a novel, it would have cost much less. 
     B. They have a create your cover for free option.  Unfortunately, the cover you make using their cover creater will be too small a file for using it elsewhere.  I created my cover with CreateSpace, but had to re-create it - I think I used MS-Word - for the eBook version. But I was able to re-create one close enough that it's hard to tell the difference.  You can probably also go to Fiverr.com and hire someone to design a cover for you for $5 bucks.
    C. I think their osts for author's copies were lower than the other companies I compared them with.

So, the actual distribution of the book is quite reasonable, and your royalties will be much larger than a traditional publisher.  The real money pit is in the writing and the promotion of the book. 

For self-publishing, my costs were $299 for the eBook distribution, plus $19 for the eBook ISBN, and $700 for the physical book distribution (ISBN was free), for a total of $1018.

However, the costs of publishing a book is mostly eaten in the creation and promotion of the book. 
1. The copies of each draft I made at FedEx so I could proofread probably cost me over $100.
2. I probably spent about $1200 on proofreading and editing (cheaper to find someone on your own than to use the distributors editorial service).  
3. I did the covers myself so that was free, but the packagers will charge about $200 to make a cover - or you can find someone local or on the internet (Fiverr for $5 bucks) to design a cover for you. 
4. Promotion is the big expense.  For the vampire book, I probably spent over $5000 in Facebook ads, sponsoring websites, taking ads out in newspapers, traveling, book fairs.  For the personal finance book, the publicity budget ws $0 because I got sick soon thereafter.  And for "Toe Up," I've spent probably about $1200 so far,mostly due to a press release I sent out via PR Newsire and multiple online promotion campaigns via book promtion companies, such as PumpUpYour Books.com, Book Viral, and others.  My original plan was to budget $1000 for this book, but I've past that already, but I think I'll keep it under $3000 - hopefully under $2000. 

The above information is condensed because I can go on and  on and expand the discussion on each of the items above, but the above is some idea of what to consider when self-publishing.  But would I continue to do it? Definitely.  Creative control, higher royalty payments and really, most of the costs are expenses that would come out of my pocket with a traditional publisher anyway.


The one negative about self-publishing is that I really can’t time the release date accurately. It’s just whenever the book hits the retailer uploads them.  But with good planning, this can be overcome as well.

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