An Insider's Guide to a Career in Book Publishing. Last year I also wrote a post about exactly how much it had cost me to publish said book. In the nine months since I wrote that post, I have had a few additional costs such as doing a postcard mailing (designing and printing and postage costs) to college career counselors and last fall I did a small content update that created more design costs. So I thought I'd do an update, to once again show writers who want to self-publish, just how much it costs, and what the return is.
These costs are even a bit low. I had two developmental edits done for free (in trade) by colleagues I know well. My copyedit and one or my proofreads were discounted, again because I know the people. A friend with a great deal of experience in direct marketing helped me with the postcard design and layout for only the cost of dinner. My publicity costs were also low because I used a publicity intern for $10/hour instead of a publicity professional for much more (which meant I had to spend a great deal of time directing her and assigning her work.) My mother, a retired Marketing VP, also chipped in with sending out press releases for free. Because I am a member of the WNBA, my local bookstore, Park Road Books, waved its usual consignment fee. I also did have to add a page to my website, but I didn't break that cost out from the usual cost of updating/maintaining my business website.
I used IngramSpark for the printing and fulfillment. And Vistaprint for the postcards. Otherwise I used freelancers (mostly local, a couple in NYC) who I know or had personal references for. I did not want to scrimp as it is much more important to me that the book be of top quality than be inexpensive. Which is what every author should want for their book. If you truly can't afford this, you really need to aggressively pursue traditional publishing first, as they would pay for ALL of the costs here with the exception of the $50 I paid to one contributor. Everything else is accounted for here through now. To date I have spent $5368.22 on my book. I have made $1140.76. Fortunately, I was not counting on this book for income! I do think the postcard mailing will eventually work, although first it will cost me more. My expert friend recommends I do a second mailing in the fall, combined with something like a Facebook ad, to really get people to make the purchase (usually they have to see something three times) and the mailing just went out about 6 weeks ago so I don't think any sales from it will have shown up yet. Just last week I did a mailing to 13 of the 15 American publishing programs (the other two already knew about it). And I'm about to do another Goodreads giveaway so there will be more postage costs with that. As you can see from the costs breakdowns, design has been the biggest expense to date. There was a problem with getting the ebook to format properly. The book has a glossary of industry terms and we wanted a reader to be able to click on the word and go to the glossary (easy) and then from the glossary, go back to where they'd been in the text (very hard). After all, shouldn't we take advantage of the things ebooks can do that print books can't? But publicity is a close second on costs and will eventually eclipse design (although I do have a list of corrections/updates out to my designer right now, so we'll see.) If I were to add in the shipping, copies of the book, book events, and reviews, publicity would already be a much bigger line item.
What's the lesson here? Self-publishing, at least if it's done right, isn't cheap. It won't make you rich. In fact, it might make you poor. You need to have a solid marketing and publicity plan, you need to be able to do as good a job on the production as a traditional publishing house (if you need assistance with that, I can help), and your audience needs to be easily reachable.
And if you know any English majors who might be interested in working in publishing, buy my book!