So...how much will it cost to produce and publish your book? The answer is--it depends. It depends on the paid services you'll need and how much you can do on your own. As an indie/emerging author you need a top notch book cover and content to meet the industry standards. How do you get from a Word document to the bookshelves on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble?
As your own publisher, you are responsible for everything--the whole enchilada. Here's where to start calculating the cost of your book.
A professional looking book cover is essential. While we're told not to judge a book by its cover, we do. I've purchased a book with an eye-catching cover over a dull one many times. Even if you intend to only produce e-books, you need a great looking thumbnail to entice readers. Unless you have experience in design, this is best left to a professional. You may have a friend or relative who's willing to help you out for free. Excellent! I've been blessed with talented friends and family in this category. The average cost of a book cover with a high resolution image for paperback and e-book, FaceBook banner, three concepts, three to five revisions runs $250 to $500. Of course, you'll find designers all over the price scale. Do your homework, talk with the artist, ask for references, look at the other book covers they've designed. Go with someone you can afford because there are more expenses to come.
If you do decide on a DIY cover, consider purchasing stock photos from Dreamstime or iStockphoto for high quality and high res photos. CreateSpace's cover creator feature can help you with cover design once you have the photos you want. Professional photos from these sites are affordable and have a royalty free license. Costs are under $50 to purchase the photo or photos you want.
Interior - Editing
Without question, you need an editor and proofreader. No matter how good you are, these two are a necessity. There are lots of freelance editors and proofreaders, which are two different animals all together. Within the editor category are copyeditors and substantive line editors. Each focuses on different aspects of the manuscript. My editor does both copyediting and substantive editing rolled into one. You'll find an excellent description of the differences at this link. Editors usually charge hourly or per page. Some charge by the project. Fees can range from $15 an hour to $100 per hour, or $1.25 a page to $8.00 a page. The Editorial Freelancers Association has a handy chart with typical fees. A 275 page book at $2.50 per page will cost you $687.50. Along with a price you can afford, find someone you can really work with. My editor not only polishes my writing, but has become a trusted partner who wants to see me succeed. She continues to push me to improve my writing with every book. However, you may have contacts who will work for free or at a very reduced cost.
Interior - Proofreading
The proofreader has the last look at the book. He or she will find those typos, punctuation errors, or missing words that seem to vanish when you're doing it yourself. Proofreaders generally charge by the hour or by the page as editors do. You can pay anywhere from a low $100 to well over $800 for a proofreader, depending on the length of your manuscript. A detail-oriented friend or relative with mad grammar and punctuation skills may be an alternative too.
The next consideration is who will take your manuscript and massage it into the correct format for a paperback and e-book. That can be you. If you use CreateSpace, many templates are provided with good instructions to upload your book. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) also has detailed instructions to prepare your manuscript for upload. I've had success with both entities with a minimum of fuss. However if you're hesitant, there are plenty of formatters. Smashwords has a list of folks who are ready to change your manuscript into an e-book. Many times, editors offer formatting services too. The cost for each type of book runs anywhere from $25 - $150. Unless you have a complex book with photos, charts, illustrations, and the like, this cost should be under $100 per edition.
ISBNs and Copyright
Every edition of your book needs an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) These include hardcover, paperback, or audiobook. ISBNs can be purchased through Bowker. A primer on the ISBN is found on their website at this link. One ISBN is $125 or you can purchase a block of 10 for $295. CreateSpace offers them for free if you want the CS imprint as the publisher of your book. You can also purchase a custom ISBN with the imprint of your choice for $10. There are differing opinions on the value of owning your ISBNs. Ownership means control and if that's of utmost importance to you, buy the block of 10. KDP doesn't require an ISBN and assigns an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) to e-books. Smashwords offers a free ISBN for your book on their site or you can provide your own.
An automatic copyright is in place on your original work, but to be on the public record or to bring a lawsuit for copyright infringement, it must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. The cost of uploading your book is $35 and worth the money in my opinion. Electronic uploads take anywhere from three to six months for a certificate. You don't have to wait for the official certificate to go ahead and publish your book, so this step won't hold up your timetable. I don't recommend mailing a paper copy; the fee is higher and the turnaround time is longer.
Below is a summary of your estimated book expenses, assuming you use CreateSpace and/or KDP which offer free set up. Your expenses will climb if you use Ingram/Spark, Lightning Source, or other vendors for printing. The other assumption is that you're paying for everything.
Book Cover $250
ISBN (bulk price) $ 30
Copyright Reg. $ 35
Estimated Total $1,365
I don't recommend using a vanity press which may charge you thousands of dollars up front for all of these services in a package "deal." You may never recoup them which makes you a non-profit entity. Do the hard work yourself as the CEO, keeping costs in line and the possibility of profit in sight.
With over 30 years in administration as a manager, paralegal, and administrative professional, my experience runs the gamut from finances, policy, contracts, and human resources. My goal is to help writers navigate the business side of writing with understandable and practical advice.