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The Cost of Self Publishing (Part Two) – What’s A Reasonable Figure?

And How Much Should I Spend When I'm Starting Out?

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by Nick Stephenson in Books and Writing

In the last article, we talked about investing in yourself and your business. 

I shared with you some crazy numbers. Numbers that would have made my eyes bleed a few years ago. But, more importantly, I shared with you the idea that investing money in your business isn’t about COST – it’s about VALUE.

This is an important fact that many people forget – that investing in yourself and your business is the only way to grow profitably. But you don’t have to lay down $50k on logo design and a snazzy website. Far from it. More on that in a moment.

With that in mind, onto today’s post.

And I’m probably going to take some heat for this. 

But for all the wonderful branding, the top-notch systems, the editing, marketing and other things I choose to invest in now…

They would have been a COMPLETE waste of time when I was first getting started.

Case in point: when I first hit five figures a month, my logo was something I’d designed in MS Paint. My blog and website were just free wordpress.org themes on a cheap-and-cheerful hosting plan. And I didn’t spend thousands on book production, either.

My first novel’s costs broke down like this:

  • Editing: $600
  • Proof-reading: ZERO
  • Cover Design: $150
  • Formatting: ZERO
  • Interior Formatting (paperback): ZERO

Now, these costs are significantly lower than a lot of people pay.

I was able to trade some favours, make some introductions, and swap some work to get those prices (and still get professionals to work with me). The formatting and interior design I did myself. With considerable difficulty.

That first book has been downloaded by hundreds of thousands of readers and brought in a decent chunk of change over the last few years, all from a $750 outlay.

But it took a lot of work.

That’s how the world works. You can either trade time, or you can trade money.

Or occasionally, livestock. But that’s a whole other topic.

Today, I prefer to pay people who are better than me at what they do to provide these services for me. Because I’m no good at formatting, or cover design, or editing. I’d rather spend my time on fun things, rather than try and fix a broken website or marketing platform.

And when I first got started, I knew that growing a successful business wasn’t about having a fancy logo or a slick website. Sure, those things can help – LATER.

After I’d graduated University, I started up my first business. I spent the first six weeks coming up with a website design, branding, and even an automated telephone system that directed people to the right place. I didn’t even have any customers! Or staff!

Looking back, that was a crazy decision. And, you guessed it, the business failed. Miserably.

But I learned from my mistakes. 

Like anything, the real costs of self publishing a book can vary hugely. If you’re just starting out and you have a tight budget, invest in what matters most – cover design (this is what readers see first) and editing (your book needs to not suck). For all the other stuff, either learn to do it yourself or hustle your ass and shop around, trade in favours, or swap services if you can.

The objective is to release your Minimal Viable Product (MVP). Which, in this case, is a professional-looking book that can stand proudly next to anything else on the digital shelves.

And if you DO have the budget the sky really is the limit.

I remember asking myself when I published my first book: “I wonder how much I’d need to invest to work with the best people in the business without having to offer my first-born child as tribute?”

Recently, a company called Reedsy did a little study and answered that question for me…

Reedsy is an online marketplace that helps connect authors with some of the best publishing pros in the world.

They took a look at the work being done across their network and found that, on average, it would cost around $3,000 – including editing, proofing, cover design, and formatting.

You can check out their findings by clicking right here

Now, $3,000 is a hefty investment if you’re just getting started. But remember – Reedsy only offers the best of the best. Consider this something to aspire to if you’re just getting started (and in the meantime remember the approach I talk about above – what I did for my first few books).

And remember – don’t get hung up on business cards and fancy website design. Your cover, your editing, and your writing are what matters most in the beginning – and, of course, finding your audience (more on how to do that listed down the right-hand-side of this page).

 

So, what do I do next?

I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below this article and tell me: “What’s the number 1 thing you’d spend more money on in YOUR business if you could?”

I’d love to hear your answers – so leave a comment below

 
If you want a step-by-step guide to getting started on your email list, go download “Reader Magnets”. This free ebook will show you how to put this process in place and start building your email list – click below to grab your copy:

reader-magnets-3d

 

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TC Carmel
Guest
TC Carmel

Advertising. All the advertising!

Lisa W
Guest

Since publishing in 2011, and getting all my ducks in a row like you for the book covers, editors and completely revamping my website to look more professional, the one thing I’m still struggling with is advertising. I know what to do now, however, it comes down to paying the bills or advertising in greater amounts to see if I can make that leap and really start to get noticed. While $5 a day is a start, I’d really like to go higher without breaking the bank. But then again I have to remind myself that without risk there is… Read more »

Virginia
Guest

New covers and editing. Or maybe editing and new covers. How does one decide on just one thing? 🙂

Erica K
Guest

Probably advertising. I can figure out most things by myself. But, I can’t “hope” people know about me and my products. “If they don’t know, they don’t show”. Gotta get the word out however I can!

Esly Carvalho
Guest

I would spend on marketing the book: learning how to do it better, and putting the money where the word gets out. I still dream of making a living off my books, smile…

Sunni Dawson
Guest

I’d hire a book marketer for sure. And have an unlimited advertising budget. One can dream.

Angela Ford
Guest

Marketing….getting my name out there & hopefully more ‘one-click’ hits on my books.
There are many places to market for free or cheap but to have expert Marketing without the cost…wow! What an awesome giveaway!

Doug
Guest

Definitely kick ass editing. It takes so long to do it myself.

Julie
Guest

What would I spend more money on, regarding my business? For my writing business, a proper marketing plan and publishing in all formats, and in various languages. For my language service business, membership and certification in various trade and government organizations.

Annie Pearson
Guest

I’m happy to see this emphasis in these 1st 2 blog posts. If one is in business to produce more than one book, then I think it’s important to consider the #1 failure for most small businesses of any kind: under-capitalization for the long haul. I like your examples of plowing early earnings back into the next steps.

Crystal Walton
Guest

Targeted marketing, for sure.

Tim Mathias
Guest

I’d spend more than the $0 I currently spend on developmental editing. I can’t recall in which podcast I heard it, but the host said it has the potential to advance your writing/storytelling skills by years.

Lea
Guest
Lea

Marketing and advertisement. Without it, you’re condemning yourself to the lower shelves, where they stack books in front of books. Your audience won’t have a hope of finding you.

Darlene Jones
Guest

Marketing and ideally someone to do the work for me as I’m lousy at it.

Pia
Guest

I would definitely spend more money on marketing and branding. To be able to pay someone to do it, because I’m not the best at it. I’d like advice and coaching on it too.

Penelope
Guest
Penelope

I spend the money on creating a series of best sellers that could in turn fund a successful business.

Princila
Guest
Princila

Editing, editing, and editing.

LaVonne Ellis
Guest

Developmental editing. Cover art is a close second.

Dianna Sandora
Guest

As I read through everyone;s list I had to agree, yes, branding, advertising, social media, yes-yes to editing. I’d like to have someone staple my butt to the chair and make me write. I have the start of two criminal novels and another to lock the other two together with the third brewing in the back of my head. Someone to review what I’ve written and tell me if they love to hate my antagonist. (I love Dexter Morgan, but the things he does goes against what I would do but….) I want my characters to walk off the page… Read more »

Miriam
Guest
Miriam

Formatting for my children’s book and cover design for non-fiction. Somehow I thought learning InDesign would fit in easily with the hundreds of other publishing tasks… Clearly not so. Time to hire professionals!

JaQuette Gilbert
Guest

I really would love to invest more into editing and marketing–especially marketing. I would also like to invest into more e-courses, conferences or memberships that could help me improve my skills as a business woman.

A.K Lakelett
Guest

1) Editing by someone who loves reading mysteries, and knows the genre.
2) Marketing/sales

Rose Evers
Guest
Rose Evers

I think it would be a great learning experience to work with an amazing developmental editor. Currently line editing and proof reading is all I can afford. I love the process of learning and improving, not just the writing.

AC Dominguez
Guest
AC Dominguez

Marketing and Promotions! I went to school for Integrated Marketing Communications and Product Planning and Promotions and I love it. If if had the funding I would be exploring every marketing and promotions opportunity available!

Alan
Guest

I’ve done everything for my first book on a shoestring. That means I did it all – editing, cover, etc. I spent a lot of time doing research for many of those areas (Shawn Coyne’s book was very helpful), and I think the result was pretty good. In the past year I’ve sold about a dozen copies, all to friends and family. I think this has less to do with the quality of the work and much more to do with marketing. My title (Country Hits) doesn’t work like I’d hoped. It’s a murder mystery, but doesn’t work at all… Read more »

Megan Haskell
Guest

I’ve already paid for an editorial critique, proofing, and cover design, but I’d buy a full copy edit and formatting. For sure. Maybe some PR or marketing help, too.

Deb Kelly
Guest
Deb Kelly

The mind boggles! Both with your generosity and what to spend the money on. I think a solid structural edit, followed by a tight line edit. My brain struggles with the logic and patterns of editing. With luck I would have enough left over for a terrific cover and some marketing. That way I can reinvest any income made from the book back into advertising. (Because after the editing and spiffy cover design I would be raking in the big bucks. Well, I can dream, can’t I!)

TB Markinson
Guest
TB Markinson

Howdy. If I had to choose one thing, and I’m assuming you mean cover design, editing, proofing, ect, I would say more editing. However, if you mean anything to do with my writing career, I’d say growing my email list.

Bujabs
Guest

I just finished writing my first fantasy novel. And ow I have to revise the whole thing, If i had any money I would definitely pay someone to do that for me.

Annemiek
Guest
Annemiek

Launch coaching, I really want to get my next launch right, and sell beautifully!

Lize Jacobs
Guest

Marketing and buying time to manage the business myself or getting someone more qualified to manage my business.

Abby-Lynn Knorr
Guest
Abby-Lynn Knorr

Structural Editing…making sure the story is as good as it can possibly be before moving on to any other phases of editing.

Karo
Guest

The first thing I’ll spend MORE money on is marketing/promotion. I will definitely spend something extra in proofreading and cover design, but more in marketing.

Without marketing, no matter how good one’s book is, no one will know it exists, save for family and friends. Now how do people buy something they do not know exists?

Nerdy Creator
Guest

I would spend more money on book covers and interior design if I could. Right now, I either do it myself or ask my brother to do it for me. Although it still looks ok, I rather a professional do it for me. So I could save the time to write more.

Bokerah
Guest

I would spend more money on covers. They sell books. (:

Pauline Baird Jones
Guest

Marketing is killing me, too. I am signed up for your course, but some real life stuff happened, so I am still working on it. Oh and if you could give me more time in the day? That would help, too. 🙂

Charlene Carr
Guest

It’s hard to choose just one area I’d like to spend more on … marketing for sure, more levels of editing, but I guess if JUST one then cover design is where I’d like to be able to invest more!

Katie
Guest
Katie

Marketing for sure! And a fab cover, editing…

Kari de St. Germain
Guest

Editing. I can’t look over this proof again, cuz my eyes are bleeding…

Nathan Goodman
Guest

Facebook ads – lots of creative experimentation.

Stephanie A. Cain
Guest

If I could spend the money on one thing, I’d spend money on formatting. I’ve been doing that all myself, and while I’m reasonable accomplished at it, I’d much rather spend that time doing other things…like writing! 🙂

Wesley Banks
Guest

I’d probably hire an online marketing expert to launch/promote a book, so I could spend more time writing.

Shaniel Watson
Guest

In a flash I would spend on marketing. Good marketing is the hardest and expensive.

Natasha Vanzetti
Guest

Easy, Marketing Mastermind Program! Then I’d know exactly what I was doing so when I invested in aaaaalllllll the other things they’d be spot on and actually serving a purpose in the bigger plan. Love your work Nick!

Desmond L. Kelly
Guest

Cover, internal files design and marketing. I need those.

Desmond L. Kelly
Guest

Best quality cover design, internal files design and best advertising. I’ve got the editing covered.

Zora
Guest
Zora

I would 100% spend more money on the marketing aspect of the book. Thank you for this opportunity 🙂

Lucy Appadoo
Guest

Editing and marketing for sure as the book needs to be good and sell.

Linda Caddick
Guest
Linda Caddick

Simple. I would have healthy meals for two delivered to my door – no washing up, no shopping, no cooking, lots more time to go walking and receive inspiration, and then come home and write.

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