So I don’t have any idea if anyone is interested in a breakdown of what it costs to self-publish a book (and the answer is not $0), but I’m going to give you a breakdown anyway. We’ll ignore the cost of time, because with any artistic project your time is basically given away for free. The four months it took me to write the book and the months it took to edit and polish are gone, and we can’t really assign a worth to them. So ignore that for the moment.
Let’s look at labor for people I hired to help on The Chosen. I paid $200 for the cover design, and that included a bunch of revisions, resizing, color changes and multiple formats. I think I got a good product for the fee, and since the fee negotiation was basically me calling up a friend and saying “Can you do this for $200?” I can’t really argue about it. I’ve poked around a little and that seems to be middle of the road for cover design.
The ebook formatting is costing me $150. I have no idea how much time I’m paying for, but I’m paying for a specific set of skills that I don’t possess and have zero interest in developing, so that seems like a fair price to me.
I’m paying my editor a commission, and because she’s a relative she was willing to work on spec. I’ll have to sell a bunch of books to get there, but eventually she’ll make $1,000 for her work. And she worked her ass off for weeks on this project, so I think that’s a perfectly fair fee for her services.
Ordering proof copies so far has cost me $130. I screwed the pooch and ordered 5 copies for reviews from Lulu of an early version, and then realized I had incorrectly set the margins and my books all looked like ass. So that was $70 down the drain. Then I got a proof that I liked, but needed to make a couple of tweaks. Then I moved over to CreateSpace to get the book listed on Amazon and get cheaper author’s copies, so I needed another proof from there. $20 each by the time they’re shipped. The first proof was missing page numbers, so I had to get another one. It should arrive today, and if I like it, I’ll order my copies to have at signings and things.
Author’s copies. If I use Lulu, they cost me about $9 each. Since I’d like to make about $5 per book, I’ll be selling them for $15 online after Lulu’s free shipping offer expires. Until then, the book is $20, because you get free shipping and the overall cost to you is the same. So buy today and I get an extra Happy Meal!
But if I buy my author’s copies from CreateSpace, they cost me less. Waaaayyyyy less. Like $4 each. So that allows me to sell copies at signings for $10, and hopefully move the book pretty well. That would put me at a competitive price point to what people are spending for a paperback book, so that should be a good price. But I have to have books on hand to do that, so once I get a proof I like, I’ll probably order about 50 copies.That’s another $175 by the time I pay shipping.
Getting listed on the Amazon Kindle and iPad won’t cost me anything, and the book will be available through all of Amazon’s distribution channels using CreateSpace’s Pro publishing package. That cost another $40, but the discount I get on author’s copies makes that worthwhile in the first order, so it’s almost free. Except for the whole part where I have to pay for it.
So at this point I’ve spent, or committed to spend, right at $1,700 to publish my first novel and get myself 50 copies. I think it’s a fair investment, especially since once the ebook gets going I’ll get $2 per ebook sold without any additional fixed costs. So sell a thousand ebooks, and I’m in good shape. So tell all your friends to buy the book, or hell, if you have any rich friends in the film business, they can buy the rights!