In the most recent postings to this blog, we discussed various costs involved either in self-publishing your novel or going the traditional route but without the readership of Lee Child, Dan Brown, Danielle Steel, and those few superstar writers. Yeah, I know, you think that as soon as a publisher sees your efforts, you’ll shoot into that hallowed stratosphere. My advice: buy a Powerball ticket; your odds are better.

Last week, the topics were the costs for obtaining a copyright, Library of Congress Control Number, and professionally done book cover. This week, we’ll finish up the basic costs and see what the projected total costs might be.

Professional Editor. This is critical, regardless how talented a wordsmith you may believe you are (or your friends and family tell you).

a.     Professionalism. There are approximately 3,000,000 books published each year. How is your book going to stand out in that crowd? By being professional in appearance (remember my advice regarding the cover and formatting?) A major part of that professionalism is the realm of the professional editor. This is not a retired middle school English teacher that lives down the block. This is a person who has actually worked as an editor for one of the major publishing houses, and now is working as a freelance editor. 

b.     The Right Editor. Equally important: They will have edited books in your genre. They should be willing to edit a sample of your book—say, the first 10 or 20 pages—without charge. This is very important. You’ll be working with and paying this person in an effort to make your book the best it can be (meaning, sell the most copies). Before you commit, you’ll want to get a feel for what they will bring to the table, compatibility issues, stylistic issues, etc.

c.     The Cost. Most genuine freelance editors charge by the word. Think about that. Do you really want to write a 200,000-word epic? If so, figure out how to break it up into 3 or 4 books in a series. Your bank account will thank you. Remember, even if the editor trims that tome down to 100,000-words, you still pay for the editing of the 200,000-word mess. So, numbers please. The costs vary by editor from about 2 cents-per-word to 8 or 10. Do the quick math: a 100,000-word book will cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. My advice, based on experience and research, is to avoid the outliers. Somewhere in the 4 to 5 cents-per-word range is sufficient to secure the services of a first-rate editor. Much less than that, and you may get someone who isn’t capable of helping you improve your novel. BUT, in any event, always ask for the “free sample” before committing to any editor.

Formatting. There are two connotations here. One addresses the actual style of the book, the way it’s laid out. Pick up a print version or look at an ebook version of any current bestseller by an author of renown, and look at how it’s laid out. Very professional looking. You may not yet be a member of that privileged cadre, but you want to be. So, make sure your book compares with theirs in every way. The other aspect of formatting refers to what you are going to upload to the POD (print) publisher as well as the multitude of ebook sellers such as Amazon and iBooks. While there are two major formats for ebooks, MOBI (Amazon) and EPUB (everyone else), each online bookseller has their own prescribed format. If you have the time, patience, and skill sets, do it yourself. Otherwise, you’ll need to hire a formatter. You can find them by Googling, and their charges are all over the place. The formatter I use charges me about $150, and formats all ebook formats as well as the print version for CreateSpace. There are apps that can do conversions too, but I’m not sure they can do all the idiosyncrasies plus you still have to learn the program and apply it—time consuming; you’re not writing when you’re doing other things.

Promotional Copies. This refers to print versions you buy from the POD printer, in my case it’s CreateSpace, an Amazon affiliate.

a.     Why would you want to buy print copies of your own book? There are a number of reasons, including:

·      You need copies for a book signing because attendees may want to buy them and have them signed;

·      You want to give copies to friends, beta readers, etc.;

·      You want to have a contest to raise awareness of your book or to get subscribers to your newsletter (more about that in a future post).

b.     What do the copies cost? CreateSpace charges based on the number of words, or length, of the book. This is another very good reason to avoid the 200,000-word monster. For example, my book Endangered Species is 113, 952-words and costs me $5.33 per copy plus shipping. My book The Year of the Dog is 71,727-words and I pay $4.73 plus shipping per copy.

Conclusion. Using my own experiences, here is an example of what it costs to publish a book of about 100,000-words:

ISBN—$29.50 (I purchased a block of 10 for $295.00



Book Cover/Designer—$135.00 (this included the jpg or the ebook thumbnail and the pdf for the            

                  print version)

Book Cover/Images—$29.00

Professional Editor—$4,500.00


Copies of Print Version (25 + shipping)—$140.00

TOTAL: $5,033.50 (If it were easy and cheap, everyone would be doing it.)

So, at a sale price of $3.99 and royalties of 70%, I have to sell 1,802 ebooks in order to recover my invested capital. Can it be done for less? Sure, you can shop for less expensive editors and formatters and cover designers. Or you could design your own cover, spend considerable time formatting for uploads, and hire the cheapest editor out there (or skip editing altogether). But now you have a cheap-looking, unprofessional product. Good luck selling even 100 copies. And, BTW, statistics show that most authors don’t sell 100 copies in their lifetimes. The reason? Poorly written, unprofessional-looking product. The message there just may be that the investment in editors, designers, and formatting may explain the difference between writers who succeed and those who don't.

© John Wayne Falbey 2018 All Rights Reserved