What Does It Cost to Self-Publish?: Part 1

A couple of my recent postings have discussed agents and publishing. The strong implication is that most writers hope to become published in the traditional way (viz., one of the few remaining big publishing houses pays you a six-figure (or higher) sum and signs you to a multi-book deal. This would leave you free to work solely on writing, while the publisher takes care of everything else including promotions and signings. Unfortunately, there now are only five major publishing houses left. Regardless how talented you are as a writer, your chances of success here are approximately the same as winning the PowerBall grand prize. Worse, these publishers limit those lucrative contracts to their A-list writers such as Stephen King, John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, and other perennial New York Times top bestselling authors. Any other writers fortunate enough to be signed by a Big Five publisher, or any lesser publishing entity, must do all of the things required of a self-published writer, which means EVERYTHING. And to add insult to injury—at your expense.

So, what does that involve? Among other things, it includes acquiring the ISBN number, copyright, and Library of Congress Control Number. You’ll need a cover, even for an ebook. Unless you’re a master of Photoshop or similar graphic arts software, get a professional to do this—covers sell books; or don’t. This means you’ll also likely have to shop for and purchase the images you want to appear on the cover. The book should look professional, not like it was slung together by a chimpanzee. If you can’t do this, you’ll have to hire someone who can.

What else? Easily the most critical factor, and the most expensive, is the services of a professional editor. Not little old Ms. McGillicuddy, the retired middle school English teacher. This person should be a professional who has worked as an editor in your genre for a major publisher. I’ll get into the various types of editing in a later posting. This is one of the most difficult decisions. There are good editors and there are quacks and charlatans.

Your book will need to be formatted for each of the online booksellers you plan to use. There are two major formats for ebooks: MOBI (Amazon) and EPUB (everyone else). Unfortunately, there are some differences among the EPUB users. If you can’t or don’t want to spend time on formatting, you’ll have to hire someone to do it for you. AND don’t forget the print version. There are two major players in the print-on-demand (POD) field: CreateSpace (Amazon) and IngramSpark. Your manuscript will have to be formatted for uploading to them too, even though it may be in Word.

For promotional purposes, such as signings (which you’ll have to set up yourself), you’ll need to purchase a supply of printed books.

You’ll need to develop relationships with a group of beta readers—people who read voraciously in your genre. They’ll tell you what works and what doesn’t in your book before you make it available to the public. This can be the difference between a book that sits and a book that sells. You also should join or form a group of fellow writers, IN YOUR GENRE, to critique each other’s work.

There are other tasks you’ll have to do, or hire someone to do for you, but these are the principal ones. And, none of this includes the basics such as a computer, word processing and other software, backup systems, writing apps such as Scrivener 3, and other programs and equipment, but you would need those even if you were an A-lister for one of the Big 5 publishers.

Next week: The Financial Cost of Self-Publishing.

© John Wayne Falbey 2018 All Rights Reserved