When I was mulling self-publishing a book on Amazon, I did quite a bit of research about the cost of self-publishing. I think it’d be helpful if I outlined the costs of producing a finished ebook to anyone interested in going down this dark and lonely path.
The first thing I’d like to put out there is that you could pay nothing and get self published. This is the dream that self publishing is selling.
However, I wouldn’t recommend it, at least if you’re using your own name to write. There is a time-quality-cost relationship, and you get to choose a combination of two – it’s a bit like project management. Personally, I wouldn’t want my name associated with something full of typos (Wouldn’t it be ironic if this post had a typo..)
So you’ve finished your novel/novella/epic/short story collection.
Pat yourself on the back, have a beer and take a seat.
Pick up a pen and a paper and write: I. WASTED. MY. TIME.
Just kidding (am I?)
Start by setting yourself a budget.
I’m assuming this is your first book, and you should assume that you will not recoup this budget. Think of it as money that you’re going to burn. Also, since most transactions will be through paypal, keep in mind you’ll get no warmth from the combustion of your currency.
Now that you have a budget to squander, here’s a list of things you can spend your hard earned (or not so hard earned – looking at you, real estate agents) cash on:
Beta readers are nice semi-to-fully-literate men and women who will read your work and give you honest feedback. You could find some folks on goodread (on groups like this one) or other writing forums that’ll take a dive into your unedited book.
If you’re lucky you could even get more than two of them. At this stage, I’d be looking at initial feedback about how engaging the characters, writing style and pace of your work are. If you’re not writing fiction, this step is a bit harder because you need to get some technical feedback.
You could also offer to be a beta reader for some authors who would return the favor to you. I found that a hard pill to swallow – I’m the writer, goddamn it. Why doesn’t everyone bow before me and worship me already?
This is the step where I learned that everyone and their frozen dinners are writers now, that there’s more writers than there are grains of sand in a desert and that (fortunately) most of them are realistically not going to get further than this step.
Take the feedback you get here very seriously though and use it to improve your writing.
After a few iterations with beta readers, you can start looking at hiring an actual editor. Here again, you could proof read your own work and call it a day. Amazon won’t mind.
However, if you want your work to be decent, I’d recommend hiring an editor.
The editor should first go through your book and come back with a developmental write-up. This is a short file that will contain the editor’s opinion on the story, characters and plot holes. This is done before editing so that you have a chance to change things before the editor goes through your work word by word.
After you’re done re-writing, the editor will proof-read your work and come back to you with an annotated file. You can then go through this file and accept or reject the changes.
The editor that I used for Death, Divinity and the Smiling Man is Nina from Champagne Editing. She’s kind, knowledgeable and affordable. I strongly recommend her.
The cost of the developmental write-up is 100$
The editing could range from proof-read copy editing at 0.008$/word to a more substantive edit of 0.12$/word
There’s a special editing for non-native English speakers too, at 0.2$/word
After this step, you’ll have a book that’s ready to be seen by the public.
The book cover
The book cover is first thing that the users will see on the website. If it’s not done correctly, it’ll also be the last thing that they see.
With a copy of gimp and a few YouTube tutorials, you could make your own cover. I advise against skimping on this part of the process though. I designed and painted my own book cover and I think it came out well (Sarcasm?). However, you may want to hop on over to fiverr or freelancer and get a proper cover done. It’ll make a huge difference.
Shameless plug number 1: If you like my book cover, I can put something together for you for the price of a beer because I enjoy drawing.
So you made it this far. Good job. You’re a self published author now, like hundreds of thousands of other shmucks out there. But seriously, good job. You don’t suck (?).
Once your book is available on the Kindle shop, you’ll want to share it on all your social network accounts, call your family, call your friends and basically annoy the living hell out of anyone with a bad enough sense to listen to you and hound them until they buy a copy.
You’ll then feel some restraint. Let go of that restraint and do it. You’ve earned it. While everyone else was out partying, you’ve been writing. While people were enjoying quality time with their loved ones, you’ve been writing. It hasn’t been an easy road for you.
Let Jehovah’s witnesses testify to your door knocking tenacity. Be as persistent as a gum on the bottom of running shoes.
The importance of hounding is that the more copies you sell in the first few days, the higher your book will climb on Amazon rankings list. On the Kindle store, the frequency of sales matters more than anything else in how high the book gets ranked. The higher its rank, the better its visibility. I wouldn’t know for sure though. Haven’t sold that many copies, to be honest.
So post to reddit, writing forums, goodreads, your whatsapp chat, your landlord’s Facebook profile and your landlord’s mom’s Facebook profile (rest her soul). Make some noise.
Be sure to ask for reviews from the people who you know have read the book. Reviews do not affect sales directly but their presence will encourage the users to click on the preview button of the book.
Marketing is a broad topic, but if I’m assuming this is your first book then you shouldn’t worry about it too much beyond this. Your buyers will mostly be friends and family at this stage, followed by a few lucky sales here and there.
I’m going to mention though that working on your mailing list and building a platform is quite important. More on this here
This is the part of the process where you would normally make some money back.
This is also the part where you get to writing again. This is what matters most, after all. When all is said and done, when all the bullshit decomposes, all that you’ll be left with is another blank screen that needs to be filled out with text.
But that’s what us authors like, isn’t it. Creating something where there was nothing.
So for the sake of closure, the cost of publishing something on Amazon is 0$ up until your soul.
Right then. Get back to work.
Shameless plug 2: Pick up a copy of Death, Divinity and the Smiling Man now. Your buy will convert a few calories that you were about to consume into alcohol fueled writing genius.