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Editor's Notes #76, Cost of Self-Publishing (And why any writer should care)
September 15, 2009

Which of you, intending to build a tower,
sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost,
whether he have sufficient to finish it.

-- Luke 16:28

In this issue:

1. So what does it cost to self-publish? (And why any writer should care.)
2. Tickled my funnybone
3. Interesting Web site

1. So what does it cost to self-publish? (And why any writer should care.)
Let me begin by saying that I'm fiscally prudent and that I've been studying self-publishing for more than six years. I have self-published a newsletter for parents of six-year-olds and an ebook on self-editing.

Even so, I found some financial surprises on my way to the printer.

This issue and the next one will outline costs to consider when you decide to self-publish. And if you never decide to self-publish, knowing what publishing costs will help you when you negotiate with your publisher. (More about that in following issues.)

Once in awhile someone emails me and asks if I will ghost write a book. My answer is always, "Sure. But I bet you won't want to pay me when you hear what it will cost." The only people who can afford a ghostwriter are those with lots and lots of zeros after the numbers on their pay statements.

You will probably write your own book. Writing a book takes time, usually a great deal of time. You can either call that writing a hobby and simply ignore the cost, or you can track your time and decide on an hourly rate. Of course you won't write yourself a cheque for that time, but do consider it when you think of writing for profit.

Research costs. How much depends on the sort of research you need. Will you travel? Will you have to access special material? Will you have to buy books or magazines?

Once you have written a book, you really need to have someone else check it over. You can depend on friends or peer writing groups who will read and comment for free. I recommend this as a first step.

Later, you will want to have a professional editor work with you on your book. I can't tell you what that will cost because every case is different. But here's something to think about. Grab a book about the same length as yours, set a timer, and read the book. Now type out 10 to 20 pages of comments about the book. You don't have to write brilliant prose, just see how long it takes to type out that much. That should give you an idea of the minimum amount of time an editor is going to spend on your book. Understand that the editor will have to stop to fix things, reread to clarify, and sometimes consult reference works to sort out exactly what is needed to make your point clear.

Do you need illustrations? How many? Find out early what each will cost. If you want all rights to the illustrations, you will pay more than if you want only one-time rights. Be prepared to tell the illustrator how many copies you plan to sell. If you buy one-time rights, you will have to pay for the illustrations again when you reprint. Illustrators often charge more if the book will be published in more than one language or more than one country. On the other hand, if your book is educational, the fee often goes down.

Your book needs to be laid out and you need a cover. I can't say enough about getting someone to work on this with you. Even choosing a font is an issue. Designers know things you've never thought of and in fifteen minutes can fix a problem you would wrestle with for weeks. What does that cost? Again, I can't say exactly what that would be for your situation, but I can say that any artist I've ever worked with has been worth her weight in gold. No one is going to buy a book that looks ugly. The designer will help you decide which services will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

You need a printer. The printer will give you quotes that take into account how many copies you will print (you save by printing more books rather than fewer), the type of paper you choose, the type of cover you choose, the binding you choose, the number of pages you need, the number of pages with color, and the cost of delivery.

How will you deliver your book to readers? There are costs involved. The next issue will deal with this in more detail.

I can't give you a specific cost for producing your book, but I hope this list gives you an idea of the things you should consider before deciding to self-publish.


2. Tickled my funnybone
“Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant”


3. Interesting Web site
Whether I need to check the source of a quotation or I want to find a quotation on a topic, I find Bartleby a great resouce.


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