Thursday, May 15, 2014

Budgeting and What It Costs To Self Publish


Ever since I began self publishing my own books, I began to think more about what it costs to self publish, and where I should focus on spending most of my book creation budget. Notice, I didn't say marketing or promoting budget. That's a separate animal entirely. This post is strictly about the steps it takes to get a manuscript into a salable book form.

Often I don't have a lot of money to spend, so I have to make every penny count. In the past, I've made my own covers and edited my own work with the help of friends, all with varying results. Now that I'm wading into POD publishing through CreateSpace, I'm even more concerned about the costs of doing business. There are more stages involved with POD publishing, more steps which require a dollar here or a dollar there, such as ordering proofs. It adds up quickly.

The list below is no where near perfect, it is me simply thinking aloud. I visited dozens of websites to come up with the basic figures shown. If I came across a website and I knew I wouldn't use their service, I didn't include their numbers. I wanted to get a general idea of what it would cost me to take one manuscript, approximately 186 pages long (that's the average length of a Harlequin Desire) and turn it into both an ebook and a print book by hiring outside services. For each service I researched, whenever I was able to do so, I figured up the mode prices, which is the price that occurred most frequently among the sites I visited.

I have to admit, from a financial standpoint, I would probably have to skip some services when it comes to some of my projects. This list was created simply to give me an idea of where to focus my money, and where I might be able to cut corners.

Book Covers
Ebook cover   $25-$70   (mode cost) $50 basic cover, not always 300dpi
Print cover     $75+        (mode cost) $75
Ebook + Print package deals   $90 - $225+    (mode cost)  $150

**Stock art, for DIY covers. Cost per image $5 - $300+ (The cost varies greatly by website, size, and whether an author purchases exclusive rights to the image.) There is so much variation on cost when it comes to stock photos, this topic could be a post all on its own.

Formatting for print or ebook - $10-$70  (mode cost) $20
A 90k or shorter ebook seems cheapest to format across the board. Higher prices generally reflect formatting for POD publishing/print through CreateSpace books. In some cases, the cost may change based on the length of the manuscript. For example, one formatting service I came across charges an additional fee to format books over 400 pages.

For most of the formatting services I looked into, the way I understand it, I'd have to pay for two formatting jobs - print and ebook versions, which are of course formatted differently. A couple of the companies I looked at allowed you to pay for the print formatting rate, then they tack on an additional $5 - $15 dollars to do the ebook version, rather than making you pay for two full formatting jobs. Potentially that could save you a few dollars.

Editing
$1.00 - $2.50 per page.

I've noticed some freelance editors require you to send a sample of your work before they will agree to take on a client. Some editors won't touch a project unless the manuscript is a specific length - for example, no manuscripts above 100 pages. Or, no manuscripts with less than 150 pages. It varies by the editor/service. One service I came across charged a basic per page fee up to a certain number of pages, and then anything over that number of pages was charged at a higher rate - an additional, fifty cents per page. I can see how the costs would add up quickly.

Beta Readers
Free. Paid Beta Readers: $0.50 - $1.50 a page

About beta readers...not everyone uses them. Most of the fiction authors I know manage to find someone willing to read their finished manuscript for free. On the other hand, some authors choose to hire beta readers. I've worked as a paid beta reader for several authors. Most authors who do this will require you sign a confidentiality contract. The average cost to hire a beta reader is between $0.50 - $1.50 a page. Typically a beta reader for a technical manual or a how-to book runs at the higher end of the pay scale, but there are often fewer pages to read. Those authors tend to send sections, rather than the whole book. In general, a beta reader is expected to give feedback, offer a critique on what they've read, and/or sometimes even lightly markup the errors and typos they find in the manuscript.

My overall impression is that most of my self publishing budget will be spent on editing, and I can expect to pay around $186 for a 186 page book. I do have to factor in that there are waiting lists with most editors taking on freelance projects. So, I have to keep in mind there will be a downtime between when I write "the end" and when the editor can begin to work on my book.

The second largest cost for me will be the print/ebook covers I will need someone to make for me. I can expect to pay at least $100 per title if I'm buying both the print and ebook covers for that title. That seems fair to me. I posted a video recently about some of the headaches I faced with creating a print book cover through CreateSpace's cover builder. I will still probably create some of my own ebook covers, but for the print book covers I'll probably want to hire someone. It's worth the money to save myself the headache.

Like I've said before, I try to take on as many of those individual book building processes as I can to save money. I try to edit my own work and build my own covers, but I know with some projects I really do need outside help to see the book completed. I can't see myself paying for every service with every ebook I create. If I did that, I'd end up in the hole financially, probably faster than I imaged possible. However, I'll definitely be rearranging the way I budget my book building money in the future. By tailoring my budget to primarily focus on editing and covers, areas where I feel I need the most help, I'll be able to create the best quality book I possibly can without spending so much money I'm left crying into an empty wallet.

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