Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What does it really cost to self-publish?


Over the weekend, when both Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com discounted my book, The Crown in the Heather, from the list price of $13.99 t0 $10.07 (a whopping 28% off), a couple of people asked if that meant I'd be earning less per book. In short, the answer is 'no'. I still earn the same amount whether they list it at full price, 10% off or 50% off.

The list price I set for CITH is $13.99. The discount I set for wholesalers (such as Amazon.com) is 20% of that, which means that they buy it for 80% of the full price, which is $11.92. So, yes indeed, at 28% off they are selling it at a loss. The only explanation I can give is that since they've just given you such an ubelievable bargain, they expect you'll buy something else while you're shopping online. It must work, or else they wouldn't do it so often.

How much of that $11.92 do I get per book? Well, quite a bit more than I'd get from the royalties per book if I were contracted with a mainstream publisher; however, keep in mind that without the bookstore exposure and marketing boost that a traditional publisher provides, my sales volume won't be nearly as great. First, I have to pay Lightning Source to print the book. That amounts to 1.3 cents per page plus 90 cents per book. (298 pages X .013) + .90 = $4.77 to Lightning Source.

Using my 8th grade algebra, here's the math for what I earn per book:

($13.99 X .80) - $4.77 = $7.15 per book.

BUT . . . there are initial start-up costs and other fees that have to be factored in, too. Fees to Lightning Source, the cost of ISBNs, cover design, interior layout and editing . . .

If I haven't yet mentioned it, author K.L. Brady's blog, Indie Publishing on the Cheap, has some excellent tips on how to wisely pinch pennies when self-publishing.

Now on to accounting for the nickles and dimes . . . Here's a quick run down of my basic costs:
  • $25 - 1 ISBN (I bought a block of 10 for $250)
  • $75 - Set-up fee per title for Lightning Source
  • $30 - Proof copy from Lightning Source
  • $12 - Annual catalog fee to Lightning Source
  • #$119 - 20 copies from Lightning Source (to be used as review copies and gifts)
  • #$160 - Cover design and pdf file of cover (based on my basic design and using a photo I provided) (I also purchased a logo design for $60, which I'll be able to use on successive books.)
  • $20 - approximate cost for a single photo from http://www.istockphoto.com/ (this will vary, depending on how many photos you buy at once, the specific photo and the size [resolution] of the photo purchased) (I actually bought a supply of credits and purchased additional photos which I can use on my web site, for a book trailer if I do one, and for other books.)

Total start-up costs:

$25 + $75 + $30 + $12 + $119 + $160 + $20 = $441

Divide that total ($441) by the amount earned per book ($7.15) and I need to sell approximately 62 copies to earn my start-up costs back for this book. Not bad and definitely doable.

I could have spent a great deal more on professional cover design or artwork - in fact, I would have loved to - but since my other income is, well, nil, this is one area I had to be economical in. And judging by the comments on the cover, I think it serves its purpose well. Professional editing is another area I would love to splurge in, but done right it is not a cheap job, either; so instead, ten very intelligent writers, whose opinions and abilities I trust, read the whole book at various stages and gave feedback, as well as corrected my technical errors. Yes, this means I read ten manuscripts in return and got great mileage out of my copy of The Chicago Manual of Style.

This is just my experience and how I chose to go about doing it. Publishing through Kindle or CreateSpace will lower your costs, while going through a subsidy publisher or employing professionals for specific jobs (editing, cover design, publicity) will raise it accordingly.

Until later,

Gemi

5 comments:

Lisa Yarde said...

Gemi, you know you're my goddess of self-publishing now, right? Thanks so much for breaking down those fees. I'm comparing CreateSpace and LS. Very helpful.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

You're very welcome, Lisa. I'm glad you found it helpful. You know, I almost didn't want to crunch those numbers, but every indie author has to make the choice that is best for them, so it helps to know your options.

Jason said...

My copy arrived from amazon today. I'm both impressed and proud of you for going this route. I can't wait to get started.

Cheers,
Jason

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Thanks, Jason. I hope you enjoy it.

Judith Arnopp said...

I'm waiting for my copy to be delivered, £10.50 with free delivery from Amazon uk. cant wait!

Judith