The Costs of Self-Publishing

There are many advantages to self-publishing your book. As a self-published author, I’ve found the experience to be very rewarding. It’s a lot of work, but fortunately, there are numerous resources out there to help you. Unfortunately, you need to be careful when choosing people or companies to help you. Here are some of the publishing services you need to watch out for:

Editors: Hiring an editor is one of the first things you’ll need to do once you decide to publish. You can do some of the work yourself and save money by making your manuscript as clean as possible. Enlist beta readers to find plot holes and inconsistencies. Ask ruthless friends to have a hack at it. But, before publishing, you’ll have to have at least one professional set of peepers have a peek at your manuscript. When searching for an editor, you’ll find a wide range of services and prices. So many choices! What type of editor are you looking for? Do you need someone to shift commas and fix misused words? Or, does your manuscript need a substantial amount of work before you can even consider punctuation? Different editors offer different services, so you need to know what you’re looking for. You need to be clear about your expectations. And, you need to make sure you are hiring the right editor for the job. Has your editor ever tackled a five-hundred page epic fantasy novel, or is yours the first? Does your editor even like fantasy, or are her eyes going to glaze over five pages in to your book? Is the editor a retired nun who is going to red-line all the sex scenes in your erotic romance novel? Is your editor qualified to edit anything at all? Anyone can set up a website and offer editing services. Make sure you get a referral. Read something the editor has worked on–is it well-edited, or did you find errors on the first page? Be careful what you’re paying for.

Formatting Services: If you’ve ever cruised around the KDP Select Forums, you’ve heard horror stories about formatting. There are some great free resources out there that will walk you through the formatting process. Kindle can be formatted right from a Word doc. CreateSpace has downloadable templates. There are books and websites out there. You probably have friends who have formatted and will be happy to give you some tips. But, if you abhor technology or don’t have the time to do it yourself, you can pay someone else to do it for you. Again, you’ll want to make sure the company you choose is an experienced, honest, established entity before you send your manuscript to them. Prices may vary, usually depending on how many formats you need and how long the manuscript is. A friend of mine paid under one-hundred dollars for Kindle and CreateSpace formatting. This seems reasonable compared with others I’ve seen. Always use caution when sending your manuscript to a stranger on the internet. Do some research before you hit that send button.

Cover Art: This is one of the most important marketing tools for your novel. An eye-catching cover is super-mega important. They range from about thirty dollars for a pre-made e-book cover to astronomical amounts that will make your head spin. Shop around, pick a budget, and go from there. It is possible to find an affordable cover, but be careful. Don’t try to make your own cover unless you have some serious skills. Don’t let your six-year-old make your cover with the Microsoft Paint program. And, don’t be tempted to snatch images from Google to create your own cover. If you’re skilled enough to make your own cover, be prepared to spend money on stock images (double-check licensing agreements before using). If you pay an artist who uses photo-manipulation, make sure they have the rights to use the images they are using. Ask questions before hiring an artist.

Marketing and Promotion: There are some great tools out there, many of which are free (Facebook, Twitter, telling your mom to buy your book). Marketing a book is hard work. You can pay for Google ads, Facebook ads, or Goodreads ads, but this can get expensive. Start with a small budget and see what works. There are services out there that claim to help self-published authors. I’ve never used one, but I’ve had a few contact me on my Authors to Watch site. They always approach me on behalf of ‘clients.’ I never respond. It’s infuriating because these ‘clients’ are paying thousands of dollars to be featured on promotional blogs like mine–free blogs that are always happy to help new authors. I never charge for a spot on my site. Most blogs don’t. I have paid for a blog tour. A blog tour is a great way to get a dozen reviews, interviews, and book features over the course of a week for two. I’m happy to pay a nominal fee (forty dollars or so) for someone else to organize this. I am NOT willing to pay hundreds of dollars for someone to do the very same thing. If an online service wants to charge you hundreds of dollars for what is essentially a blog tour and a couple of spots on blog-talk online radio show, run! If someone offers to get your book noticed by millions of readers, they’re probably full of crap.

Self-Publishing Supermarkets: There are lots of services out there that offer to help you self-publish your book for a low, low fee of several thousand dollars. They make it look so easy–they do all the editing, formatting, cover art, and even offer marketing and promotion! What more can you ask for? How about a second mortgage on your home? I’m all for streamlining and making life easier. Hey, no one is lazier than I am. But, I’m also cheap. And, I know if I break down all these services offered in “premium platinum packages” I’m paying way more than I have to. What are these services really offering? Can you do some of these things yourself for free? Will you have to sell your first born child to pay for their packages? Be super careful with these services.

Book Review Services: Okay, here’s where it gets tricky. It’s okay to pay for a blog tour that sets up potential reviews as long as the reviewers aren’t being paid. Let me rephrase–it’s okay to pay for organizational services, but it is not okay to pay for a review. There are services out there that pay reviewers to give five star reviews on books. No, really! I saw an advertisement on Craigs List when I was job hunting. Here’s how it works–the author pays a service to get them some good reviews. Some of these services charge four-hundred dollars for one review!!! The service that was advertising on Craigs List pays reviewers twenty-five dollars per review. Hmm. Someone is making lots of money. (It isn’t me, by the way.) If you decide to use one of these services, please don’t tell me about it because I don’t want to know. I’ll be very disappointed. Very.

Well, that about it sums it up. The moral of this post (and all my posts like this one) is this: Be careful out there. You worked hard on your book–you should be working just as hard to make sure you have a polished finished product. Don’t throw away all that hard work by publishing a poorly editing, badly covered book. And, don’t part with your hard earned money unless you know what you’re getting in return.

I’m sure there’s lots of stuff I either didn’t think of or forgot about, so please feel free to add to the conversation.


13 thoughts on “The Costs of Self-Publishing

  1. I’m not self-published, but I still have to be concerned about promotion. I’ve done some free blog hops, i.e., Carrie Ann’s. But she’s going out of the blog hop business. What do I do next? I’m not against paying for a blog tour. But not for reviews, which may be why I only have two reviews from professional reviewers.

    I figure the best I can do is keep working on current projects to get more stuff out there and also keep up my own blogging.

    But what’s this about paid blog tours?

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    1. Hi Susana,

      There are a few hosts who do paid blog tours. I don’t think they’re very much. It depends on how many stops you’re looking for. Reading Away the Days Blog Tours are free, but only for YA writers. They do an excellent job. CBLS is very affordable. I know several people who have booked with Bewitching Blog Tours and they’ve been very happy. You could always set up your own interviews too. My other site (Authors to Watch) is always happy to book (free) interviews and so does Amy with A Blue Million Books.

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      1. You’ve already interviewed me, Tricia, on January 3 on Treasuring Theresa’s release day. You were the first of several interviews and guest blogs in prominent places. Is it ever enough, though? I haven’t gone through this before, so I feel like I’m learning by trial and ever…as always!

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        1. So I did! I remember Treasuring Theresa. I don’t think there’s ever enough promotion. You have to keep up a constant buzz. Unfortunately, I’m way better at promoting other people than I am at promoting myself. Self-promotion is really hard for most people.

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  2. Excellent post! I have seen so many scams that it makes me sad – I do cover art on the side and I am amazed how many authors will essentially make a contract with me without ever looking at my website or my portfolio. If you;re paying someone you should know who you’re paying, how much, and why.

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  3. Another great post, Tricia. Wow, talk about a lot to learn! A very steep learning curve but definitely worth learning to get things right.

    Yeap, cover art is a tricky one – SO important to have a truly great cover that can attract as many people as possible. If the cover looks cheap, boring or unappealing, it will damage the potential sales of your books. I must say, despite being a qualified and professional artist with a lifetime of experience in the arts, I may have the skills to do an awesome cover, but do I have the IT skills to format it correctly and ensure that the cover text is typset properly, so it can be clearly seen in any size? That’s a different matter. Lots to think about! Thanks Tricia! 😀

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    1. We are such a visual species. Even our words must be bound in attractive art!

      I’ve had to put on the art editor hat, but endlessly browsing deviant art and finding a solid artist has been, by far, my biggest non-writing challenge.

      The decent artists with the anime/manga style I want are far too busy with to illustrate an entire book, so I’m about to put out an ad and see what washes in. It’s all supply and demand, I suppose.

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      1. I don’t do anime/manga style art, so couldn’t recommend myself, but I know a great artist called Sam Dogra who does that style of art. She’s on deviantart, so it’s worth checking her out! She’s done work for a couple of authors as well as herself. Check her out! 🙂

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          1. My pleasure honey! Sam Dogra and I are part of the Alliance of Worldbuilders – a group of fantasy geeks, but it was her who first told me about the wonders of deviantart, I’m on there as Tollam, but Sam’s stuff I think will be more like what you’re looking for. Happy to help. 😀

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  4. Tricia, gosh I cannot thank you enough for all your time and advice!! And that too, all for free!!! Well I can only pray that you receive all the success you so deserve – there’s very few like you out there!! I have noted every word and I am definitely going to be extremely cautious when making my decisions!! Thank you once again Tricia!!
    Sent via my BlackBerry from Vodacom – let your email find you!

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    1. Good luck to you. If you ever have any questions, just ask. If I don’t know the answer, I can find someone who does. For Social Media advice, I’d recommend Kristen Lamb’s blog. She has a lot of good writing tips and she’s hilarious too. http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/ The Absolute Write Water Cooler forums have some excellent advice and tend to be watchdogs for the publishing industry.

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