There’s nothing more satisfying than typing out “The End” when you finish your manuscript. All those long hours writing, rewriting, researching the best way to kill people… you’re finally done!
But the truth is it’s only just begun. Writing your manuscript is the easy part compared to what comes next. The biggest lesson I learned from self publishing?
Being an author isn’t cheap.
Sure, technically speaking you could open a Word document and start writing, then slap some free stock photos into MS Paint to create a cover and it would cost you nothing but your time. Format it and upload it into Amazon and let the cash roll in!
I wish it was that easy. It’s important to remember that people really do judge a book by its cover. You may think you’re an expert designer and editor, but book designers create covers day in and out and know more about book layouts, colors used in specific genres (and which print best), fonts, etc. The complexity and cost of your cover will depend on the genre. For example, a self-help book may use a basic stock photo on the front whereas fantasy and sci-fi covers are more detailed and therefore, cost much more. From what I’ve seen, you can find a good illustrator in the $300-$500 range and something with stock photos may be $50. Which direction you choose is up to you, but do spend some time researching designers. If your cover looks like a five year old’s art project, readers will assume the inside is just as bad and move on. Which brings me to the editing phase.
A standard editing rate is 0.029 cents a word, and that’s just for the developmental edits. That means if you have an 80,000 word story, it’ll cost you about $2,320 to have someone look into it for plot holes and story structure! If you want someone to also proofread and edit it, expect to tack on another $1,000 or so. Of course, some editors are cheaper, others are more expensive, and sometimes you may even need to find a professional who understands your industry (like a medical book) or to fact check your work (as in history). I don’t know about you, but I only make about a dollar per sale since I keep my costs low. I’d have to sell close to 4,000 copies before I even make my money back!
Editing is a monumental cost for most authors. Most of us don’t have that kind of cash lying around, but I encourage you to still ask around. Many editors offer payment plans and discounts to first time or repeat customers. If you cheap out on this part, you’ll likely struggle to sell your book and you won’t make any sales at all. But if you clean up your manuscript, at least you have a chance!
There are also other costs to publishing. Don’t forget about purchasing an ISBN (you may not have to, but here in the US they’re $100 a piece), setting up a website, and spending some cash on marketing your book, whether that’s book promotion sites or Amazon ads. If you want to publish under something other than your own name, well that’s opening another can of worms to create your own business.
Let me tell you about my train wreck of a story when I was ready to publish my first book.
I spent a little under a year writing my first book, How to Hunt a Menacing Magical Shadow. I probably changed the storyline a dozen times until I was finally satisfied with it. Since this was my first story, I didn’t exactly have an extra $4k lying around to hire a professional editor and designer, so I went to good old Fiverr! There are some very talented people on Fiverr, but there are even more awful ones, so be careful. I spent about $400 to have someone do a deep dive into the story and check for plot holes and structure, and $50 for someone to design a cover.
The editor was great. She came back with a lot of helpful feedback and edits, and said that overall she loved the story! I then paid someone else $30 to read through it after I made the edits and offer a quick synopsis on what she thought. She loved it too! I was so excited. And then actual readers got their hands on it, and the true feedback came rolling in. It was so disheartening to see people bash your work that you love so much. I went into a Facebook group and asked if anyone wanted to read it and help me out, and lo and behold, I found a real editor willing to work with me (and not clean out my bank account). I ended up chopping out a good 30,000 words and combining a bunch of chapters, along with restructuring basically the entire story. There was a lot more wrong with it than I thought, and I needed a real professional to see that.
The designer, well, I think there may have been a bit of a language barrier there, as she did exactly what I asked her not to. I ended up with a character that looked like superman’s body with Michael Jackson head. Even the colors looked off genre. I couldn’t bring myself to use it, so that was $50 down the drain. Since I do love digital drawing, I decided to take stab at it myself. I created a beautiful cover with stock photos… that was totally not on genre. Someone told me it actually looked more like a murder mystery than urban fantasy, and they were definitely right. Back to Fiverr! This time I spent about $400 to have someone create the front, back, and spine, and I really lucked out. It put a little hole in my bank account, but in the end I love what he created.
This information shouldn’t scare you away from writing, but it should help put things into perspective for you and give you a better idea of what to expect when you publish a book. I highly suggest joining Facebook groups and other author groups and start making connections, even before you publish. The writing community is a tight one. We love to help each other out, whether that’s swapping links in a newsletter or giving you a creative suggestion on a plot idea. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you really want it, you’ll find a way to make it happen!
Are you a new author looking to start getting your name out there? Head on over to my review page. I’d love to help you out with a free book review on my website as well as a review on Amazon.