We’ve all heard the saying: “You’ve got to spend money to make money.” But how is that relevant to writers? It’s not like we’re running our own business. Or are we? In many respects, writing for a living is just like running a business. You’ve got to create an excellent product and brand. You have to build the platform from which you’ll market your books, and so on and so forth. Sounds like a business to me. And like any business, the key to success is investment.
So, how much should you invest in the creation of your novel? That’s a tricky question, considering there is no set payoff. It’s not like Amazon purchases your novel upfront. But there are several things to consider.
Your Personal Budget. You can’t spend what you don’t have. If you’re drafting a novel, start saving for preproduction costs now!
Expected Earnings. It’s not a secret that self-published authors don’t make a lot. My research shows most self-published authors make between 10-30k annually. The highest being somewhere around 100k. And that does not count taxes.
The Quality of Your Work. Often times, you can tell a self-published novel by the quality of the cover. It’s just not quite up to par. Some of these covers were created by the authors themselves or purchased at a discount. For a professional looking product, sometimes you have to pay more up front.
So, how much does it cost to self-publish? Well, going by my own research and experience, this is what I came up with.
Professional Editing: To hire an editor cost anywhere from $15-30 dollars and hour or $15 per 1,000 words. Do the math, and the rough cost estimate is around $1,500 for one manuscript. My own edits costs approx. $700, and that was at an amazing discount!
Cover Design: Whether you find your artist on deviantART, DreamUp, or Elance, the average proposal is between $300-500 per project. Not that you can’t find an artist who will do the work for less. The general rule of thumb is you get what you pay for. The higher proposals usually come with more experience and fancy offers, but that’s not always the case. The key is to find an artist whose style best represents the tone and feel of your novel. Price will vary.
Marketing: In my opinion, it is not beneficial to spend a lot in marketing. Paying for ads is a waste of money. Most of your marketing can be done for free via Twitter and WordPress. If you go through Amazon, the site does most of the work. Goodreads is another great site to promote your novel and host giveaways, etc. Booths for author signings or conventions might be worth the cost. These usually run anywhere from $50 to $1,500 per booth.
ISBN and Copyright Registration: These fees run anywhere from $10 to $500 dollars just depending on who you go through. This is one of those areas where it’s fine to go cheaper. I believe Amazon offers free to low rates on these expenses, but don’t quote me on that.
Supplies: Laptops, paper, pens, scanners, printers, coffee. These expenses cannot be factored into each book but should be considered when factoring overall expenses. After all, printer ink is not cheap.
Extras: Author photographs, book trailers, and other expenses should also be considered.
So, what does that come to? By my calculations, you should expect to spend anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 per manuscript, depending on the quality you are hoping to achieve. Of course, you can spend less, but the quality of your book might reflect that. And there is always the exception to the rule.
What is the benefit of investing in these expenses? Payoff, of course. Research shows readers purchase books based on the quality of the cover, blurb, and sample, so you want a cover that is professional and eye catching. You also want your writing to be readable and free of errors. In order to achieve this, you might have to pay an editor and a cover artist. In the long run, your investments should pay off.
Do you agree or disagree? Is it worth the expense? Can a self-published author be just as successful editing their own work and creating their own cover design? Let me know what you think by completing the poll below: