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The Cost of Independent Publishing

Independent publishing is substantially cheaper than its ever been.  With Amazon and other distributors offering to distribute your ebook for a small fee and print your print book on-demand with nearly zero up front costs, publishing your book on your own has never been easier.

However, to be taken seriously in the market and compete against other high quality traditionally and independently published works, it is still going to take an investment, like any other business.  Two must-have items you hear over and over again are quality editing of your manuscript and a professionally designed book cover.

Thanks to the explosion of independent publishing these two necessities can be outsourced to professionals willing to do the work.  But, that has a cost.

In very general terms, book covers can range between $300 – $800 depending on whether or not you want an ebook cover only or a print book cover as well.  It also depends on the designer, how good they are and how busy they are.

editingThe cost variance in book editing is even greater.  First, there are many different types of editing options (proofreading, copy editing, developmental editing, etc.).  Each of these involve different work efforts by the editor and therefore have varying prices.  That being said, for a standard novel (50k – 65k words – which are short novels BTW), it can cost anywhere between $500 – $3,000, depending on the editor.

Let’s take the middle ground of those two very broad ranges, meaning your book cover could cost about $550 and your editing $1750.  That’s a $2300 investment per book.

You sure better be ready to publish and then be VERY patient on getting a return on your investment.  Why?

At the current Amazon 70% return on each ebook sold over $2.99, if you offered your ebook for that price, you get about $2 per sale.  That means you have to sell 1150 books to break even.  For some people, that may not sound like a lot .  For others, that may sound impossible.

To put it into perspective, the average self-published book sells under 200 copies.  That leaves you $1900 in the red.  Granted, most of those self-published books have crappy editing, awful book covers and zero marketing effort.  The numbers are daunting, none-the-less.

Now, some people have contacts or talented friends that can help and you may be able to reduce the cost, but, whatever you decide, do NOT reduce the quality of the end result at the same time.  Writing is an art, but publishing is a business.  You need to go into it with your eyes wide open and with realistic expectations of cost and return-on-investment.

I will say this.  If I have to invest $2300 in my first novel, you can bet your ass I’ll be marketing the living crap out of it.  Otherwise, my Chief Financial Officer (i.e., the wife), won’t allow me near the credit cards again.

I haven’t decided on an editor or a book designer yet, but I’ll let you know when I do and how the process worked for me.

If you’ve had any experience with either editing or book design, please share your insights in the comments section. We’d all love to hear from someone whose been through it.

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