Monday, November 25, 2013

How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Book?

Megs asked a question in a comment that I thought might be in the general interest of many of you, so I am answering it here: What is the average cost to have a book published?
thanks! :)

CAUTION: This is not a short answer, Megs! 

In the old days (before the technology for book-making kicked in), the only way to have your book published was to submit it to endless publishers and hope that one of them would take it on. The "royalty" publisher would pay for all costs. Nowadays, there are other options. Hang on and I'll try to show you the differences, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the "do it yourself" method and going the traditional royalty route. 

All of my CCA, CCB, and Goldtown books are published by Kregel Publications, a traditional, CBA (Christian Book Assoc.) royalty publisher. They pay ME for the privilege of publishing my books. They pay all the printing, editing, and design costs, do all the marketing and distributing (worldwide), and make sure the books are in Christian bookstores and on places like CBD, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. Other publishers in the Christian market like Kregel are Moody, Zondervan, Cook, and Thomas Nelson (there are lots more). When Kregel sells my books I get part of the profits. This is called "royalty" payments. Just to let you know--it's not much. Which leads me to the advantages and disadvantages of the ROYALTY publisher.

ADVANTAGES: It doesn't cost me anything and I don't have to do any work (except write the books and revise them, of course). I get professional editing, cover design, and formatting, and except for one or two teensy typo-errors (which were corrected in the next printing), I never see any mistakes in the text. They can get my book to South African bookstores (and they have).
DISADVANTAGES: The chance of a publisher taking your manuscript in the 21st century is close to the chances of winning the Lottery. With bookstores on the decline and costs going up, it's tough to convince a publisher to take on your project, especially as a brand-new author. You have to go to writers conferences and somehow network and pitch your story. A lot of work. Another disadvantage is even though you can give input, the publisher (who is taking all the risks) makes the final decision as far as page count, price of the book, and yes . . . even the series title, book title and cover design. So, basically, you give up control in exchange for having all of the advantages. 

My "" book that I wrote when I was a kid.
As I said earlier, nowadays, with the advent of technology, you can skip the frustration of trying to get one of the "big boys" to take on your book. You can publish it yourself. This, Megs, is probably what you were asking. How much does it cost? 

It varies. I can only tell you from what I have done. I hope Rebekah M. can "re"-chime in with a comment on this post on how this route works for her. 

There are dozens--I might even say hundreds--of printers on the internet who would be more than happy to publish your book for you. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of do-it-yourself publishing:

ADVANTAGES: If a royalty publisher will not take your book, you can still have one! I tried it with the book shown above . . . a story I wrote as a young teen. This route is a lot of fun for kids and teens who want to write a book and give it to Grandpa and Grandma for Christmas and "hold" a book in your hand. It was "free," as in . . . it cost me nothing to upload and design the book. The book itself cost about $4.00 plus a bunch of shipping. I enjoyed doing it, even though it was a lot of work. If you are serious about publishing your own book for other reasons (not just for a few fun copies), here are more advantages: You have to pay all the costs, but when you sell it you get to keep 100% of the sales (rather than a very small % the royalty publisher sends you when your book is sold. They take the risks; they keep the major portion of the sales). YOU choose your title, cover, how the book will look, the page count, basically everything about that book is YOUR decision. If you like control, this is the way to go. However . . .

DISADVANTAGES: With that control comes all of the responsibility. You have to find (and pay for) a professional editor to look over your work. No matter how many times you read it over, your family reads it over, and your friends read it over, nothing takes the place of a professional editor and proofreader. Many skip this (all-important) step, and the book shows it. I don't think I have ever read a self-published book that did not have some kind of spelling, grammar, or formatting errors in it. Another disadvantage is that you have to pay for everything. My self-published, fun book cost me pennies; other "custom" publishers will charge you thousands of dollars to edit, design, and typeset your book. You also have to market (sell) all of the books yourself or talk a bookstore into carrying it (nearly impossible unless you are a local author at your local bookstore). 

And there you have it, Megs. No doubt this is way more than you wanted to know, but the 21st century has opened up so many possibilities. Nowadays, it's true: everybody's an author. This is a good thing for authors, but sometimes not such a good thing for hapless readers. Truly, the old adage holds true: You can't tell a book by its cover . . .

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  1. Thank you Mrs. M! that helps a lot! :D

  2. Wow! That was a very detailed answer!

  3. When I first looked into self publishing my first book (Home Fires of the Great War, on sale on my blog by the way.) there were so many "self publishing" places that it was really hard to figure out what to do. I ended up going with a company my great-uncle had published with several times and had to spend about $1,500.00 just to get it published and get 5 "free" books. If I wanted to market the book with them I had to spend another couple hundred dollars which I didn't have. I was beginning to think self publishing wasn't going to work.
    Then I met someone who introduced me to He looked at my first book and told me, "I can tell you how to publish that book for about $10.00." You better believe I listened! :) Well, I tried my second book with CreateSpace and loved it! Not only did it cost hardly anything to publish it, I could also make my book available on Amazon and around the world and to libraries and bookstores for $25.00!
    The next spring I republished my first book with CreateSpace and have been publishing 2 books a year since then. Now it doesn't cost anything to make your book available to book stores and libraries. You can also simply click a few buttons and your book is a Kindle book on Amazon. :)
    Yes, it is true that you have to market your own books, design your own cover (though they do have quite a few covers already designed that you can include your own picture and title), but they do have templates for laying out your book and I love it! It doesn't cost anything more to have black & white pictures in your story, but if you add color, it does cost a little more.
    I'm just hoping CreateSpace will soon decide to publish hardcover books. :)

    And that's my little tid-bit about self publishing. :)

    1. CreateSpace is a good place to self-publish. With their expanded distribution just recently for free, it's a big help for authors.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I think I might try CreateSpace to publish my book. My grandmother is a certified English teacher so she helps me with a lot of the editing :)

    4. Let me know if you have questions about CreateSpace. :) I'd be happy to help. :)

    5. I will certainly ask you about Create Space, Rebekah, as I plan to publish hard-copy books of the winning stories for the contest. Can I do them as Kindle too, and if so, how much does that cost? You can answer in an email if you want.

  4. Mrs.M,
    I hope this doesn't sound rude.
    I am thinking about being an author when I grow up, and I was curious. How much money do you make? If this question is too personal PLEASE feel free to delete it!!!
    ~ JT

    1. Right now, not much! :) I don't think I've ever tried to figure out what I have made, but it all depends on how many books sell. It's different, different times.

    2. Hey, JT, it's not rude.
      I receive 12% of net, net being the amount of money the publisher sells to bookstores and distributors. So, if my book is sold to the bookstore for $4.00 I get . . . wait for it . . . 48 cents! The bookstore turns around and sells it for $8.00, so you can see who is making the profit here.

      If my publisher sells it to a distributor, they have to sell it really cheap, so if they sell to someone like CBD or Library and Educ. for $2.00, then I get 12% of that, which is . . . wait for it! . . . 24 cents! Yes, folks, you heard it here first! Don't quit your day job (don't plan to be able to "live" on an author's royalties).

      Now, if I sold a million books, then I would make a lot of money, but Christian book publishers are not like New York Times bestsellers. They don't sell all that many.

      My books have sold in the thousands (Andi's Pony Trouble has sold over 10,000 copies just by itself), but I'm just sayin' . . . my twice a year royalty checks are not very much. Good thing I'm having fun and don't have to "eat" with my profits.

      I do make a lot when I buy them from Kregel for a good author discount and sell them at conventions, but that is a lot of work.

      Hope that helped.

    3. Wow! That certainly isn't a lot! Andi's Pony Trouble sold 10,000 copies! Amazing!

    4. Thank you so much! So far the two things I want to do when I grow up really depend on how well I do. :-(
      I guess I should find something else that pays well to add to my To-do list!
      But I won't quit writing!

  5. that helps me to understand that a lot more

  6. I self published a book for the first time this April through Create Space. I participated in the NaNoWriMo competition last year, and because I "won" they gave me 5 free copies of my book.

    It has been an awesome experience so far. Even though I did have to edit myself along with some others I know that are good with that kind of thing, as you said, there are still plenty of errors. (The worst, being a typo in a prayer where instead of "Dear God," it says, "Dead God" Yeah...oops)

    But even with all of that, self publishing has seemed to be a great way to go for those of us who are writing for fun, and not for a prophet. I did end up making much more money than I expected, and even had an article written up about me in the newspaper. (Seriously, I don't even know where the newspaper got my name.) I would really recommend it to anyone who likes to write and would like to share it with others. :)


  7. Another option for us 'for fun writers' is writing websites were we can publish our works. I'm part of two such websites, and Fanfiction is a wonderful website for 'fan fiction writers', basically writers who want to write stories about other people's books, games, TV shows or movies. So if you want to write a story about Indiana Jones fighting Darth Vader and then hopping into the U.S.S. Enterprise to help Spock take down Khan then by all means get a fanfiction account! People on fanfiction can read your stories, favorite them, comment on them, follow them and tell you what they think of your work. You can even get an editor (called Beta Reader) for free on the website to read and edit your work. The entire website is free and does not cost a thing!
    Another option for those of you who write your own stories and want others to read is, which is the sister website for fanfiction. On this website you can post your own poetry and stories without it being connected to a movie or a book or whatever. Again you will have readers who will comment and talk to you and tell you what you think, so you will have a following.

    DISCLAIMERS: Your stuff will be available to ANYONE on the internet and someone very well may steal your story or your ideas. If you don't care then this shouldn't matter, but believe me someone will take your idea and create a story of their own, claiming it's original. I've had this happen a couple times and thankfully it was nothing I really cared about.
    On both fanfiction and fictionpress there are some real mean readers on there who may say a bad word in a comment to you or tear up your stories. This happens to all writers, you just have to know how to sift through the 'real' constructive criticism and the purposeless comments. Don't take these things personally! :)

    Overall this is just another way to get your work out there which is absolutely free and everyone can read your work. It's up to you if you want to put it out there and not get anything in return. I for one have found it to be a really fun way to polish up my writing skills and I enjoy writing for such a large audience. I'll leave a link at the bottom of my comment for ya'll to check out my profile pages and the website. :)

    -Calamity Rene

  8. So...what exactly IS your opinion. Self-publishing or not?
    (I've got a book ready to go, but I'm not sure what my next step should be...)
    This post was VERY HELPFUL! Thanks a ton!

  9. I think that would depend on what your goal is. Are you just wanting to get your story published so your family and friends can get copies, maybe make it available on Amazon in case some other person should want to read it and just see what it's like to have your book in print? If that is so, then go for self publishing. If you are wanting to write for a publishing house and follow their "rules" :) then try to find a publishing house. For me personally, I love the freedom of self publishing. I can write what I want, when I want and when I have a story done, I can publish it. :) I don't think I'd do very well trying to please a publishing house because my stories are not what most publishing houses are looking to publish. :)

    1. Excellent, excellent recommendation, Rebekah. Thanks for pitching in with this!

  10. Mrs. M I sent u some pics with my story but I'm not sure that they came.;)

    1. I did not get any pictures with your story. Email them to me:
      susankmarlow [at] gmail [dot] com.


Let Andi know what you think!