I just come off of publishing a full length novel, When Heaven Strikes, and there’s so much that goes into self publication I feel like I need to take a moment and address it for those who are considering writing their first book or who may want to break away from traditional publishing.
First, and probably the most expensive part of the whole process is editing. I have run into costs that range from .004 cents per word to .05 cents per word.
If you take a base novel (which is 60,000 words) it looks like this.
.004 * 60,000 = 240 and that’s the lowest I’ve ever seen
.05 * 60,000 = 3,000 and that’s the highest I’ve seen
and that’s per sweep
The more reputable or the more well known the editor is, the higher the cost but the trade off is, the least well known they are they may be cheaper but they may not be as good and that requires additional sweeps.
Factor in cover art which can range from 50 bucks up to 300
Then you have to pay for someone to format the book for you for both the ebook and paperback
Once all of that is complete – then you have promotional stuff like creating a book trailer which can run you 100 bucks or more and a tour service which can run anywhere from 25 bucks to 100 dollars depending on what package or service you use.
You could end up, to produce one book, spending a great deal of your own cash.
And all of this takes time to do. So while you may have down time between purchases, you’re burning hours going through everything.
Now, if you go with a traditional publisher – they absorb that initial cost and all you’re responsible for is working through what the editors send you.
However, especially if you take an advance, you may not see royalties on your book for awhile. When you do, depending on the contract you signed, your royalties will usually be less than half (usually around 35 to 40 percent) of the money earned.
And none of it says that mistakes still won’t be present. You try to minimize that, of course, but shit happens. Stuff slips through and if that’s the case you can have someone go back through it at cost.
The best advice I can give is to establish a budget and while I know its difficult to do that – especially for people who are just starting out or people who don’t have a lot of money – if you have to make a change jar to throw your quarters, nickels, and dimes in – do it. You’re now in business for yourself and if you’re in the self publishing world – you are responsible for everything.
The reader doesn’t get to see any of that. They get the finished product and it’s really strange when I see comments about how they won’t spend more than x amount of money for a book. And especially the whole KU thing where people associate that with Netflix or Prime.
It’s not the same. Actors don’t get paid from that, they get all their money up front before the film is made. So should a movie flop, or should it break box office records, their pay is the same. The set people, the director, the producer, etc. all their money is taken care of by the unions. It’s the studios that make royalties off ticket sales, residuals, netflix, prime, dvd sales, yada yada.
So when I see authors selling their book for less than five bucks on the market it really upsets me. Not just because they’re making it harder to compete with them, but because they’re short changing themselves and everyone else around them.
It becomes that much harder and that much more competitive to produce a book – and the idea of making a living off of being a writer or becoming popular as a writer is becoming more and more difficult. You have to hustle your work every single day and that’s just as difficult. Most of all because it pulls you away from your next project.
All of that sucks. I think the average person would be astounded if they were to actually sit down and do it themselves.
But I think there is a flip side to it, a silver lining, despite genre fiction, ‘the rules’, the lack of a publisher pushing you in one direction, the market forces, goodreads, the critics, all of that liberates the author to write what they want. All of that gets muted. They can cultivate an audience from the very bottom and slowly over time build a readership that is loyal despite what the author writes and is more open to what they have to say. They’re more open to the way the author’s style comes across and becomes familiar with that voice. It allows the author to move around and not get bogged down in having to appeal or wanting to appeal to a certain kind of reader.
And it allows the author, I think, to say things that need to be said in their work, it allows for authenticity, without their work being diluted by the aforementioned.
I think literature right now is going through a golden age and Amazon is on it. They publish something like 3,000 books per day and KU is taking a huge chunk out of author’s profits. And while technology is king, and not content, it won’t stay this way forever. I think if authors sort of banded together, and I think they will eventually, the pendulum will swing back in the other direction. Meanwhile, I think those who love the craft, who absolutely must write, who have a passion for it, will stay and get better at what they do slowly but surely.