Most writers work a variety of jobs to survive, stringing together various freelance gigs (from blogging to PR work to non-writing jobs) in order to pay the bills.
If only a tiny fraction of your income comes from those meager monthly Amazon sales reports, don’t fret. You’re comfortably (at least statistically speaking) in the majority of “working” authors.
Finances are tight for most people, in any field, especially around the holidays. It may not be the best time to publish a book. But then Life often doesn't accommodate anyone's ideal schedule.
Best to plan ahead, and be prepared for the expenses of running a small business, including self-publishing, before counting on nay profits.
Below are some very round, rough figures to consider when budgeting four major aspects of the publishing process. I won’t mention any names since many subcontractors have “sliding scales” depending on the scope of the project and their experience with you as a collaborator. But this will give you a general idea of how many pennies you need to have stocked up in that jar on the shelf, at least if you want to be considered a professional writer/publisher, not an opportunistic hack.
Book Cover (Front, Back, Spine)
CreateSpace provides a wide variety of free public domain images you can download for your book. I see these all the time. Lots of flowers and empty alleys and such. I just can’t see anyone browsing online for a good book by an unknown author and being seduced by these innocuous graphics.
Naturally they also offer their own cover design services, starting at $399.00, and actually, this is what I’ve paid freelance artists in the past for at least two of my covers. It’s pretty much industry standard.
But there are always exceptions to the norm, and that’s where you cut your costs, if you do your due diligence in advance.
I prefer contracting freelance artists to both illustrate and design my full covers (some of whom also created event posters for me back in the day), and it pays off in terms of both pleasing aesthetics and generating attention.
Again, I won’t reveal my personal sources out of respect for our longstanding relationships, but if you scout around, I bet you can find just the right artist to produce just the right cover for your book.
I recommend going online to chat rooms for specific genres (horror, fantasy, romance, etc.) – especially on GoodReads, the Web’s #1 literary social hub – so you can virtually meet up with an experienced illustrator that shares your sensibilities.
If you two hit off, it’ll be like a computer dating fairy tale. Common interests are always a good starting point, along with mutual trust, which can only be shored up over time.
And first impressions always count, especially when it comes to covers, because yes, readers often judge a book that way if they never heard of the author.
Suggested Budget: $100.00-$400.00
Via networking with a fellow author, I hooked up with a professional book designer with decades of experience. His rates are very reasonable and his services are top notch.
CreateSpace charges $349.00 to professionally format your book per your specifications (costs for existing templates run $100-$200 less).
But if you search hard enough, and ask around your literary social circles, you can find someone who will do the job just as well for half as much, like I did.
Suggested Budget: $150
Since I normally ask friends to look over my rough drafts – known in the biz as “beta readers” – free of charge, I never budget any money in for this. But you should, just in case you don’t know anyone you really trust to catch all those bothersome (and potentially deal-breaking) typos.
But this is generally the most expensive job you’ll outsource for your project. Generally, freelance editors charge an average of $30/$40 an hour for their time and notes.
CreateSpace charges flat rates for their in-house editorial services, anywhere between $160.00 and $470.00, depending on your needs.
This is why I make friends with folks that like to read.
Suggested Budget: Varies depending on book length and sheer luck
Don’t fall for these scams, whether it’s Amazon trying to pitch yet another pricey “package deal” or some huckster you never heard of. Rather than sinking cash into this crucial aspect of the process, spend your time and energy building your own social media networks and platforms, slowly but surely developing your own unique brand name.
Nobody knows your work and its target audience better than you do (at least, if you’ve done your own research). With Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, YouTube etc. all at your disposal, creating a personalized publishing “empire” has never been a more accessible task.
Suggested Budget: None
Bottom line: promotions aside, when it comes to the technical stuff, never skimp. Even if you have to go into debt to ensure a perfectly realized product. After all, the cachet of your literary reputation is ultimately priceless. In that way, regardless of profit margins, these investments will always be cost-effective.
After all, you get what you pay for. Unless you’re the reader suckered into downloading a poorly produced book by an author they will never, ever read again.