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The real cost of self publishing

Self-publishing allows you to get your material printed and out into the world and spread your message. But before you launch yourself off into the world, take a note of the costs. There are production costs and printing costs.

I am going to give you the costs of some of the books I worked on recently. ​

 

"Self publishing a book is a bit like launching a product. You need a good product, a professional finish (editor), good design and a marketing plan."


Let me confess upfront that I am a big fan of self-publishing for non fiction authors. I was an ‘early adopter’ of digital formats and I bought the rights of both my non-fiction books back in order to self publish. They started out in 2005 as regular print books going out in the traditional sense and fighting for shelf space at booksellers. I did the talks and promoted my books. But after about five years of having them slowly dwindle on the shelves I chose to buy them back, revisit them and market them to an international audience.


I manage my own books on Kindle Direct Publishing and sell them via Amazon.

Many of the authors I represent chose to go the self-published route. I think it can work for both novels and non-fiction, but it's a more viable option for a non-fiction or a professional workbook. Kate Emmerson, my partner in running writing mentorships, chose to publish her 3rd book herself. She used Lulu.com which she described as ‘a steep learning curve but effective’.


EL James has sold 125m copies of her books sold worldwide – and the book started out as a self-published Twilight fan fiction.


It allows you to get your material printed and out into the world and spread your message.


But before you launch yourself off into the world, take a note of the costs.


I am going to give you the costs of books I worked on recently. Please note these costs do not include actually PRINTING your book. You will find that lower.


​Digital only Production cost(product is an e-book)


AVERAGE COST NOVEL $2,400 or R31,000


AVERAGE COST NON FICTION /

PHOTOGRAPHY / COOKERY BOOK $3,100 or R40,000


Cost 1: Copy editing (optional) and proofreading

All books benefit hugely from a good editor. This is advisable for a novel and essential for a non-fiction. Copy editing is the process of reviewing and correcting your book material to improve accuracy, readability, flow, pace and style. A copy editor will look at your book overall, make changes, suggest new chapter headings, fill in blanks or inconsistencies, point out and fix problems, check legalities or suggest what to check. Although it is not the same, the copy editor MAY also proofread your book - fixing grammatical errors, style errors and spelling.

Cost $900 (R12,000)

This can go up to $2,500 (R30,000) depending on the seniority of the editor and the level of specialisation or technical language.

Time: 20 - 30 working days

Is your book copy edited already? The look at proof reading below.


Cost 1: Proofreading only

This step cannot be missed. This option is if your book is near-perfect, you have written a novel or you simply feel it is your best possible product. / can't afford an editor and a proofreader. A proofreader will check your book for simple and complex errors. Spelling mistakes and grammar errors cannot be in an book when it goes out for publication.

Cost: $600 (R8,000 ZAR) upwards

Time: 5 - 10 working days


Cost 2: Book cover design

This is a cover, spine and back cover. You need to supply all copy (words) but not the images. The designer will give you three possible options and you will select the one you like the best.

Cost: $600 (R7,900)

Time: Allow 5-10 days.


Digital self publishing- Printing ready production costs


If you want to actually print your book or access any of the print-on-demand packages you will have to supply a typeset, final print-ready file in a pdf format. This is not something you can do yourself unfortunately. So there are more production costs.


Cost 3: Typesetting

Cost: R'6,000 for text only books.

If you have images to include or complex boxes, pull quotes and layouts see below under book design

Cost: $600 (R8,000)

Time: Allow a week for revisions and approvals


Cost 4: More book design

A printed book needs a cover, spine and back cover. You need to supply all copy (words) but not the images. The designer will give you three possible options and you will select the one you like the best.

Cost: $600 (R7,900)

Time: Allow 5 days.

Files supplied for print and digital

This cost excludes actual printing costs if you are printing physical copies of the book. This will be quoted based location, size and number of copies. ​


Printing costs


I have done a lot of quotes on what a book costs to be printed in various locations. Most self-published authors go for an initial print run of around 500 copies.


I last costed a book printed to be distributed in the UK. I got quotes from the UK vs China vs India and the cost turned out to be THE SAME. Crazy right? But the factor here was the transport to the UK. Books are heavy, transport is expensive. So always look at your own country first as a printing option. That book (the UK one) ended up costing the author 8 pounds per book. She sells them at 20 a book at talks she does so it works out well for her.

AVERAGE PRINT COSTS IN SOUTH AFRICA (novel)

  • 50 COPIES: R3 800

  • 100 COPIES: R6 000

  • 250 COPIES: R11 700

  • 500 COPIES: R21 200

I got these costs from the Staging Post which is the really great Jacana Self Publishing Service Bureau .


So do your own maths and work out if it will make sense for you to print some books yourself.


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