7 Hidden Fees in Self-Publishing
It's true: you can be a published author in a matter of clicks. It's easy to publish on Kindle and it's helped spawn books on great topics like raising sea monkeys, to terrarium gardens for apartment owners. Bleh.
Of course, I'm being sarcastic- there are some really good titles out there. But the reality is this: while you can publish on Kindle in a matter of clicks- if you want a commercially successful book, it will not be free. Especially if you decide to self-publish paper or even hardbacks. While these fees are not "hidden" per se, I didn't consider them, and wanted to make you aware of them.
I discovered this publishing my own book . The vast majority of these expenses I will categorize as "marketing expense" but there are a few fees associated with getting your non-sea monkey book published.
(I consider a "Sea Monkey" book, one that is very niche oriented, produced quickly, churned out regularly and in a lot of cases by a ghost writer from Fiverr, and has a crappy, obviously self-published cover. In other words- not a real book.)
Let's Jump right in to the list:
1. Cover Graphics. You can spend a lot or a little here. And, I don't think there is necessarily a cost - quality correlation. Well, maybe there is, but you can get some good covers done on the cheap with websites like FIverr. Just be picky and compare the cover to bestsellers in your genre. Or, show the designer a cover you like. But, a poorly designed cover can be a kiss of death, for selling to regular customers, or libraries, which are a large, potentially lucrative customer base. LINK
2. Interior Graphics/Layout. This is almost exclusive to a paperback format, since book services like smash words don't allow all sorts of different fonts and graphics. ( that is not to say that you can be nonchalant about your book's eBook interior. You have to go over it with a fine toothed comb to ensure all of the formatting is accurate. But, for paperbacks, your interior formatting matters a lot. What style is your book? Font type? Serif? Sans Serif? Genre? Your book's interior matters here. There are options, and designers, but for a reasonable, quality DIY or full service option, I love Joel Friedlander's from the Book Designer. They're in a word format and easy to use.
3. ISBN. If you're not familiar with an ISBN, this is the bar code and number on the back of your book. You need a different ISBN for each different book format. So, one for a paperback and one for a hardback. But, if you have paperbacks produced with Create Space and Ingram- they are both the same book, and same format so you only need one. And this is the key point why you need to buy your own ISBN rather than get a free one from Create Space. You want to be able to use other printers distributors that are not Amazon: many booksellers still will not order anything from Amazon. You can purchase your ISBN through Bowker for about $150. If you think you will need more - i.e. you plan to write more than one book, they have package discounts.
4. Printing Books. Yep, you will need to print books and have them at your house for two reasons. First, some bookstores will ask to buy direct from you (not many) but more likely might run out of your book and not realize it for wait a while to reorder. You can then bring them copies. But more importantly, you will need copies in order to market your book. ARC's or advanced review copies can be sent to reporters, free copies delivered to book store owners for consideration, and the list goes on. These costs do add up.
Screenshot of Book Expenses
This Screenshot shows some of my expenses- you can see they add up. But of course I did the one lame-brained thing you should never do and wasted a lot of money on printing!
5. Author Website/Platform. This is now the new buzz term for creative types. Your platform basically equates to your following, whether it's on social media, visits to your website or most valuably- your website mailing list. (Indeed a large following is for some publishers a prerequisite for taking on an author) Websites vary in price, but I would recommend getting a simple Wordpress site, with a free, or very cheap theme and trying to do it yourself. Otherwise I have heard authors pay anywhere from $500 to many thousands for website/blog construction. Aside from this, there is the cost of your time to gain a following!
6. Advertising. Depending on your genre, you might consider advertising. For my book it didn't little to nothing. But for a different genre I might consider it. The good news is that some types of advertising- like Facebook for example, allow you to set your budget and the ads will stop once the budget is reached. I tried this as well as advertising on a very popular blog. The blog gets approximately 100k visitors per month. I had my add link to a landing page I created in Leadpages ( think of a dedicated website page for just your book) rather than link to my Amazon buy page. The ad did indeed get over 35k visits (more views obviously than clicks) but had a paltry effect on sales.
7. Miscellaneous Marketing Expense. All the other random shit associated with marketing your book. Mailing supplies and postage (tell the post office that is just a book and maybe a flier and you will qualify for the book or media rate- much cheaper than normal!) Random social media promotions ( I used Ask David to send out tweets to their followers ) Book promotion sites like Bookbub and The Fussy Librarian. These can be effective- in the case of Bookbub- very, effective - but they are not cheap. For Bookbub, you have to either give your book away or make it free, but also pay a large (in some cases) fee for them to email to their list. The upside? They have data for what you can expect for downloads or sales in exchange of that fee. (Fussy Librarian is a newer site but I'm sure will also be a smart marketing expense.)
Don't BE Scared- all of these don't have to add up to a lot- but you should be aware that going the self-publishing route has associated costs if you want your book to be a success!