One of the first things most new indie authors want to know, long before the complicated topics of formatting and publishing and promotion is the simple question of money: How much will it cost to publish my book?
(The second question is almost always, Do I need to have an eReader? The answer to that one is “no”. But we’ll get to that later.)
To a certain extent, you can spend as much or as little as you want when it comes to publishing your novel. For my debut novel “Pulchritude” (which I will be referring to numerous times in this guide), I invested the following:
- Scrivener Writing Studio Program - $40
- Front Cover Art - $100
- Back Cover Art - $100
- Character Sketch Art - $250 (for 20 sketches total)
- Audio Book Narration - $500
- Editing - $125
- Smashwords Edition Formatting - $75
- CreateSpace Print Edition Formatting - $300
- ISBNs - $250 (for a set of 10)
- US Copyright Registration - $35
That means I spent $1,775 on my debut novel. But that was with me intentionally delegating quite a few services (Audio Book Narration, Smashwords Edition Formatting, and CreateSpace Print Edition Formatting) and with me springing for the luxury package on several unnecessary items (Back Cover Art, Character Sketches, ISBNs). The only things you really need for your novel are Front Cover Art and Editing. You absolutely should pay for those. But you can get those things on a $250 total budget.
That still isn’t cheap. Not everyone has $250 sitting around gathering dust under the bed. And it means that if you’re selling books for a $2 profit-per-sale, you’ll have to sell 125 books to make back your investment. But it’s a starting place for you to decide whether or not this whole indie experience is right for you.
Before you’re scared away by sticker shock, I think there’s two things worth remembering. One, eBooks are on sale in stores forever and they cost nothing to maintain (i.e., no yearly printing and storage costs). This means that if you sell 5 books a month, that’s 120 copies sold in 2 years and anything after that is pure profit. Two, rare is the hobby that is completely free. It might be worth comparison pricing writing as a hobby to, say, quilting. If the cost of putting an eBook out there is less the cost of fabric for a new bed quilt (and in my experience as a quilter, it absolutely can be), and if the former gives you more pleasure and you can afford it: why not go for it?
And finally, if you simply can’t afford that starting number, you can find ways to skirt around editing and cover art. I generally don’t recommend doing that because poor covers can result in low sales and poor editing can result in bad reviews. But covers can be added later when money comes available, and it is possible at some stores to pull down an old version of a book and issue a new version with better editing (and a clean review slate) at a later date. I don’t recommend going this route as it can be pretty disheartening and potentially damaging to your overall brand, but it is an option for first-time authors on a shoe-string budget.