Publishing Costs is a guest post by Julia Vee of JuliaVee.com, a blog dedicated to writers. As Julia describes, her blog is “a place for you to find great tools and resources to keep you writing, no matter what else is going on in your life.” If you are an aspiring author, don’t miss Julia’s website. She has some great tools for all writers.
Many people would consider writers to be in the same class as artists. And while it may take a certain level of artistry to write satisfying books for their audiences, at its heart, modern writers are business owners.
Now with the rise in indie authors who make stunning sums by self-publishing, today’s authors are effectively acting as a small press.
When you first begin as a writer, you keep it simple. You need hardware, software, and professional services.
A laptop can run you anywhere from $1k to $2k depending on whether you are a Mac or Windows PC user. Microsoft Office (MS Word) is a must, and also you would be doing yourself a favor to get Scrivener. Additionally, to save yourself some formatting headaches, you would end likely need Vellum or Jutoh to format your ebook once your masterpiece is ready. A good laser printer is also recommended. If you don’t have one, it can be quite costly to print a lengthy manuscript at Fedex.
You should hire an editor to edit your work. At a minimum, a proofreader. This means paying a professional for their time to polish your manuscript. Good editing for a 100k word novel can run from $600 to $5k depending on whether you are paying for developmental editing or just line editing.
Your masterpiece needs a gorgeous cover. You can find pre-made covers in some genres for as little as $50 for an e-book. However, often, good cover artists are in high demand and can charge anywhere from $250 to $1k, and have a wait time of 6-8 weeks. If you are bootstrapping and you are good with spatial things, perhaps you can Photoshop your own (assuming you own the software) or use Canva.
A writer today often can boost their success by having a polished web presence and a steadily growing mailing list. This means paying for a web host, and a mail list provider like Mailchimp or Aweber. MailChimp is free for the first 2000 subscribers. Domain hosting can be something like $10 per month, but often you can only lock down such low rates by buying two years worth at a time. The more full-service you go (such as directly with premium WordPress), the more the monthly fee.
Many successful indie authors today pay for book promotion and things like Facebook advertising. You should set a budget and factor this in your book launch costs.
EDUCATION & RESEARCH
Almost any satisfying career has a training component. Writing is no different. Expect to hone your craft, taking classes with the masters. A standard class, six weeks will cost about $300. If it is in person, multiply that by 4 or 5.
Even self-directed learning will likely mean that you spend a tidy sum on books on the writing craft or the business of writing.
You are self-employed. That means that unless you are covered as a dependent on someone else’s plan, you need to factor in paying for your health insurance. Depending on your age/health and deductible, this can run anywhere from $400-700 per month.
When you earn income and incur expenses, you have duties to the IRS and your local government. You likely will have quarterly tax reporting obligations. You may need to hire a tax preparer.
Mail list providers require you to have a physical address for the subscribers. Perhaps you don’t want your home address floating out there in the world. Time to get a PO Box. About $100/yr.
Perhaps you write things you don’t want your friends, family, or coworkers to know about. You’ll need a Fictitious Business Name Statement filing for your nome de plume. Typically under $50 for several years.
Most writers find it valuable to belong to a trade association and/or attend writing conferences. These conferences can be a large expense due to travel and hotel.
Growing Your Business
You are only one person. That means that as you start to write more, you realize that the writing part is part YOU have to do. But perhaps some of the other things related to your website maintenance, the marketing, that may be things you outsource and pay vendors for.
Let’s say you go beyond 2000 subscribers. At that stage, costs with services like MailChimp become a large monthly expense.
Taking it to the Next Level
As your backlist increases, you may explore things like the world of audiobooks. Paying production costs (voice actor) can run you $1500 a book.
Additionally, you may have such steady administrative requirements that it is time to hire an author assistant.
Most importantly, with a significant backlist, you are definitely a small press. This means that you may need to consider separating your identity as a writer from the publisher. This starts with creating a corporate formality, and it can be quite costly. The state of California charges an annual fee of $800 for forming an LLC.
Also, a publisher pays its writers. That means you may end up taking on other authors that you publish and market for, which also means having a contract in place on how the royalties are handled. This requires you to hire an attorney. Also, probably a bookkeeper to sort the royalties.
Additionally, when you have a press, you then duplicate the costs you had with the website setup for your online author presence because now the press needs an online presence.
CONCLUSION: Some of these growth scenarios may seem intimidating. However, these are good problems to solve. As a writer’s backlist grows, the writer’s income stream increases as well. A writer can choose how much (or how little) to spend as they manage their profit and loss scenario. However, they shouldn’t lose sight that in the end…it’s a business.