How much does self-publishing cost?

Just recently, a lot of shit has been flung my way in the form of comments, emails and news items about the cost of self-publishing and the benefits or otherwise about signing deals with service providers. All that topped off this morning with the announcement that Simon & Schuster is starting a self-publishing arm. There is just so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin. They charge from $1500 to $25,000 to publish and market your book. Sorry about the screaming and the language but ARE THEY FUCKING KIDDING?

Let’s re-visit that old popular post Ten Home Truths About Starting in Self-publishing. Point number 4:

4. Don’t go overboard with expenses – make your writing self-sustaining
… Your sales are likely to be very small initially. If you have numerous titles, it is easy to spend lots on covers, formatting and editing. Most of that money will take a long time to recoup. If you get discouraged, you’ll never recoup it.

What should self-publishing cost? Well, at its very basic level…




That’s right.

It costs nothing.

… If you are re-publishing a story that’s been pre-published and has been edited, or if you have a couple of good editing and proofreading friends with whom you exchange manuscripts.
… If you are reasonably handy with Photoshop so that you can produce a reasonably attractive cover until such time that sales warrant spending a bit on a better cover.

Remember that old adage “money flows to the writer?”

It should also apply to self-publishing.

Never spend any money unless the benefits are clear. If you spend $100 on a book cover because you’re crap at Photoshop, it’s clear what you’re paying for. In the case of a very new author or a short story, it could still be too much, but it’s one-off and doesn’t come with contracts and it won’t break anyone’s budget.

However, if some self-publishing “partnership” venue (be wary of the word “partnership”) wants a percentage for “services” that include marketing and such, do the following:

(this is really important)

Look up their titles on Amazon, B & N and other retailers.

What are the book’s rankings? At the point of writing this post, an overall ranking of 100,000 at Amazon requires about a sale a day. A sale a day at B & N will keep a book at about 70,000. That’s thirty sales a month. Say your book was $4.99, that will net you about $100 for the month.

Is this worth giving someone a percentage? Moreover, is this any higher than you could get the book on your own? (My answer to that is: no).

For their “marketing fees”, do the books have any reviews? Reviews, good or bad, mean that people are reading the book. If someone charges a fee for “marketing”, they had better net you some reviews. Sadly, in all cases where I’ve looked at self-publishing service providers, both ranking and reviews have been sorely lacking.

So, what do you actually pay for?

Don’t sign these deals, people. Just don’t.