Now that the book is out, lets discuss the financial part of being your own publisher. The "master of your fate." The "captain of your ship." Or...uh...whatever.
I'll break the costs down by function. Mind you, this is just the cost to do the eBook and a paperback. It does not include doing a hardback edition (at 5" x 8" doing a 39,500 word hardbound book is laughable), audiobook editions (wink, wink), or promotional costs (the subject of another blog post).
I did two rounds of professional editing. The first was a line edit. Then, after several rounds of revisions, I sent it in for a proofread.
Why did I not do my own editing? The answer is simple. If you've read my blog enough, you'll know that I suck at editing. Like...really bad.
Cost: $300.00 (USD).
Author's note: mind you, this is on the LOW side of editing cost. Relatively speaking, it's a small book. The cost for editing on my next book will undoubtedly be higher.
Book Cover Art
This I had done with a company call EBook Launch. Their site had a money-back guarantee, but that still didn't keep me from sweating bullets. You have to pay them the entire balance - in advance - prior to commencing the work. And, generally, the only people who make you do that are scam artists.
But, I have to say, they did a superior job. A lot of people liked the cover. So, it was money well spent, in my opinion.
Why didn't I just make my own cover Because I suck at that too. Plus, I've seen "good author-made" covers. Trust me, the majority of them look like they were made by people who aren't professionals.
The cost covered the eBook version as well as the print book. However, you need to go back to EBook Launch AFTER you've:
Formatted your book,
Purchased one or more ISBN for print editions.
I'm only doing a paperback version, so I only needed to acquire 1 ISBN independently of my distributors (next section).
The nice thing about EBook Launch is that they do work that will just plug right in to most self-publishing services. The stuff I had made just...worked. No muss. No fuss.
The downside was, I was locked into a single print format: 8" x 5". Okay, whatever.
Cost: $595.00 (USD).
Service Processing Fees / Distributors
At some point, I had to determine who was going to distribute all of the formats of my books. Was I going to go Amazon / KDP exclusive, or branch out? And who would be doing my distribution if I decided to not go KDP exclusive?
First: exclusivity in the age of techlords banning people from their platforms just SCREAMS "dumb idea." So, goodbye KDP exclusive. The last thing I want is a bunch of butt-hurt maniacs shutting me down because I'm not woke enough. It's part of the reason why I have a half-a-dozen social media accounts. KDP's "exclusive perks" aren't incentive enough for me to potentially slit my own throat.
(By the way, WOKE authors? You're not immune from this. Just warning you now.)
There are a bunch of services that will put you in a variety of online storefronts. However, after doing a little bit of research, I decided on Draft2Digital. They seemed to offer me the best cut of the revenue, and I've heard a lot of good things about their service.
However, Draft2Digital doesn't have a Print On Demand service...well, not really. They had a beta program going on, but I wasn't about to put my debut in the hands of a service still in its testing phase. So, that led me to Ingram Spark for POD (Print on Demand). I knew comic people that used Ingram Spark, and they had nothing bad to say about the print quality (not so much for the customer service, I might add).
I will say this: Ingram Spark's web user interface SUCKS. if something goes wrong and you try and back stuff out, nothing clears. These types of bugs made things five-times worse trying to get all of my information in. However, there were some benefits, one of which I will describe later.
Keep in mind that Ingram Spark is not geared to the newbie self-publisher. They can do a whole array of things as they relate to printing, distribution, and returns. So, before you start, MAKE SURE YOU WATCH A FEW SELF-PUBLISHING ADVICE VIDEOS ABOUT USING INGRAM SPARK. It will save you a lot of frustration, and potentially some unwanted financial surprises.
There is no up-front cost to using Draft2Digital. They take 10% of your incoming revenue, while places like Apple and Barnes and Noble take 30%. You get 60%. That's not a bad deal. Plus - and this is huge - THEY WILL PROVIDE AN ISBN FOR YOUR BOOK IF IT IS REQUIRED. Some outlets require an individual ISBN for your eBook. It's a huge savings and Draft2Digital provides that, essentially, for free. That gets paid out of their cut of your royalties.
Ingram Spark requires a $49.00 fee for setup. You WILL need an ISBN for each book you have them handle, which they will provide at a reduced cost (see below).
Cost: $49.00 (USD).
Technically, an eBook doesn't need an ISBN, though some outlets require one. A print book, technically, doesn't need an ISBN, though I doubt any outlet would sell a paperback without one.
The cost for a single ISBN was something like $135.00. This made me choke. It's a frickin' number, not a set of steak knives.
Draft2Digital supplied what I needed for free. Ingram Spark offered a discounted ISBN for $85.00. So, I jumped on that.
Cost: $85.00 (USD).
Technically - again - you don't have to submit your manuscript to the Copyright office for it to be protected from Intellectual Property theft. But...if you don't register, and there is legal battle, not having one makes everything messier.
And, no, mailing your manuscript to yourself doesn't protect you. The Copyright website explains this in some detail. Having your work recorded in the Library of Congress puts it in an official record.
Copyright law does and doesn't protect you by default. So, register, and be assured that your rights are secured.
Cost: $65.00 (USD).
Interior Book Formatting
I'm sure that if I knew what I was doing, I could format my book just fine. But I didn't know what I was doing. So I had both formats - print and digital - formatted for me. In fact, I was made aware that different outlets require different format standards.
EBook Launch to the rescue. They formatted both print and eBook versions...twice. First with the information I provided. Then with the information I realized I left out of the book.
I hate making mistakes. I was really mad at myself.
Initial Cost: $280.80 (USD).
Screw-ups: $30.00 (USD).
Overall Cost: $310.80 (USD).
This brings me to a final cost of $1,404.80 (USD).
Cost per 1000 words: $35.57 (USD, rounding up).
That doesn't include any promotional costs, or all of the other insane crap I've been doing thus far.
Looking at the market on Amazon, I went low with the eBook and priced it at $2.99 (USD). Given that it is a short read, I wanted the customer's cost to be fairly low as I want to provide the appropriate cost for the value. The paperback, I had to price at $8.99 (USD), which I thought was expensive given that it's just a novella. I actually wanted to price it lower, but the costs to distribute it in other countries was just WAY too prohibitive - I would have been losing money on every copy.
This means that I will make roughly $1.70 on an eBook, and a little over a $1.00 per paperback. The eBook revenue doesn't trouble me at all, but the margin I make on the paperback is actually worrisome. If printing costs go up - which is a distinct possibility - I either have to raise prices, or eat the cost. That $1.00 is actually a buffer in that I'm betting I only lose $0.50 if there are cost increases.
The irony is that the lowest cost eBook makes me more money that the higher-priced paperback.
Anyhow, assuming I only sell eBooks (and believe you me, this is my hope), It means I have to sell about 827 copies to break even with production costs. Promotional costs may very well double that number. In fact, I think the true number I need to sell is somewhere around 2000 books.
That's ten-times the number of books an average self-published author sells over the lifetime of their book.
So, if each of you buys 20 copies...
Anyhow, now that you've seen the sausage being made, still interested in self-publishing?
The reality is that THE REVENANT AND THE TOMB was a promotional book and is still a promotional book in many ways. I knew producing it was going to be a learning experience...and a costly one at that.
The other thing to consider is that most people that self-publish don't actively promote their books. No one knows about them, so they just don't sell. I'm actively trying to promote my book, and putting my name out there. I'm sure I have a few painful lessons yet to be learned, but this is a short-term cost for a much longer-term goal. I'm building a following, building a brand, as well as laying down the initial tiles in the literary mosaic I hope to complete one day. I have to look at it as making my bones in this business...somehow.
I'm sure I'm not the first one to have to drag myself up this hill. I just wish it was easier.
Anyhow, I'll detail the costs of promotion in a later post.