Self-Publishing: Financial Reality Check

August 24, 2010  |  

Thanks again to everyone who has been sending me questions. I love it. So, keep ‘em coming! I recently had an email from an ambitious woman who is looking to self-publish a series of books. She had done some research and was finding that the “self-publishing package” that she was interested in was going to cost her approximately $2,000+ per book. Her question for me: Should it really cost $2,000+ to self-publish a book?

In my response to the woman, I told her that self-publishing, when done properly, can be expensive on the outset because the author / self-publisher is absorbing all of the costs. Therefore, $2,000.00 is not an unexpected amount to expect to pay to self-publish a book. The interesting thing about the woman’s email was that it did not include specifics on what the $2,000+ was going to be spent on. While I understand that the cost of producing the book should certainly be of concern, I was more concerned with what the money was to be spent on. In my opinion, you should be too.

So, if you’re considering a book project here are a few things that are “must dos” to produce a professional grade book:

Editing – Once you’ve completed your manuscript, it’s a good idea to have an editor  review the document. The editor will be able to provide insight about how well the overall book flows as well as help to improve (or make suggestions for improving the writing. NOTE: The extent to which an editor will do these depends on the type of editing you request.

Book Formatting & Layout – There are standards for how books are formatted. With just a glance, a trained eye can easily spot a professionally formatted book from a book put together by a non-professional. It’s critical to format the interior of your book properly if you want to attract outside distributors.

Book Cover Design – The book cover is the first-line marketer of your book. It’s there to say, “Hey! Look at me. I’d be a great read.” when you’re not there to do it. Therefore, make sure that your cover is appealing, your title is catchy and that the back cover copy is compelling.

Proofreading – The book should be proofread twice. The first time should be before the manuscript is sent to be formatted. After all, what good is it to lay out a book that’s grammatically incorrect? The second time the book should be proofread is after the text has been placed in the book layout. This second time is primarily a double check to make sure no mistakes were made when copying text from the manuscript document into the book layout.

Initial Promotional Book Verbiage – At minimum, you will need compelling copy for your back cover and a general book description. You will likely need additional standard evergreen copy but what you will need beyond the back cover copy and book description depends on your book marketing strategy. Speaking of that…

Book Marketing Plan – Many authors make the mistake of focusing only on writing the book and publishing it. They neglect to think about what they will do with the book once they have it. Don’t make that mistake! If you do, you will likely find yourself shelling out money left and right trying all sorts of things to promote and sell your book. Admittedly, that may work for a while but it’s a potentially costly method. A more sound business idea is to invest in a book marketing plan. That way you have specific strategies and tactics that you can use to promote and sell your book.

The cost of each of the above will vary, depending on your manuscript as well as the professional that you hire to assist. However, $2,000 would likely cover a majority of the items on the list above. In fact, you may even come in under that budget for a short book. But, if you note, that list did not include promotional items (bookmarks, postcards, etc. IF you choose to use them), the book ISBN, copyright registration, printing costs or having copies of your book on hand. The takeaway for you: If you don’t have the money to invest in producing and marketing a book, plan your project in stages and don’t move on to the next phase until you do have the money to move forward. You will have much better results and greater success in the long run. Remember: The benefits of being a published author come post-publishing, once you’ve sold enough books to break even and begin pocketing pure profit—which isn’t typically an overnight kind of occurrence.

As always, if you have a marketing question that you would like me to answer, send me an email at or

Tanisha Coffey is a professional writer and marketing consultant based in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. She provides her services through the strategic marketing consulting, professional copywriting and independent author services firm Scribe, Etc.

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