For all those with an idea for a book swirling around inside their grey matter, I wanted to share some of my experience as an author, and give a little perspective on what it costs to become published. Many people have a great idea for a book but are unsure how to get it to market.
There are two routes you can take: you can self-publish – like me – or you can approach a traditional publisher. I’ll briefly explain both.
Self-publishing involves you, the author, doing everything needed to get a book on retail shelves. I’m not suggesting you have to actually ‘do’ everything yourself, but you’ll need a crack-pot team of experts to help you. I say ‘a team’ because you may not be an experienced writer, illustrator, editor, proof-reader, lay-up artist, printer, distributor, publisher, marketing consultant, social-media expert or PR manager (I’ve missed a few in that list and I apologise if you already excel in some or all of them!). Printing a book these days, is much easier because of the introduction of POD (print on demand). POD, as the acronym suggests, allows you to print one book at a time, or 1000. This can prevent a mountain of unsold books gathering dust in the garage but the trade-off is the price – you will pay more for POD books than standard printing.
Let’s assume you write the copy for the book, here are some rough cost estimates you need to consider if you were planning to outsource everything else:
A4 B&W half-page – $300
A4 colour half-page – $600
Cover design – $1200-$2000
So you would need to allow approx. $5-$10k for the artwork in an illustrated 32 page book (typical size). The price range can vary heaps and depends on the illustrator but this is just a guide.
Editing: allow $500
Book lay-up: up to $1,000 to typeset text and images
POD printing: 1-10books would cost $8-$12 per book depending on whether you go paperback or hardback. Traditional printing is HEAPS cheaper but you need to print thousands in a low cost manufacturing base like China.
Marketing: this is where a self-published author should spend 80% of their effort and budget. Reaching your target market is the key to finding your niche in the growing mass of books out there, and it is usually the area most overlooked. How much this costs and the myriad of options available is a 3 hour discussion in itself. Focus on your end goal – what do you want to get out of writing a book – because this will determine the correct marketing approach and strategy for almost everything you do.
As you can see, the margin in books starts to diminish very quickly, even when you cut out the middle-people! Often, books are written purely to generate PR for a business – the interest is not to make money from books sales, but instead attract attention.
The other publishing option is to write manuscripts, hire a literacy agent to pitch them to publishers, and then if a publisher accepts (can take up to 12months to get a response) and brings you onboard, they will take full control of the artwork, editing and publishing. You will receive a one-off payment and royalty contract. Unlike self-publishing, there are a lot more of those ‘middle-people’ wanting their cut so a lot less will land in your pocket. The upside – a massive upside – is that publishers have the reach and distribution networks to rapidly build your profile as an author.
I chose self-publishing to retain control over my artwork (publishers like to use their own illustrators) and writing.
I also couldn’t wait for a response and just wanted to get going! Being in design and branding, I was also able to create all of my own PR material, which helps a lot.
Anyway, all this can seem quite daunting but don’t be put off as the experience of creating and releasing a book is very very rewarding! Happy writing!