How much does it cost to publish a book? It’s free, but it will take your soul with it.
It will take every ounce that, once assembled, makes up you.
It will take doubling down and swiping away the naysayers.
It will take days of self-coaching and ignoring inner demons.
It will take a lot of time.
It will take stolen moments at lunchtimes, breakfasts and just before you pick the loved ones up.
It will take becoming an immovable force.
If you aren’t quite looking for a philosophical answer, here’s actually how much it costs.
There are many pricing options when it comes to publishing. Here are a few:
Sometimes, it can be free. Most often, this will be if you have an agent who has sold a book to a traditional publisher. Your agent will help get the story where it needs to be and sell the book. Once sold, the publisher will front the costs of an editor, artwork for the book, and costs of publishing and promoting.
It is not recommended to work with a large publisher who won’t front these costs if you are publishing traditionally with an agent. The traditional route should mean you don’t shoulder the costs.
It’s harder to get a book sold with this method, but generally, the investment a publisher is willing to put into your book will be more than one person could afford — they might order thousands of copies of a novel ahead of selling even one. However, with great investment comes high pressure. The publishers are basically betting on you, and you don’t earn money until you’ve made up the advance they probably gave you when they bought the book.
$$ Some Money
If you self-publish, this can cost some money. You don’t need to pay to publish the actual book — you can do on-demand printing with places like Amazon who take a cut — but you will have to pay for things like
- sensitivity readers
- editors and proofreaders
- graphic designers
- formatting of the book
- any giveaways or extra promo you do
Self-publishing sees you retaining more of the sales but requires the most upfront costs.
$ A Little Money to basically free
You’ll still probably want to spend a little money if you want to complete a novel (maybe just for artwork or certain software — for example, many years ago, I bought Scrivener), but you can go cheaper if you publish somewhere like Wattpad. The downside is you are unlikely to make any money as this is a free platform.
Some people have made money by writing a great piece here and then using the popularity to promote the next book, so not all is lost. Some people have also published initial books here and then republished them after they became popular and have been properly edited.
The truth is there’s no wrong path.
What about a blend?
When you self-publish but use a publisher, you can end up spending some money. The advantage of using an indie publisher is that you retain control (some people like the freedom of not having an agent) but still work with a publisher who can use their pre-existing contacts and knowledge to promote a book.
This can be a good option for some, especially if the novel you write doesn’t fit into a traditional mould that is easy to define or sell. Indie publishers tend to take more chances than bigger publishers.
Beware of vanity presses who ask you to spend several thousand dollars without much return.
While some hybrid publishers may ask you to spend money in return for genuine services, others may offer marketing services that are not strictly required for a book because they are just trying to take your money. Sometimes, hybrid publishers’ services are genuine, but it’s just important to double-check what you’re paying for.
Marketing professionals can offer value for money and results in marketing. Publishers can offer value for money and results by publishing a book. Sometimes, it can be better to look for an expert in their field rather than to pay one company to do everything.
Remember, hybrid publishers who are legit may ask you to pay upfront for publishing, but they will generally split the fees with you later and/or abide by a set of rules to maintain professionalism. You can see what makes hybrid presses different from vanity publishers here.
So, as you can see, there are many different costs associated with publishing a novel, but, in the end, you can spend however much you want.
For some, writing is a passion, and they don’t mind about the return; for others, writing is a career that they wish to live on. There is no wrong way to write or be a writer.