In my earlier article I looked at a framework to determine what it costs to self-publish. I described 9 cost categories and three paths to publication as a way to organize the costs for different kinds of self-publishers.
- Company setup—The choice here is to establish a sole proprietorship or to simply publish your book under your own name, without any company structure. The cost of establishing a company vary, but the minimum cost would be whatever you are required to pay to register a business name.
Here it costs $42 plus about another $40 for the classified ads you need to run as a public notice. These costs aren’t strictly necessary, but if the self-publisher is treating her publication like a business at all, she will take this step.
Total: $0 – 84
- ISBNs—Another way to control costs is to print with one of the services that will supply you with an ISBN. For someone with a book project but a small budget, this can be a considerable expense at a minimum of $125.
You only need an ISBN if you intend to sell your book through a book trade channel, such as Amazon.com. If you don’t plan to make your book available through those channels, or if the book is strictly for private or personal use—for instance a fundraiser—you can skip the ISBN completely.
On the other hand, if you’re concerned about the future publishing possibilities for your book, and that you might someday want to take the book to another printer or service provider, you should think about buying the ISBN up front.
Total: $0 – 125
- Manuscript preparation—At the DIY end of self-publishing, the author will do all manuscript preparation, usually using their favorite word processor.
- Editing—If our DIY self-publisher can find someone to look over the manuscript for errors, it will likely be on a free or barter basis. There probably won’t be any editing except self-editing, so expenses here are pretty much eliminated.
- Design—The DIY self-publisher is the designer of the book as well. Some publisher services companies provide templates that authors can download and use with programs like Microsoft Word. And some have cover generators to help create a decent-looking cover. But the principle here is that the author completes all these tasks on his own, with or without the help of customer service staffers.
- Review program—Reviews for the DIY self-publisher will probably be limited to online reviewers, where a PDF of the book can be submitted at no fee. In my experience, most of these books are not submitted to reviewers with any regularity, saving more money.
- Platform building—The DIY self-publisher who wants to spread her work, find new readers and sell some books will look to online resources to do her author platform building. Typically this will involve a blog at one of the free blog hosting sites, and a lot of time spent online.
- Proofing and Reproduction—Virtually all DIY self-publishers will use digital printing through print on demand suppliers to manufacture their book. A copy of the book essentially acts as the proof if one is considered necessary. Since these services—like Lulu—only charge for the books you actually buy, you could say that there is no cost here. But let’s assume our self-publisher orders 5 copies of her 200-page book, and that we consider this part of the expense of getting into print.
- Fulfillment—Books sold will be by hand, through the self-publisher’s website, or on retailer websites. The first two options could encounter costs for packing and shipping, but they are transaction costs, not included in getting into print.