What Goes Into a Book: Case Study: The Catalyst

I was talking to a reader on my Facebook page and had mentioned a small part of the process for The Catalyst. Her reply was:

I knew that releasing a book was a complicated process, but ‘Wow’. As a reader it’s interesting to learn everything involved in order to get a book out, so that we can enjoy it. If more people understood everything that it takes to get a book out into the world, there would be alot less bitching about having to spend anything over 99 cents for one.

Since I think this understanding is so important, rather than JUST reply directly to her, I decided to make a blog post about it to take you through what goes into a typical Zoe Winters series book:


It’s not just writing a book and throwing it out there. In an indie situation all time and money costs are the author’s. There are promotional costs as well as the costs of putting out a truly professional product that can compete with mainstream published work on quality. On the one hand people expect indie books to be “cheap” but on the other, they complain about lower quality. In order to GET higher quality it takes a level of work (and often monetary costs) that require it to not be “cheap”. For example… if I charged 99 cents (making only 35 cents per copy sold), I would feel highly resentful, given what all goes into this both time and money wise.

Here’s what goes into the standard Zoe series book:

Rough Draft (usually I try to get this done in a month or less. Most people can’t do more than 2-3 hours of actual writing in a day because it’s pretty draining. Creative work is not digging ditches, but it can still be exhausting.)

Then I do a read through and edit and send it to the beta readers. (while it’s with the betas I’ll generally work on something else. That’s also when I start getting stuff together for the book trailer and the cover art and start the process for that. I consult on cover art but I’m more involved with the book trailer. I pick music, video clips, images, and write the text and give a basic storyboard idea of how I want it to go. But generally I’m also working on another phase of another project while my book is with betas or with the copyeditor. Like when Catalyst goes to the copyeditor I’ll be writing Lifecycle.)

When it gets back from the betas, I do another round of edits, based on feedback. Then I send it to the copyeditor. (while it’s with the copyeditor, I’m doing other things on other projects, or getting the book tour/promo set up and ready to go, or whatever.)

When it gets back from the copyeditor, I input the copyedits, do a final proofread, format for ebook, register copyright, then publish and run my promo and send review copies out to reviewers.

Then I format for print, send it to LSI and wait for my proof copy. When I get my proof copy, I proofread the print, then approve it for distribution. During all this I get things set up with my narrator and audio production people for the audio book. I consult back and forth on things such as the particular voices each main character will have and answer any questions on word pronunciations that aren’t clear.

As recording comes back for the book, I listen to it and note any audio errors that the editor might not have caught. A mispronunciation here… a part that’s hard to understand… etc. I send notes back and re-listen to the fixed parts, then approve for distribution.

As print and audiobook become available, I promote those with a newsletter, blog post, twitter, and facebook.

Things I spend money on… like for the Catalyst:

Cover art, including audiobook cover.
Book Tour (Blog tour)
Book Trailer and elements for the trailer (music, video clips, images)
Kindle Nation Daily ad
Audio narration
Free signed copies as part of previous promos.

Total costs involved for this book come to about $5,000 (a big chunk of that of course is audiobook narration and production, but I think the costs are worth it to be in audio.)

In the end analysis, writing, editing, promoting, and releasing a book takes me hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars of my own personal money. This is why I charge $4.95 for full-length books in the digital format. Digital is my main bread and butter. Audio and print are small sidestreams of income, though Audio will likely grow over time because the market itself is growing.


This is a reprint from The Weblog of Zoe Winters.