Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Costs of Self-Publishing a Book

Brrr! Come on in out of the cold wind. This cold spell is busily announcing the first week of December. Order yourself a hot drink and listen to Mary Babic as she continues to educate us on the cost of publishing.

"Book publishing costs arise from three areas and the costs can be substantial in all three whether you traditionally publish or self-publish. Here's the story on each cost area:

"1. WritingIf you publish with an established publisher, they may pay for most of the editorial costs, but you may still be responsible for some. For example, you will still spend money for book proposal coaching if you need it or for someone to write the proposal for you. You may also want to hire your own editor before you send the manuscript to the publisher. You pay any costs associated with permissions and indexing. In addition, if you make too many changes once the book has been designed, you may be asked to shell out more money for some of the corrections.

"2. PublishingIf you publish with an established publisher, you won't incur the costs of production. But if you self-publish, you must consider the expense of book design and layout, book cover design including back cover copy, prepress production, indexing, proofreading, and printing. After books are ready for sale, there are the charges of carrying inventory (unless you use a print-on-demand process), packing, and shipping (although shipping costs are ultimately passed on to the purchasers).

"3. MarketingEven if you use an established publisher, you will be responsible for most of your own promotions and any travel you do to represent the book. For the vast majority of books, a publisher will allocate a budget of $1,000 or less for marketing the book, and that just isn't enough. The publisher may also do some collaterals—bookmarks, event posters, one-sheet flyers—but generally very few.

Here is a rough estimate of the expenditure to produce a professional-quality soft cover book in which you do most of the writing and you self-publish:

  • Expected editing costs:    $2,000
  • Self-publishing production, book interior
    design, and layout:    $2,500
  • Proofreading:     $750
  • Indexing:     $500
  • Cover design, listings, print prep:     $3,000
  • First Printing:     $600
    (200 review copies at $3 per book,
    high-quality, on-demand)
  • Collateral materials for book events:    $2,000
  • Small book launch publicity effort:
    press releases and follow-up to trade journals
    and targeted media, some local speaking
    and exhibiting:     $3,000 to $5,000


"You can expect to spend $10,000 to $15,000 and up to self-publish a book and do some modest marketing with increased cash outlay for any additional help you need. Of course, you can spend a lot more at each stage of the process if you don't find a high-quality professional to work with the first time and have to redo some of the original work.

"If you have any questions please visit"

Thank you, Mary. It always helps to understand the bottom line. Counting the cost before we commit to spending the money will take some of the stress out of our decisions.

Next time I want to talk about money coming in, not money going out. Isn't that a pleasant thought?! So keep writing…

Monday, November 22, 2010

What’s Money Got to Do with It? Part 1

Here I come, tardier than last time I visited. Some days just don't seem long enough at this time of year.

I hope you find a few minutes to join me today. Thanksgiving week starts a season of so many opportunities to celebrate that finding time to sit and think about writing may be difficult. I've asked Mary Babic to share her perspective about the financial costs inherent in getting your work published. (Mary is a professional author's assistant.) So, sit back with a cup of something refreshing and see what Mary has to say.

"Big chain stores and have significantly changed the publishing industry over the past decade. The good news for the consumer: Books are less expensive and more readily available than ever. regularly discounts 30 percent off the retail price of books.

Where does this 30 percent come from? It comes directly from the publisher's profits and ultimately from the author's royalties. Industry statistics estimate that only 10 percent of books published are profitable to both publishers and authors. Because this leaves about 90 percent of books that either break even or lose money, publishers have decreased their costs in order to stay in business. Cost reduction usually takes the form of offering fewer services to authors, especially first-time authors. Unfortunately, they are essential services that formerly helped increase the odds of success. For instance:

  • Publishers now give surprisingly little editorial guidance. Writers must be able to communicate and organize their ideas in a marketable way, a skill authors must develop, but at a cost. Usually the cost balances between time and money - learning as you go or getting expert help. Your time is valuable, so even something "free" has an "opportunity cost." (An opportunity cost is the money you might have brought in if you had some other work that you know how to do.)

  • Writers face the significant hurdle of having to market their books. Even if an author writes an outstanding book, without the help of a promotions expert, the book may only sell a few hundred copies. A promotions expert for a modest marketing plan can cost the author $3,000 to $5,000.

Because publishers are no longer able to help bridge the gap between author and reader, the author must be able to invest her time or have the budget to hire the help she needs. Of course, this assumes she can find the right people. The learning curve is so high for a first book that most writers end up frustrated. If they're willing to tough it out, though, they may be more successful with a second book…or they'll never try again."

As many aspiring writers and emerging authors learn, getting a traditional publisher's contract may not mean the cash flows in. Getting a well-written book published and marketed can require more money flowing out than you originally expected. If commercial success is your goal, then be prepared to put money into the machine before you get any results. This can be a risky business with no guarantee of success.

Thank you, Mary. If you want to drop by Mary's web site and check out her services, then go to Next time, Mary will look at the self-publishing costs in part two of "What's Money Got to Do with It?"

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Giving Away 3,000 Copies of a Book, Part 2

Dare I show my face in the coffee shop? It's been over a month since I've come in. Anyone who has spent time in a hospital emergency room, doctors' offices and surgery waiting room will understand when I tell you that I would much rather have spent time with you than in the places I've been frequenting. I'm glad to be back.

Now to catch up.

I want to share with you some of the things I've done in giving away copies of my book. (As of today, I've given away 2,641 copies.)

  1. I keep an eye open for unexpected opportunities. I attended a women's prayer group where I met the director for one of the local National Day of Prayer events. I gave her two cases to give away at the event. When I heard about our local Christian radio station's fund-raiser, I gave them a case to give as thank you gifts for volunteers.
  2. I give a copy to my neighbors. One of my neighbors took twelve for the prayer group at her church.
  3. I offer a copy to the people with whom I do business. The bank teller to whom I gave one copy eventually took 100 for her church. One of the clerks at the drugstore has given away at least 150.
  4. I sent a copy to the people on my Christmas card list. Distant relatives and old friends were happy to get a copy of my book.
  5. I gave away copies through and These give-away programs resulted in terrific reviews and ratings. Copies have gone to Canada, Malaysia, India, and other countries.
  6. I look for ministries that could use my book. A pastor in Oregon is using twenty copies to teach a Sunday School class. A women's prison ministry in Massachusetts took 100 copies to use in their correspondence class on prayer. A friend took sixty copies to Haiti for teaching English in a private high school.
  7. I ask for help. When I give away one book, I always asked the person to help me give away more. That resulted in my sister's church giving away 150 on Mother's Day. A close friend has given away almost 300 copies.
  8. I give away copies at prayer workshops. Two family members and I hold prayer workshops around the city. I include a free copy of the book for each person who attends.

Conventional wisdom says that giving away my book would devalue it. I have found the opposite to be true. People in whom the prayers strike a spark value it highly and want their friends to have a copy. This ripple effect of a reader sharing the news with others pushes me toward my goal of giving away 3,000 copies of Changing Me, Change the World.

If you want a free copy, send me an email (at lynndaell [at] live [dot] com), with "Coffee House" in the subject line and your name and mailing address in the body of the message.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Giving Away 3,000 Copies of a Book, Part 1

Welcome back!

This season has been busier than I expected. What happened to the lazy days of summer? You may not have all day to spend, here in the coffee shop, but I hope you stay long enough to read about my unexpected marketing plan.
  • Marketing a book can be expensive.
  • An emerging author who personally publishes a book has a high barrier to getting out the word.
That sums up everything I knew about marketing when I published Changing Me, Change the World with WestBow Press, last December. Granted, part of the publishing package I purchased contained marketing elements, but the marketing elements were the most basic ones. I received worldwide channel distribution, book representatives working to sell to Christian book buyers, and an ad in their catalog. Because I was one of WestBow Press' first five customers, Changing Me, Change the World was available on in January, but the book was publicized only in WestBow Press' on-line bookstore until their spring catalog was issued. (I won't see any results from that publicity for at least another month.)

When I wrote a proposal for my book in the querying stage, I identified actions that I would take to market Changing Me, Change the World if I could find a publisher:
  • Schedule book signings at the bookstores in the area
  • Read book selections in public libraries
  • Seek opportunities to speak in other churches
  • Solicit interviews with the local newspaper's religious editor and/or books editor
  • Exhibit and sell books at the state book festival
  • Solicit an interview on the local Christian radio station

I intended to use this list as a basic marketing plan when I personally published the book. Then, I sprained my knee – twice in two weeks – and that delayed all my plans. It also gave God time to get my attention.

Through a series of circumstances (as in God providing the money and the opportunity), I was able to purchase 3,000 copies of Changing Me, Change the World. (WestBow Press does not require an author to purchase books, but they give an author the opportunity to buy copies of the book at a graduated discount. The way discount pricing for an author is structured, I had just enough money to buy 3,000 copies, but not fewer.)

So here I sat - an emerging author with no platform, a sprained knee, and 3,000 books.

Before I purchased the books, I knew that I bought them to give away, even though conventional wisdom says that giving away my book would devalue it. (One of my foundational beliefs is that I can't out-give God.) If God wanted me to bless people by giving them copies of Changing Me, Change the World, then giving away 3,000 copies would not devalue the book. Instead it would be the perfect way to promote my book and send out the message He gave me.

My biggest problem is that I don't know 3,000 people! In spite of that, I've given away 2,171 copies of the book in fifteen weeks. Next time, I'll share some of the things I've done to reach that point.

While you're waiting, if you want to help me reach my goal of giving away 3,000 copies, you can ask for one or more copies. Just send me an email (lynndaell [at] live [dot] com), with "Coffee House" in the subject line and your name and mailing address in the body of the message.

And as always, keep writing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The World of Personal Publishing, Part 2

Welcome! I'm not surprised to see you here, today. Finding a cool spot to have an icy drink is the only way to ride out this heat wave.

I've asked Kristen Hackett from to join us, again. Last time, she described the concept and the purpose behind their new business. Today, I've asked her to explain how makes the connection between the authors who participate in their site and the readers. This is an important part of the picture for writers who want to find an audience for their work. Kristen, you have our attention.

"We developed a two-tiered marketing approach. Since is a relatively new business, we needed to inform authors of the opportunity to open their own virtual bookstores. Using social media, events and paid advertising with Publisher's Weekly and Writer's Digest, we began building our author base. In the few months that has been available, over 900 authors have signed up.

The highlight of this marketing program was the Great American Author competition, which just ended. Three winning authors will be announced on in August. These winners will have their books featured in our first television commercial. The television commercial will officially launch our marketing program to attract the readers to We are also switching much of our social media efforts over to attracting readers now that the contest is over. is becoming the new hot marketplace for writers and readers."


Thank you, Kristen.

Not too long ago, writers had only two options for getting their work published: being accepted by a traditional publishing company or using what has always been called a vanity press. Both options resulted in ink-and-paper books. The synergy of readily available computers, the internet, and publishing visionaries has changed that picture so much that it is hardly recognizable. Jeff Kagan expressed his frustration with the new environment in a comment to a Wall Street Journal article: "…As a successful businessman who is writing a book I find myself swimming in a sea of new ideas, competing claims and confusing choices as I try to understand this changing marketplace. This new world creates unlimited new opportunities, but for authors trying to decide which way to go it can be maddening."

The article on which Mr. Kagan commented is entitled 'Vanity' Press Goes Digital. I highly recommend that you read it - carefully. It offers a number of "expert" opinions on the way the whole industry will shake out – some of them contradictory.

The one idea on which all the experts appear to agree is that traditional publishing companies have lost control of the industry. A writer has much more control over their work with this new paradigm, but with control comes the need for business savvy. As Mr. Kagan explained, even a successful executive may have difficulty in finding his way. This is a time for all of us to continue learning as much as we can about the business of publishing while we keep on polishing our writing skills.

We'd love to hear about your recent activity with publishing your book. Please leave a comment.

In the meantime, keep writing.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The World of Personal Publishing, Part 1

Wow! Half of the year is gone all ready. What happened? Take a look at your writing goals for the year. Sherry, you may get extra inspiration from your copy of Publish Your Nonfiction Book. I drew your name to receive a free copy. (Please contact me at lynndaell[at]live[dot]com so that I can mail it to you.)
The rest of us can sit back with an icy beverage and dare to dream. According to Kristen Hackett, our guest writer for today, all you need is a Word.doc and a dream to publish your book.

-------------------------------------------- is a Personal Publishing site created for authors, BY authors.  The site launched earlier this year, but it has been in development for over a year as the founders saw a real need for a place for authors to gather, share stories, and publish their work.  We felt the future of publishing would be changing.  Had to change.  To benefit authors - the very people who create the stories people want to read. is not a vanity press, but a place for Personal Publishing, a place that creates a 360-degree experience in publishing, providing unique value to independent authors, published authors and their readers.

The site offers independent authors the opportunity to create eBooks, audio books and printed books.  And control each of those aspects.  The site offers the opportunity to connect with like-minded writers and readers.  And offers personal service via an array of options to help authors with all aspects of their book:  from forums to talk with other authors about ideas and issues, to logistical assistance with printing their books (including copyright filings, editors and proofreaders, an audio book creator, epub conversions, cover art creators and more) to marketing their books.  All in one location.  All so simple to use.  All to help writers fulfill their dream. also offers readers a connection to authors that becomes a personal experience.  We feed their sense of discovery with books they may never have found had it not been for

 We know there are other sites out there that are similar - but we feel our personal approach sets us apart, as does the fact that we are writers.  We have firsthand experience with what writers go through to publish their work.  We feel the ease of use of the site is key to writers (we are as easy to use as Facebook!).  And we are continuously looking for services that will help writers.  We just launched a FREE epub conversion software and an audio book creator.  Two more services that give writers what they need.

We are a group of people that love to write. We love to read. And we wanted to create a community where authors and readers could forge a more personal relationship, where authors didn't have to pay to publish, a place that READERS KNOW ABOUT, a place that could enhance the craft of writing in the digital age.

Please look at and let us know what you think. We value all the feedback we get and strive to make the site better every day.


As Kristen's article states, the Internet gives writers multiple options for publishing their works. If you have used, or any independent publishing site, we welcome you to share your opinion about your experience.

In the meantime, keep writing.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grand Opening: The Emerging Writer Reading Room

I am so glad that you stopped by for a few minutes. This is a special day. We've already had the ribbon cutting, but pick up a piece of strawberry shortcake before you go in The Emerging Writer Reading Room. On Center Stage, you will see the first book displayed.

 I chose Sharlene Martin and Anthony Flacco's book, Publish Your Nonfiction Book, for several reasons. First of all, this book rocks. Every time I pick it up, I find timely and useful information. Second, the book has wide appeal to everyone in our community. Finally, all followers of the blog (as of the end of June) are eligible to have his or her name drawn for a free copy. (Previous book winners in 2010 are not eligible.)

So, pick up a fork and a napkin and go see what you think. I'm open to all suggestions for improvements to the room.
In case you haven't noticed, the July/August issue of Writer's Digest is on the newsstands. If your nonfiction genre' is memoir, then you really ought to buy a copy and read the feature articles. I'll give you some snippets:
On the market – "Demand for the genre' doesn't seem to be fading, so that means there's still room to break in."
On baiting the hook – "Finding your hook is about presenting your story in a marketable and interesting fashion that best displays your skill and strengths as a writer."
On floating the arc – "Back then I hadn't even heard of an arc. Now I know it's the emotional framework of a memoir.
On the rough water – "To write an effective, authentic, cohesive memoir, you'll likely need to revisit or even relive the pain you'd rather forget."
On legal torpedoes – "Your best defense is to understand – before you publish your work – the legal issues that apply when you're writing about real people: namely defamation and invasion of privacy."

 Writer's Workbook in this issue of Writer's Digest has one of the best definitions on dialogue that I've read. In Building Tension to Heighten the Stakes by Jessica Page Morrell, she states, "Dialogue is not conversation. It is conversation's greatest hits." That summarizes beautifully all the tips I've read about dialogue. Much of real world conversation revolves around mundane subjects – the weather, the traffic, a bad-hair-day - all things that can bore our readers.

My final announcement: If you plan to be in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area next month, you might want to attend the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. This three-day conference is scheduled for July 23 – 25, 2010. The Friday night keynote address on writing memoir will be presented by Mary Karr, author of Liar's Club. Who knows, you might see me there.

 Until next time, keep writing.