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.
After all, not everyone wants the same kind of book, nor do people publish for all the same reasons. It seems practical to help people decide which category they’re in and look at the costs for each approach.
Today I’m going to collect the kinds of costs a self-publisher might encounter if they want to keep their cash outlay to the absolute minimum, doing much if not all of the work themselves. These are the DIY self-publishers.
9 Cost Categories for DIY Self-Publishing
- 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.
Let’s Add It All Up
Each publisher has different goals for their book, but for many getting into print at the lowest possible cost is a major consideration.
Adding our nine categories, we have a range of $27.50 (plus shipping, of course) to $236.50 if you go for the ISBN and company set up. This plan is completely reasonable, and shows just how far we’ve gone to eliminate the obstacles to publishing your book.
Keep in mind that a book coming out of this process will be an amateur production. It wasn’t editing, designed or produced by publishing professionals, and it’s very likely to show it. But you will be in print, the proud owner of 5 copies of your book, with the possibility that many more people will discover you.
Total DIY Self-Publishing Cost: $27.50 – 236.50
Takeaway: It’s entirely possible to get a book into print for almost nothing. The effort, ingenuity, and talent of the author-publisher are what will determine the final quality of the book.