The Cost of Self-Publication

the-cost-of-self-publishingOne of the things that I have been reading about lately is the sheer number of fans who seem to think our work should be free. Yes, I don’t have this problem because I have no books out … yet. In September my first self-published book will go live. Rather than feel excited about it, I’ve read fans griping about the cost, and authors griping about thieves who get their work from free on torrent and other piracy sites. One author calculated how much she lost in royalties from one site where her book had been downloaded over sixteen thousand times.

The cost of Self-PublishingI admit this made me curious, what is the actual cost of publishing through Amazon and Createspace? So I sat down and did some math. I’m sure other authors may disagree with the numbers, but this is what I believe is an accurate representation of the time and cost of bringing my first novel to fruition.

  1. Research – Every author will tell you this is where to begin and I absolutely agree. Yes, I wrote an urban fantasy novel, but I still needed to learn about myths, folklore, and what is considered acceptable for my genre. Total time spent @ 350 hours.
  2. Story Development – For me this was figuring out what story I wanted to tell and how I wanted to do it. This is not plotting, this is the world-building, reality-bending, mind-numbing creation phase that can make or break you as an author. I got lucky, my story showed me where it needed to go fairly quickly. But I still spent @ 125 hours pulling it all together.
  3. Plotting/Outlining – Again, I got lucky everything came together quickly and I managed to put the plot together from beginning to tentative end over 8 weeks. I still spent about five hours a day, seven days a week working on it. All of it when my family was asleep because that was when I could focus. @ 280 hours.
  4. Writing the first draft – My family supported my decision to join Camp NaNoWriMo and they helped me created the time and space necessary to write the first 75,000 words during Camp. I spent a little more time on this than the plotting stage, but I was able to write quickly. My novel ended up at 93,000 words and I spent @ 350 hours doing it.
  5. Revisions and Rewrites – This part is harder to figure. I actually walked away from my novel for two weeks to come back at it fresh. I proceeded to rip it apart and rebuild it only when my family was asleep. Four revisions, five beta readers, my sister, and niece read it gutted it and all over the course of several months. @500 hours but since not all of that was my time I will only claim one quarter of the time. @125 hours.
  6. The cost of Self-Publishing (1)Editing – I paid for editing services and I got lucky. I was given a great deal with multiple revisions. $1500.
  7. Cover design – Again, I paid out of pocket for this and got an amazing deal from an amazing designer. $270.
  8. Other Professional Services – This can include formatting, social media banners, giveaways, etc. I haven’t had these expenses yet so I cannot report about the costs.

Now let’s do the math:

Total hours spent by me on Golden Opportunity = 880 hours

Oregon’s minimum wage = $9.25

880 x $9.25 = $8,140 + $1,500 + $270 = $9,910

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, if I actually expect to be paid for my time I’m almost ten thousand dollars in the hole before I ever sell a single book.

Now, for argument’s sake let’s assume that I only sell my book as an eBook for $2.99 per download. Amazon will allow me to have a 35% royalty on said eBook which means I will receive approximately $1.05 per mythological book I sell. Let’s say I don’t think I’m worthy of minimum wage and that I would only like to make back what I’ve spent out of my pocket on my novel, that totals $1,770. So a little more math tells me that $1,770/$1.05 = 1,687. Now, I need to sell 1,687 copies of my book to BREAK EVEN and not make any actual wages.

I’m so glad that fans think we authors are all making bucket loads of money on our version of make-believe. I’m also glad that everyone thinks we “just make stories up” and don’t deserve real wages. For the record I, like most of my fellow authors, don’t write to make millions, but if I can make enough money to pay back the money I’ve already spent. That will allow me to spend it on the next book I write then I will be ecstatic.

Yes, I know I didn’t add in the cost of classes, conventions, marketing, reviewer copies, and a million other things. Partially because those are variable, and partially because I don’t want to break down and cry like a baby. One last thing, I hope to see everyone who has the dream of being published achieve it … and  …

I want to see you here!

V. L.


8 thoughts on “The Cost of Self-Publication

    1. Thank you for the comment. It was a bit of an eye opener for me to sit down and figure out what I actually spent in time and money. It’s even more heart breaking when I realize that $1770 is a mere drop in the bucket of the actual expenses I will have by the time I figure out marketing, reviewer copies, and everything else. Even worse, I’m very lucky compared to others who have not been as fortunate as I have to find the deals for editing, covers, and the rest.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m pretty new to the blogging arena, but, with that being said, I’d like to compile some of my better posts into a book after about a year. That should give me enough time to get a lot of content out there, and then work on getting published. There is a lot more to think about than I had realized! Going forward I’m going to start making notes and compiling info. I never thought about beta readers, for instance, until I read your post. Thanks for that info! As a side note, I really love your gravitar! Can you tell me how that came about? I wish I knew an artist because that is what I need for my blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like you, I’m pretty new to blogging. I chose to have my blog focus on the trials of being a self-published author by choice. I wanted it to be clear that I chose this for myself, rather than trying for the more traditional route. Part of this is because I’m a bit of a control freak, another part is because I don’t like to have my work butchered because of trends. I wanted to give honest insight into the world of self-publication, the financial and emotional cost, as well as my successes and my failures to help others learn from, and with, me. My first experiences in the professional world of being an author was as a beta reader and it was a trial by fire for me. I’ve seen the good and the bad, both as a reader and an author, and if I can help one person learn how to make their path easier, then I consider it time well spent.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your estimates are pretty spot-on with other self-published authors out I’ve talked to. It’s one of the things keeping me from ultimately deciding if SP is for me. For now I’ll keep my options open. 🙂

    Congrats on your release this fall, I can’t wait to hear more about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree it’s a lot to consider when you think about cost versus overall sales. I like having the option of choosing who i work with rather than being stuck working with someone that may be forced on my by a
      traditional publisher. But that’s just my opinion. I think each author has to do what works best for them.


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