By Ron Pramschufer, President , Self Publishing, Inc. – Helping Authors Become Publishers since 1995
This is probably the most common question I’m asked by new authors wanting to self-publish. How much? The answer to this lies somewhere between “How much is a car?” and “How much is your $14.95 muffler?” Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of what you are going to find on the Internet falls into the later.
The “how much is it going to cost?” is a logical question to come up, fairly early on in the process. There is no easy answer to this other than, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I don’t even know if cars have mufflers anymore but anyone over a certain age has been caught, at least once, with the $14.95 muffler “come-on”. All the muffler “specialists” used to advertise this way to get you in the door. Did anyone ever walk out the door paying $14.95 for a muffler? If you carried that muffler away in a box, maybe, but if you actually wanted it put on your car, you didn’t walk away without spending a few hundred dollars. Your final invoice was a few pages long, with “Muffler – $14.95” listed on line one and all the various brackets and other parts, which you always seemed to need, on lines 2-30. In the end, the best “value” was probably the guy with the $40 muffler but didn’t overcharge for everything else.
This is the primary sales model of virtually all of the vanity presses, lurking out there on the Internet, like Westbow, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, & iUniverse. I am a sales prospect of most of these companies so I get to listen to their various sales “pitches”. Whether it’s a nice person working 3rd shift in the Phillipines for Xlibris or a somewhat slicker sales person calling from Author House or any one of a number of “Your Name Imprinted Here” Author Solutions imprints like Westbow Press and Abbot Press, the pitch is the same. Buy one title, get one free…50% off publishing packages … $500 off some group of assorted “options”… it’s all nonsense. You are not going to walk away from any of those places until you have maxed out your credit card or credit cards, if you have a particularly persuasive salesperson, no matter how much your “muffler/book” originally cost. In the end, you are going to have next to no sales, a few printed copies, an ISBN that you don’t own and printing files that you don’t own.
The easiest way to weed out the $14.95 muffler guys is to purchase an ISBN and tell everyone you are interviewing that you plan on using it for your book. You also want to confirm that you own the printing files and can have copies of those files when the initial printing is done. If there is a charge for the files, fine, find out what it is, up front. This will eliminate 99% of the Vanity Presses and narrow your search from hundreds, to a handful of worthwhile alternatives.
Now that we have eliminated the muffler salespeople, we are down to the “how much is a car?” If you want a Mercedes you don’t go to a Hyundai dealer and vice versa. If you need a car to go a mile away to the train station and back you don’t need a Mercedes. If you are driving an hour to work each day, and can afford it, you might want that Mercedes. Same thing applies to publishing a book. If you are publishing a book for family and friends, your needs are different than if you are publishing to build or supplement a business. I developed a simple quiz to help you decide where you fall. This What kind of self-publisher are you? quiz can be taken at http://www.selfpublishing.com/type/quiz/. If you haven’t taken it before, you really should. You might be surprised at the analysis. You will not only be able to print out the results but the follow-up email gives you an idea of what you will need to spend to achieve your goal.
You have 2 basic costs, no matter what your plans include:
The first is the ISBN. The retail price of a single ISBN is $125 plus $25 for a barcode, which can either be bought directly from the agency of from an authorized agent, like www.selfpublishing.com. If you agree to let SelfPublishing.com do the printing, that price is discounted to $99, including the barcode. You will need at least one additional ISBN for the eBook version if you plan on trying to sell the book in outlets beyond Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
The second is the hi-res PDF files, suitable for printing. If you think you can do it yourself, on this one… God Bless you, but book and cover design is best left for people who do it for a living. It’s harder than it looks. There are very few people who can design a book without it looking homemade. The cost of layout and cover design varies from designer to designer. The majority of you reading this will most likely be happy with a good basic design package. SelfPublishing.com is introducing a new package which costs $675 and includes text, cover and eBook for fiction and prose reading non-fiction. This package is only available to publishers who print with Self Publishing, Inc. Once the first printing is complete, you can get a copy of the printing PDF for $49, which includes saving the files to a disc and postage to get it to you. Complete details should be posted at www.selfpublishing.com by the time this article is posted.
At this point we are at $774 and we haven’t printed the first book yet. Can you publish a book for $500? Nope. Even if the book is for family and friends you will need at least 100 copies. The cost of 100 copies of a standard 256 page book is around $600 plus shipping from the printer to you. The THOR five card Royal Flush, which will be written about in detail very soon, is available for $149. The current services include:
- POD distribution to 26,000 outlets, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble;
- Book printing from 2-100 at the 100 copy unit cost with no administrative fee;
- Editable title website tied into Amazon;
- Enrollment in Self Publishing, Inc Affiliate Program, which pays you for every new author you or your website refers to SelfPublishing.com and becomes a customer; and,
- COMING Soon: EBook fulfillment.
So where are we now? Two ISBNs, a design package, 100 books and inclusion into Thor distribution – approx. $1500. Can you do it for less? Not really. Can you spend more? Of course you can, but you are starting with a foundation that is easy to build on. “How about editing?” That’s another article. “Who is in charge of my title?” You are. “Who owns my ISBN?” You do. “Who owns my printing files?” You do after the first printing. “Who earns the publisher profit on sales of my book?” You do. “Will you still print for me if I supply my own printing files?” Of course, as long as the files are printable and correct.
“Why shouldn’t I get started today?” I can’t think of a single reason.