Indie Publishing Cost Analysis – Part I

The Creative Penn has a  post about the cost of indie publishing wherein she describes a sliding scale of possible expenditure by the indie author. At the low end, the enterprising and spendthrift indie can publish a book for about five bucks.  At the high end, an enterprising and astoundingly wealthy indie can spend over thirty thousand to achieve basically the same thing.  Note that I said basically, not exactly; the quality and distribution channels that come with a 30K price tag will surpass what you get for five dollars.  However, really great stories remain great, even if they’re written on free napkins with a stolen pen.  The problem there is that any work published that way is not only greatly limited in circulation, but limited in lifespan, too, because napkins have their ways of getting soggy or destroyed.  While I don’t intend to release  jewel-encrusted print editions, I want something a bit more accessible and lasting than a napkin:  I want a paperback and various electronic formats.

I’m more enterprising than I am astoundingly wealthy, so even my highest expenditures must be magnitudes lower than 30K.  But how low can I go? How low should I go?  What expenses can I cut, and still get what I want?  What is the least I can spend to get a version of my book to market?

To get a general illustration of how expenses might look, I did a quick workup of some various cost paths.  Bear in mind that these numbers are all rough estimates, and I could be missing important costs or vastly underestimating actual expenses. They are designed to give a very nonspecific picture of how much or how little I, or any any indie, could expend given the assumptions listed below.

The assumptions I made in generating my estimates are:

1.  Print cost is based on a 300 page, 6×9 POD by CreateSpace.

2.  I try to be economical where I can, especially with the print editions:

  • On cost paths where I purchase more than a couple of books, I upgrade to CreateSpace Pro to get the author copy discount; the CreateSpace Pro fee is included  where applicable.
  • On cost paths where I purchase very few books, I do not upgrade to CreateSpace Pro; the price difference for not getting the author copy discount is included in the price of the books.

3.   The cover design is a set fee of $500 for development of a single high-impact image that will look good in color, in black and white, and at thumbnail size.

4.  The editing and proofing are calculated at $30 – $35 an hour, with a cap at $600.

5.  Another aspect of being economical comes with the decision of how many ISBNs to purchase:

  • When more than one version of a book format is being published, the ISBN price is for the discounted 10 pack.
  • Otherwise, I buy only 1 ISBN.

6.  Copyright registration is a one time fee.

7.  The cost of a single barcode is included only when a physical edition of the book will be produced.

Analysis : A Realistic ‘All In’ Cost Path

The ‘all in’ path includes what I would have to pay for everything I can think of to help me market and publish my book. This is a realistic view that excludes expenses I have already decided are out of scope.  A few out of scope expenditures include web hosting, custom site design, and release of a hardback book.

I break out the expenses into four main categories: marketing, publishing, research and book deliverables.  I consider  ‘deliverables’ to include anything that directly impacts a reader’s experience of the book, such as the quality of editing or the cover design.  Marketing costs include a smartphone and associated dataplan for connectivity at all times;  a digital camera for book trailers and blog posts;  a Kindle for verifying formatting; and author copies for giveaways or promotions.  ISBN, barcode, copyright registration and the CreateSpace Pro fee are publishing costs. Research materials include books on WordPress, MovieMaker, Kindle formatting, and the indie author guide.  That leaves editing, proofing, and cover design as book deliverables .

Here is what the pie chart looks like:

Click for larger size.

This pie chart shows the percentage of money spent for each category:

Click for larger image.

Total Cost :  $3,562.99

The total cost is well below 30K, which is a very good thing!  What interests me is the final breakdown of percentages.  The publishing costs and book deliverables account for 58 percent of the total pie, and that is for both the paperback and any e-formats.   If my budget is tighter than what it takes to go ‘all in,’ what can I cut?  What makes sense to cut?

Want to see more indie publishing cost analysis?  Then check back for the next post in this series!  I’ll go over a more barebones cost path and an e-book only cost path!


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