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The Real Cost of Self-Publishing

1 March 2013

From Bloomberg:

Stephen King rocked the publishing world when he began distributing books online in 2000. J.K. Rowling roiled the industry again in 2011 when she decided to self-publish her Harry Potter series through her own platform, Pottermore. Such big names join thousands of others who are self-publishing books — though many do so because it’s their only option.

More than 235,000 books and e-books were self-published in 2011 in the U.S., four times the number in 2006, according to Bowker.

. . . .

Over the years, says Michael Prescott, who self-published “Deadly Pursuit,” a few readers have complained of spelling mistakes. A good editor may have found those errors. Still, Prescott, who has sold about 1.3 million e-books, can’t bring himself to hire one, though he hires a proofreader. “Editors feel like they have to make all kinds of suggestions,” he says. “I’m not in the mood for that.”

. . . .

Getting a book into a brick-and-mortar chain bookstore is near impossible, even for traditional publishers. If you publish an e-book, distribution is as simple as uploading your manuscript to, say, the online bookstores of Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. If you don’t want to deal with quirky software, a service such as Independent Publishers Group will take your manuscript, format it for every site and distribute it for you. The downside: You won’t get instant sales reports, and the distributor takes a cut.

Link to the rest at Bloomberg


13 Comments to “The Real Cost of Self-Publishing”

  1. Looks like Nikhil sought out the most expensive options that weren’t out-and-out scams. Very misleading coverage.

  2. An author taking the self published route needs to do their homework. How long would it take for you to get that money back?
    I agree with J.M. Ney-Grimm that it sounds kind of scammy.

  3. Hmm, $8,000 for book printing and $500 for a single review. Does anyone still do that?

    Plus top shelf rates for editing and design. If you want an elite, famous former NYC editor or someone who’se designed movie posters and mega best-seller covers, sure you’ll pay what he quotes but I think the days are shortly numbered for how much longer you’ll hear about indies paying those kind of rates. They’re just not competitive with all the amazing new talent that’s available now.

    Sigh, another indie pub article from someone who doesn’t even know the basics.

  4. I didn’t think that the distinction between self-publishing and vanity publishing was all that hard to see, but I continue to be proven wrong.

    Once again: $15.

  5. I think this is media hype. No mention that these things are optional, and lower cost versions are available.

    He needed a hook for his article, and he went with it.

  6. This Julia Pandl they reference sure loves to waste money. Yikes.

  7. The total cost for my first book — ebook all platforms plus trade paperback — under $400. Most of that went for the ebook because it had 300 footnotes. Everything else I did myself, using Word and a simple drawing program.

    That was two years ago. Now, you can buy Joel Friedlander’s book templates and create a pretty nifty book of your own, and there’s better software out there for ebook conversions, so you could conceivably DIY for nothing.

    That the Forbes article mentions nothing like that tells you that the writer is bad at research or there’s a built-in bias.

  8. It’s important to consider Bloomberg’s demographic when evaluating the value of the information in this series. Bloomberg’s not The Motley Fool, so its news and features are a reflection of its target audience. Bloomberg’s primary business is reporting and aggregating bleeding edge investment data and news, and the Bloomberg Terminal—the product on which its delivered—costs $2000 per month. Not every Bloomberg reader has a BT, of course, but the site’s demo is generally people in that stratosphere. Eight grand might be reasonable if they perceive they’re getting value from it.

    • Rob

      I get your point completely. If a 7 figure a year, 80 hour a week Wall Street type wants to self-pub her romance novel on the side or just for kicks, by all means, she can go pay for premium services. God knows she has neither the time or inclination to scour hundreds of blogs and boards for the absolute best service deals and the latest promo tips. Fine, that all makes perfect sense.

      But paying thousands to stockpile books in your garage or hundreds for ONE Kirkus review, which countless indies have all done before? Seriously, self-pub advice doesn’t get any older than that. I take exception that the functions they reviewed are presented as the only and best options because it’s what a one or a few well known writers did way back in the early days. That’s astronomically far from the truth and from what’s current and that’s just shoddy journalism to me.

      BTW, how’s the book format biz been?

      • The series isn’t presented as the “only and best” options. If you look at other things in the “Real Cost of…” series—which includes things like owning a bespoke wardrobe and medical tourism—it follows the same formula: here’s the full-ish menu of things someone with money-to-spend *can* do, along with examples of what to expect in terms of price (most of the items in the self-publishing feature give a high- and mid-range in this regard).

        And the production biz is busier than ever. Thanks for asking.

  9. A proofreader who can catch spelling and grammar mistakes is something every indie should have, but the idea that Big 5 books are free of errors is a myth.

  10. I read through the slide show before scrolling down to read the comments here and boy, am I glad I’m not alone. Several of the slides held such out-of-date or poor information that I wondered what was going on? Bloomberg has a high reputation, right? Why publish info that was so blatantly incorrect?

    You have all made me feel better. And I feel for poor Julie, whoever she is. Thank you to Rob for putting Bloomberg in perspective, as well. I’d forgotten there was another segment to our population for whom money isn’t really an obstacle. You are absolutely correct. Eight thousand dollars has percieved value. What is impossible for one is pocket change for another.

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