For the longest time, I've wondered why publishers keep such a high percentage of an author's royalty, well, I'm starting to get it. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the publisher I've worked with so far. They're on the ball, have an incredible designer, and their editors are easy to work with. All in all, I love them. But that didn't stop me from wanting to try self-publishing.
Even before I signed my contract on my first novel, I've wanted to try self-pubbing. Getting a higher percentage of your sales and having the freedom to do what you want with your book (like setting promotional prices, etc) is really tempting. Would I change how I went through a publisher for my Primordial Guardians series? Nope. Not at all. I'm happy with the team I have at Evernight.
But, I mean really, how much does the publisher actually do? They pay someone to edit the book and pay for the cover, and that's it, right? Umm...no. That's not it.
So, how has self-publishing gone so far you ask? Well, I'll tell you some of the things I've learned on this journey, and how it has differed from my experience working with a publisher.
No matter if you're going the traditional publishing route or doing it on your own, editing is an integral part of producing a great book. Here is how, in my experience, the processes have differed.
- Publisher: Your publisher will take care of not only paying for this, but they've also got editors on-hand that they know and trust to do a good job.
- Self-publishing: You have options. You can decide if you want to pay for an editor (they charge a certain amount per word), which means, unless you know someone will do a good job, it's kind of a shot in the dark. If you don't want to pay someone? Just hope that you have some incredible critique partners to let you know what you need to improve on. Also, you'll want to edit, edit, edit yourself. Just to give you an idea of what it might cost to pay for an editor, let's just say that the average for one of my books would be around $500.00. We'll tally up these costs at the end and see where we're at.
Everyone knows that you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but let's face it...we all do. The cover can make or break a book in those first precious few seconds that a reader is trying to decide what book to buy next.
- If you use a publisher, this is also something they pay for. Again, they work with designers they know will do a good job, and they strive to make it the way you want. They'll generally send you a cover art worksheet that you fill out with character details and the main theme of the story so that the cover artist has a good starting point. Some publishers allow you to reject a cover if you're not happy with it. With others, you're stuck with what they made, even if it doesn't really work with your book.
- If you self-pub, you can pretty much do whatever you want. There are sites out there that offer completed covers, and when you order them, they'll fill in the Author Name, Title Name, Series Name, etc. for you and email you a high res copy of your cover. On the flip side, if you're a master at editing graphics, you can search through stock photos and piece together your own - just make sure you read the policies on what can/can't be done with the photos. In many cases, your cover/stock photos can only be used a certain number of times, so if you sell that many books (and let's hope you do!) you have to buy them again in order to continue using them. As far as costs go, you're probably looking at at least $20.00 for stock photos you put together yourself, vs. up to $150.00 (if not more) for completed covers. For our little tally, let's split the difference and go with $85.00.
What's that you say? Yeah, this one snuck up on me in the wee hours of the morning while I was getting ready to upload my file. An ISBN is a unique number that's sortof like a book's social security number. Each version of your book has it's own. So, if you're going to print your book, there's one ISBN, if you're going to do one for Kindle, there's another. Want to do one for Nook, well, there's another...you get my point. In my research, some authors do not assign an ISBN for their eBooks. I'm not sure how they get around it, but it appears publishers do assign one for eBooks, so I followed suit. I also found that some print-on-demand companies offer a free ISBN for your print book. I did not go with that option though, as I found some cons I just didn't want to deal with down the road. Do your due diligence and see what's best for you. Here are the differences between publishers and doing it on your own:
- Publisher: They pay for your ISBNs. The great thing for publishers is that they can order hundreds or thousands of these at a time, so they can get the numbers a lot cheaper than self-publishing authors (unless your well off).
- Self-publishing: You're covering this cost yourself. When you go to the website (for those in the U.S. it's Bowker, or you'll want to check your local ISBN agency), you'll see options to buy your ISBN. You can buy one for $125.00 (I would not recommend this unless you are planning to publish your book in one version and one version ONLY), or it goes up from there, so you can get 10 for $250.00. For our tally, let's go with the $250.00 option.
This might not seem like that big of a task, but it adds up with all the different versions. Things I was able to get away with in the print book (fancy text), I couldn't do in the eBook. Not to mention that you might as well start over with formatting between each version because, so far, none of them are even remotely the same.
- Publisher: They take care of this. Whether they do it themselves or they pay someone, it's not on your time, or on your dime (except for a percentage of your royalty).
- Self-publishing: It's all on you, babe. If you're like me and you're trying to save money, you'll probably attempt this yourself. You might pull your hair out, you might not. Either way, you'll either pay someone to do it (I've seen sites that offer it starting at $50.00 for each version), or you'll spend hours figuring it out on your own. For this one, we'll just assume that you do it on your own for our tally, so it costs $0.00, just a lot of time.
Print-book cover art
Wha-wha-what? Yeah, this isn't included in the normal cover (unless you had the forethought to worry about it from the get-go and found a website or stock images that took care of it all in one swoop).
- Publisher: They take care of the costs and design of this.
- Self-publishing: Here again, it's on you. Based on the costs tallying so far, you might just do a plain cover with some fun fonts or even a gradient (like me), or maybe you'll get some more stock images and do a fancy one. Either way, you're going to need good graphic design software (can we say something along the lines of PhotoShop?) because of the requirements on dpi/ppi, sizing, etc. Don't do what I did and assume that you can get away with making one in Paint or PowerPoint, because that was just hours wasted. For the tally, let's go with the $0.00 route and assume that you found a good, free software that can export to print-quality PDF for your cover.
No matter which way you publish, you'll be doing your own marketing. Yes, publishers have a good following of people, as well as other authors that support you, but that doesn't mean you can sit back and wait for the money to (hopefully) roll in. Social Media, swag, conferences, book signings, blog tours, etc...you're doing it all. I won't break down the differences between self- and regular publishing since I just listed how similar the two are.
Now, that I've listed the points (I apologize if I've missed anything) let's tally up our totals.
Right now we're at $835.00 on costs to self-pub. To re-coup those costs, here is a fun little breakdown of how many books it could potentially take to earn your money back based on a 70% royalty (this excludes other distribution fees you may incur, and just acts as an example):
Sell price # of books
So, hopefully this little (cough, cough) list of differences will help you decide which route is best for you.