Category Archives: Costs of self-publishing

Publishing children’s books

All the information on this site is relevant to publishing children’s books. However, if that’s what you are planning to do, there are some important considerations you need to keep in mind.

Low ebook sales
So far, there has been a lower swing to ebooks in children’s publishing with the majority of young children still reading on paper. No one knows why this is the case. It could be because it’s more fun to cuddle up to Mum with a paper book than an ebook or it could be because books are more resilient to being trodden on than Kindles and tablets.

Whatever the reason, publishing purely in ebook format limits your sales more dramatically with a children’s book than with a book for adults. That makes a print edition an important part of your publishing plan.

You can’t wrap an ebook
Many children’s books aren’t bought by children at all. They are bought by parents, grandparents and other friends and relatives as presents and these people all want to buy a paper book they can wrap up. This is another reason why it’s important to have a paper edition of your children’s book.

Picture books for pre-school children are normally illustrated in full colour. Chapter books for beginners and newly-confident readers are usually illustrated too, often with black and white line drawings rather than full colour. Paying an illustrator to produce these pictures pushes up the cost of publishing considerably. If you want to produce children’s books on a very limited budget, aim for the older end of the market (8+)  where there are usually no illustrations at all or maybe just one picture above each of the chapter headings.

Printed children’s books are normally priced lower than books for adults which means profit margins are tighter. Traditional publishers can overcome this with the lower per-copy costs that comes with large print runs and with cost sharing deals with foreign language publishers. However, neither of these options are available to self-publishing authors and the higher per-copy costs of print on demand can make it difficult to price your book competitively.

All these issues make it harder to be successful self-publishing children’s books than it would be if you tackled a popular genre like romance. However, writing and publishing for children brings satisfactions beyond the purely financial ones. Your books can turn children into readers, stimulate their imaginations and introduce them to whole new worlds.

Diana Kimpton

Funding your book

Self-publishing need not cost a fortune but, if you want to produce something worthwhile, you will have to spend something. But it’s important to remember the golden rule:

Never spend money self-publishing than you can’t afford to lose.

You can never be sure in advance how many copies you will sell so publishing is always a gamble. Even the big traditional publishers get it wrong sometime so you might too.

Funding the book from your savings
That’s by far the safest route. Decide how much you can afford to spend, set that as your budget and stick to it. If you can’t afford to do exactly what you had in mind, you may need to save a bit longer. Alternatively, you can adapt your plans to suit your budget.- perhaps by starting with an ebook as that’s the cheapest option and adding a print edition later when you can afford to.

This involves getting a lot of people to invest a small amount of money in your project, usually through one of the crowdfunding websites available online. I haven’t tried any of them  but I have heard of authors who have used the system successfully. You usually offer something in return for the investment and scale the gift to fit the size of the donation. So you might give a free epub to people who give a little, a free print book to people who give a bit more and a signed, free book to people who give even more.  Although crowdfunding seems like an exciting new development, it’s a new form of what used to be called subscription publishing where publishers funded a print run by selling copies in advance.

Borrowing the money
This is a a bad idea, especially if you use a bank, credit card or payday loan company that charges high interest rates. It’s an even worse idea if you put up your house or some other asset as security. You can’t tell in advance how many copies you will sell and, even if your book is successful in the long-term, you can’t guarantee that the money will come in fast enough to cover the repayments and the interest.

Which neatly brings us back to that Golden Rule which is worth repeating.

Never spend money self-publishing that you can’t afford to lose.

Diana Kimpton


How not to waste your money

Self-publishing is a growth industry. Authors new to the system are an easy target for people who are more interested in making a profit than in offering good value. So how can you make sure you don’t waste your money?

Be cautious when companies offer to do everything for you.
Some of them charge a great deal for a mediocre service and push you into buying expensive extras.  And don’t be fooled by the ones that are linked to big publishing houses. Using them won’t give you the credibility of being published by the big name publisher.

Check out other people’s experiences
Before you sign up with any service provider, try to find out how other people have got on with them. A search for the company name on Google will show up lots of references and a search for the company name plus words like complaint or problem may be even more illuminating. You can also look at the books listed on the company’s site and get in touch with their authors to ask how they got on.

Check if you own what you pay for
If you pay to have your book laid out for print or turned into an ebook, you should own the result and be able to use any company you choose to print the book or sell the ebook. Similarly, if you pay for a cover design, you need to be able to use it in all your publicity material or you’ll have real problems marketing your book. Avoid companies who restrict what you are allowed to do with the design or cover.

Similarly, if you decide to invest in a print run, all the books should belong to you. Run away if a self-publishing company asks you to pay for 500 to be printed and only offers you a few free copies in return. That’s a really bad deal.

Read contracts carefully
Never sign a contract you don’t understand and never believe a company that says it doesn’t enforce terms you don’t like. (see Beware of the small print)

Don’t pay for reviews
If your book is good enough, you should be able to get reviews for free so there’s no need to pay for them. Your money is best spent elsewhere as paid-for reviews often carry less weight with readers. However, giving a free copy to a potential reviewer is perfectly acceptable and a good investment, provided you have chosen the reviewer carefully. (see Getting reviews)

Be very cautious about paying for advertising
Paid-for advertising only works if it reaches enough of your potential readers so check out any opportunities carefully before you risk any money.  For an email newsletter, ask the owners for the number of subscribers (which is likely to be significantly higher than the number who actually read it). For a website, ask for the number of unique visitors per month or the number of page views on the page where your ad would appear. If the people concerned won’t give you that information, don’t use them.

If they do give you the numbers, you still need to compare the cost with the potential benefit. You could contact previous advertisers to ask how successful their ad was, and you could try negotiating the price down – that’s standard practice in advertising. It’s always better to buy any advertising direct. If you go through  a middle man, you’ll be paying a mark up on the actual cost.

Avoid marketing experts
The person who knows your book best is you so you are the best person to organise the marketing. You may want a bit of help with copy writing,web design or other specific aspects but don’t pay someone to do the whole job.

Don’t pay for Search Engine Optimisation
Once you have a website, you’ll get lots of people offering you SEO services. Don’t use them. They will cost you money and may use SEO tricks that search engines dislike so much that they count against you. Search engines are in the business of finding good, relevant sites. If your site is good, it will get listed.

Investigate competitions before you enter them
Check out the entry fee. Does it seem excessively high or is it a reasonable amount to cover expenses? Check out the prizes? Are there any and, if so, are they worth the entry fee? (Badges and stickers don’t count – they are just publicising the competition.) Check out the rules. Does entering grant the organisers any rights to use your book? Check out previous winners to see the standard that’s expected, and avoid brand-new competitions unless they are run by a reputable organisation.

Look at free alternatives before you pay to join something
Writing books is a lonely profession so it makes sense to band together and swap ideas about self-publishing and other topics. But you don’t have to pay money to do that. If you look around the internet, you’ll find plenty of relevant groups on Facebook, Linked in and Google+ – all available for you to join for free.

Diana Kimpton


The cost of self-publishing

When you self-publish, you have to pay all the costs of producing your book. But how much are those costs going to be? I’ve seen some widely varying estimates online and some terribly high charges asked by some of the companies that offer to do all the work for you. So, to give some clarity to the situation, I’ve decided to tell you how much I spent to produce my latest book.

matadorfrontcoverThere Must Be Horses is a 49,000 word novel for teens/young adults without illustrations. Before I started down the self-publishing road, I set myself a maximum budget of £2000 so I was pleasantly surprised to find I only spent £650 to produce the book in both ebook and print-on-demand format. Here’s a breakdown of where the money went.

I decided that I wanted my own ISBNs so I bought a block of 10 for £121.98. I used three for There Must Be Horses – one for the print edition, one for the Kindle book and one for the epub edition. The £650 includes the full cost of these, but I’ve got seven left over for other books.

Structural Edit
I was determined to produce a book to the same standards as a traditional publisher so I paid a professional editor to do a proper, structural edit. She commented on how the book worked, picking up bits of the plot that didn’t quite work and highlighting places where the motivation wasn’t clear, behaviour wasn’t believable or the pacing went wrong. I paid an hourly rate of £22.50 to someone I had worked with in the past and whose opinion I trusted. I’d already done several rewrites by the time I gave it to her so she didn’t have too much work and the final cost was £162. Obviously this would cost you more if your book had more structural issues.

Copy Edit
Once I’d finished sorting out all the issues raised by the structural edit, I handed the book over to an experienced freelance copy editor. He picked up spelling and punctuation errors (I’m dreadful with question marks) and subtle issues such as using a mixture of em-dashes and en-dashes – an error caused by the way Word works. He also pointed out an issue with chapter lengths that I had introduced while sorting out the structural edit. He charged £18 per hour and the total cost was £112. Again, this would be more expensive if the book contained more errors so I gained from having given him a relatively clean manuscript.

I had originally decided this was beyond me and commissioned a cover designer recommended by a friendly small publisher. The price was going to be £350, but the designer had taken on too much work and, when the cover was three months late, I decided to cancel the order and try designing it myself. With some help from my husband who has done a course in Photoshop and feedback from long-suffering friends, I finally created both the ebook and print covers myself. The costs involved were £111 for pictures from and £51 for a copy of Serif PagePlusX6 – powerful, inexpensive software that’s ideal for self-publishers.

Ebook creation
Steve and I are web designers so this was something we managed easily using software we already had and free software we downloaded. It’s a pretty straightforward process if no pictures are involved so, even if you’ve no technical experience, you can do this yourself using  Amazon’s KDP system and Draft2Digital’s system. For me the total cost was zero.

Interior design for print
I started off thinking I would have to pay for this and was quoted £350. But I didn’t want to end up with an InDesign file that I couldn’t edit myself when I spotted a typo so I decided to try doing it myself using PagePlus. It took me a while to get the hang of the software and to understand the principles of book design (more of this in another post) but, with the help of an excellent book, a kind man on the PagePlus helpline and, I finally produced a book that looked professional and had all the features I wanted. (dropped caps at beginning of chapters, clear text, good line spacing). Apart from the software that I’ve already included, the only cost was a copy of The Non-Designer’s Design and Type Books for just under £30 – expensive but really useful.

Print-on-demand set up
I produced the print-on-demand edition with Createspace using the pdf files for the interior and cover that I had produced with PagePlus. As a result, the only cost was £23 for two paper proofs. One would have been enough if I’d spotted the problem with the first one in the digital proof checker provided by Createspace but the fact that I didn’t proves the value of getting a proper proof copy. A large part of this cost was fast delivery to the UK. If you are based in the US, the proofs will be less expensive.

By the time I had spent that £650, There Must Be Horses was on sale in Amazon and the Kobo shop on both sides of the Atlantic. I hope this gives you some useful figures to compare with the thousands that some self-publishing services charge (usually without any editing). 

Diana Kimpton

US tax for UK authors

If you sell your books in the States, any money you earn there is subject to US tax. As a result, Amazon, Draft2Digital and other US companies will deduct 30% withholding tax from everything you earn through them. However, the US and UK have tax treaties designed to stop people being taxed twice on the same income. As a result, there are three ways to deal with this issue.

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