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Short answer: $1,000 for a professional job.
I’ve been weighing self-publishing vs going with a small occult publishing house. I’m writing up my research / thinking in this series, in case it’s useful to someone else.
Self-publishing itself has zero up-front costs. You submit your book as a PDF, pay a few bucks per book when someone buys it, and that’s it.
But if you do everything yourself, you wind up with a lot of headaches and a lousy book. Here’s the cost for a high-quality book (I’m figuring around 100 pages, which is around 30 long blog posts):
- Editor: Around $500. Price is per word or page, so a 500-pager will be 5x as expensive.
- Artist, for cover art: Incredibly variable, but Createspace charges $350, which seems like a good ballpark.
- Layout: $250 on Createspace, not tied to length.
Tip: Have an independent artist do the cover. Print on demand publishers make very little per book sold, so they have little incentive to produce something great. They sell convenience, not exceptional books.
For this $1k, you can then sell your book for, let’s say, $10-20. Once Amazon and the printer take their cut, you get about 1/2 of the cover price. So, you’ll recoup that $1k investment after 100-200 sales.
If you’re not an author, that probably sounds easy. It’s not. Over the lifetime of a book? Sure, 30 years from now I’ll have my thousand bucks back, plus a few hundred profits. But I’d do better buying a government bond. Publishing a book loses money, and it only makes sense as an investment in teaching / speaking / a healing practice / etc.
To put those numbers in perspective, a standard publishing house deal gets you about 10% royalties per book ($1-2), with zero costs up front. But again, if we’re talking 100-200 books, $1-2 per book isn’t even worth considering.
So, the end message is: Don’t publish to make money. (Which I already knew). Publish to establish yourself as an expert and drive the rest of your career.
But there’s a second message: The costs and profits are so small that you should totally ignore the money — both the up-front costs and the royalty rate — when considering self-publishing vs a publishing house. Instead, go with whatever will accomplish your career goals the best (energy healing, teaching, etc).
So next, I’ll look at publicity.
Other posts in this series:
Aside: How do book publishers make any money? Sure, their editors and artists and everyone are staff, so they cost probably half what a freelancer does, but there are also lawyers and managers and other overhead. I’m getting the feeling that the answer is: Publishers don’t make much money, at least in the occult world.
- Magick Books: Self-Publish vs Publishing House (February 3, 2012)
- How Expensive is Self-Publishing? (February 9, 2012)
- Why Publishers Don't Help With Publicity (February 10, 2012)
- The Down-Side of Publishing Houses (February 11, 2012)