How Expensive is Self-Publishing?

by Mike Sententia on February 9, 2012

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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.

Today: Costs.

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.

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.

Other posts in this series: If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kol Drake February 9, 2012 at 11:32 AM

Get a doctorate in anything from one of those ‘alternative education’ institutes. Then you can always be Doctor Mike… and give advice on anything (like Dr. Laura and others) and still have all those lovely initials after your name. Give some seminar/lectures and have at least one or two ‘wow’ demonstrations so folks spread the word. (Or even some successful private healing sessions after.) Word of mouth tends to better then spending tons on advertising — since you spend a lot learning ‘what’ targets best to ‘whom’.

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Mike Sententia February 9, 2012 at 1:21 PM

I’ll keep that in mind as a future option. Probably more expense and effort than writing a book, and my hope is that, with good word of mouth, I won’t need a pseudo-degree. But thanks for the idea.

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Taylor Ellwood February 9, 2012 at 8:45 PM

In regards to how occult publishers make money…They don’t make a lot. I don’t even get a salary and I only get a royalty for the books I edit. But that’s not why I’m doing it. I’m doing it, because one of my callings is to publish high quality occult non fiction.

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Kol Drake February 9, 2012 at 9:09 PM

heh.. the first bits were tongue-in-cheek, although the idea of seminars and ‘word of mouth’ were serious.

Have you checked out this place?

http://diggypod.com/index.html

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Mike Sententia February 9, 2012 at 9:25 PM

Yeah, word of mouth is the key, whether you self-publish or go with a publishing house. It’s not that the classes advertise the book, or the book advertises the classes. It’s that they all get people interested in my form of direct magick (which I’m realizing really is a sub-type and needs a name). And that general interest drives sales of books, classes, healings, and whatever else I’m doing.

Thanks for the link. I haven’t really researched particular POD places yet. Thanks for helping out.

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