What does it cost to write and publish a book?

When working out the cost of publishing a book, a storyteller must take into consideration the cost of the services available to her throughout the storytelling timeline, and decide which services she doesn’t need, those she absolutely needs and will pay for, and those she will do herself.

The cost of setting up the business. She should think about what kind of business structure she’ll create. The cost of setting up her business will most likely have a bearing on what kind of business she’ll set up, whether it will be the super economical sole proprietorship structure, which will nonetheless leave her liable for any debts or financial obligations owed by her company, or the more expensive limited liability company, which protects her from financial liability. It is highly recommended that a storyteller register her business as an LLC, for it not only protects her from financial liability, it does, furthermore, carry the aura of greater professionalism and prestige, and will grow with her as her career as an author evolves.

The cost of setting up a business as an LLC – or incorporating it – includes legal fees, since this process is usually undertaken by a lawyer, and in Barbados, incorporating a business costs approximately BBD$1,500.00. In some jurisdictions, it costs nothing to set up as a sole proprietorship, but in Barbados, the cost is approximately BBD$150.00.

Write it yourself, or hire a ghostwriter? Many people dream of writing a bestseller, but they just don’t have the time to devote to the meticulous and time-consuming writing process. In his case, hiring a ghostwriter is an option. Be sure, however, that you’re crystal clear about your purpose for hiring a ghostwriter. There is a very thin line between hiring someone to put down in writing your own developed story idea from your notes or recordings, and hiring someone to create a manuscript with no input from you, but for which you receive authorial credit. The latter is a form of cheating, and is a very dishonest practice employed by many in the publishing industry.

The cost of hiring a ghostwriter varies according to the degree of difficulty of the writing process, as well as the length of time it takes the ghostwriter to complete the work, and can range anywhere between $500 – $50,000, or more.

Having the manuscript edited. Assuming the storyteller creates her own manuscript, one unavoidable cost is that of having the manuscript edited, even if she’s a very good writer. Many writers try to cut costs by neglecting to hire a professional editor to prepare their manuscript for publication. The result is usually a book that does not meet industry standards, which, of course affects their sales, and, worse, damages their reputation.

In my experience as a manuscript editor, there are several variables I need to consider before I set a price on my service. This is why I don’t have a rate sheet. Each publishing project is unique, and though I have a system, I tend to tweak it to suit the unique nature of each project.

For example, when I assess a manuscript, I take note of the quality of the manuscript, or how well it’s written. If the storyteller writes well, has a good command of the grammar, and has, furthermore, written a powerful, engaging story, I charge less than if the manuscript is filled with grammatical errors, is poorly structured, and isn’t very interesting. This is because it takes much longer to edit a poorly written manuscript than a well written manuscript, and the degree of difficulty of editing a poorly written manuscript is higher than that of a well written manuscript.

A competent editor might charge anywhere from USD$1,700.00 to USD$3,000 for editing a manuscript. Having your manuscript professionally edited is an essential component of your publishing strategy, and a good editor is worth her weight in gold. My own editing service includes an initial reading of the manuscript, a critique of the manuscript and recommendations for its improvement in a report, recommendations for a marketing strategy, and several rounds of editing, from content editing to proofreading. I also format the manuscript for publication.

A book is judged by its cover. Yes, people do literally judge a book by its cover, and so it’s important to create a really great cover for your book. It’s best not to do this yourself, unless you are an artist. Otherwise, get yourself a good graphic designer.

The cost of hiring an artist to create a cover usually starts at approximately USD$1,500. Bear in mind that the more skilled the artist and engaging the artwork, the more costly this service will be.

Let CreateSpace handle your manuscript. Many storytellers use Amazon’s independent publishing platform, CreateSpace, which is a one-stop publishing service. CreateSpace does not offer an editing service, but they do have a Custom Interior service, which includes formatting the manuscript in pdf, epub and MOBI formats, in addition to putting it through one free round of editing. CreateSpace will design your front and back cover, and provide you with a complimentary ISBN.

The cost of the CreateSpace Custom Interior is approximately USD$349.00. This includes the insertion and formatting of ten images, with a one-time cost of USD$25 for additional images. The Custom Cover (front and back) is approximately USD$399.00, and there is a charge of USD$249.00 for the back cover copy, or Marketing Essentials, as they call it. After your initial payment, they charge USD$50 for every round of corrections they have to make to your manuscript and cover, so it’s important that you send them a flawless manuscript to begin with, and that when they send your proofs, you look them over very carefully.

With regard to actually printing the book, CreateSpace offers a print on demand (POD) service, so that they do not print a book unless there’s a demand for it, that is, unless someone orders it, so you incur no up-front printing costs. The book production costs are taken from the sales – or royalties – of your book.

The unit cost of printing with CreateSpace is roughly USD$3.25 per book for a black and white book. The cost of a full color book is USD$14.00. In addition, they offer a Kindle publishing service for USD$79 dollars.

Overview of CreateSpace Book Production Breakdown Cost in USD and BBD
Custom Interior (inclusive of 10 images) USD$349 or BBD$698
Additional Images (One-time Cost) USD$25 or BBD$50
Custom Cover USD$399 or BBD$798
Marketing Copy Essentials USD$249 or BBD$498
Library of Congress Control Number USD$25 or BBD$50
Kindle Conversion USD$79 or BBD$158
Subtotal USD $1,126 or BBD$2,252

About Amazon. Though Amazon is one of the biggest businesses on the planet – which has garnered the company a tremendous amount of legitimacy and credibility – there has been a great deal of negative press about it, specifically in the area of employee relations. The word out there is that Jeff Bezos just doesn’t treat his people good. Market analyst, Marshall Auerback, observes that

Amazon likes to see itself as a cutting-edge, 21st-century growth company, always working to expedite delivery to its customers, whether by means of a drone, or eliminating queueing and bagging at its newly acquired Whole Foods stores with a new smartphone app. Beneath this high-tech sheen, however, the online retailer and tech giant engages in labor practices that provoke comparisons to a 19th-century sweatshop. The company routinely pays wages barely above the poverty line, while using intrusive surveillance systems to monitor the workforce, fence them in with elaborate rules, set target times for their warehouse journeys, and then measure whether targets were met. All of this information is made available to management in real time, and if Amazon’s “employee-athletes” fall behind schedule, they receive a Big Brother-like text message pushing them to reach their targets or suffer the consequences. Failure to do so is met with a “three strikes and release” discipline system—being a euphemism for getting sacked.

I think we should be as aware of exploitative workplace practices in the so-called industrialized world as we are of such practices in countries like China and India. However, if you feel you want to set up an account and begin to work with CreateSpace, go to https://www.createspace.com/