The Costs of Self-Publishing

by Ashlynmathews on February 21, 2016

The costs of self-publishing can add up quickly. Your needs or wants might differ from mine. The below are my starter or maintenance expenses.

Let’s begin with names. I decided from the start that I would use a pen name. I value my privacy and that of my family’s. I used my middle name as my first, and a version of my husband’s first name as my last. For my publishing company’s name, I chose Commencement Bay Publishing. I use that company name for my contemporary romances. For my paranormal romances, I use First Bite Publishing. All three business names are registered with my county as a DBA (Doing Business As). I also made sure the name and the company names weren’t already used by someone else.

Next is putting together a profile for social media sites and setting up a website. Be sure to have a great picture to post on each site. I had mine professionally taken by a friend who does awesome work.

Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are free to sign up and use. A website is a different story. I started with as my web host. With their help, I also bought my domain name. Be sure to pick a name that is easy for people to remember. I went with my first and last name and dot com. I used weebly’s site before I truly understood the cost and upkeep that goes into a site. Eventually, I left weebly and went searching for a web designer. I looked through my fellow writers’ websites, and loved a particular one designed by the DigitalHook. I contacted them and James began designing my site. The cost of my website includes a renewal of my domain name, hosting site (Bluehost), and Akismet subscription (blocks hundreds of spam comments a month). I’m currently with WordPress. WordPress is free but I decided to go with what Jame’s did for me. He built the site on his server then found me a hosting site, Bluehost. I love the ease of blogging and being in charge of my site. The learning curve was a bit high in the beginning, and I’m still learning, but I like having the option of changing and adding content to my site. I’m sure there are pros and cons to the free site, too. If you’ve discovered them, please feel free to share in a comment.

Once the website and social media sites are set up be sure to start interacting. Social media can be a time sucker so choose one you really like and consistently post there. I like Facebook and Pinterest. I tend to share what I have on my Pinterest boards with my likes on Facebook. For Facebook, you’ll need to have a personal profile first before you can set up a page where people can “like” your page. My profile page is set up for friends while my page is for my book stuff. Also, consider having a designer design a banner for the social sites. Or research sites that will let you create one at little to no cost. I’ve heard Canva is a good one. Also, Fiverr is a great place to use. Just remember that you get what you pay for :).

After social media, start preparing for the publishing piece of indie publishing. Set up your accounts with the different publishing sites. I have an account with Amazon Kindle Publishing, Smashwords (for wide distribution) and AllRomance Ebooks. I can distribute to Apple iBooks and Barnes and Noble (Nook) through Smashwords. Some authors prefer Draft2Digital for wide distribution. I prefer the ease of Smashwords’ daily book sales report. Once the accounts are set up, I buy ISBNs through Bowkers. It’s more cost effective to buy the ISBNs in bundles than one at a time. Unless you plan on publishing only one book. The publishing sites do provide FREE ISBNs. However, I like to use my own. Maybe later, I’ll change my mind :). Ebooks and print books have separate ISBNs.

Whether you bought your own ISBN or would rather have one issued FREE by each publishing site, the steps of getting the book ready to be released happens before or simultaneously to the above steps. These costs are: editing (Levels of Editing article), book cover, and formatting and uploading to the publishing sites. I use book cover designers and copy editors but format and upload my books.

Formatting and uploading was also a big learning curve for me. I use Jutoh to create mobi and epub files for uploading. I highly recommend buying Maggie Lynch’s book for step-by-step help with this part. A good way to help with costs is to learn to do some of these steps. I tried making my own book covers and realize I’d rather leave this talent to someone else. Same with copy editing :). Book covers range from $5 (Fiverr, and not recommended if publishing a series) to a couple of hundred dollars. Many designers use stock photos so be ready to see the same couples on different book covers. Many book cover designers also offer premade covers at a reasonable price. Copy editing prices range depending on word count.

Another good investment is buying a PO BOX. For privacy reasons, I have a PO BOX listed as my address on my newsletters, done through Mailchimp. Newsletters are a great way to get the word out about sales and new releases. I highly recommend starting one from the get-go even if only family members or friends sign up. Currently, I have 17 subscribers. I’m grateful for having any at all :).

Self-publishing can be costly. Keeping track of income and expenses is the first step to really seeing what’s coming in and out. I’m sure there are apps or programs out there to track expenses and income. I use the old standby–Microsoft Excel. I hope this post helps to dispel any belief that self-publishing is easy, fast, or cheap. Thoughts on any of the above? Be sure to leave a comment.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Brenda February 21, 2016 at 2:32 pm

I’ve been EXTREMELY lucky in that my cover artist, photographer, and editor are all in-house, which means I don’t have to worry about those costs. I keep a very small budget for PR and advertising, and my website is free. But as my sales have been growing, I’ll be looking to increase my PR and advertising budget, and perhaps, be able to afford to purchase a domain name.


Ashlynmathews February 21, 2016 at 2:36 pm

That’s awesome. I’ve met many authors who wear the designer and editor hats. Or have family members that help with a lot of the leg work. Getting the family involved in a personal passion and business is another idea to help keep costs low. Thank you for responding!


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