Archive for 2019/04/20

How much does it cost to self-publish a book? Our example: “In Tents” by Andy Kaiser

This post is about self-publishing costs, measured in US dollars and time spent. While I’ve self-published several books, In Tents was a little different, and justifies a writeup. Unlike my other books, In Tents was published using a version of specific steps that I intend to repeat.

For some earlier books, I made my own cover art. For all of them, I never hired an editor or a typesetter, and otherwise skimped on the process more than I should have. In Tents is the first book I’ve self-published where I didn’t cut any corners, and took reasonable time, energy and money to make the best book I could. I’ll refine this later, but so far I’m happy with what this effort got me. This will be my template for future books.

How much did it cost to self-publish In Tents? Here is a breakdown of dollars and hours. Direct links to all services are included in the “Money Spent” section below.

Time invested to create “In Tents”: 166 hours

  1. Book design, concept, world-building and high-level plotting: I spent my time on this one different than my usual method of solo coffee shop brainstorming. The weekly writing group I attend took a side project to run through exercises in John Truby’s “The Anatomy of Story”, and the skeleton of In Tents was born from those exercises. Approximately 8 sessions at 2 hours of effort each: 16 hours.
  2. First draft: I wrote 47,000 words in 17 chapters in 140 days. It takes me about five hours to complete a chapter. For each chapter, add another two hours for a review process with my awesome weekly writing group. So that’s 7 hours X 17 chapters = 119 hours.
  3. Second draft: This was a faster review to fix problems and add improvements based on my writing group feedback. Approximately 8 hours.
  4. Third draft: I took the book to the excellent editor-on-demand services of Bodie Dykstra. My work with him took about another 5 hours.
  5. Fourth draft: I ended up printing, reviewing, and revising three proof copies before I was satisfied. Another 5 hours.
  6. Paperback, ebook setup for publication and distribution: Creating the paper and ebook project on Amazon print services, submitting it for publication approval, tweaking, etc. This was about 3 hours.
  7. Audiobook setup for publication and distribution: ACX provides this service. My job is to audition readers and audio producers, pick what I like, and work with them as they generate audio files for the book. About 5 hours.
  8. Cover art: Time spent managing the book cover creation, rescaling the art for audiobook, and other small miscellaneous things. About 5 hours.

Money spent to create “In Tents”: $1470

  1. Cover art: I used CrowdSpring and paid an artist to create the artwork. CrowdSpring provides an auction-type of setup where many artists compete to provide art, and then a majority of my cost goes to the winning artist (who I pick, or in a worst case, I don’t pick anyone and I get most of my money back). In this case, the total cost for a Gold Package and a $500 reward for the winning artist was $890.
  2. Editing: I used the excellent editing services of Bodie Dykstra at BDEditing to get a “single-pass edit”. This price is based on book length. In my case, the total was $371.
  3. Publishing: For ebook and paperback formatting, Bodie Dykstra also runs a formatting service at BD Book Design. He cleaned up everything I wanted cleaned, created professional layout and formatting, then gave me the result: Files suitable for publishing (a PDF for paperback, a MOBI for Kindle/Amazon, and an EPUB for B&N and others). I got a discount because I used other services from BDEditing as well. Cost was $143.
  4. Amazon setup: Putting the book online for purchase via Kindle Direct Publishing takes a little time, but it’s cheap. Cost was $0.
  5. Proof copies: After setup on KDP, you need to approve your book – make sure it’s what you want to print before the world sees it. I bought and reviewed three proof copies before I was satisfied. Proof copies (including shipping) were $7.21 each, so three of those were about $22.
  6. Audiobook setup: Done with ACX and audio producer Ryan Francona, the cost is $0 (I chose this option – I share 50% profit with the producer, versus paying for their work up front).
  7. Research material: In Tents is about a supernatural circus. While researching, I ended up purchasing this CD and DVD set – the “Super Combo Offer”. This collection has ancient circus sights, sounds and re-creations that helped me get in the mood as I built the world and story. I also purchased “The Anatomy of Story”, by John Truby to work through book design exercises with my writing group. Cost was $30 for the CD/DVD set, and $14 for the book. $44 total.
  8. Other aspects: These are things I paid money for a long time ago. While I need them to write and publish, these costs are not included in this project – given my lifestyle, job and hobbies, they’d be in my life anyway: There’s this website, of course, for which I pay for site hosting and a domain. I already have an LLC in place that handles any money I make from writing. I have a license of Microsoft Word for writing, and computers to write on. And I love my clacky, ugly, heavy, mechanical keyboard.

How much time and money was spent on self-publishing “In Tents”:

Hours: 166
Dollars: $1470
From conception to being for sale: 11 months


Yeah, I could cut costs. I can always cut costs. Do everything yourself, and your total cost would be very close to $0. I’ve done variations on that before. Looking back on those books, the results aren’t as good as I’d like.

I’m happy with this process, and I like what I’ve gotten for the money and time I’ve spent. I’m satisfied with the whole project. Since my nature is never to be satisfied, it surprised me enough that I wanted to detail what it took for me to get here, so I know to do it again.

The inevitable followups: How much did I make after publication? Is it enough to cover production costs? What about advertising? Answering these isn’t for this analysis. I only want to get numbers out in my case for how much it costs to self-publish a book.

Besides, my next goal is more important than any of the above: I’ll keep writing.

In Tents is available in paperback and ebook. Audiobook is currently in production.

Book Release: In Tents

Fresh off the keyboard, my latest book:

In Tents is available in paperback and ebook. Audiobook is in production and coming soon!

Dario may not have his life figured out, but at least he has a job, a cell phone, and friends who care about him. That’s enough, until the circus comes to town. Soon after, a bloody attack puts his friend in the hospital and Dario begins to hunt for whoever is responsible.

As he investigates, Dario is pulled toward the dangerous and violent circus, its strange people, and the dark rumors of “Frank’s Show”. But the more he unravels the mystery, the more he realizes he must escape it all… before it kills him.

Andy Kaiser is on Patreon

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