Hidden (And Not So Hidden) Costs of Self-Publishing

Indie authors are taking over the world. No, seriously, we are. But there’s a lot that goes into self-publishing that many readers, and even authors, don’t know about.

As I navigate through self-publishing my first book in Spring 2022 (you can read all about it here and preorder it on Amazon here), I’m going to be starting a blog series with my friend Lexi and we’ll be taking you through all the aspects of self-publishing that you need to know!

For the first post in our series, we’re going through the hidden, and not so hidden, costs of self-publishing your book. So, let’s dive right in!

*Disclaimer – Don’t worry, we’ll be going through each of these at length in their own blog posts. This is just a quicky 😉

1. Word Processor

Unless you have a hookup that gets you Microsoft Word for free, you’re gonna have to pay for some kind of word processing tool so you can, you know, actually write your book. Microsoft Word is one, but many authors also using author-specific drafting tools like Scrivener.

2. Editing

Maybe you’re a writing god and you can put out perfect prose and dialogue every single time you sit down at a computer. If this is you, maybe you can scratch this one off your list. But if you’re a lowly human like the rest of us, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll have errors in your book.

Whether you spring for developmental edits, line edits, or just proofreading, it’s very highly recommended to hire an editor. This will give you peace of mind, and make your book that much more of a stunner.

I don’t know if you noticed, but people will complain about anything these days. Don’t let spelling mistakes be what they complain about in your book.

3. Formatting

If you have design experience, like my BFF Lexi does, then maybe you don’t need to hire a professional formatter. But even if you can format on your own, you’ll likely need to invest in a program like Vellum (only available on Mac) or Adobe inDesign (for Mac and PC).

If you’re like me, and are basically technologically illiterate, hiring someone will save you a headache and a half.

Short backstory on formatting: You’ll need a different format for your ebook versus your print book. Don’t ask me why, but you do, okay? Don’t assume you can use the same one for both.

4. Cover

We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Well, that works great for things that aren’t books. We all judge books by their cover, and if you say you don’t, you’re lying to either me or yourself or both.

Again, if you have design experience and are creative and shit, you might be able to do this yourself and save money. Kudos to you, I want to be like you when I grow up. But if you’re not artistically inclined, shelling out the money for a good cover can really set yourself up for success.

And like I said earlier, we’ll get into this more in depth in a later post, but word to the wise: don’t wait until the last minute to go try to snag a cover designer. They book up extremely quickly. (I booked my cover in October to be on my designer’s schedule for February….)

5. ISBN

This has been the most unexpected cost that I’ve run into in my own experience. Most self-published authors (if not all) publish through Amazon in some way, and Amazon being Amazon offers a nifty little “free” ISBN number, which is used to identify your book to the machine gods.

BUT, it’s not really free. You know why? Because using Amazon’s ISBN number, called an ASIN number there, means that they basically own your book. Not fun. I don’t know about you, but the only person I want to own my book is me.

So that means you’ve got to buy your own ISBN number. Which is unreasonably expensive for some reason. But you can buy them through Bowker, and they have packages if you’re planning on buying more than one.

Oh side note, if you plan on releasing in paperback, hardback, ebook, audiobook, or any combination thereof, you’ll have to buy more than one. One ISBN number per format, folks.

6. Website

Social media is fun, and it can get you a lot of traction as an author for sure. But you need somewhere to point your readers to. Somewhere they can learn more about you, about your books, links to all your fun happenings, and more. Which means, a website is probably going to be your best bet.

There’s several options for websites out there that you can use, but if you want to look professional (gags a little), then you’re gonna have to cough up some money. There are beginner friendly options out there that aren’t super expensive, like Wix. And there are also sites like WordPress that feel like you need a degree to operate and cost the soul of your firstborn.

7. Marketing

Now that you’ve gotten through writing your book, you’ve got to get people interested in it. Just posting about it on social media and hoping for the best may work, but it may not work. If you’re a control freak like Lexi and I both are, you’re gonna want to do something a bit more active in promoting your book.

This could include running ads, doing cover reveals, setting up a street team, giving out Advance Reader Copies (ARCs), or a whole host of other things that we’ll get in to more later. And while a lot of these things you can do without incurring a cost to you, a lot of them are going to run much smoother if you put some money behind them. Let me give you an example.

ARCs. Advance copies are fun and readers love getting them. You can send them out for free by emailing your ARC copies to your readers, that’s totally fine. There are free sites that will convert your documents to ePUB or MOBI files so they can get them on their eReader of choice. But unless you really, truly trust your ARC readers, you might want to take a little extra step and use a program like BookFunnel to send out your ARCs, because BookFunnel takes all the hassel out of it AND they watermark your ARC copies so that if it gets leaked or stolen, you know who did it.

Now that we’ve gone through the biggest costs associated with being a self-published author, let’s keep going! Let us know what you want the next post to be! Did we miss any? If you’re a self-published author and there’s other costs that you’ve noticed, let us know! Drop a comment in the comments below, or message me on Instagram (@readsbyjessica) or email me at jess@readsbyjessica.com. I’d love to hear from you!

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