Bloomberg Article and “the true costs”

There’s been a lot on the Web lately about the costs of self-publishing; I’m referring, of course, to that Bloomberg article and list of ridiculous costs for publishing one’s book. To add insult to injury, the title is “The REAL Cost of Self-Publishing.” The only way those numbers make sense is if an author uses a vanity press – in other words, pays someone to publish the book. The pretty much negates the use of the word “SELF-publishing.”

The first thing the articles talks about is editing. This is the MOST important step – if your writing is bad, if the story is bad, if your grammar and spelling are bad, no one will want to read it. Period. Okay, maybe your mom. And your friends.

We’re told the cost is around $500-$1500. That’s probably close to accurate, for an average novel.

Next up is design. $200 for a cover; a nice round number, and not bad. You could pay more; or less. Or use a DIY program. But readers DO judge a book by its cover, so be sure you don’t end up on The world will definitely laugh AT you.

$1400 for an “interior design.” Okay, yes, formatting is a giant pain in the butt, but even if I HAD an extra $1400 lying around, that translates into about a solid week’s worth of my time. Fifty-six hours, actually, and this job can be done in about two hours. Really, it can. A bit later, the article mentions a mere $39 for software to format your book for Kindle. Huh. On CreateSpace, you can do that for free. In fact, CS will do it, but you may have to tweak it a bit. For free.

Printing costs. Someone paid $8800 for 1300 copies. There’s a lot wrong with this: first, no self-published author should buy 1300 copies. Ever. Unless you’ve taken pre-orders and gotten paid already. What are you going to do with all those books? I suppose you might have a very large list of people for whom to buy Christmas gifts, or … never mind. Don’t do it.

Besides, that’s almost $7 per copy. Now, the book mentioned may have been a lengthy tome, but the average size novel, with a DIY POD will cost you about $5 per copy. Including shipping.

I also love the quote from this section (and by “love,” I mean that I’m still laughing): “It can also help to think big and find an agent to help pitch your book to a traditional publisher.” Sure it can. Let’s go pluck an agent out of thin air, because I’m convinced that’s where you can find one. Maybe.

They nailed the cost of an ISBN. $125. However, if you plan to write more books, you can buy ten ISBNs for $250. Quite a savings.

Then there are reviews: $550 for a Kirkus review. First, don’t pay for a review. Ever. Google it. Second, you’d have to sell 100 books to recoup that cost – assuming you went with ACTUAL self-publishing. Do you think one good review is going to sell that many copies? Especially when everyone knows that you paid for the review? Good luck with that.

Next up is publicity. According to this article, a website costs $2300. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? For heaven’s sake, go to Weebly or Wix or GoDaddy. Even if you aren’t techy, you can drag and drop, copy and paste, and type things, right? I would hope so. A domain name will cost $50 or less. Find a friend to help you if you must, but please – don’t shell out that kind of money. Another thing: if you pay someone to maintain that website, instead of DIY, you’re going to have get in line whenever you want to make a change. That professional has many clients, and you’ll have very little control over your content.

The other extraneous costs mentioned here include direct mail – which varies, based on number of pieces, and Facebook advertising. Sure, you CAN spend $300 on Facebook. Or you can spend less. I believe the jury is still out the effectiveness of these campaigns. Try it for $5, or $10. See what happens.

“Press release printing.” I’m not entirely sure how many of these this author had printed, but based on, what? Color copies? Basic B&W press release? That’s 50 full-color or 300 B&W. Since the article says, “press release,” I’m thinking she had 300 of these printed.

Why? Has she not heard of email? True, the cost is minimal compared to some of the other things, but let me tell you, as a bookseller, what happens when we get a press release in the mail:

We look at. Briefly. Regardless of whether or not it looks interesting, it goes in the trash. Why? Because we don’t have the time or inclination to look up the particulars. If, however, we receive something via email, we’re right there at the computer, we can look up the book, the author, the publisher, and maybe place an order. Or not. It has to be pretty darn intriguing.

I can only guess that members of the press, who’d be likely to receive these as well, feel the same way. Who needs all this paper cluttering up things? Besides, if you can an email from an author, and are interested in doing a story or something, you can simply hit “reply” and take care of it right away. Easy.

The next section cracks me up – and was already covered. If you’re going the DIY route, aka self-publishing, then for heaven’s sake, spend a little time and DO NOT pay $5000 for someone to get your print book ready. Scroll up a few paragraphs. Please. Remember that $1400 to format? Um, yeah – $5K is so much worse, for virtually the same thing.

Here’s my point: authors have many options, SP, vanity, traditional. Pick one and see how it works. I guarantee that the cheapest route is true self-publishing. Add these up: $1000 for editing, $125 for an ISBN, $100 for a cover (unless you DIY), and $5 a book to print. Say you order 25 books – which, admittedly, is a number I made up; but it’s a safe number to start – total cost, $1350. Email some press releases or announcements. Spend $50 on some decent business cards. UNDER $1500.

Sure, you could spend that at a vanity press and have a lot less DIY hassle, but you better make darn sure you’re getting what you paid for – and, too, there’s the risk you run with a vanity press on your pricing; typically, vanity books retail for about twice the price anyone is going to actually pay.




11 comments on “Bloomberg Article and “the true costs”

  1. Reblogged this on Charlotte Howard and commented:
    Agreed and agreed!! I don’t understand why anyone would EVER pay for a review for a start!!


  2. Well said Robin!! Read the article – What a load of tripe!! I feel like contacting the journalist and pointing out the difference between SP and Vanity. And they wonder why SP authors are given a bad name…


    • conny1109 says:

      You should contact the journalist who wrote the article Charlotte. I felt like doing the same thing and posting a link to this blog post. It’s Robin’s blog though, so I didn’t want to take any liberties.


  3. conny1109 says:

    You know what you should do Robin … you should post a reply on Bloomberg, with a link to this blog. Whoever wrote that post doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You set him right on each and every point, and people who think of SP deserve to know the truth. The truth as you just explained it. Well done.


  4. MishaBurnett says:

    Reblogged this on mishaburnett and commented:
    She says it all, and more politely than I would have.


  5. authormjlogan says:

    I may have dropped a link to this page into the comments. Maybe. Okay I did. o.o


  6. Amira K. says:

    This article (the Bloomberg one, not yours, I couldn’t find the original article) sounds like someone trying to discourage writers from self-publishing in the hopes of encouraging them to stick with the traditional “gatekeeper” model. Sounds like someone doesn’t like having his cheese moved.


  7. forgingshadows says:

    As someone still on the fence about self publishing, this was a really great article to read. Whether I end up going for traditional publishing or self publishing, I will never, EVER go for vanity publishing. I’ve heard too many bad things about it on writers beware. Thanks for putting this up and setting the record straight.


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