What does it really cost to be an author — and is it actually worth it?  

Spoiler Alert: For once, you will get a reality check from a book publishing insider, an unvarnished truth of the best kept secret that no one in the industry wants revealed. This discovery will either lead you to tossing your manuscript in the garbage or seriously reevaluating what you plan to invest into your writing career.  

First, we will blow the cover off of the book industry and show you the true price tag for getting published.  

Next, we look at the unseen expense of missed opportunity and opportunity denial.  

Lastly, we look at the sincere cost of marketing a book well — and expose the price tag of inaction.  

1. Getting Published

Authors have a few choices when it comes to how they get published.  They can:  

** Self-publish directly with Amazon KDP or Ingram Spark — or they can use more expensive and less effective self-publishing companies. Beware of expensive and useless marketing packages offered by these self-publishers. They offer useless stuff, such as displaying your book at a conference. Few people will see it there, and even fewer will react to seeing it. Waste of money. Also, many of the self-publishers only offer print-on-demand, which could limit bookstore access and distribution. Further, there are some self-publishers that produce a nicely packaged book but they are the exception to publishers who produce crappy-looking books that really look self-published.  

** Hybrid publish, where some non-traditional ratio of expenses and income are split. Although this collaborative method in some ways sounds the fairest, many costs are front-loaded onto the author. Many authors will spend $10,000 or more to contribute to editing, cover design, printing, and advertising — or to buy a minimum guaranteed number of books that the author plans to resell at events, through consulting work, bulk sales to organizations, or through their web site.  

** Be published by a small press. Some small presses seduce authors to commit to buying a certain number of copies, to help offset a publisher’s costs and decrease its risks. Small print runs, limited distribution, small royalties, and likely a junior publicist left to cover the entire front list do not make for ideal profit conditions. You would need to hire a publicist to increase the marketing of your book.  

** Be published by a university press. This method may involve no upfront costs to get published, but you only earn a small royalty on book sales. Their print runs are usually small and the press’s PR department is usually limited in time and ability to promote it. As a result, you may end up supplementing by hiring a publicist.  

** Be published by a larger, traditional press. To get published here you will need:

To get a literary agent. They take 15% of your lifetime earnings of that book. To get an agent, you will need to build your brand platform, and may involve paying a publicist to help you increase your social media network numbers. To lure an agent in, you consult various experts like a book editor or manuscript doctor. You might attend writer conferences and workshops. You might enroll in writing courses or pursue a Master of Fine Arts. You likely will pay to join various writer associations and groups.  

Repeated studies have shown that books published by traditional publishers tend to average no more than 5,000 sales. Over 80 percent of self-published authors won’t exceed 100 book sales. Both numbers are pathetic. 

Then again, writers write because they want, even love, to. It is what they know, feel, and do. Writing is their mental wellness therapy, their creative outlet, their chance to make the world a little better. They write out of destiny and desire, maybe even obligation, and rarely with the hope of getting rich.  

Perhaps these thoughts pass through a writer’s mind: 

·         Could a book change the world? A single life? 

·         Does an author feel happiness and fulfillment when in the writing zone? 

·         Will a book be one’s legacy?

·         Is writing a mere hobby or a therapeutic exercise for an author?

·         Might one get lucky and break through to bestseller lists, movie options, book awards, critical acclaim, and even lottery-prize riches? 

Obviously, there are many reasons behind why writers write and seek publication. You have to understand why you write, identify your goals, and determine what you are willing to sacrifice and invest to try to achieve these goals.  

2. Cost of Opportunity Denial

Inertia has a price. The time that goes by without having a published book costs you money. If you believe the book can be a success, don’t delay in getting it out there. Same goes for marketing. If you believe in your book and go through the time and cost to get it published, don’t die at the finish line. Invest in book marketing or else you have wasted your efforts and money in getting published. There is a cost — to your soul, your mental well-being, and your wallet — when you don’t follow through to complete your publishing mission.  

3. Marketing and Publicity

Many publishers mean well. They seek to balance the notion of publishing books that are informative, inspiring, entertaining, and enlightening with the pursuit of making money. However, whatever the book is intended to do and whatever the motivation to have it published, every book has a readership. The author and publisher must collaborate to identify and locate it — and then market to that community.  

Marketing a book costs authors: 

·         Time — it is like a steady part-time job

·         Effort — your energy levels

·         Mindshare — your mental state

·         Money — you know, thousands of dollars 

You will need to decide: 

·         What will you be able to do?

·         What do you want to do?

·         What can you pay someone to do?

·         What can you trade or beg someone to do?

·         What will not get done that you can live with? 

Authors feel many emotions: 

·         Frustration in trying to get published

·         Joy in being published

·         Disgust at sales totals

·         Jealousy of successful authors

·         Angst and guilt about marketing that is not being done

·         Exhaustion from promoting

·         Feeling pinched financially from hiring help or paying for ads, reviews, and services.

·         Euphoric when the media covers them or gives a great book review

·         Confusion over navigating social media

·         Happy and touched when their book impacts the life of another. 

So why do I reveal all of this? Do I have an axe to grind? Am I jealous about something? Is this a brilliant move for me to get more business? 

The answer is, plain and simple, that you deserve to know the truth, to be aware of what it really takes to enter and swim in the book publishing minefield. Perhaps once you are armed with facts and figures, you will think twice about getting a book published. Good. 

But once you decide to publish your book, you need to be ready to go the distance and market it properly. Otherwise, you set yourself up for failure and despair. 

There is a cost and a reward to being an author. Hopefully it will be a fulfilling journey for you. 


 

Please Contact Me For Help

Brian Feinblum, the founder of this award-winning blog, can be reached at [email protected] He is available to help authors promote their story, sell their book, and grow their brand. He has 30 years of experience in successfully helping thousands of authors in all genres.

 

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What Should You Do To Promote Your Book?

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Ask Me Anything About Book Marketing

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About Brian Feinblum

Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2022. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This blog, with over 4,000 posts over the past decade, was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby  http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by WinningWriters.com as a “best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Susan RoAne, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, IBPA, Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult: linkedin.com/in/brianfeinblum.