The last time we hung out, I told you a bit about my attempt to cross off bucket list item #6 — write a book. I had just finished my first draft and decided to self-publish, i.e. fund and pick my own team of people to make the thing look professional before I throw it out into the world.
After the writing comes the publishing and the marketing. The writing is the fun part; the marketing is the scary part; the publishing part just seems kind of follow-the-steps.
Here are the publishing steps I walked and what I spent. In making my decisions, I tended to err on the side of thinking big rather than thinking thriftily for this project. All of the self-help books I’ve read told me to think big. If I treat this seriously, other people will too. Or at the very least, if I don’t take this seriously, why would anyone else?
1. Hire a professional line editor to murder your darlings.
You know how there are some areas in your home that are messy, but you’ve grown kind of immune to it because you’ve been looking at it for so long? Only when your housekeeper comes over do you actually notice the laundry in the living room. Editors are housekeepers for your book – a fresh pair of eyes, someone to point out the dust bunnies.
You can ask a friend to do this, but I think it’s kind of tacky to ask your friends to clean. Editing is a lot of work and your friends have their own lives. That being said, my bestie did take a look at my first draft and gave me some pointers before anyone else. But that’s because she’s the best and I’m a little bit tacky.
I hired a professional line editor for the third and fifth draft. This guy reviews structure and pacing and tone and flow, rewording line by line if necessary and making notes in the margin. He knows the industry and doesn’t harbor a positive bias towards you, the author. He’s just focusing on the writing, trying to make it as easy as possible for the audience to enjoy your book. He speaks for the reader. What does the reader need?
If he’s any good, he’ll murder your darlings — your precious, precious words. Then he’ll dig out the decent bits and design a better journey for the reader. It will be painful, but worth the scars.
I gathered quotes from a few different sites and eventually went with NYbookeditors. I liked them because they provide a sample edit so you can decide whether you mesh with the person before you go all in.
The editor is the biggest reason to go with a traditional publishing house. They are an expensive necessity. It’s also the biggest reason to not go with a traditional publishing house. If you don’t like the editor your publisher staffs and you’ve already signed on the dotted line, well, so sad, too bad.
The total cost of this was $4,585.00.
2. Start a publishing company.
Starting your own publishing company is probably not necessary, but I did it to cross off a life bucket list item. Read about that here.
3. Buck up.
You’re going to doubt yourself and your thoughts are going to occasionally annoy you. And by occasionally, I mean constantly. Why are you writing a book? You have no idea what you’re doing! Don’t you think you should do more research? Read more? Experience more? Other people have already said what you’re trying to say. And they’ve said it better. Nobody is going to take you seriously.
Grit! Failure is only in the stopping. I repeated that phrase to myself daily.
Cost: A fair amount of energy, but $0.
4. Find some beta readers.
You need to find some beta readers for a preview screening. What does a slice of your target audience think of your handiwork? I asked my old book club for their help. They are experts at discussing what sucks and what doesn’t in literature. Especially with a glass of wine in hand.
I also asked a retired friend, my high school English teacher, my eldest sister, and the bestie that read the first draft. This gave me ten betas total initially. Six were able to get back to me with comments by my deadline. If two or more people complained about something, I examined those bits more closely. What’s really fun is when one person suggests deleting something that another person mentions they love. That contradiction happened a lot more often than I would have guessed. You can’t please everyone. You can’t write to everyone.
Cost: $7.19 (to send a physical copy to one of my beta readers).
As with step number three on grit, you should be editing pretty much constantly. You take the advice from your bestie and your line editor and your sister and your former teacher and your book club and you edit. You edit until the cows come home. Cows you’d previously insulted, so they’ll be home late. I wrote six drafts and by the end, I was so done with that pile of words.
Cost: A good amount of your energy, time and sanity. $0.
6. Buy Scrivener.
Scrivener is a computer program for writing. You can drag and drop and create folders and subfolders and research notes and outlines and corkboards and I could go on for a while geeking out about this product. It’s great. I love it. And no, Scrivener doesn’t give me anything for telling you how much I love it. Unless you click on this link –> when you buy it. Then Scrivener may give me something. I didn’t find out about the affiliate program until after I fell in love with the product if that makes it any better.
It makes the constant work from step #5 so much easier. And, if your text is simple with no graphics, Scrivener makes doing the formatting from step #7 easy.
Also! You can do your minute books from your company in here.
7. Hire a professional to design the look of your book.
Your e-book needs a cover. Your print book needs a cover and a spine and a back. You need a barcode on the back. The cover must dazzle eyes, look good in various sizes, in print and on screens with varying degrees of resolution. It must scream professional. The font, the spacing, the colors must all work together to entice your reader to enter.
You can design your own book if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m not. As you can tell from my website, design is not my strength.
Here is my list of things I wanted someone to do for me.
- Draw ten characters/illustrations.
- Make my retirement charts look pretty.
- Design a pretty print and e-book cover.
- Produce format-ready files for all the different platforms where I want to publish.
I struggled the most with this item. How much should I spend on this project? I can’t tell the difference between good design and bad design. I could go for the cheapest option for each part. Someone to draw the illustrations for a couple of hundred bucks. A pre-made book cover for $50. Buy my own barcode for $25. Figure out the formatting myself. That’s one end of the spectrum. The other end of the spectrum is a full service book designer who will do everything for you. Real publishing companies can spend more than $10,000 on book design.
I tried going the expensive route. My first choice was a book designer who would do everything for $3,000. I liked her because she wanted to read the book before she designed the look and I thought having one person doing it all would provide a bit of cohesiveness to the project. Unfortunately, she was going through a personal crisis and couldn’t help, so I went piecemeal.
8. Make decisions. So many decisions. Long for a traditional publisher. Repeat step 3.
Here comes the research and the personalization steps. There are a lot of little, medium and big decisions along the way and a lot of random paperwork.
Where do you want to publish?
Publishing an ebook through Amazon and a print book through CreateSpace is a no-brainer. There are no upfront costs and it’s relatively easy.
But do you also want a print book through IngramSpark for possible larger distribution in the future? Or an ebook in the Apple store and the other e-readers? What about an audio book? These all require different formatting and they aren’t all free initially or easy.
Do you want your own ISBN?
The International Standard Book Number is like a tracking chip for your book, a numerical representation of the barcode. Some countries (Canada!) provide these numbers for free. Other countries (The United States) charge $1,500 for 1,000 of them or $125 for a single one.
If you publish solely through Amazon and Createspace, they will give you an ISBN for free, but they become the publisher on record and that precludes you from using IngramSpark.
Make another bunch of decisions that are too boring to go into detail about, but are similar in vein and affect the total price accordingly.
Total cost of extras like this: $371
9. Hire a copy editor.
After you can’t bear another revision and you think your baby is ready for showtime, you hire a copy editor or proofreader. This guy will go over every letter and make sure you have correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, consistency and the like. Every time your reader discovers a typo, an angel loses her wings.
Cost: $530 from Reedsy.com
10. Think about your goals again.
Yeah, you should have done this in the beginning. I was kind of fuzzy on the market section of my book proposal and loose with my expectations.
I wanted to create a book that tween-Thriftygal would feel proud of. This is why I decided against just printing out my first draft at a copy center, placing it in a binder, and using a label-maker for the cover. I needed the book to feel real. Professional. That was my main criteria. Hence the emphasis on professional everywhere in this post.
It would be nice to break even on the project, but I enjoyed the process enough to consider the expense a good investment in entertainment and self-improvement regardless. I’ve spent much more on my “see the world” bucket list. The satisfaction is in the doing.
Total cost of creating this book: $7,351.77. Oh geez, that’s a lot.
*This is an approximate cost. I’ve paid a deposit and will pay the rest when the format-ready files are ready. That’s the last step and where I am now!