More than 235,000 books and e-books were self-published in 2011 in the U.S., four times the number in 2006, according to Bowker, an agency that assigns books unique identification codes. The really explosive growth has come in e-books, which went from 7,000 to 87,000. "Not long ago if you said you self-published, you weren't taken as seriously as other authors," says Beat Barblan, a director at Bowker. "That's no longer the case."
Bloomberg examined the costs associated with self-publishing books. Note that costs vary, and not all those listed apply to everyone. Bloomberg does not endorse any of the products or services mentioned.
Dotting the I's
First things first: The words. Over the years, says Michael Prescott, who self-published Deadly Pursuit, a few readers have complained of spelling mistakes. A good editor might have found those errors.
$1,460: Price paid by Julia Pandl, author of Memoir of the Sunday Brunch, for editing, proofreading and structure suggestions.
$3.50: Per-page charge for editing and proofreading by New Leaf Editing.
Covers that pop
An e-book design must "pop" as a thumbnail image, since that's the first thing a buyer sees.
$200: Price Barbara Freethy paid for a book cover design (that was not used).
$1,600: Price Julia Pandl paid for an early book cover design ($200) and interior design ($1,400).
The printed book
While printing a book won't get it on the shelves of major bookstores, you can feel it and, yes, give it to friends. You will likely be able to sell it for more than an e-book, though you'll probably sell fewer copies. If you want to improve the chance of getting your book into bookstores, you could go through a distributor such as SCB. It can also help to find an agent to help pitch your book to a traditional publisher.
$8,800: Cost to print 1,300 copies (240-page book) with shipping — Julia Pandl.
Keep in mind that there are many versions of e-readers, from the Kindle to the Nook, and you'll need software that will format your manuscript for different devices. Author Michael Prescott worries that even with the software, chapter breaks drop out and bold words disappear.
$39: Cost of software that formats your book to upload to Kindle, Nook and iBook.
Your book's ID
Books need International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), 13-digit codes provided by the ISBN agency, Bowker. If you want to sell a printed book, you need an ISBN.
$125: Cost for one ISBN — Bowker.
With e-books, sending out advance reader copies is as simple as emailing a PDF; reviews can be uploaded to a book's website. There are reviewers out there who, for a fee, will read your book and write a review. Some authors create fake accounts and give themselves high ratings while assigning lower ones to rival books. There are legit reviewing services (below) — the review, though, may not be what the author hoped for.
$550: Price to get a review — Kirkus Indie Reviews.
Let the world know
Many self-publishers don't bother to create marketing materials. Some hire a public relations professional. Other authors turn to social media. There's plenty more you can do, including:
$2,300: Website for a book, including PayPal link — amount paid by Rick Spier, author of The Legend of Shane the Piper: A Novel Memoir.
$45: 250 color bookmark business cards — Staples.
$100: Press release printing — Staples.
$300: Facebook advertisement — Facebook.
$1,000: Direct mail — Julia Pandl's cost.
Get the book out
Getting a book into a brick-and-mortar chain bookstore is very difficult, even for traditional publishers. If you publish an e-book, distribution is as simple as uploading your manuscript to, say, Amazon.com. If you don't want to deal with quirky software, a service such as Independent Publishers Group will take your manuscript, format it for every site and distribute it for you.
$200: Initial setup fee, plus 30 percent of net sales for print distribution, 20 percent of net sales for e-books — Independent Publishers Group.
The one-stop shop
It's one thing to write a book. It's another to think about how the book should be formatted, printed, designed, distributed and marketed. By turning to a full-service indie publisher, such as Amazon's CreateSpace, IndieReader Publishing Services or Smashwords, you can retain control over your book, but much of the hassle will be handled for you.
$5,000-$6,000: Includes designing hard-copy book (printing costs an additional $5.40 per book) and creating e-book versions. Discounts depending on volume — IndieReader.