The Cost of Being an Author

When it comes to being an author, you don’t really consider that it’s going to cost anything outside of blood, sweat, tears, and time. However, depending on how you are published, there can be additional costs that you might not be aware of.

Paying for writing doesn’t apply only to being self-published, although there are a lot more costs associated with that avenue than being traditionally published. If you’re traditionally published, there’s a chance you have a house with a marketing team behind you, but it’s possible you’ll still have to foot the bill for some of your own marketing—and every route of publishing nowadays expects the author to market themselves.

Since I have experience with indie publishers and self-publishing, I’d like to share some of the costs you can expect to incur becoming published.

One of the biggest expenses you’ll have is marketing. It is absolutely more than possible to have no cost for marketing if you know what sites to send your books to. It’s possible to have low cost for marketing too. It’s also possible to spend 1000s of dollars on marketing. Depending on your budget and what you want to accomplish will dictate how much you can/do spend on marketing.

Some of the best ways to let readers know about your books are through ads—both digital and in print. I talk a lot about different marketing ideas, which you can find here and here.

If you’re self-publishing your books, some of the expenses you will incur include editing, cover design, and formatting. Of course, if you have a friend or family member who does any of these things (or you do them yourself), you might not have to pay a dime for these services. Depending on how you acquire your ISBN numbers, that will cost too (Amazon offers them for free, but you have limited distribution with them).

When publishing with an indie publisher, you shouldn’t incur any costs when it comes to book covers, editing, formatting, and ISBN numbers. All of those should be included in your publishing package. If they aren’t, you might want to reconsider your indie publisher.

In addition to the above, there are other costs that you might not think about when getting published. I know I didn’t. These include the following:

Cost of books for giveaways.

Whether you’re sending out signed paperbacks or doing a giveaway on Amazon, you will have to pay for the books (unless you get some free ones from the publisher) and postage.

You can keep your postage costs lower by sending your books media mail, but it may take them longer to get to the reader. You’ll have to decide if you want to pay more to get them into the readers’ hands faster.

You can keep your paperback cost down by ordering directly from Createspace/Amazon’s new paperback platform (if you are self-published) or from the publisher. Of course, it takes a fair amount of time for the books to get to you this way, so you’ll have to plan accordingly.

Giving away books on Amazon is a great way to drum up some interest and not have to worry about sending the books yourself; Amazon takes care of it for you. However, you will have to pay for the books you want to giveaway.

Cost to send out monthly newsletters.

I do my newsletter through Mailchimp, and they have a free program for newsletters until you reach a certain threshold of subscribers. Then, from there, you are charged based on how many people you send your newsletter to. On one hand, it’s nice to know that you have a bunch of subscribers that you have to pay, but on the other, it can get pricey—especially if you aren’t selling a ton of books (which can happen from time to time).

Knowing that you’ll have to pay in advance could help you decide which program will give you the best bang for your buck for newsletters. There are several companies out there that offer their services, so do what works best for you and fits within your budget.

Conferences and conventions.

You absolutely don’t have to do these if you don’t want to, but I recommend going to at least one. They are a lot of fun, and you get to meet and hang out with people who share many of the same passions you do. If you have the opportunity, try to be a panelist or presenter. It takes the experience to another level! You’ll more than likely have to pay for travel to get there (gas or airfare), food, hotel, and access to the conference or convention, which can get expensive. But by planning ahead, you can make it fit into your budget.

Being a published author is an amazing experience, and hopefully you’ll make more money than you spend, but be aware that at some point, you will probably have to spend money to make money. Not every venture you undertake will have a return on your investment, but you won’t know that until you take a chance. Keep in mind that you get to decide how much you want to spend and what you want to spend it on.

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Pembroke Sinclair's books on Goodreads
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