When you’re starting out with your book project – the routes you can take to get your book printed, published and “out there” are mind-boggling. The internet is full of conflicting advice. Look up a few web pages and you’ll find a wide range of prices from a $0 to $25,000 per book (if you add in book coaching as well!). Where does “cheap and nasty” end and “over-the-top” begin? Planning and budgeting when you’ve never done something before is… tricky to say the least. How do you know what matters and what doesn’t? Or if you’ve forgotten something crucial? It feels like there are lots of unknowns and gotchas waiting for you. When I wrote my first book in 2011, I got to know that feeling well! I was going to get a repetitive strain injury from all the Googling I was doing, trying to get my head round it! …And…  I started my author research 2 years earlier in 2009! Holey moley! These days, I help other people write their books – so I need to price up the services they need to get a professional result as they share their expertise. II must confess, part of this feels like a turkey voting for Christmas, showing people behind the curtain, what it really costs (see linked blog posts below for full prices), but I hate to see people struggle and not finish their books – so here goes. People producing good books are what matter to us both.

The goal of this report

  I focused on how to guarantee a good quality result with the resources you have available – i.e. the time and money at your disposal. Based on their resources, authors usually fall into 2 camps

  • those with lots of time but little money
  • those with lots of money but little time

Those on a zero or low budget want to see

  • how much they can do themselves, realistically, without sacrificing quality
  • what they get for their money
  • if it is worth investing to save some hassle  or should they learn to do it themselves

Those with bigger budgets want to 

  • save time and effort by hiring experts to do it professionally

You’ve probably discovered too that the prices, lead times and service levels vary wildly. Choosing a sensible budget is complicated. Deciding which provider to use is hellish. Many suppliers preferred to quote rather than publish a price online. Often, service details are sketchy, to say the least. It quickly becomes time-consuming and stressful to work out your best plan of action. Most people give up (…which is why I decided to help people through the process with my book coaching).

Where the data came from

I spent 2 days researching the prices of core services that authors need – and what you get for your money. Four things needed to create a good quality professional book are

As I have used some of the researched services but not all, I have decided to anonymise the supplier details. I don’t want to imply that I recommend them when I have not used them personally. I have explained what type of businesses they are, either large online teams, small business or single freelancers.  There are more offerings on the internet. Sadly, as I mentioned, I found they lacked prices. Many of the editing services are unpriced if a freelancer or a small business offers it. Book promotion has remarkably few prices available for nonfiction writers. I hope the other prices I have found will help if you need to negotiate with unpriced suppliers you want to work with.

My personal preference for writing my books

I am lucky because I’ve had a computer since I was 11. I got my first PC back in the 80s! That means I’ve been using IT every day for over 35 years, so I have many existing skills to draw upon. I know how to create graphics and format documents. I’ve written lots of technical manuals. I can create promotional videos. For my first book, I did everything except the final proofread. It was hard going, but I did the whole thing in (a very arduous and intense!!) month. Now, I outsource line-editing and proofreading for my books and the authors I coach, since this takes me the longest time. Plus, I am never sure I’ll find all the mistakes before I go crazy. I do my own formatting and cover design. I prefer to be closely involved with my books – that matters to me. The authors I help tend to do their own content editing and outsource the other bits (to me). This is a good balance of maintaining author independence and yet getting some support for the bits you’re not looking forward to.

Upsides and downsides to the “Do it yourself” and outsourced approaches

If you’re on a tight budget and you want to boost the quality of your finished book then you can

  • do all the work yourself
  • call in favours from friends and family (provided they have the skills and can dish out honest feedback when needed)

This is perfectly valid provided the end-quality isn’t undermined. That said, here are downsides to 100% do it yourself (DIY) publishing.

DIY editing, proofreading and formatting downsides

  • remember, those close to you might not give you the tough love your book needs for fear of hurting your feelings – so your book might suck
  • or they might offer to help you but completely suck at what you’ve asked them to do – so your book might suck
  • it will take time to learn what to do and then do it – you’ve already spent time writing your book and your eye for detail can become tired – so (no prizes for guessing….) your book might suck

DIY design downsides

  • you may not be a naturally creative person – you may not notice that what you put together has undermined the value of your book in the eye of the reader
  • graphics have a steep learning curve for many people, both technically and creatively
  • professionals have access to expensive software packages and you will need to find low-budget workarounds – which is risky, those tools are often chosen for a reason

You can do all the steps yourself for free, as long as you allow enough time for your eye for detail to recover and you are prepared to put in the work it takes to learn the skills you need to create a professional result. It’s not easy but it is doable if you are determined enough. Here are the downsides to relying heavily on outsourcing.

Outsourced content editing downsides

The biggest risk is becoming disassociated from your book. The more your writing needs to be extensively reorganised and rewritten, the weaker the connection between your take on your subject and your book. It kills the tone. It’s no longer your own work – it’s now ghost written! When people meet you in real life, your way of explaining your ideas will be at odds with the way it’s explained in the book which is confusing. Also, if your editor has had to rewrite everything you put to make it reader-friendly, it will not feel like your book anymore. This diminishes your sense of achievement you are entitled to enjoy as a published author. So, it makes more sense to learn how to write clearly and how to write well. This is not just because you might want to save money, but because you want your voice, your personality, your expertise to be on the page and not the voice of your ghost writer.

Outsourced design downsides

If you don’t take the time to brief your designer and accurately describe your vision for your book cover, you will inevitably waste time and money (and annoy your designer!) due to requesting loads of revisions.

My advice on which route to take

Whatever your circumstances, I know you’ll want to make good progress quickly and easily. For each section, I’ve added some tips on how to save time, money and / or hassle, which will help you whichever of the 2 camps you find yourself in.

Paid (‘elitist’) vs guerrilla book tactics

One last thought. I’ve made no value judgements on which route to take

  • completely DIY
  • paying for everything
  • a balance of the 2

It depends on your circumstances and personal preferences. For me, as a publisher, producing a quality result readers love is the main prize here. Whether you pay professionals or you commit to learning the craft, pull in favours with the right people, put in the hard yards yourself to get a good result – that’s your choice. If your readers love your finished book, and it makes a difference – GREAT – you did the right thing!

Let’s get going

It’s time to analyse the first aspect of publishing a book, detailed editing and proofreading.

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