What Is the Cost to Publish a Book?

1106 Design

July 01, 2020

Over the past year, we’ve been transitioning 1106 Design’s brand and look, culminating in a new website with new colors, new logo and a new message: We Provide Traditional Publisher Quality to Independent Authors. Our challenge all along has been to help authors understand what “traditional publisher quality” means; authors who don’t understand are surprised to find out how much it costs to prepare books to be published—all part of the cost to publish a book.

First, let me reiterate that 1106 Design does not publish books. We are not a publisher. We provide the services to prepare books for publishing, and we guide authors through the process to independently publish.

In our experience, authors who demand traditional publisher quality expect the following:

  • A book cover that is unique and professionally designed by a trained and qualified book designer.
  • Cover and page design concepts created especially for them, tweaked until they’re happy.
  • A book interior that is skillfully designed by a trained and experienced book designer, and which is created with consideration for the unique qualities of the book and the marketplace.
  • At the very minimum, copyediting and proofreading by a professional editor.
  • Typesetting using professional design software, by an experienced designer, to industry standards.
  • eBooks that are hand-coded by a skilled practitioner and not converted by a software program into an eBook.
  • Prompt answers to their questions and concerns by a qualified project team.
  • Assistance in uploading files to distribution channels such as Amazon KDP and IngramSpark for print-on-demand.
  • Professional and dedicated assistance and “hand-holding” throughout.

Moreover, when all is said and done, experienced authors want to be publishers of their books; they will not inadvertently hand their books over by using the “free” ISBNs offered by some self-publishing companies. More on this later.

1106 Design’s services include all of the above and our pricing reflects this. We assume that authors will want “traditional publisher quality” when they self-publish a book. We’ve even made this promise a part of our tagline! We assume that authors desire a unique book cover designed especially for them by a professional book designer. We assume that authors don’t want us to use preformatted templates for covers and book interiors that can make their books look cheap and decidedly not traditional publisher quality. We assume that all authors want copyediting at a minimum and so that’s our basic level of editing, unlike some of the competition. And the pricing of our services reflects these assumptions.

We understand, however, that it’s difficult for authors who are researching self-publishing service providers to compare our prices to those of self-publishing companies for what appear to be similar services. I mean, editing is editing, right? No, it’s not.

So, we thought we’d take a selection of offerings from some popular self-publishing companies and pull them apart to help authors understand exactly what they are getting for the price and get to the bottom of the cost to publish a book.

Cover Design

Some self-publishing companies offer “professional cover choices” or “customizable cover styles” from which the author can choose a design. 1106 Design offers “cover concepts.” Sounds like we offer the same thing, right? Wrong.

With the self-publishing company, the cover choices are actually a library of templates, not entirely dissimilar to the free options you would get with Amazon Kindle’s “Cover Creator,” which you can use for nothing but your time.  Once the author selects a template, the company plops in the image (if the author even has a choice of images) and changes the text to reflect the title, author name and back cover text. Authors cannot ask for the font to be changed, the title to be repositioned, the size of the author’s name to be larger—nothing. Professional design is an option, but that costs extra, suddenly turning a bargain into an expensive proposition.

1106 Design creates unique cover concepts for our authors. Each one is an original design that reflects what is currently selling in the marketplace. That’s why our book covers look like bestsellers and no two covers are alike. See our cover design packages and take a look at our cover design gallery.

However, the self-publishing company’s website makes it sound as if the self-publishing company provides five, ten or twenty cover designs/choices/concepts to our three. What they are really doing is showing the author a selection of already-finished designs and asking them to choose.

Page Design

Similarly, some self-publishing companies offer one layout and trim size for their basic packages, more if you choose a more expensive package. That’s not formatting for one paperback, that’s one design choice. That means that every author who buys the basic package gets the same interior page design. Somewhere out there are hundreds of authors with exactly the same page format: same font, same chapter title format, same cover page, same everything.

Most authors expect to have a say in how their books are formatted, which is one way that sales reps upsell authors to a more expensive package or professional book design for an additional fee.

At 1106 Design, we collaborate with authors on the page design, and no two authors will end up with the same book interior. Not only that, but we also offer two custom-designed page samples for the author to choose from, and then we tweak from there. Page design with us is a collaborative and iterative process. See our interior page design packages and take a look at our page design gallery.

ISBN

We know an inexperienced author when they ask: Do I need an ISBN? Yes, if you’re intending on selling your book, you need an ISBN. To most authors, this is just one more detail to look after when they are already feeling overwhelmed.

Self-publishing companies prey on dazed authors with low budgets, so when a sales rep says, “We’ll provide you with one of our ISBNs for free,” authors breathe a sigh of relief.

In the USA, ISBNs can only be purchased from Bowker. Self-publishing companies purchase ISBNs in bulk (as can any author). The thing is, when you purchase an ISBN, Bowker wants to know the name of the publisher. So, if XYZ Self-publishing Company buys the ISBNs, they enter their name as the publisher. When they assign one of their bulk-purchased ISBNs to a book, the company becomes the publisher of the book and not the author.

Maybe some authors don’t care; in fact, they might be pleased that they were “published” by XYZ Self-publishing Company. At 1106 Design, each author is considered an independent publisher who would never let another company put their name on their book. They would never pass control of their book over to a publisher, and they would never forfeit a percentage of their publisher compensation (royalties) to a self-publishing company. For that reason, we will purchase ISBNs on behalf of an author with the author listed as the publisher.

Distribution

We understand how impressive it must seem that XYZ Self-publishing Company offers distribution on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets.

Self-publishing companies will often advertise unlimited printing, fulfillment and global distribution by Amazon, B&N, IngramSpark, and more, and then charge the author for this service. On top of that, most self-publishing companies have the nerve to take a portion of the author’s royalties!

Here’s what they don’t tell you: printing and selling your book on Amazon costs nothing to set up. These days, global distribution is assumed. With IngramSpark, the “title set-up fee” is the only charge authors incur for widespread distribution on all of the other channels, and 1106 Design typically covers that fee for our authors.

At 1106 Design, we could advertise this as well, but we assume authors want the widest distribution possible—the distribution that’s available to literally every person who prints a book—and so why would we advertise the fact? And once the book is uploaded to Amazon KDP and IngramSpark, we step out of the way, and the author receives 100% of the publisher compensation (royalties) due to them directly from Amazon KDP and IngramSpark.

Free Author’s Copies

Authors can always order copies of their books from Amazon KDP or IngramSpark. As the owner of the accounts on these platforms, authors pay only the cost to print, plus shipping. The actual cost might be as little as $3 per book plus shipping, depending on the size and format of the book.

So, when self-publishing companies offer free author’s copies, the saving to the author might be under $10. Woo hoo!

eBooks

At 1106 Design, we charge one fee for eBook formatting—hand-coding the book files taking into consideration the various eBook readers out there. Authors receive two files—epub and mobi (Kindle)—to be uploaded to IngramSpark and Amazon respectively, and any other platform they desire, including their own website. That’s it!

Self-publishing companies sometimes charge for each format, and not just epub and Kindle. They charge for each platform—Amazon, B&N Nook, Apple. Separate pricing for EACH eBook format quickly adds up to big bucks and is misleading and unnecessary.

Editing

Looking down the list of what’s included in the packages offered by one of our competitors, I noticed that something was missing: copyediting and proofreading.

What?

Nope, not even the most expensive package included editing. Interestingly, manuscript evaluations were included in every package, suggesting that editing services are an upsell based on the state of the manuscript. I’m thinking that the results of the evaluations always suggest that an edit is required, representing an additional fee on top of the seemingly inexpensive package price.

Yes, 1106 Design always includes a manuscript evaluation in our editing services, but only when editing services are requested by the author. Yes, we might suggest a substantive or developmental edit based on our evaluation rather than a copyedit, and yes, that could be seen as an upsell. We assume that the author who demands traditional publisher quality would want to know if their book is in serious need of an overhaul before they go and spend all that money on publishing it.

Also, be on the lookout for how a self-publishing company defines “copyedit.” Some of their copyedit packages compare to our proofreading, which, incidentally, we include in the fee for page layout and typesetting.

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One final word of warning: the prices listed on a website for self-publishing services might seem like they are in your budget, but self-publishing companies tend to meet the newbie author with a “price to publish” that sounds affordable and then proceed to upsell them from there. Things to look out for include revisions: included or not included? How many? What’s the cost after you go over that amount?

1106 Design doesn’t upsell. We don’t have anything to upsell! We’ve already included the top options in our packages. Yes, we do have a few cover design packages that authors can choose from, but all start from the premise that designs will be original. We’ve done this because we think that’s what authors expect when they want “traditional publisher quality.” Don’t they?

If you have a finished manuscript and are interested in learning how to publish your book independently, book a free 30-minute consultation.

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