Self-publishing sounds like an easy process of writing a book and then publishing it using an online publisher, but it’s more complex when you start to examine what’s involved. Let’s look at some basic considerations and costs for self-publishing an e-book.
While there are many e-book publishers, major publishers include Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes and Nobles Pubit, and Smashwords. These are the vendors that I used for my e-book “Animal Tales: New Fables and Myths of Superpowers.” I basically used them so that buyers would have access to my book on Kindle, Nook, and iPad via Smashwords.
You don’t have to have an e-reader to be able to read an e-book. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords have free apps (application software) that you can download to read an e-book on your computer, tablet, cell phone, or even the web. Smashwords allows you to select the types of reading formats you want for your e-book, including PDF and text files.
With a completed manuscript, you want someone else to look at it to make sure you don’t have any mistakes in logic, grammar, punctuation, and so forth. There are different types of editing to consider. You can have a friend or family member look over your work, or you can hire an editor, ranging from a college student to professional editor. There are different tiers of editing to consider. For example, Kirkus Book Reviews provides three different types of professional editing:
I happen to be a writer/editor so I am able to edit my own work. But I also have my husband edit my writing to check for logic, consistency, interest, and so forth. After he does his editing, I incorporate his ideas if they are feasible. Sometimes editing requires rewriting. For my self-published book “Animal Tales,” I rewrote the 26 stories five times.
Do you need to hire someone to edit your writing? No, but editing can’t hurt. You may be surprised how much your writing could be improved with a good editor.
You will need to provide a cover for your book. You could create your own with detailed instructions from the online publisher. Remember that the cover will make a first impression on buyers when they look at your book. Do you want them to see an average cover or a great one? There are graphic designers that specialize in covers for books. Smashwords provides a free list of inexpensive cover designers.
For e-book or POD (print-on-demand) book covers, the average price is approximately $150 to $300+. If you provide the artwork, generally the lower price would apply. I provided my art for the cover for my e-book “Animal Tales,” so my cost was at the lower end.
Formatting Your Manuscript
The different publishers require different formats for your manuscript. Amazon’s Kindle Publishing requires Kindle format. Barnes and Noble Pubit requires epub format. And Smashwords requires Microsoft Word format. Each publisher has online instructions and support on how to prepare your manuscript.
You can format the documents yourself or you can hire someone to do it for you. Professional formatters will format your documents to make sure your text format is correct for a particular publisher. They will not edit or proofread your work–that’s your responsibility. Smashwords provides a free list of people who will format your documents for a fee. Amazon’s Kindle Publishing also provides a list of vendors who will format your documents for a fee.
I used 52novels to do my formatting because I didn’t want to spend the time doing it myself. Cost depends on word count, your original file, special formatting, and use of images.
My e-book “Animal Tales” is approximately 15,000 words with 26 images. The cost for Kindle, epub, and Smashwords conversion and formatting was less than $250, including minor revisions.
If you plan to use images, you should research the requirements for each online publisher. In general, you can’t put text on top of images. The e-book format is one long document so you can embed black-and-white or color images in between paragraphs.
For my e-book “Animal Tales,” I scanned my 26 paintings (12”x16”) as high-resolution files (TIFF) and uploaded them to my computer. I saved them as web-ready images (JPEG) and uploaded them to Dropbox (a service for transmitting large files) and sent them to 52Novels to re-size and place them in the manuscript.
It took three months to self-publish my e-book “Animal Tales,” including editing and rewriting the stories, creating the cover, formatting images, formatting the manuscript, and managing corrections and revisions. If you have a manuscript without images, a simple cover, and plain formatting, you could possibly self-publish within a week.
Potential Costs for Self-publishing an E-book
Item DIY Professional Estimates* Editing Your time $100-$500+ Cover Your time $150-$300+ Formatting Your time $100-$300+ (for Kindle, epub, Smashwords) Images Your time Varies Total $350-$1100+
*Based on my e-book “Animal Tales” project
For additional information, here is a good article by David Carnoy on how to publish an e-book.