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How much do you invest in your new books on average to bring them to publication, without marketing

  • $0 - 100

    Votes: 14 24.1%
  • $101 -400

    Votes: 12 20.7%
  • $401-800

    Votes: 8 13.8%
  • $801-1200

    Votes: 11 19.0%
  • $1201-1600

    Votes: 4 6.9%
  • "1601-2000

    Votes: 4 6.9%
  • $2000 and above.

    Votes: 5 8.6%
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I don't think it's a question of bias on here. For one thing not enough have voted on the poll on here for there to be enough data. What you call bias, I would call business sense.

Saying that, I will echo what others have said about Reedsy and what they say it costs to publish a book in 2021. Where does their data come from, service providers or authors? I suspect the former.

Obviously people who supply services hope that the figures they quote will be more of an accurate reflection of what authors spend. No doubt there are enough authors around to keep everyone in the services industry happy, but I doubt it is accurate. I'd bet that those prices quoted by Reedsy are more of a wish list of prices that author's would hope they could afford to get their book to be the best it could be. Every credit to those who can afford the higher prices that Reedsy quote. .

If Reedsy are correct that MOST authors spend those sums, then there would be a lot of authors crying at their bank statements. Every credit to those who have those recourses, but I would suggest that it doesn't make business sense for MOST in relation to return on investment.

Reedsy: Cost of publishing a book in 2021
"Most authors spend $2,000-$4,000 to self-publish their books — this includes editing, cover design, formatting, and marketing services."
Of course it's a question of bias. You have your biases, I have mine, everyone has their own. These are always at play. And forums and other communities form around them. And if you never ask yourself what biases each place has then it's not good. That's how filter bubbles form and we lose accurateness in general.

As example, some people who have cheapness bias like to call it ''business sense''. While business sense includes spending wisely, being cheap is never the full extent of it. It's more sensible to hire a professional rather than think you can do everything. But cheapskates think the difference between someone who just picked up a software tool to DIY (like Photoshop) is negligible to what an expensive or even median service provider can do. Should a vote of that kind of attitude really count? I'd say no, but it does in a poll like this. Thus the danger of polls and not knowing where bias comes from.

I agree Reedsy had prices a bit high but they have tens of thousands of authors reading their huge blog so their voting was authors not vendors (vendors voting wouldn't be a legitimate poll). The article you quoted IS NOT the poll I meant tho, I think they had a different one few years earlier.

And it doesn't mean Reedsy are right 100% anyway. It just means they might represent the different end of spectrum and they have bias for average or above quality. The truth tho, is in any place of the spectrum. Not either particular end of it. We are in an industry were you can stumble into cheap and very good still.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 · (Edited)
Of course it's a question of bias. You have your biases, I have mine, everyone has their own. These are always at play. And forums and other communities form around them. And if you never ask yourself what biases each place has then it's not good. That's how filter bubbles form and we lose accurateness in general.

As example, some people who have cheapness bias like to call it ''business sense''. While business sense includes spending wisely, being cheap is never the full extent of it. It's more sensible to hire a professional rather than think you can do everything. But cheapskates think the difference between someone who just picked up a software tool to DIY (like Photoshop) is negligible to what an expensive or even median service provider can do. Should a vote of that kind of attitude really count? I'd say no, but it does in a poll like this. Thus the danger of polls and not knowing where bias comes from.

I agree Reedsy had prices a bit high but they have tens of thousands of authors reading their huge blog so their voting was authors not vendors (vendors voting wouldn't be a legitimate poll). The article you quoted IS NOT the poll I meant tho, I think they had a different one few years earlier.

And it doesn't mean Reedsy are right 100% anyway. It just means they might represent the different end of spectrum and they have bias for average or above quality. The truth tho, is in any place of the spectrum. Not either particular end of it. We are in an industry were you can stumble into cheap and very good still.
We'll just have to agree to disagree regards bias. I'm coming at it from a business prospective for self-publishing a book in relation to return on investment and if you want to call that a bias, then great, that's your privilege.

$2.95 Royalty = $2.06 number of sales to make $100 = 49
$3.95 Royalty = $2.76 " " " " " " = 36
$4.95 Royalty + $3,46 " " " " " " = 29

From that you can work out what you have to sell against the cost of your cover, editing, formatting and whatever else.

As an example, if you pay $250 for a cover that = 122 sales @t $2,95. 90 [email protected] $3.95, or 72,5 sales @ $4,95

another example. If you pay $800 for an edit that = 392 sales @ $2,95. 288 sales @ 3.95, or 232 sales @ $4.95.

That's the math, which I wouldn't call bias, but a business calculation to assist with investment in relation to return.

Pity we don't have what the likely sales are the average author for a single book from release, but those who publish regularly will have an idea of their own likely sales, ergo what they can realistically spend.
 

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Of course it's a question of bias. You have your biases, I have mine, everyone has their own. These are always at play. And forums and other communities form around them. And if you never ask yourself what biases each place has then it's not good. That's how filter bubbles form and we lose accurateness in general.

As example, some people who have cheapness bias like to call it ''business sense''. While business sense includes spending wisely, being cheap is never the full extent of it. It's more sensible to hire a professional rather than think you can do everything. But cheapskates think the difference between someone who just picked up a software tool to DIY (like Photoshop) is negligible to what an expensive or even median service provider can do. Should a vote of that kind of attitude really count? I'd say no, but it does in a poll like this. Thus the danger of polls and not knowing where bias comes from.
I recently went cheap on something. Well, cheap and fast. The higher priced service I wanted wasn't available for awhile and I wanted it now.

And I'm paying for it in terms of quality of final product & time I have to spend overseeing contractors.

I've gone cheap (or cheap and fast) on a number of covers and I often ended up with something unusable.

Sure, that doesn't mean I should overspend, and say, buy a completely average picture that happens to be a $1500 custom image, or hire the MOST EXPENSIVE designer around, but it does mean I should spend enough to hire someone skilled (and reasonably professional / punctual).

Cheap isn't good business sense. Good business sense is hiring highly skilled people and paying them fairly. Not over paying them. But not underpaying them (or hiring less qualified people either).

The amount I spend varies with the cover. If I buy a custom image, that could be anywhere from $200-1500 dollars. I've bought images that were worth it and images that weren't worth it. IMO custom images are not usually worth the spend in terms of increased sales, but they may be worth it in other ways (decreasing time spent looking at stock photos, for example. Or increased access to highly converting images for marketing).

I spend anything from $200-600 on cover design, depending on the designer, and how quickly they work. Sometimes, I find a great premade and get a deal. Or I catch a designer with a sale. Or I pay extra for rush. As with anything, design quality isn't totally correlated to price. There are a lot of great designers charging $150-200 for a simple cover (a genre that doesn't need heavy PS), but there are a lot of weak designers charging those prices too. And a designer who is truly great in one genre might not be great in another.

Then I spend another $300 or so for proofing. I dev edit myself (combo of self-edit, betas, and critique swaps). I format with Vellum.

That doesn't include marketing costs. That would put me well over 2-4k.

I'd like to hire a full on dev editor, but it's the time, not the money that stops me. That usually means a 2-3 week halt in production and I don't have time for that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 · (Edited)
I recently went cheap on something. Well, cheap and fast. The higher priced service I wanted wasn't available for awhile and I wanted it now.

And I'm paying for it in terms of quality of final product & time I have to spend overseeing contractors.

I've gone cheap (or cheap and fast) on a number of covers and I often ended up with something unusable.

Sure, that doesn't mean I should overspend, and say, buy a completely average picture that happens to be a $1500 custom image, or hire the MOST EXPENSIVE designer around, but it does mean I should spend enough to hire someone skilled (and reasonably professional / punctual).

Cheap isn't good business sense. Good business sense is hiring highly skilled people and paying them fairly. Not over paying them. But not underpaying them (or hiring less qualified people either).

The amount I spend varies with the cover. If I buy a custom image, that could be anywhere from $200-1500 dollars. I've bought images that were worth it and images that weren't worth it. IMO custom images are not usually worth the spend in terms of increased sales, but they may be worth it in other ways (decreasing time spent looking at stock photos, for example. Or increased access to highly converting images for marketing).

I spend anything from $200-600 on cover design, depending on the designer, and how quickly they work. Sometimes, I find a great premade and get a deal. Or I catch a designer with a sale. Or I pay extra for rush. As with anything, design quality isn't totally correlated to price. There are a lot of great designers charging $150-200 for a simple cover (a genre that doesn't need heavy PS), but there are a lot of weak designers charging those prices too. And a designer who is truly great in one genre might not be great in another.

Then I spend another $300 or so for proofing. I dev edit myself (combo of self-edit, betas, and critique swaps). I format with Vellum.

That doesn't include marketing costs. That would put me well over 2-4k.

I'd like to hire a full on dev editor, but it's the time, not the money that stops me. That usually means a 2-3 week halt in production and I don't have time for that.
I understand that if anyone wanted to mimic a trad-publishers the 4K is probably the minimum with a development edit thrown in. We all want to put out work as near to a trad-published book as is possible. At the same time, I'm sure we'd also like to charge their prices and have the marketing recourses, have our print books printed for $1 each as they do, and to get out books on bookstore shelves, but that's a big stretch of the imagination. Those who make enough from their catalogue, or have the surplus income, or savings surplus to requirements to spend that kind of money, great. I think its fantastic if you can. I'm sure there are authors on here who have the following, and set up, and business model that can make it pay, but I'm also sure that the majority of us authors can't make it pay off at Reedsy's sort of figures. That's only an assumption based on the reported number of books available and the number of new releases reported yearly and the sort of figures to hit the ranks.

Like I said, I don't know what the average self-published author makes per book in the first year. I suspect it's less than $1000 for the majority and less than 500 sales, but I don't know that for certain. Many books also have a short lifespan of sales, so projecting a return over a number of years is difficult. All I know is that this year I have published 3 books and have two more before the year end is out. That's five books that would cost me anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 dollars at Reedsy's prices. Do I wish I could spend that on publishing them, yes, but then considering my income from my catalogue, it wouldn't make business sense. I'd be vanity publishing at best and gambling at worst.

I guess there is an alternative and that's to resort to submitting to agents, for all good that would do given the % of books taken on.
 

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I am a total book cheapskate. My covers average $100 or less. I do all my own editing and formatting and I make the paperback wrap arounds.

Caution, though. I can probably pull this off because I worked a lot of publishing-related jobs in my past life. Magazine editor, graphic design, etc.

I don't pay for marketing for launch unless it's book 1 in a new series, then I give it a $300 to $500 budget. I am the shoestring!
Same! And I make my own covers, though I'd like to get rid of that burden with my next series. I'm just too picky when it comes to covers. 😬 D2D is great for ebook formatting. Very happy with that at least. :)
 

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'Cheap', i.e. cost cutting, is good business sense for a lot of companies that get by and do rather well by cutting on costs.

Cost cutting also has its downside, obviously, as persuasively described upthread, especially by Crystal -- although I wish she would have mentioned the sales differences between the books she put out that had cost-cut covers and artwork, vs. the sales from the books with better covers.

I think every author needs to keep their budget in mind. And those always vary from author to author. I've read more than one horror story here on KB by an author who spent more on marketing (covers, editing, ads, etc.) than they recouped in profits. Some even lost money. They did all the right things, and still lost money.
 

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'Cheap', i.e. cost cutting, is good business sense for a lot of companies that get by and do rather well by cutting on costs.

Cost cutting also has its downside, obviously, as persuasively described upthread, especially by Crystal -- although I wish she would have mentioned the sales differences between the books she put out that had cost-cut covers and artwork, vs. the sales from the books with better covers.

I think every author needs to keep their budget in mind. And those always vary from author to author. I've read more than one horror story here on KB by an author who spent more on marketing (covers, editing, ads, etc.) than they recouped in profits. Some even lost money. They did all the right things, and still lost money.
True. Low cost is even a brand for bigger companies (think of Dollar Store or mass market paperbacks) while some trad publishers made their reputations by being fastidious in production but charging more. Now that they are all being corporatized, the bottom line is the only real focus of trad publishing (although there are quality imprints). So when we look at traditional publishing, it's important to note that they've tossed a lot of the "traditional" and the term now just means the big kids with bookstore distribution and tons of leverage. When they cut a few bucks of a process the ROI is phenomenal. If they have a book or series that doesn't do well, they write the costs off against the profits from Patterson's next book. We don't have that option. So such comparisons don't work.
 

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Covers don't sell based on their price. They sell based on how marketable they are.

I have $100 covers that made six figures and $1800 covers that were duds (had to switch the image/concept) and $1800 covers that did great.

Putting aside custom image costs... I don't think that designer with the $100 covers is still charging $100/cover. She was great and undercharging (but I didn't know better at the time). A cover that quality would probably cost me $200-250 now.

In the past 3-4 years, all my covers have cost $250-600. The $600 ones have done the best but even those vary, as they're a series of six books, and some of them perform better than others.

The cheap covers I mentioned are still a WIP so I don't have them out yet. The might work well for sales. I don't know. But I know they aren't working well for my time, which is valuable to me.

Decon, if you really want honest feedback you need to stop editorializing. Why would anyone post they spend 2k on their books now that you and others have dismissed them for it?

This is a business and you should be smart about costs but that doesn't mean going cheap. Most people who do this full time invest smartly in their covers and editing. They may not spend 2k but they aren't going cheap either.

Though in romance, custom photos are becoming more common, so a lot of authors are spending 2-3k. I don't think custom photos are a good investment but it's their money.
 

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We'll just have to agree to disagree regards bias. I'm coming at it from a business prospective for self-publishing a book in relation to return on investment and if you want to call that a bias, then great, that's your privilege.

$2.95 Royalty = $2.06 number of sales to make $100 = 49
$3.95 Royalty = $2.76 " " " " " " = 36
$4.95 Royalty + $3,46 " " " " " " = 29

From that you can work out what you have to sell against the cost of your cover, editing, formatting and whatever else.

As an example, if you pay $250 for a cover that = 122 sales @t $2,95. 90 [email protected] $3.95, or 72,5 sales @ $4,95

another example. If you pay $800 for an edit that = 392 sales @ $2,95. 288 sales @ 3.95, or 232 sales @ $4.95.

That's the math, which I wouldn't call bias, but a business calculation to assist with investment in relation to return.

Pity we don't have what the likely sales are the average author for a single book from release, but those who publish regularly will have an idea of their own likely sales, ergo what they can realistically spend.
You're using math in a way that justifies your point. You can use stats in any way you want. Again, you biases and beliefs determine how you calculate things.

Simple math can be that if you go from cheap cover that barely sells to better one that sells more, you will make your investment back faster. And make more money with following books or other books in the same genre. That math doesn't show up as straigh-forwardly as dividing price by sales profit but it's still truth. Maybe instead you should count like this:

Cheap cover sells 100 books a month, middle-priced cover sells 200. It might take longer to make back the investment but that doesn't mean it was a bad spend. You're just thinking short-term if you look for such straigh-forward ROI, without taking into account stuff like follow-on sales that come from more sales with better cover etc.

So, really, you can't disagree about bias. It's inarguable. We ALL have it. Maybe you don't want to agree that being cheap is a bad bias. I could see that. And it isn't always bad. One just has to be aware of it and see if it's helping them or not. But being oblivious to it is dangerous.
 

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Covers don't sell based on their price. They sell based on how marketable they are.

I have $100 covers that made six figures and $1800 covers that were duds (had to switch the image/concept) and $1800 covers that did great.

Putting aside custom image costs... I don't think that designer with the $100 covers is still charging $100/cover. She was great and undercharging (but I didn't know better at the time). A cover that quality would probably cost me $200-250 now.

In the past 3-4 years, all my covers have cost $250-600. The $600 ones have done the best but even those vary, as they're a series of six books, and some of them perform better than others.

The cheap covers I mentioned are still a WIP so I don't have them out yet. The might work well for sales. I don't know. But I know they aren't working well for my time, which is valuable to me.

Decon, if you really want honest feedback you need to stop editorializing. Why would anyone post they spend 2k on their books now that you and others have dismissed them for it?

This is a business and you should be smart about costs but that doesn't mean going cheap. Most people who do this full time invest smartly in their covers and editing. They may not spend 2k but they aren't going cheap either.

Though in romance, custom photos are becoming more common, so a lot of authors are spending 2-3k. I don't think custom photos are a good investment but it's their money.
Amen!
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 · (Edited)
Cheap cover sells 100 books a month, middle-priced cover sells 200. It might take longer to make back the investment but that doesn't mean it was a bad spend. You're just thinking short-term if you look for such straight-forward ROI, without taking into account stuff like follow-on sales that come from more sales with better cover etc.
I don't disagree that covers and everything else is important.

However, you can't put a likely figure on sales with any certainty regardless of spend; unless you already have a fan base and a lengthy e-mail list. Nor can you guarantee longevity. The data is there to get rank regards number of sales and most fall below the sort of figures you mention.

Self-publishing is perhaps one of the most difficult businesses to come up with a accurate business plan short term or long term.

I still don't call anything I have said a baias, I call in common business sense.

As a point of interest, is this from experience from you self-publishing?
 

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You all make valid points. I think some of the miscommunication here is terminology: "bias" versus "common business sense". Both are at work, not one or the other.

Your idea of common business sense is a business strategy. You start off focused on keeping costs low. Other businesses focus on marketing. Still others see common sense as doing something unique, and still others know that success lies in writing to market. They are all strategies. Each strategy inevitably leads to a bias that tells us that spending more than $100 for a cover is "foolish" or that going for one less than $150 is a waste of money because it won't sell.

These aren't right or wrong. The cover is one ingredient. The content is another. Formatting and presentation are others. And your fan base affects all of it--it is their expectations not ours that matter. Changing genres can change all of it. Pulp readers love 60k books and Epic Fantasy readers expect 100k. The costs of doing business are part and parcel of your business model. Again there isn't a right one. Trial and error determines what works. Make too many bad choices and you aren't competitive. A few good ones that you gain insight from will determine what works.

If you listen long enough to the six figure authors's podcast, you'll hear people that go every whichway and are successful. They make something work. The smart ones admit it is just what works for them. Whether they hire expensive editors or do their own editing, use expensive, highly original covers or just cookie cutter that centers them in the genre, write to market or write what they love, they found a way to work and their biases reflect that. Even simply a bias that says "Editing is never worth more than x" or "I'd never pay more than y for a cover." Or the opposite.
 

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I am a total book cheapskate. My covers average $100 or less. I do all my own editing and formatting and I make the paperback wrap arounds.

Caution, though. I can probably pull this off because I worked a lot of publishing-related jobs in my past life. Magazine editor, graphic design, etc.

I don't pay for marketing for launch unless it's book 1 in a new series, then I give it a $300 to $500 budget. I am the shoestring!
I'm quite jealous! I like your covers. I would have preferred you said you spent an obscene amount of money so I'd feel better about my own frivolous spending :LOL:

Yeah, I'm treating my first series as an expensive learning experience. For my next books, I aim for them to be a lot cheaper and more to market!
 

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As the title says - How much do you pay for to get a book to publication on average without marketing - Poll

This is for book covers, formatting, editing, proofreading etc as an average total, or what you budget for your next book.

For a calculation of euros to dollars, multiply the euro amount by 1.19

For a calculation of GB pounds to dollars, multiply the GB pound amount by 1.39.

Don't be shy, as no one will know who is voting in the poll.

Click on the graph link on the bottom right of the poll to see results.
I only have one book. So “average” isn’t real for me yet.

Children’s picture books are costly. I have three more just about ready to publish, but illustrations take some dough. Expecting about the same $700-$900 kind of thing.

Can’t wait to see the difference once my chapter book is complete. Then, even more so when (if) I finish my novel.
 

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I still don't call anything I have said a bias, I call in common business sense.
It keeps sounding like you don't want to admit to having baises. These are two completely different things and definitions.

What you consider 'common business sense' is highly influenced by biases you have. That's where your argument is flawed. This is basic psychology that plays out in all your life, from daily life when shopping to parenting to business. Just look at the list of these we all might have:

You have yours, I have mine, everyone starts with some.

Whether you will find out yours and how they help you or not, is up to you (and it's worth studying just for writing better characters).

Being a cheapskate is a general bias many people have. So that's not to just call you out. Being smart spender is an art form that businesses have to have.

But cheapness isn't negative bias necessarily, it's only when it runs rampant and extreme it is. No one is suggesting to always buy most expensive stuff... Just leveling self-awareness and learning these to see if these are helping your career or screwing it up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #36 · (Edited)
It keeps sounding like you don't want to admit to having baises. These are two completely different things and definitions.

What you consider 'common business sense' is highly influenced by biases you have. That's where your argument is flawed. This is basic psychology that plays out in all your life, from daily life when shopping to parenting to business. Just look at the list of these we all might have:

You have yours, I have mine, everyone starts with some.

Whether you will find out yours and how they help you or not, is up to you (and it's worth studying just for writing better characters).

Being a cheapskate is a general bias many people have. So that's not to just call you out. Being smart spender is an art form that businesses have to have.

But cheapness isn't negative bias necessarily, it's only when it runs rampant and extreme it is. No one is suggesting to always buy most expensive stuff... Just leveling self-awareness and learning these to see if these are helping your career or screwing it up.
I don't care how many times you call it a bias, as far as I am concerned I only look at it from a business POV after considering data. I can however see your bias as a cover designer and that's understandable you standing your corner regards pricing of your services, because your talent has value as anyone can see from your site and the work you produce. Your covers are excellent and worth every penny, both custom and premade.

What you have to understand and maybe what you are missing here, is that when you provide a service for covers, or any editor for that matter, you agree a fixed price, do the work and get paid. Or sometimes you get paid, then do the work. That type of business has no relation to how self-publishing as a business works and the likely return on investment.

One thing is for sure, a cheapskate I am not. If something requires an investment and it makes business sense, I will spend it, and have done to the tune of hundreds of thousands in past businesses, and in a banking career, evaluating investment loans for others in business.. As for the link you provided, maybe go take a look on YouTube at some Dragon Den episodes to get a better understanding of risk to investment and return for those at the sharp end of business.

If I didn't use business sense and threw caution to the wind, then as I said before, at Reedsy's prices for the amount of books I'm publishing this year, I'd need to invest $10,000 to $20,000. Ask yourself if any bank would lend that money for such a project based on the data of self-publishing returns per book. I doubt it.

That's not to say you shouldn't invest and everyone's personal finances in relation to what they can expect to spend will be different as the poll shows.
 

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Not sure where this would fit into the dialogue RE bias and 'business sense', but you either are making money, or you're not. And if you're not, then you look at all the outlays vs. revenue taken. Not too much room for bias to enter that picture, at least in that particular view of it.
 
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