How to Start a Book Writing Project: The Cost of Writing a Book to Get it Published

by | Jan 16, 2023 | Writing | 0 comments

When considering how to write a book and get it published, it is easy to say that it doesn’t cost anything, it’s a bit presumptuous to think that publishing a high-quality book is without cost. To do it right, it may be more truthful to say, the only thing free in the self-publishing process is writing and uploading your files to Amazon KDP.

Yes, you could do your own cover design. Yes, you could do your own interior layout and back cover copy. But should you? In most cases, probably not. Even if you know what you’re doing, it may not be advisable to do it for yourself. Why? Because you are too emotionally attached to the work.

Don’t be a Fool When Learning How to Write a Book (huh!)

You’ve heard it said that an attorney who represents himself in a court of law has a fool for a client. I would say the same thing for writing a quality book. Especially when it comes to editing. I am an editor myself, but I would never release my own work until it has been reviewed thoroughly by my editor. It may be equally as foolish to try to save a buck by having your English teacher friend down the road look over your work and call it editing. Trust me here. Editing a book is not the same thing as marking up a student’s paper.

Of course, I don’t mean to imply that there are no good book editors in the teacher community. Obviously, there are many. I just suggest that you don’t make that assumption when trying to save money.

The same goes for writing your back cover copy. There is a very specific science to creating this kind of copy. Most authors want to write a summary of the book. Professional copywriters know that it is sales copy, not a summary, and they know how the current market responds to specific words and phrases. The science behind it is always evolving. What worked ten years ago doesn’t necessarily work today.

In short, to make your book the best it can be, trust the experts. You focus on being you, the author.

Cost Considerations

So, what is involved in cost management for the author or book project manager when considering how to write a book and get it published? Here are some of the basics along with a range of probable costs.

Discipline Typical Cost
Editing $1000-$3000
Cover Design $600-$2500
Proofreading $500-$1250
Copywriting $150-$1500
Proofs and Copies $10-$1000 (for the sake of estimating
but a highly individual business decision)
Ancillary Material This could be endless. Choose wisely.

These estimates have a wide range of influences, not the least of which is the size of the finished book. Especially in editing, a 120,000-word novel will cost significantly more than a 40,000-word nonfiction manual.

Let’s take a closer look at a couple of these.

Editing when determining how to write a book

Editing can easily be considered the most important aspect of publishing any book, cover notwithstanding when determining how to write a book and get it published. As I mentioned, editing is something you should never attempt to do yourself. Of course, after the first draft, you have a responsibility to do what is commonly referred to as a rewrite or revision, though seldom do you actually rewrite everything. It’s an initial self-edit.

It’s important to find the right editor for your market. If your market is the United States, it’s best to find an editor familiar with American English or even varying American dialects. That may sound obvious, but it’s important to understand that the writing rules in the UK, for example, have fairly significant differences from those in the US. As an editor in the US myself, I have had the pleasure of editing manuscripts for writers in the UK, so it is absolutely possible, but it slows things down considerably. The standard style guide for the US trade publication market is The Chicago Manual of Style. Once an editor’s brain is wrapped around that standard (or any other), it becomes a bit of a challenge to break from it. Not a showstopper but a consideration. Did I mention that hiring an editor is important? Please don’t skip this step.

Book Cover Design

There is a pretty wide spread of potential costs associated with the design of your book cover. Often, this expense falls toward the end of the writing process. You don’t actually need to have the cover completed until it’s time to go to print. Having said that, I enjoy getting my covers done at the beginning of the project. At least as soon as the title, subtitle, and design concept are nailed down. I do it early because I like to see it in front of me to keep me moving. It’s a heck of a motivator. On the other hand, it can be a bit risky to do it early. It would be very easy toward the end of your writing to discover that you have strayed so far from your initial outline and concept that your cover no longer makes sense.

Covers are funny things in that regard. On one of my novels, Left Coast Left, I was so moved by one of the covers proposed by my designer, I selected it almost immediately, even though it depicted a scene that had nothing to do with the story. It took my breath away. Not so much because of the beauty, though it was certainly beautiful, but because of the emotional response it demanded. “Holy crap!” was mine.

I wanted it so badly, I added a new chapter to make it work. It tied everything together brilliantly, if I do say so myself. And yes, it motivated me to keep writing. It drove me to get that story written as quickly as I could.

Back to Cost

So, what about cost? As I mentioned earlier, it’s a broad category. When looking at how to write a book and get it published, you could do it yourself for no investment at all beyond your time. But unless you are a trained designer with specific experience in book covers, I would strongly suggest that you hire a professional. A mistake here will certainly spell disaster. There is nothing more important in selling a book than its cover. In the early days of your writing career, I would suggest a minimum budget of $300 to $500. If you can afford it, or perhaps later in your writing journey, you should consider leveling up to a higher-end designer in the $1,500 to $2,500 range.

If you’re interested in learning more about the other disciplines listed above, check out my book, Project Management for Writers on Amazon.

Happy writing!

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