So it’s time for another update on my self-publishing journey. Mostly because a lot of people have been asking me questions about the process and what I think of putting my books up by myself.

This post is about money … and how much it costs to self-publish.

A lovely writer was asking me about book covers for her new book that Createspace (the printed book arm of Amazon) said should be out in 2-3 months. Wai … What? *hear a needle scraping across an album* Before I could tell her about a wonderful cover artist, I needed her to explain to me about what Createspace had to do with when her book would be released.

Well, she’d paid them $1400 to “self-publish” her book. I almost fell over backwards. After I recovered I asked what was included in that price. Well, they were giving her an ISBN for both print and ebook … umm, both are free from Amazon. Okay, what else? Well they’d format her book. This is definitely something many people pay for because they don’t want to worry it’s not done right. But the fee I’ve found tops out around $30 per format. So this brings it to about $120 (epub, mobi (kindle), nook, kobo). And it included some editing which you can purchase for upwards of $.01 per word, so about $750 for a 75,000 word novel. It did NOT include a cover.

So she paid $1400 for services that she could have gotten for $870 … tops. I was so sad for her. I wish she had done just a little more research before jumping in. (Keep in mind … in the publishing world money should flow TOWARDS the author. That one piece of advice should be in the back of your brain as you’re making all your decisions.)

Then on the other end of the spectrum I’ve had more than one person mention they can’t afford to self-publish. But with a few really good beta readers (one to read for story consistency and a couple to read for typo/grammar), services you can trade with another author … you may be able to skip the editing fee. With patience, uploading to Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Smashwords, even getting your book ready for print is easy enough. And if you’re not tech savvy, there are pre-made book covers for as little as $25.

There have been many bestsellers I’ve read in the self-publishing realm whose covers aren’t intricate. Yes, a cover is a reader’s first impression, but people will buy a book on a list even if the cover didn’t roll off the NY presses. When you make some money, switching out covers is a simple process. I’ve switched out several original covers for something that better fit the genre.

Let’s face it, this whole thing is a learning process. My feeling if you’re toying with the idea of self-publishing is that it’s better to have a book up and making some money than having it sit unpublished on your computer making nothing.

And to catch you up on what’s going on with me (because I think it’s important for people to share their numbers) … August Sales were amazing and I thought I’d finally found a formula that works for my books. Unfortunately my sales are pushed by the first book in my romantic suspense series being free. Amazon has decided they are no longer going to run the “free” book list next to the top sellers in a category. I have no doubt many of the readers who downloaded my free book saw it because they were perusing the paid books in the same categories.

Guess what happened in September … sales plummeted.

Blind Her with Bliss: Free 9079 downloads (16% drop)
Deceive Her With Desire: 360 sold = $711.30 (43% drop in sales)
Cheat Her With Charm: 282 sold = $563.75 (45% drop in sales)
Shadows of Fire: 14 sold = $34.38

Barnes & Noble:
Blind Her With Bliss: Free through Smashwords
Deceive Her With Desire: 18 sold = $34.92 (32% drop in sales)
Cheat Her With Charm: 14 sold = $27.16 (33% drop in sales)
Shadows of Fire: 4 sold = $9.71

Blind Her With Bliss: Free (no report)
Deceive Her With Desire: 10 sold = $20.90
Cheat Her With Charm: 2 sold = $4.18
Shadows of Fire: 1 sold = $1.23

The report is difficult to sort through in its current format, it appears I’ve made apporximately $150 in September across all vendors.

I am sure Amazon’s changes had a huge effect on my sales. I can’t say exactly what happened with B&N. Perhaps that’s just the ups and downs of sales. But the fact is … I wouldn’t change my decision to jump on this crazy ride. Feel free to ask me any questions. I’m an open book!

32 Responses to Both Ends of the Bookmark

  • I almost fell off my chair too! That’s an expensive price to pay for self-publishing. I’m glad writer’s have you to question. You’re so full of knowledge and very willing to share with others. 🙂

    • Amber – It’s like the days when people paid big dollars to have a “publishing company” put their books up. I know businesses are looking to make money, but it just seems wrong to charge people for things that don’t actually cost.

  • Thanks for sharing!


  • Nina, thanks for being so generous with your self-publishing experiences, both your advice and your sales. As I beging this same adventure, your info is invaluable.

    • Susan – I always hope that what I share is helpful for authors who are toying with the idea of self-publishing. Hopefully they can learn from my mistakes.

  • Thanks for sharing. It’s good to know what other authors are doing and how they’re doing in this crazy new world of self-publishing.

    • Elysa – I don’t think enough people share their experiences. It seems all I hear are the wonderful stories of authors who are making tons of money. For every one of them there’s those of us doing everything right and still only making enough money to pay the electric bill. I like to let authors know they’re not alone in their sales.

  • As always, you have been very helpful.

    Thank you for your honesty.

  • Fascinating and insightful blog, Nina (I’ve tweeted this and mentioned it on Fb).

    I also sympathise with the writer who was – let’s face it – ripped off by CreateSpace. My best selling self-published title cost me nothing to publish except my time. And it does take time painstakingly editing and then formatting for the different retail platforms, but if I can learn to do that, believe me, ANYBODY can! My original cover cost nothing, though this has a more professional touch recently by a wonderful, inexpensive cover artist.

    I don’t much like anything Amazon does these days – lol – am starting to wonder if they actually want our custom.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing,


    • Lynette – Thank you for saying that it is possible to put up a good book without putting out any money.

      And I’m with you on Amazon … I don’t know what they’re doing. When my sales drop so does the amount of money they’re making. It just doesn’t make sense not to support their authors.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  • Zrinka – $5,000? *gulp* I can’t even imagine how publishing companies are justifying that!

    Amazon seems to be doing some very odd things with people’s books. They’ve held mine hostage and then buried it for weeks. I don’t know why they’re messing with book reviews, but that seems to be their latest fight with authors.

    I hope you get it straightened out soon.

  • It’s stories like this that put me off self-publishing (not to mention all the problems I’ve heard people having with formatting etc), and make me glad I have a publisher. I prefer to have the whole ‘publishing thing’ done for me! Okay, the publisher does take her ‘cut’ from the book sales, but at least I don’t have to lay any money out upfront!

    • Paula – Self-publishing isn’t for everyone, but when authors ask me about it I always tell them if they have a book available … why wouldn’t you expand your writing business into the self-publishing arena? There are people who have concerns about formatting, but I’ve never had any problems.

      As much as my sales have dropped, that’s more money in one month than I made in a whole year with my publisher. And please don’t misunderstand … I LOVED my publisher. My books just didn’t find readers with them.

      I’ve learned a lot through my traditional publishers and will very likely keep some books with them. Like I said, I think it’s good to keep my business diversified.

  • Thanks for sharing your sales Nina. I think having a free story really helps push other books. But then so do other books:-).

  • Great post, Nina! It’s a wonderful thing you’re doing, not just sharing the numbers, but warning authors of some of the things to be wary of as people dip their does in the self-pub waters.

    • Norah – It’s all a learning process. I’m hoping sharing my experiences will help others not repeat my mistakes. The sales I add so others will see there a lot more of us making moderate incomes with self-publishing. Sometimes I think all we hear is the really big numbers and that can be very discouraging for many self-published authors.

  • Vicki – I should remind people that it’s taken me 18 months to get to this point. I wasn’t one of those making money out of the starting gate.

  • Nina thanks so much for your honestly. I, like you am on the Indie ride and it has it’s ups and downs. I don’t like the new big brother attitude from Amazon lately and not counting FREE books has had a huge impact on selling back lists. On average with only one book and three novellas I usually average about $100 a month from Amazon. I actually find selling YA is a harder genre to promote on Amazon but this is all a learning curve. Thanks again – Renee

    • Renee – It’s a huge learning curve for all of us that’s why I like to share. I’m hoping perhaps someone can learn something from me.

      And yeah, Amazon is certainly getting this “big brother” attitude and it’s so frustrating. When we do well, they also do well. Seems odd they keep throwing up roadblocks in front of us.

      Here’s wishing you all the best with your books.

  • Thanks for sharing, Nina. If it makes you feel any better, I made only around $40 last month across all venues. I’ve gone from reporting sales monthly to reporting them biannually. I don’t even look any more…I’m off writing my next few books…like you’ve all been telling me. LOL!

    Again, thanks!


    • Lynn – I still look at my sales every night just to see if my promotions work … mostly they don’t. 😉 I try not to worry that my newest book isn’t selling. I’m hoping it’ll find its way to the readers.

      And like you, I’ve decided I’ve got to focus on my next book. Best of luck to you.

  • thanks for so generously sharing your numbers, Nina. As a relative newbie, it’s hard to figure out what’s what.

    • Louise – I was just telling someone else that everyone’s experience is different. And I mean different. I’ve tried to duplicate what successful authors have done and didn’t get the same results.

      It’s a matter of educating yourself and doing what is best for you and your books. The only thing consistent about publishing these days is its unpredictability.

  • HI, Nina. I self-pubbed a novella a year or so ago that my agent wasn’t going to market, and to tell you the truth, have had no problems with Amazon or BN with that novella. It’s still slowly selling… and I never offered it for free anywhere (I believe that writing is worth something, if only 99 cents, as a loss-leader), nor is it on any list – other than it was in the top 100 overall for quite some time after its release.

    I’m not making a “living” with that goofy little paranormal novella, but as you’ve mentioned in your post, and agreeing with you totally, I didn’t expect to. It was done and languishing in my computer, needing to breathe the light of… cyberspace. LOL And I’m traditionally published, so this was a bit of fun for me.

    I paid for the cover and the formatting breakdowns. That was it. I enjoy seeing that delightful cover that my artist perfectly represented for me, each time I look at Amazon and BN. It’s a thrill! And I also enjoy the dollars and cents that still trickle in.

    Great post. Thanks for the information. I hope others realize that it does NOT cost an arm and a leg to self-publish. But it probably would be best to foot the bill for an editor to go over the work before you do. Otherwise….. ugh.

    Happy Monday,

    • Linda – Thanks for taking time to comment. The more authors that share their self-publishing experience the more others can see how many different paths there are in the self-publishing arena.

      There are many people who feel as you do that the hard work of writing a book shouldn’t be given away for free. I’d love to sell the first book in the series for $.99 as a loss leader, but that didn’t work for me. The book didn’t sell which in turn meant the other books in the series didn’t sell either. For me, the *free* book method works.

      And of course I had to take a peek at your cover … and it’s one of those I’ve always loved. I have to agree that editing and covers is the place where I put my money when it comes to self-publishing.

  • Thanks for the great info, Nina! I agree-no reason to spend that much money on self-publishing.

    • Stacey – Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope authors looking to self-publish their books are able to find resources to help them go about it without such a financial investment.

  • Wow! Not knowing the first thing about self-publishing, I’d have assumed the $1400 was the going rate and fell for it hook, line and sinker. Thank you so much for passing this information on to us!

    • Evie – You’re welcome. I know you have to spend money to make money, but I hope this post and others about self-publishing will help authors make informed decisions.

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