Tag Archives: budgets

Getting a Handle on the Art Budget for Your Book

Both publishing houses and self-publishers have a vested interest in controlling the costs of book production. Although artwork — and by that I mean photos, illustrations, line drawings, charts, and graphs — adds to the value of a book, it also can add significant time and cost. Why is that? Here are the biggest drivers:

  • Art-heavy books require a lot of manipulation during page layout so that the photographs and illustrations land near enough to the text that they belong with. Sometimes the text may need to be rewritten or captions revised in order to accommodate all of the artwork. Layout artists will charge more to account for the additional time. By comparison, most fiction and other all-text books require much less manipulation, as there are fewer special elements to disrupt the flow of regular text.
  • Photos and illustrations also require licensing. The cost of these licenses can vary from around $40 to upwards of $300 per piece. If you’re planning a different photo for each of the 20 chapters in your book, for example, that’s a serious cost consideration.
  • If stock art is not appropriate for your book, you may have to research museum and library archives or hire a photographer or illustrator. In the case of hiring an artist, in addition to licensing you also have to pay an hourly rate or a flat fee for the artist’s time. Researching archives may not add monetary costs, but it does add time, which is an indirect cost.
  • When artwork is introduced, another professional may also be introduced: the image specialist. This is the person who scans any prints and verifies that the images are of high enough quality to be used in a book. If there is no dedicated image specialist, this job falls to another player in the book production process, and the time for that person to do the work is added to the cost of the book. Publishing houses may have the production editor or layout artist perform these tasks. Self-publishers may have to do it themselves.

What This Means to You

With a large art program, you have to stay organized
With a large art program, it can be difficult to stay organized.

Okay, so having photos and illustrations adds money to your project. What does that mean for you as the author? Well, a couple of things. If you are self-publishing it means having to factor the extra money into your budget. You will use your budget to find the balance between how much to charge for each book and how many books you will need to sell to recoup the investment. The added time must also be factored into the publication date. Copyediting, layout, and proofreading all take longer when a book has a large art program.

If you are seeking a traditional publisher, you need to be able to say why this artwork is needed and why the cost is justified. Some types of books simply require photos if they are going to be successful. For example, a cookbook with photos sells much better than one  without. Depending on the target audience, children’s books usually require artwork also. The publisher may want the author to provide and/or pay for said artwork. (Providing means either creating it yourself or hiring and paying a professional.) Again, your budget will need to be consulted and adjusted.

But never fear, you have options for saving money.

How to Save Money on Your Art Program

When planning the art program for your book, the first question you should ask yourself is, does your book require artwork? If the answer is yes, the follow-up question is how much artwork does it require? Not surprisingly, having a handful of photos will take less time and cost less money than a book with many pieces of art or many kinds of artwork. If you can achieve the same effect with less, then use less.

Sometimes black-and-white photos are just as effective as color.
Sometimes black-and-white photos are just as effective as color.

Another question to ask is, do the photos and illustrations need to be in color, or will black-and-white accomplish the same goals? Color photos require premium paper in order for them to reproduce properly. The cost per book for 4-color books is also quite high compared to a 1-color book (i.e., black-and-white). Is the value that color photos add to your book equal to or greater than the expense of including them? In some instances, if the photos aren’t in color they aren’t worth having at all. A thorough check of the competition can help you make this decision.

Finally, ask yourself, do the photos need to be placed throughout the book, or could they be gathered together and placed in the middle of the book? This alternative to a full art program, called a photo insert, is becoming more and more popular. A happy compromise on cost and readers’ expectations for photographs, a photo insert is the 8 or 16 pages of photographs you see dropped in the middle of a book. This feature is cheaper than having photos placed throughout the book because (1) you only have to pay for a few sheets of specialty paper and (2) layout does not have to accommodate the images, yet you still get to have your photos. Perhaps an insert is right for your book.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

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Quiz: 10 Questions to Help You Choose Your Route to Publication

As an aspiring author you have several options for how to get published. The two most popular are through a traditional publishing house and self-publishing.

Three other routes also offer viable ways to have your work published. You could partner with an organization or business, you could write on a work-for-hire basis, or you could use a publishing service, where you pay a company to shepherd your manuscript through the book production process.

Each of these paths comes with its own demands and requirements of the author. By assessing your own strengths and weaknesses, you can find the route to publication that fits you best. Take this 10-question quiz to get started.

  1. Do you have at least $5,000 that you can dedicate to your book project?
  2. Do you want complete creative control regarding the text, layout, and cover design of your book?
  3. Do you have unquestionable credentials in your field, such as a degree or many years of experience?
  4. Do you have a very narrow, targeted niche or cause?
  5. Are you willing to give up some creative control in order to make a living as a writer?
  6. Do you want a book under your name but would rather have someone else take care of the details of publication?
  7. Do you have the contacts, or are you willing to make contacts, with professionals who can help you publish a book on your own?
  8. Do you have a book idea with national appeal?
  9. Do you have a national marketing platform already in place?
  10. Do you want your book to be published in less than a year?

Now review the questions to which you answered yes. These are the assets you bring with you to the publishing endeavor. Use them to help you narrow your options.

  • If you answered yes to questions 1, 2, 7, 9, and 10, self-publishing may be right for you. Self-publishing offers the most creative control, but it also has up-front costs, such as editing, design, and marketing.
  • If you answered yes to questions 3, 4, 5, 8, and 9, traditional publishing may be right for you. It can be difficult to break into traditional publishing without a targeted marketing hook and a strong platform, but you do avoid much of the up-front expense.
  • If you answered yes to questions 3 and 4, collaboration with a nonprofit or business may be right for you. Collaborations work well when you can find an organization that targets your ideal readers. Exposure is sometimes limited, but you gain credibility.
  • If you answered yes to questions 5, 6, and 8, work-for-hire may be right for you. Although you lose some creative control in this situation, you gain experience and can create a steady income. For many writers, this is their bread and butter.
  • If you answered yes to questions 1, 6, and 10, a publishing service may be right for you. With the right company, this route generally offers a no-fuss, no-muss solution, wherein you retain complete creative control but also foot the bill. Ensuring quality is the hitch here.*

There are many viable paths to publication. The key to your success is  choosing the route that maximizes your strengths and minimizes your weaknesses. With the results of this quiz in mind, explore your options until you find the one that’s best for you.

*I would be remiss if I did not mention that many of the publishing services now available have awful reputations for preying on uneducated authors. DO YOUR RESEARCH! Know what you are getting before signing with a company and avoid any that try to pressure you into a decision.

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014

Is Money the New Gatekeeper?

In publishing, the gatekeeper is the person who keeps your book idea from becoming a reality. Traditionally that has been the publishing houses and the agents who say “No, thank you” to your proposal. But self-publishing has eliminated those forces. Authors can circumvent the whole agent-publishing house system and put out their own book, in a matter of hours if they so choose, and no one can stop them.

To create a book that people will actually purchase, however, you need to do more than just publish your first draft. You need a professional editor and a professional designer (the designer so people will open your book, the editor so they will continue to read it). And those things cost money. So I ask you, Is money the new gatekeeper?

I posed this question to some colleagues online and the response from some was that quality is and always has been the only gatekeeper. Having read some of the awful books that have been published, both traditionally and independently, and having read some of the terrific books that may never be published, I can’t say I agree. Quality, while not irrelevant, is only part of the issue. How will you achieve quality? All on your own? Not so for most of us.

Curiously, money has become a barrier for those looking for a traditional publisher as well. Particularly with fiction writers, who are expected to approach agents with a completed manuscript, the new expectation is that authors will turn in manuscripts that are publication ready. In fact, one agent I know said while she used to accept a manuscript if it was 99% ready, she now only accepts those that are 100% ready. That was demoralizing to me, and I don’t even write fiction. And for nonfiction writers? Even these authors, who often have their book ideas accepted before the writing is complete, may be asked to pay for editing before submitting the final manuscript to the publisher. If they don’t, the house is fully prepared to end the deal.

I have explained before why editing costs so much, and I would not argue that editors or designers should charge less than they are worth. But if you believe as I believe that everyone needs an editor (that is my company motto, by the way), you have to admit that money plays a significant role in whose books get read and whose don’t, whose books get published and whose don’t. In the past that investment came from the publishing house. Now more often than not it is laid at the foot of the author.

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014.

Why Does Editing Cost So Much? (Part 1)

“If there’s only one thing you’re able to spend money on, it should be hiring an editor.”

–Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published

In Defense of Editors

If you have ever looked at a cost estimate for having your book edited, you may be scratching your head. More than $1,000 for copyediting? More than $3,000 for developmental editing? And that’s for a regular old 250-page manuscript! That seems like an awful lot of money to spend on a book that you can’t be sure will make a profit. How do editors justify charging so much?

Here’s the short answer: Without a thorough edit, your book won’t sell.

For years I didn’t believe that. How would readers know the book was poorly edited until after they bought it? But in the era of ubiquitous book reviews, it is absolutely true. Either no one will buy the book to begin with or a few people will buy it, pan it in the reviews, and dissuade anyone else from buying it. That means whatever money you spent on services other than editing — design, marketing, printing or converting to e-book — was wasted.

Professional editing isn’t a guarantee of success, but it gives your book a fighting chance and keeps you from embarrassing yourself. And for that kind of value added, you have to be willing to put forth some money.

Now, contrary to popular belief, the going rate for editing does not support a lavish, high-flying lifestyle. Rather, it affords the usual comforts of life, and it is only reasonable to expect a full-time professional to earn a modest living. She does that by charging her clients what her time is actually worth.

Nevertheless . . .

Some authors still feel if they are only going to make a certain amount of money on a project, the editor doesn’t have justification to charge more than that amount. That notion, however, ignores the fact that you are not paying your editor based on the book’s potential earnings. You are paying her for the work she is doing today.

If you question whether your editor is going to be worth her fees, get a sample edit before you hire her. This will give you an idea of what kind of changes your editor will make and you can decide for yourself if it is worth the expense.

Time and time again my authors tell me I have saved them from major embarrassment; I have found errors they never knew were there; the editing phase gave them the opportunity to improve their writing in ways they didn’t expect. If you work with a qualified, professional editor, there is a strong chance you will have a similar experience. And when that happens, when you see just how much better of a book you have due to your editor’s efforts, you will understand why editing costs so much.

(Read Part 2 of this post, “The Breakdown,” here.)

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014.

Self-Publishing: How Much Will It Cost?

If you’re planning to self-publish a book, you need a budget. Without one, your project will stall as you realize this great, easy thing everyone keeps talking about actually takes some money. How much could it possibly cost? Well, $5,000-$7,500, in fact. For some, it could be much more.

You will soon discover the biggest expense you incur is the time you spend writing and marketing your book. Don’t discount the value of your time. You may be spending a couple hundred hours just on marketing, and that’s time you could be spending with family, friends, or a paying gig.

But what about monetary expenses? When self-publishing, the money you spend will largely be through the professionals you hire to assist you. From manuscript to book, you will require a variety of services to achieve a professional-looking, marketable product.

Here is a breakdown of some of the more common vendors you will use (fees based on Editorial Freelancers Association guidelines and my own research):

Book coach: $100 to $300 per 1.5-hour session

Developmental editor: $10 to $15 per manuscript page, or $45 to $65 an hour

Copyeditor: $4 to $10 per manuscript page, or $18 to $40 an hour

Proofreader: $2 to $5 per typeset page, or $15 to $35 an hour

Designer/Typesetter:

            Interior: $6 to $10 per page, plus setup fee of $100 to $200

            Cover: $800 to $1,200; more for complex designs or original artwork

Printer/Binder: These prices assume a black-and-white interior with a full-color cover. You’ll pay more for longer books, color interiors, and/or larger trim sizes.

            500 copies: $3.65 to $5.25 per unit, plus shipping

            1,000 copies: $2.35 to $3.50 per unit, plus shipping

E-books: Price structures vary. Some are free to start with a cut of the list price going to the company; others charge a setup fee, but you keep 100% of sales.

As you can see, copyediting and design alone could run you $2,000-$3,000. But don’t skimp here. Professional editing, and particularly professional design, are what allow self-published books to compete with the traditionally published. After all your hard work, do you really want to put out an inferior product? Don’t forget, this is your book; you deserve to make it the best it can be!