Contrary to what most think, many still read books. In the UK, over 50 percent of adults have read a book in the previous year. Meanwhile, nearly 40 percent could already classify as heavy readers. These are individuals who completed at least 10 titles in the same period.
Kantar also revealed that the book market, at least in the UK, could grow close to 2.3 percent year-on-year. In the United States, at least 75 percent of U.S. adults read at least one book in any format in 2018.
Books still matter—and yes, they still sell. The challenge now here is how authors can still generate a profit. One step is to know the costs associated with publishing.
How Much Does It Cost?
The answer to the question depends on whether the author wants to work with an agent or go through the self-publishing process.
Working with an Agent
Does an author need to hire an agent to publish? The answer is no, but they can benefit significantly from the expertise and network of this professional.
- Agents can scrutinize the work to determine whether they are suitable for publishing. Usually, most popular publishing houses, such as Penguin Random House and Harper Collins, look for commercial work. In other words, these are manuscripts that can appeal to the public and work in regular bookstores.
- Literary agents can help authors pick the ideal publishing house based on content and the potential income they can generate from the sale. Some publishers specialize in non-fiction over fiction.
- They can take some load off the author, particularly beginners, especially when they need to approach big publishing houses.
Considering that agents do a lot for authors, they may require a hefty fee. Usually, they receive 15 percent commission on everything the book earns, including royalties and advance payment. Some may also charge additional fees, though authors might want to avoid these individuals.
When an author works with an agent, then, more likely, they want a traditional publishing house to print their manuscripts and eventually sell them. To get to this point, the house needs to determine first whether they want to publish the book. Someone will have to read the copy.
After that, if they believe that it’s worth publishing, the publishing house will then offer a contract, where the author receives some advance payment. Usually, in this arrangement, the author doesn’t spend anything.
They will also receive royalties, which is a percentage of the book’s revenue. The rates depend on the type of book published or the number of copies sold. Normally, hardcovers will have the highest royalty rate of up to 30 percent. Trade paperbacks will have the smallest at only 15 percent.
Sometimes the company will use a tiered royalty program, which means that the more copies the books sold, the higher the royalty rate is. Either way, as long as the title continues to sell, the author may look forward to royalties.
Going the Self-publishing Route
A growing number of authors, though, find the royalty system unfair. It’s either the rates are low or they don’t like the idea that a significant percentage of the revenue goes toward the traditional publisher. If the book does well, these houses can earn more than the author, even if the latter accounts for their advance payment, which can be thousands or millions.
Some also don’t like the lack of control. Some publishing houses may ask for revisions to make the work “more commercial” before they publish it. During marketing, the way they present the book may not be the intention of the author. They are also at the mercy of contracts, which can be restrictive.
Thus, many authors use self-publishing. As its name suggests, the author also becomes the publisher and does all the legwork. In exchange, they can set the price of the copy, develop marketing strategies, and have full control over the design and content of the book.
How much will this cost? It can range from a measly $500 to as much as $20,000 if they want to take advantage of certain services. These may include:
- Hiring an editor. The Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) has published a guide on the possible rates of editors based on the type and amount of work they should do. The median rate is between $36 and $70 an hour.
- Working with a book cover designer. These days, self-publishing authors can use their work or opt for tools such as Canva to create their book covers. But if they want something more polished, they may need to work with a book cover designer, who may charge at least $500 per project.
- Tapping book marketers. The cost depends on the kinds of services the author wants and the popularity of marketers. A single campaign can be around $2,000.
When it comes to publishing, there’s no route better than the other. It all depends on the goals of the author: how much they want to receive, what kind of publishing freedom they want, and how much they are willing to spend.