[Podcast] Getting Real about the Costs of Publishing a Book

4 publishing your writing 5 promoting your writing Dec 15, 2022

You likely won’t get rich from publishing a book. Most people don’t

While we all dream of writing the next bestseller, on average a traditionally published nonfiction book sells about 250 to 300 copies in the first year. Only 500 copies, on average, for fiction.

While it’s healthy to have dreams, it’s also healthy to understand the reality of the publishing world. Unless you have an incredible streak of luck, you will not sell a million copies of your book. Frankly, you probably won’t sell more than a couple thousand over the years.

But you can sell more copies if you have a platform.

Most writers write but despise the idea of building a platform. But building a platform is essential if you want to sell a book. And there are costs associated with that.

What are some of the costs of publishing a book, and, more specifically, building a platform? Dave and Melissa offered advice in a recent podcast.

The Soft Costs of Publishing a Book

Let’s start out with the soft costs of publishing a book—those costs that don’t have a dollar sign associated with them.

Most people who are writing books are not professional writers, and they have to fit writing into their already busy lives. They have to sacrifice their time.

To write and publish a book requires sacrifice. You may have to sacrifice time with your family and friends. You may have to give up activities that you enjoy. You may have to sacrifice your sleep.

These are the soft costs of publishing your book. They lack monetary value, but they’re still important to your life. 

You may think, “That’s nothing! I can give up those things!” But what if you’ve been working all day? You’re tired, you’re grumpy. And now you want go to bed. Except you can’t. Because, if you want to finish your book project, you have to spend some time writing. And then you have to repeat the same thing tomorrow night. And the next night.

Sounds exhausting, right?

Writing—with the intent to publish your book—can be emotionally and physically taxing. It will require you to sacrifice your time, your energy, important activities, and more. And it not only affects your life. It will also affect your family’s lives.

The Hard Costs of Building a Platform

Whether you self-publish or traditionally publish, you need an audience to sell your book to. You need a platform. A platform is another word of saying, “You need an audience who wants to hear what you have to say.”

That audience can be found on social media, yes. But it can also be nurtured and built through podcasting, speaking, blogging, and writing for other publications. Often it’s a combination of those activities that create the most robust audience.

The reason you need a platform is because publishers are like bankers. They will only publish a book if you can help them sell it. They won’t take on new authors unless they have an audience to sell to. If you’re self-publishing, you have the same burden as a traditional publisher: you have to have an audience to which to sell your book.

That's why you need to build a platform. (Check out our blog post and podcast on the different types of platforms!)

Building a platform is costly. It requires both the time to create a credible platform and to network/foster a community, as well as monetary investment (editing services, software, hosting sites, cameras, classes). What does the monetary cost look like?

Let’s look at an example from Journey Sixty6 Co-Founder Melissa Parks who built her Instagram following from 0 to 29,000 over the course of eight years. Here’s the breakdown of her costs:

  • camera — $3,000
  • camera lenses — $2,000
  • styling classes — $1,000

Melissa also has hosted multiple giveaways which required investments up to $1,000. And, in order to network (to build her platform), she flew to multiple events across the country. Over the years, those events added up to a couple thousand dollars. To build a successful platform and gain a substantial following, Melissa has spent almost $10K. That's a lot of money!

Another example comes from Journey Sixty6 Co-Founder Dave Goetz who built his platform (10,000 subscribers) through podcasting. Here’s the breakdown of his costs:

  • audio editing software — about $20 a month / Adobe Audition;
  • microphones for podcasting (two people) — about $300;
  • monthly fee for hosting the podcast with Podbean — $9 a month, if paid annually;
  • website hosting fee — $34.99 a month with Go Daddy;
  • images for the articles on the website — $100 a year with iStock; (he also used images from his fly fishing trips for many articles);
  • email marketing software — $20 a month; and
  • graphic design (he hired a designer who helped him with his logo and all the icons for his brand) — $2,000.

Dave and his partner also spent additional money promoting their podcast on Facebook. And, in order to save money, they edited their podcast, implemented the website, and posted all of their articles themselves, rather than outsourcing.

It’s important to note that both Melissa and Dave grew their platforms over a period of years. They invested money and time into building their credibility and developing trust with their audience.

If you are a serious, aspiring writer who wants to publish, then you need to begin developing a platform now. You can’t build a platform when your book is ready to be published. It’s too late.

Your first three steps to building a platform: 1) determine where your target audience is located; 2) consistently produce and publish fresh content; and 3) engage with your subscribers/followers.

The costs of publishing a book are hefty: finding the time to write, investing money into building a platform, sacrificing your emotional and physical well-being to complete your project on time. Are these costs worth it to you?



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