June 4, 2018

The Real Cost of Self-Publishing: Madeleine Dodge

“The Real Cost of Self Publishing” is a recurring blog where we ask a self-published author to break down his or her expenses in order to give others an idea of the costs involved in creating a successful book. Today our summer intern, Madeleine Dodge, talks about self-publishing her children’s book Does A Giraffe Ever Feel Small?

Dodge is an undergraduate at Lewis and Clark College studying Rhetoric and Media. She was first inspired to write a children’s book in 8th grade when she wrote a poem about a giraffe, a lion, and a hippo. Over the course of four years, this poem morphed into her children’s book that she self-published with her friend, and illustrator, Olivia Wischmeyer. It tells the story of six animals on the African savanna and the characteristics that make them each unique.

Dodge and Wischmeyer crowdfunded $3,070 on GoFundMe to pay for the cost of producing the book and donated all profits raised from sales to two charities: Reading Partners Colorado and Books for Africa. The book was released in hardcover in April 2017 when they were both seniors in high school. Over the course of a year, they sold 756 copies, priced at $17.99, through Amazon, four local bookstores that carried the title and their appearances at readings and a book fair.

Below, Dodge details the costs of producing “Does A Giraffe Ever Feel Small?”

The Breakdown

Editor: $0

We didn’t hire an editor because we didn’t have the extra funds for it. Instead, we asked teachers and friends to look over the book and provide feedback. Although this wasn’t as official as hiring a professional editor, we received helpful advice free of charge.

Illustration and formatting total: $0

We didn’t have to pay an illustrator because Wischmeyer is an artist and provided all the illustrations. She had already purchased InDesign, so we also didn’t have to pay for any formatting costs.

Ebook formatting: $0

Because our book is square, it won’t work well with rectangular e-readers. To fix that problem, the entire book would have to be redesigned and resubmitted, due to the way the illustrations were formatted in InDesign. This would cost a significant amount of time and money. As of now, we have chosen to avoid those costs, and the book is not available as an ebook.

GoFundMe Fees: $502

GoFundMe took a portion of the money we raised as a fee. (They recently changed this policy and users are now able to choose to voluntarily tip the service instead of having a fee automatically withdrawn from the money raised.)

Publisher set-up fee: $49

We had to pay IngramSpark a fee to set up our title with their publishing services.

ISBN: $85

We bought our ISBN from IngramSpark when we set up our title. It is unclear whether this service is still available to authors using IngramSpark.

Revision Costs: $75

The first three times we printed our book, we found problems with the formatting of our files. The first time, the order of the pages was wrong; the second time, the cover art wasn’t centered, and the third time the words didn’t seem big enough. To fix these problems, we paid an extra $75 that we hadn’t budgeted to revise the submitted files and have new versions of the book sent to us. (It cost $25 for each resubmission of files and $25 to receive one sample book to proofread.) For a few additional revisions that were printer errors, we received refunds.

Printing costs: $5,708

We used IngramSpark to print 525 books on-demand over the course of one year. Each book cost about $9 to print before shipping, which usually cost about 50 cents a book. When we ordered books for our book launch party, we were still in the midst of unexpected revisions and had to pay for expedited printing and shipping, which together cost an extra $8 per book. This raised our printing costs significantly. Luckily the venue that hosted our book launch offered to donate the 40% they were going to take from book sales and we were able to make a small profit off our launch.

Returns: $712

Barnes and Noble ordered our book in bulk for an event, and we had to pay them to have some books returned and shelved at Ingram. This was another unexpected cost that cut into our budget.

Marketing materials: $269

We spent money on marketing materials such as bookmarks, a large, poster-board check to present to Reading Partners at an official event, and food for our book launch. We also received some marketing help for free: Wischmeyer’s mother found a large, stuffed giraffe at a thrift store and donated it to our project, and her father printed posters at his office, which he also donated to us.

Additional marketing: $50

We paid Tattered Cover, a local independent bookstore, $50 to submit our book to their Local Author Consignment program. This payment guaranteed they would review our book and consider putting it on the shelves. We also had to meet with a representative from Tattered Cover and submit a pitch letter before we were accepted into the program.

Business charges: $180

We wanted to publish our book under our own company name, so we had to pay to register our business and open a P.O. Box. We also paid $50 to copyright our book.

The Bottom Line: We spent $7,128 on publishing and promoting our book, Does A Giraffe Ever Feel Small?

After subtracting the discounts taken by bookstores and Amazon, we brought in $7,709 through book sales. With our $581 profit and $2,568 that we started with from GoFundMe, we were able to donate $3,000 to Reading Partners Colorado and Books for Africa. Any money we had left over was put back into printing and marketing our book.

For further information about my experience creating Does A Giraffe Ever Feel Small? and advice for other independent authors, read my blog titled, “10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Self-Publishing.” For information on our book, please visit our website: doesagiraffeeverfeelsmall.weebly.com

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. We offer serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Our reviews are penned by writers drawn largely from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine, a highly respected review publication that reaches 60,000 librarians.

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