July 31, 2019

The Real Cost of Self-Publishing: Michelle Zellner

By Jenna Bellar

“The Real Cost of Self-Publishing” is an ongoing blog where we ask an independently 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, we talk to Michelle Zellner, author of “The YOU Revolution”.

Before starting her wellness business 22 years ago, Zellner worked as a personal trainer which eventually evolved into her teaching about health, everything from emotional to physical wellbeing.

“About five years ago, one of my contacts requested that I create a robust lifestyle change program for one of their clients. Having gone on my own wellness journey and my background being in exercise nutrition psychology, I thought about what that would look like when gathering all of the things that it takes to really be ‘well’,” Zellner said. “Based on that I created a ten week program called ‘The YOU Revolution,’ so the book is the class content as well as my own story as that’s how I teach, I teach from experience.”

After one of Zellner’s clients suggested she turn her program into a book, she did just that. Below, she shares her breakdown of costs to publish this book. (Numbers are rounded).

The Breakdown:

Publishing Consultant: $2,750

Zellner was trying to decide whether or not to submit her book to various publishing houses when she heard a podcast featuring publishing consultant Polly Letofsky, of My Word Publishing.

“I discovered that trying to send my book to publishing houses was a gigantic process in itself, and I didn’t have the time or the desire to go through that,” Zellner said. “So, I connected with Polly… and her role is to do a bunch of the back end stuff (organizational tasks, such as getting her book on Amazon) and acquiring your ISBN, but also to be the liaison between the editor, the layout designer, the cover designer, etc. She has this amazing network of people that she has assembled over the course of her career.”

Writing Mentor: $1,500 (not including travel expenses)

Prior to looking into publishing her book, Zellner began exploring the idea of finding a place to write, away from the distractions of home. She was considering using a writing coach or attending a writing workshop, when she landed on The Memoir Coach, Tammy Coia. Coia hosted Zellner for a one-on-one writing retreat at her home in Palm Springs, California. 

“I was with her for 48 hours, and I stood at her kitchen counter and I just wrote. Every morning we would outline what we were going to tackle for each specific day,” Zellner said. “Tammy was there to feed me, make me take breaks, so that all I had to do was write. By the time I left her, I would say 70% of the book was done.”

Editing: $3,850 

Letofsky helped the author find an editor. She submitted Zellner’s manuscript to three different editors she had connections with, and Zellner chose the one she felt was the best fit. Zellner’s editor charged by word count, which was roughly 70,000. 

Although Zellner chose which editor to work with, overall, she was not pleased with the work he did.

“The first thing he said to me was ‘You need to get rid of all this personal stuff, it takes away from the message of your book’, and for me, there was no point in writing my book if there wasn’t any personal information about me,” Zellner said. “I know there are some places where it could have been tidied up, and that is what I expect an editor to do, and he didn’t. He had a couple valuable points of info, but I feel like there could have and should have been more done.”

Because Zellner had already paid the editor, she remained with him, despite their differences.

Copyeditor: $850

Zellner’s editor connected her with a copyeditor he frequently works with. The author paid $850 for two rounds of copyediting proof, which she said was a positive experience. 

Printing: $3,100

The author used Steuben Press for printing. She chose to only release the book in paperback, and ordered 1,000 copies.

Website: $0

Zellner has had her wellness business for over 20 years, so she listed her book on her longtime website, http://www.betterbeings.net.

Marketing and Publicity: $1,500 a month

Once her book was finished, Zellner decided to hire someone to do marketing and publicity. She has a six-month contract with this publicist, and after the six months are up, she will decide whether or not to continue using her. To date, she is happy with the value she is getting.

“She wasn’t just pitching my book, but also pitching me and my business. She saw an article on wellness in the New York Times and she asked me if I wanted to submit a rebuttal, so I did, and they published it,” Zellner said. “It’s that exposure that she’s helping me get. I got a segment on Fox 31 News (a Denver TV station) talking about my book and the launch and it’s been a great experience. She also set me up with a few podcast interviews and magazine articles.”

Book design: $900

Victoria Wolf designed the interior layout for Zellner. Zellner and Wolf went through various books, and Zellner told Wolf what she liked in each. From there, Wolf formatted a sample, to which Zellner made minor edits.

Cover design: $500

Wolf also designed the author’s cover. Zellner gave Wolf general words and themes that she wanted to convey, and Wolf quickly came up with a cover, which Zellner described as “stunning.”

“She was so easy to work with, and kind and pleasant, and never made me feel stupid for asking questions,” Zellner said. “She gave me eight or nine different options, and there was one very clear winner, and we just made tiny changes to it.”

The bottom line: $14,950

In the end, Zellner spent around $14,950 on publishing her own book. After her experience, she offers this advice for others looking into self-publishing:

  • “Don’t waste time trying to figure it out yourself, when there are people like Polly, who have all this experience and make it so much easier for you.”

Zellner’s book ‘The YOU Revolution’ is available on her website, www.betterbeings.net and Amazon.

Jenna Bellar is a student majoring in journalism with a minor in English at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. She is an intern at Blueink Review.

BlueInk Review is a fee-based book review service devoted to self-published titles exclusively. For more news and writing and marketing tips, sign up for our mailing list. And be sure and visit us at https://www.blueinkreview.com

3 thoughts on “The Real Cost of Self-Publishing: Michelle Zellner

  1. This is very helpful! I’m a self published author and a full time nurse and my husband and I volunteer regularly at our church. I had no idea what I was getting into to self publish my book and promote my new business as author and speaker. We had been saving money up for a trip and were blessed in many ways by the Lord. We didn’t spend this much money but I also didn’t know about some of these resources. I have done much of this on my own and it has been difficult to accomplish everything in a timely manner to get my book out there. I guess what you do with this information will depend on what your goal is for your book and what your personal ability is to promote your book.

  2. Tom Kranz says:

    Yea, all good if you have thousands in disposable income. Her complaint about the $3800 editor is a cautionary tale. At the end of the day, it’s all you.

  3. Randy C Smith says:

    Problem is, as a writer, unless you have deep pockets, you must go it alone. I self publish, for fun. If I charged for the hours I put in my book, you couldn’t afford to buy my books. Perhaps a day will come when all of that will change.

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