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  • DIY:Self-Publishing in America I
  • Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Editor and Publisher (bio)

Self-publishing has always been the underworld of book culture: a haven for esoterica, wild ideas, and half-baked prose. It exists just below the imaginary border between books whose publication is paid by others—and those whose publication is paid by the author.

For many, this border delimits the break between legitimate publishing and its opposite. Just as journals that charge publication fees for articles are often met with suspicion (especially when other journals in the same field do not), so too are books whose publication is fully underwritten by the author, particularly when there are plenty of publishers in the same area that publish books without being paid by their authors—and many of whom even offer them generous advances against their royalties.

More on a par with vanity publishing, self-publishing has long existed as the last stop for authors bent on sharing with the world writing that has been spurned by traditional publishers. For most authors, the decision to self-publish does not involve a choice. Rather, it is a decision of last resort and their only way into the world of published writers.

Until fairly recently, self-publishing was more the exception than the norm in the publishing world. Not everyone has the financial means or the moral will to pay to have their writing published. And historically, even if one had the desire to self-publish, it has always been prohibitively expensive. But the cost of self-publishing has dropped dramatically. Today, is almost possible to self-publish a book at no cost (provided access to a computer and the appropriate software). Final fulfillment of one of the more egalitarian promises of the digital revolution.

For a little more, one can improve the quality of a self-published book by purchasing various degrees of support. For a slightly higher price, consider a deluxe self-publishing package complete with marketing plans and publicity materials. Exactly how much does all of this cost? Not all that much.

While self-publishing packages can run in excess of $10,000, many are significantly less. For example, for basic ebook formatting and distribution, BookLocker charges authors $675—and only $475 if the author supplies the book’s cover. Ebook formatting, conversion, and distribution in this basic package includes the mobi (for Amazon’s Kindle) and epub (for Apple’s iPad, iPod, and iPhone; Barnes and Noble’s Nook; and Kobo) platforms. Also, this basic self-publishing package demands no extra charge to include graphics, tables, or footnotes in printed books—and returning authors are only charged $199 for print setup on their subsequent books (without cover design).

While BookLocker seems to be the lowest priced of the self-publishing companies, many others offer prices that are not far behind. For similar services, Infinity Publishing charges $1,047, Lulu: $1,089, CreateSpace: $1,151, Llumina Publishing: $1,338, Trafford: $1,424, iUniverse: $1,449, Outskirts Press: $1,595, Xlibris: $1,673, AuthorHouse: $1,799, Dog Ear Publishing: $1,998, and Xulon Press: $2,396.

These baseline self-publishing packages include a 200 page book with black-and-white interior print formatting, up to 25 interior photos, original color cover design, print proof, an ISBN for all editions, barcode, a listing on the publisher’s website, distribution by Ingram, basic ebook formatting and distribution, and if you submit your own cover, they will provide you feedback on it. Some also set up an Espresso edition of your book and even give you a couple free print copies.

Need them in a hurry? Production time is within six short weeks. But if you are in an extra-hurry for $999 BookLocker will get your book out in two weeks, which hopefully is longer than it took you to write it.

So, on the low end of the cost spectrum, self-published authors should look to spend in the neighborhood of $600 to $1,200 on a basic print package; up to another $100 for an ebook package; up to $150 for a basic cover design and anywhere from $200 to $1,800 for an advanced cover design. But...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 2-24
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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