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The Real Costs of Writing a Book

If you’ve been “bitten by the writing bug” then you are exceedingly aware of the pull to write — even if it isn’t an everyday activity yet. You may be working on a particular story, something that’s been yanking on your imagination for years. Or feeling the pendulum shift from exuberance from creating to the frustrations of being stuck. Maybe you are despairing that your book will never see the light of day. You may wonder if you have what it takes to become a published author. And what happens after you’re published. There are indeed many costs of writing a book. Some are obvious, like the time commitment for getting words on the page. Others may be more elusive. In fact, you might not know what you don’t know.

To help get a more comprehensive view of the costs of writing a book, this post will explore six of the biggest cost categories for writing a book.


Time Costs of Writing a Book

Time Costs of Writing a Book

Some of your social circle might think the investment of time to be something that’s free, but is it really? It takes a long time to write a book. Even if you sit down and pants it — meaning you put pen to paper and write, not knowing where the story will take you — creating an entire book is going to take time.

1. Pre-writing.

There’s the pre-writing or the planning phase where you mull and daydream your story. You choose what genre to write in, what point of view to tell it in, who your characters are, where the setting is, what the stakes are if the protagonist doesn’t get what they desire, and what the story’s message will be, etc.

2. Brainstorming and Research.

There’s brainstorming and dreaming, which can and often does lead to research. For example: A science fiction story may require you to take a deep-dive into technological manuals and articles while a historical fantasy may make you learn about our world’s history in order to provide an authentic spin, and a mystery may require you to learn about procedures that law enforcement uses, etc. You might even need to research what resources you need and which experts you need to talk to.

3. Writing.

You have the actual putting the words on the page — either based on a plot that you created, which took time, or you’re discovery-writing, which means you’ll probably have to backtrack periodically, if and when you write yourself into corners. You may do a little of both.

4. Feedback and Revising.

After your draft is done, you’ll probably want to get feedback for your story. You’ll more than likely want to mold it into the best story that you can. That will mean revising and editing…maybe even doing some rewriting.

5. Creating a Platform.

You will need a platform — a social media presence, email list, and website — to create visibility to reach your potential readers, build connections and ultimately sell books. It takes time to create these, create content for them, and to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in your niche.

6. Querying And/or Preparing to Publish.

If you decide to travel a traditional path, it will take time. Time to research which agents you want to query. Write the customized query letters and synopsis. You have to prepare your query package, submit it, keep track of submissions, and wait for the agents to reply. If you land a reputable agent, it is again waiting for him or her to pitch your manuscript to the publishers. If the publisher accepts it, there are more time hurdles to cross such as more edits to your manuscript, before you see your book in the bookstore and royalty checks in your hand. And of course, you still have to market.

Or if you decide to go indie, you have the time commitment of getting the book ready and formatted for publication, finding an artist for your cover art or creating your own, procuring your ISBN numbers, publishing, getting reviews, marketing, to name some of the process.

7. Overall.

Writing a book can take months or even years. Aspiring authors very well may need to put other aspects of their life on hold, such as other career opportunities, personal relationships, and other hobbies and interests. In short, the investment of time is a significant one. But, if time passes anyway and you are pulled to write, it’s what we do.


Energy Costs of Writing a Book

Energy Costs of Writing a Book

Writing a book can be mentally and emotionally taxing. You are basically creating an entire world and populating it, along with threading plot lines and character growths, theme, pacing, stakes, and all the other puzzle pieces that make an excellent story. It takes intense focus, creativity, and persistence.

1. Stamina.

You may need to figure out where you can carve out time for your writing practice like staying up late or getting up early. Maybe you may find yourself spending too much time in the chair, or not enough. You may crave to write but find yourself staring at a blank page. You might be getting in your own way from being too tired, having brain fog, experiencing anxiety and/or being overwhelmed with doubt. Creating is energy work. In fact, deep thinking burns calories. It’s work. But for creatives, it’s almost always the best kind.

2. Mindset.

Taking the leap to go “all-in” for the entire writing journey and not just for an afternoon is taxing at best. You probably will struggle with discipline and maybe play mental games to get yourself started or keep yourself going. When you find your writing pulling you along, it’s indescribably glorious. But how does one do that? Or, if you’ve experienced it, how do you have it happen more often?

It certainly helps to take good care of your physical, mental, and emotional being. Getting the appropriate amount of sleep, exercise and maintaining a good diet makes keeping a productive schedule so much easier. The right kind of mindset will help you cope with setbacks and frustrations, and help you enter a flow state easier, making you more productive. It certainly will help with:

  • Your willingness to continue on the writing journey even on bad days.
  • Allowing you to be more open to feedback and having an easier time with rejections.
  • Giving you more brain-width to consider options and make your best decisions, such as going traditional, indie-publishing, or small-press.

3. Overall.

So, absolutely energy — stamina and mindset — factor into the cost of writing. It’s


Learning Costs of Writing a Book

Learning Costs of writing a book

As with anything, the best way to get good at something is to learn and to practice. Some of the learning easily can go in the time-only cost category, such as reading articles online and getting books out of the library. There are some online writer groups on Facebook that you can sign up with and there are the occasional free courses, such as Savvy Writers holding an annual and free virtual writing conference. Any of these will get you started. There are many resources in the library and online but as you branch out, you may find you need more.

1. Workshops and Conferences.

You may decide that you want to learn from experts in the field and have opportunity to ask questions. You can do this by attending workshops and conferences. These events are great places to learn the latest trends and best practices in the writing and publishing world. Plus, the networking opportunities, along with the fresh jolt of enthusiasm from being around other writers, are good for a writer’s soul and their career.

Attending these can get expensive. There are registration fees, travel expenses, accommodations, and meals, plus the time away from other commitments such as work or family.

2. Classes.

Taking writing classes is another cost to consider when writing a book. As someone who has taken quite a few, including David Farland’s 318R class, I find learning with the space to ask questions, to hone skills taught and having the opportunity to get feedback to be invaluable. I find it to be a short-cut to producing higher quality manuscripts than the time it would take to learn on my own. However, classes can be expensive. There is tuition, course material, and maybe writing software and books. There are time commitments for homework, and of course, the class itself.

It’s also important to consider the quality and relevance to the particular class and if it matches up with your writing goals. With anything there is a balance between playing to your strengths and shoring up your challenges.

3. Books.

Writers are readers. You will gain a lot of knowledge and wisdom between the pages of the right book. Besides learning from craft books, it’s important to read in the genre that you write in. You need to know the obligatory scenes, tropes, and conventions that your readers will expect while also providing them with something fresh and awe-inspiring.

While you may borrow from your local library, you may want to gather a small reference library that you can access easily, either in paper form or e-book.

4. Mentor.

Having the writing mentor can also be an incredible investment for writers. This is an avenue for personalized feedback and guidance, as well as help with navigating the publishing industry. You may find a mentor who doesn’t charge you anything. I have found these kind of informal relationships while I worked as a volunteer for writing events. Many mentors will offer their services and guidance for a fee. Besides a cash cost, this also generally requires a committed investment of time and effort. Plus, you should be prepared and willing to take constructive criticism and take the necessary steps to implement your mentor’s advice – steps that the two of you have agreed upon.

5. Writing Group Subscriptions.

I have found these types of groups to be a fascinating blend between a continuing online conference, class work, networking opportunity and a colleague water fountain.

I have explored several groups and am a member of a few. However, I will admit I am bias toward Apex-writers. With three zoom calls each week with industry experts and with the opportunity to ask questions directly, plus one Accelerator zoom call a week for NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) which helps writers get out of their own way (invaluable in my humble opinion), plus the writing partners I’ve discovered, the community, and access to writing opportunities, this has been one of my best investments.

6. Overall.

No matter how you decide what works best for you, the most important thing is to continue the learning process; and not just for the craft of writing. Anything you learn easily can be harvested as material into your manuscript, short story or idea folder.


Fees & Tools Costs of Writing a Book

One of the things about being an author is you will find yourself needing to make a choice on various tasks. Take the time out, learn and do it yourself or hire it out to an expert.

1. Editing.

This is definitely a crucial step in the book writing process. And, it can be a significant cost to consider, plus there are different types of editing:

a) Developmental Editing.

This type of editing focuses on the overall structure, plot, pacing, and character development. It is also the most expensive type of editing, ranging on average from several hundred to several thousands of dollars. The reason for this type of price tag is the significant investment of time and expertise from the editor. This can be extremely helpful, particularly with writers who are struggling with the direction of their story. Bottom line: By working with an experienced editor, writers can identify and address weaknesses in their manuscript, and make the necessary revisions to improve the overall quality of their writing.

b) Copy editing.

This type of edit focuses on the technical aspects of writing, such as grammar, punctuation, spelling, and style. A copy editor’s job is to ensure that the manuscript is free from errors and is consistent in terms of formatting and language usage. The cost can vary depending on the length and complexity of the manuscript, and of course, the experience and reputation of the editor. It is important to know that having a high-quality book can translate to a better chance of increased book sales and positive reviews. As for the price tag, it can range almost as much as a developmental edit.

c) Proofreading.

This is the final stage of the editing process. It focuses on identifying and correcting any remaining typos and punctuation errors, etc., in the manuscript that may have been missed earlier. The cost can vary depending on manuscript length and complexity as well as experience and reputation of the proofreader. It again ranges like the other types of editing.

d) Tools.

There are tools which you can utilize to save money and do it yourself. These would include Prowriting Aid and Grammarly. Additionally, you may be able to find quality critique partners as well. Keep in mind, there is a trade-off between doing it yourself and keeping it “in-house” or hiring an expert. You want to be sure you do an adequate job with it, particularly since low quality manuscripts have a harder time selling and attracting readers.

Sidenote. For those going for the traditional route, yes, there will be an editing team but in order to grab the attention of an agent, you are going to need the best, error-free manuscript you can provide.

2. Website Development.

A website is something that you definitely are going to need. It’s a crucial aspect of marketing and promoting a book, and unlike social media, everything you post remains yours. Consider your website your online home address where you can link about yourself, your creative work, upcoming events and promotions, your social media places, and the place where people sign up for your newsletter — your mailing list that keeps your fans engaged and helps you to make sales.

Depending on the complexity of what you want, you may choose to build this yourself. There are website builder platforms that offer pre-designed templates and easy-to-use tools for a basic website and the cost ranges from free to several hundred dollars per year.

You also may decide you want a more custom site and will want to work with a web developer, which can range from a few hundred to several thousands of dollars. This cost can include expenses such as domain registration, hosting, and ongoing maintenance.

Overall, the cost of website development should be factored into the overall budget for writing a book. By investing in a high-quality website, writers can increase their chances of success and ensure that their book reaches as many readers as possible.

3. Cover Art.

Of course those who are going the traditional route will have cover art assigned to them, and hopefully they do have some say with their cover. For indie publishing, this is a critical aspect for the book’s success. The cover is the first thing that potential readers see, so it must be eye-catching.

  • Cover artist. The right cover artist can help you match your vision for your book with a stunning piece of art that will warm and excite your creative heart. It can also hook would-be readers to buy. And it very well may cost you many pretty pennies too. The price tag? That would depend on the experience and reputation of the designer, the complexity of the design, and the intended use of the artwork but for a basic cover design, you would probably be looking for a range between a few hundred to several thousand of dollars.
  • Tools. There are some fairly savvy programs to design pleasing designs, such as Canva. Plus there are pre-made cover art or templates, which can be a more affordable option and something you can put together yourself. The price tag? Anywhere from free to a few hundred dollars, depending on the platform and level of customization.

4. Other Fees.

This by far is not a full comprehensive list but you may have to consider:

  • Copyright registration fees.
  • Research expenses and travel expenses.
  • Software or tools such as Scrivener or a voice dictation program.
  • A fact-check or translator
  • Audiobook voice actor
  • ISBN numbers
  • Sales tax and income tax obligations
  • Distribution fees
  • Marketing (which has its own category)

Marketing Costs of Writing a Book

Marketing Costs of Writing a Book

There are writers out there that certainly will be dismayed to learn that marketing is an essential part of the author’s duties. And as for the price tag, it’ll depend on a wide variety of things including author’s goals, the audience they’re targeting, and the methods they want to use to promote. Below is a list of some of the more popular ways to market.

1. Online ads.

Online ads can be purchased on various platforms such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon and they are usually based on a pay-per-click or pay-per-impression model, or in other words, every time a user clicks on your ad or views it, you pay.

2. Social media promotions.

Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram offer tools for promoting posts and reaching a broader audience. The cost of social media promotions can vary depending on the platform, the target audience, and the duration of the promotion but, for example, a post on Facebook can cost as little as a few dollars a day though a more extensive social media advertising campaign can start adding some zeros.

3. Book tours and author events.

This can be an effective way to promote a book and connect with readers, but they can also be costly. There’s the cost of travel and accommodation, booking a venue, possibly hiring a publicist, coordinating with bookstores and event coordinators… though since the pandemic, there has been quite a few online book tours and author events happening. Cheaper yes. I’m not sure it provides as much punch, however. After all, you would have a difficult time signing books over zoom. There are also the promotional items (i.e goodies) that authors tend to hand out.

4. Book Trailers.

This has become a popular way to promote books. These short videos typically last between one to three minutes and offer a way to entice readers to buy the book. It can get pricey with the cost of production. There is scriptwriting, video production and editing. You may decide to hire professionals although with the tools available you might be able to buy the software and equipment yourself and do it.

5. Instagram Reels and TikTok.

These have provided authors with new opportunities to reach readers and promote their books by creating eye-catching 30 second or less video content. You should have a high-quality camera or device, lighting equipment and video software. Plus, you should be aware you will need to be continually providing engaging content for the algorithm. Some authors batch their videos and then schedule them to post. They might even hire a virtual assistant.

6. Book Reviews.

This component easily can help with visibility and sales for an author but obtaining book reviews can come with its own set of costs. After locating quality reviewers, authors typically need to provide free copies of their book to potential reviewers. They may decide instead to hire a professional review service which could run several hundred dollars. However, book reviews do directly help with sales for the author.

7. Author Website.

The online presence that you the author need.


Networking Costs of Writing a Book

There are writers out there that certainly will be dismayed to learn that marketing is an essential part of the author’s duties. And as for the price tag, it’ll depend on a wide variety of things including author’s goals, the audience they’re targeting, and the methods they want to use to promote. Below is a list of some of the more popular ways to market.

1. Online Ads.

Online ads can be purchased on various platforms such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon and they are usually based on a pay-per-click or pay-per-impression model, or in other words, every time a user clicks on your ad or views it, you pay.

2. Social Media Promotions.

Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram offer tools for promoting posts and reaching a broader audience. The cost of social media promotions can vary depending on the platform, the target audience, and the duration of the promotion but, for example, a post on Facebook can cost as little as a few dollars a day though a more extensive social media advertising campaign can start adding some zeros.

3. Book Tours and Author Events.

This can be an effective way to promote a book and connect with readers, but they can also be costly. There’s the cost of travel and accommodation, booking a venue, possibly hiring a publicist, coordinating with bookstores and event coordinators… though since the pandemic, there has been quite a few online book tours and author events happening. Cheaper yes. I’m not sure it provides as much punch, however. After all, you would have a difficult time signing books over zoom. There are also the promotional items (i.e goodies) that authors tend to hand out.

4. Book Trailers.

This has become a popular way to promote books. These short videos typically last between one to three minutes and offer a way to entice readers to buy the book. It can get pricey with the cost of production. There is scriptwriting, video production and editing. You may decide to hire professionals although with the tools available you might be able to buy the software and equipment yourself and do it.

5. Instagram Reels and TikTok.

These have provided authors with new opportunities to reach readers and promote their books by creating eye-catching 30 second or less video content. You should have a high-quality camera or device, lighting equipment and video software. Plus, you should be aware you will need to be continually providing engaging content for the algorithm. Some authors batch their videos and then schedule them to post. They might even hire a virtual assistant.

6. Book Reviews.

This component easily can help with visibility and sales for an author but obtaining book reviews can come with its own set of costs. After locating quality reviewers, authors typically need to provide free copies of their book to potential reviewers. They may decide instead to hire a professional review service which could run several hundred dollars. However, book reviews do directly help with sales for the author.

7. Author Website.

The online presence that you the author need.


Putting It All Together – Costs of Writing a Book

The costs of writing a book is substantial: Time, effort, and money. And while some of the monetary costs can be substituted with hands-on effort, they can add up quickly. However, the reward of having your book out in the world is priceless, and being part of a community who understand the passion of writing is empowering, plus, there are many authors who make a comfortable living creating worlds out of words.

Everything in life has a cost, money-wise or otherwise. It might be said that the costs of writing a book might seem daunting, the cost of abandoning one’s calling and letting a dream die would be grievous.


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