Author Archive

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The price to publish a book can vary wildly, but I’ll try to narrow down the field so you can know what to expect. And I am addressing the self-publishing model rather than the traditional model of publishing (see this previous post for an overview of the differences). Authors who are traditionally published don’t pay anything to have their work appear in print. The publisher is paying the costs to create the book, so there is no upfront money required from the traditionally published author.

Publishing Package Costs

Now on to the costs involved for authors who self publish, whether they rely completely on an author services business or do a portion of the work themselves. Costs fall into several main categories: editing, design, printing and/or file conversion for ebooks, distribution, and marketing. Many author services businesses offer packages that bundle some or all of these services, such as these at Xulon or these at Dog Ear Publishing. From these two examples, you can see that it costs around $1,400 to get a print-on-demand book created and listed on Amazon (but with no editing or ebook version) from Xulon, and $3,700 from Dog Ear Publishing to have a book copyedited, uniquely designed, distributed through Amazon and other major online retailers along with the fully distributed ebook version of your book, and some website and marketing materials thrown in as well. You can find lower prices, but you need to be sure you are getting all of the services you need to produce a professional product and make it available for sale where your readers will find it.

An Indispensable Guide

I’ll break some of the costs down by category in case you’d like to do some of the work yourself (or subcontract it to someone you trust), but first I want to highlight what I consider an indispensable book for those going the self-publishing route: The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine. Levine has a background in law as well as publishing, and in this book he explains clearly what to look for in an author services business, specifically by examining their contracts and their pricing, and goes on to categorize a number of the bigger companies in this industry from “Outstanding Self-Publishers” on down to “Publishers to Avoid.” He updates the book from year to year, so be sure to get the newest edition.

Editorial Costs

There are different levels of editing, and perhaps in a future post we’ll take a closer look at them. For now, we’ll assume you need at least copyediting, which essentially makes sure the author’s writing follows a pre-determined set of rules; the book industry often uses the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) as the definitive “rule book.” The copyeditor makes sure spelling, grammar, punctuation, and other style issues are followed consistently throughout the book. I am a firm believer that you really shouldn’t skip a thorough edit by a trained editor. Prices from freelance editors are usually based on word count. Reasonable rates start at $0.02 – $0.03 per word. So for a 40,000-word manuscript, editing would start at $800. More details on editorial rates can be found at the Editorial Freelancers Association.

Design Costs

We all know that book covers are (or should be) designed to attract readers of a particular genre. What you may not realize is that the interior of a book is designed as well. So you are looking at both cover design cost, and interior design/layout cost. The cover is the first thing people see, and will be on all marketing materials, so it is worth taking care to get the best cover design that you can afford. If you are planning to try for mainstream sales through bookstores, you should expect to pay $800 to $1,200 to a proven professional book designer. If you will be selling primarily through in-person sales at speaking engagements and events, you can likely get by with a good cover design done for between $300 and $500. You may be able to source a less-expensive designer you like through sites like 99Designs and Fiverr, but be sure you check out the designer’s portfolio.

Interior design and layout is usually priced by the page, though some designers charge a base rate and then a per-page for layout, or what used to be known as typesetting. Expect to pay anywhere from $2 per page for a minimally designed fiction novel up to $10 or more per page for complex layouts with images and other graphics. An experienced designer of book interiors is familiar with the intricacies of drop caps, running heads, recto/verso pages, widows and orphans, and other specialized information.


Gone are the days when authors had to place orders of thousands of dollars for stacks of books to store in their garage. Print-on-demand (POD) is a technology that allows a printer to print books one at a time in response to actual orders. These days, for a POD book, when someone places an order with Amazon, Amazon relays that order to the POD printer and the book is printed and shipped directly to the consumer within a day or so. No inventory. No risk to the author. The trick is to get your files hosted with a POD printer, or with an author services business that uses a POD printer. The print cost for a POD book is understandably higher (around $1 plus $0.015 per page for a black & white interior paperback, so about $4 for a 200-page book) than the per-book cost from a short-run printer from whom you order a larger quantity at one time, but you aren’t stuck with hundreds of unsold copies. That being said, if you will be doing the bulk of sales yourself at events, it may be worth it to order a larger quantity from a short-run printer to get the cost per book down closer to $2 to $2.50 each to increase your profit.

Ebook Conversion and Distribution

The cost to create an ebook varies. If you aren’t picky about how your ebook looks, you can create an account with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and upload your manuscript as a Microsoft Word document or PDF, and Amazon will create a Kindle book for you for free. However, it probably won’t look professional. To get an ebook that looks and performs better, you can work with services such as Bookbaby or eBookPartnership for around $300. Both of those vendors offer distribution to the major ebook retailers as well.

If you already have an ebook file, there are services that will distribute it for no money upfront, but rather take a fixed amount or a percentage per sale. StreetLib and Smashwords are two such services.

What Else Do You Need To Know?

We haven’t touched the cost of distribution of print books or marketing, but we’ll hit those another time. Meanwhile, check out some of the sources listed in this post. You’ll be further along in your publishing journey.

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So you’ve written (or started writing) your book. What do you do next?

This is one of the top questions I get when people find out I’m in the book publishing business. The answer depends on a few factors, including what your goals are for the book, what kind of resources you have, and who your primary audience is. We’ll look at these factors, but first, an overview of the two primary publishing models.

Traditional Publishing

In this model, the publisher pays for all the editing, design, production, distribution, and marketing of the book, and hence is taking all the financial risk. The author may be offered money up front by the publisher (called an advance) for granting the publisher the right to publish the book, and the author later receives royalties from the publisher as the books are sold. Most larger traditional publishers (like Thomas Nelson or Random House) do not take unsolicited manuscripts; that means the writer needs to find a literary agent to represent him or her first. The majority of the books you find in bookstores are traditionally published books.

Self Publishing

Authors going this route are either paying an author services business (like Xulon or Amazon’s Create Space) a package price to handle all editing, design, production, distribution, and possibly marketing, or they are performing all these tasks themselves or subcontracting one or more of the functions out to others. But generally, the self-published author is taking the financial risk rather than the publisher.

How to decide which path is best for you

Either route can work well. To figure out which is best for your particular book, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who am I trying to reach with my writing (my target market) and where will my target market be looking for the information/story I’ve written? If your target readers only buy from bookstores, you’ll want to pursue traditional publishing. If your target readers purchase most of their books online, either model can work. If you expect most of your books would be purchased by people attending events where you speak, self-publishing may be the most profitable for you.
  2. Will it matter to my target market who the publisher of my book is? In some genres, like certain scientific or educational markets, you will have more credibility if you are published traditionally. Most readers do not pay much attention to who the publisher of a book is, as long as the book seems professionally edited, designed, and produced.
  3. How long am I prepared to wait before it is available to the public? Self-publishing usually has a much shorter timeline of getting the book to market, especially if going direct to ebook. Traditional publishing can take a year or two once the author has a contract, and that’s often after one or more years of manuscript submissions to agents. Self-publishing via ebooks or print-on-demand can be done well in a matter of weeks, depending on the readiness of the manuscript.
  4. Do I have the financial resources to hire an author services business, or do I have the skills to do a good job myself (for at least some of the publishing steps)? The costs for self-publishing vary, but basic print and ebook publishing with distribution runs from around $1,000 to upward of $5,000-$10,000 for those who write children’s books and need illustration services. But you may know people in your ministry or organization with at least some of the skills needed, and they may be willing to help you, or barter for services, or charge less than a typical service would.
  5. How much control do you want of the finished product? Self-publishing offers the most control of the editing, design, pricing, and marketing of the book, but also can result in a poor product if all parts of the process are not reviewed by an experienced publishing professional. And if you have non-traditional pricing ideas in mind (like offering free or ultra-low-cost books for missions, ministries, or fundraising purposes), self-publishing is the way to go.
Regardless of your publishing path

Books sell because people find out about them. Unless you already have a significant following, you will need to grow a base of readers and fans that will buy your book. Even traditional publishers rely heavily on authors’ efforts to market their own books, and often will not extend a contract to anyone who does not already have a large platform. So start today to expand your following. Lots of great resources show you how; one I recommend is Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson, one of the largest Christian book publishing companies.

More resources

No matter which publishing path you are considering, sign up for our mailing list (at right) and receive “Publishing Resources for Writers,” a free guide that includes some indispensable books on these topics as well as a few services to investigate. And take the next steps on your journey.

Publish fearlessly.


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Fear. It shows up in lots of ways and can stop us in our tracks, or at least seriously slow us down. And fear was something I experienced often when I started publishing books as Morning Joy Media over five years ago. Did I know enough to produce files in all the right ways to result in a decent printed book? Would I embarrass myself? Waste a ton of money? Time? And could I figure out how to get the books for sale in places where anyone would buy them? These questions and many others would sneak up on me in bed at night and cause anxiety.

Over the years, through relying on prayer and promises from God along with relentless training, reading, and experience, I’ve learned to cede less ground to the enemy and push forward to do what I’ve been called to do: to work with others to advance the kingdom. Not perfectly, and not completely without fear, but with humility and as much excellence as I can manage. And to keep growing in that calling.

I came across this verse in the Amplified Bible today:

“And [also] most of the brethren have derived fresh confidence in the Lord because of my chains, and are much more bold to speak and publish fearlessly the Word of God – acting with more freedom and indifference to the consequences” (1 Philippians 1:14).

I love the second half: “publish fearlessly the Word of God – acting with freedom and indifference to the consequences.” That’s what I want to do. To push fear to the side and continue to publish books that advance God’s kingdom.

This blog will be another way I work to advance the kingdom – by sharing knowledge and experience I’ve gained to help others. So let me know what questions you have about getting books published. Either comment here, or take this super-short survey, and I’ll work to give you info you can use to do what you’ve been called to do. Publish fearlessly.

photo credit: Sandra Capeci

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MJM author and Messiah College alum Andy Liples has been invited to participate in Messiah College’s Homecoming where he will read his children’s book Your Big Story for other alumni and their children. Homecoming will be held on October 18 and 19; details about the event can be found on the college’s website.

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Join us this Saturday, May 4, in celebrating readers, authors, small indie publishers, literary journals, and the community of book buyers. Rosemont College is hosting a book festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at their main campus (1400 Montgomery Avenue, Rosemont, PA), and Morning Joy Media will be there. MJM author Marianne Modica, author of The R Word, will be reading from her book at 10:15 with a short discussion following. In addition to the many wonderful books, there will be panel discussions, small workshops, and readings throughout the day. We’d love to see you; be sure to stop by our booth and say hello!

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The rain held off on Saturday allowing Collingswood Book Festival attendees to enjoy meeting hundreds of authors and booksellers lining Haddon Avenue in Collingswood, New Jersey. Marianne Modica (pictured), author of The R Word, engaged visitors in dialogue about contemporary racism. She shared information about the young adult novel she crafted, which in addition to being a captivating story, can be a tool for educators to stimulate classroom discussion. Librarians and teachers alike expressed the need for such a resource.

Sharing the booth with Modica was Martin Woodside of Calypso Editions. Woodside and Modica are currently doctoral students at Rutgers University.

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Marianne Modica, author of The R Word, will be chairing a session entitled, “Shifting Constructions of Race Among Children in Learning Spaces” in November during the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Montreal. The session is sponsored by the Council on Anthropology & Education. She and her team from Rutgers University will present and lead discussion on such subtopics as “Reading Race: Analysis of Preschool-Age Children Interpretations of Racialized Picturebooks,” “Fifth Grade Students Interrogate ‘Sameness’ Through the Lens of The Giver,” and “Multiculturalism’s Unruly Subjects: Undermining and Reimagining Racialized Grammar In School.”

The CAE seeks to “advance anti-oppressive, socially equitable, and racially just solutions to educational problems through research using anthropological perspectives, theories, methods, and findings.”

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Youth leaders interested in attending the Spiritual Coaching Seminar with Daniel McNaughton in Buffalo will now have the option to participate in a Youth Leader track. Claude Valdes, Jr., Executive Pastor at Word of Life Assembly of God in Baldwinsville, New York, will be conducting the training for youth leaders. Claude is collaborating with Daniel on the forthcoming booklet, First Steps: Youth Edition, which is expected to be available by mid-October. McNaughton and Valdes are also working on a Learning to Follow Jesus: Youth Edition.

Those interested in attending the Spiritual Coaching Seminar can find more information on the event page, here.

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The students, faculty, and staff of Valley Forge Christian College will host Marianne Modica as she reads excerpts of her young-adult novel, The R Word, during the chapel service on Monday, September 19. Modica, an assistant professor of Early Childhood Education at VFCC and a PhD student in Childhood Studies at Rutgers University, will discuss the subtle ways racism exists in today’s society, and will reflect on what the teachings of Jesus say to us about present day race relations.

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Christine Kreisher’s new curriculum, Follow 4:Kidz, is in production and is available for pre-order. Watch her intoductory video which explains the curriculum’s contents: