Oh-Oh question: Have You Become a Cash Cow for Someone?

Don’t Become a Cash Cow for Someone …

One of the most common questions I get asked via my social media and at conferences is, “What will my book cost to publish?”

And my answer is always, “It depends …”

It depends on how you publish it; when you publish it; what your commitment is to the process; how much of your time and energy you are going to put behind it; how much money will you/can you invest in it (yes, this is an investment); what prep work you’ve done to reach out and connect with your potential buyers; whether you are strictly text or will be including graphics and illustrations; what layout design will be used; what other publishing experts you need in the process … and so much more.

Authors-to-be need to do a pre-assessment list of what their needs are, who is necessary in the process … in other words, a type of game plan. Otherwise, they become someone’s—and in many cases, everyone’s cash cow. Unless you have unlimited moneys, this is not the option of choice. Ever.

Starting down the publishing path takes money—don’t let anyone … anyone … tell you that it doesn’t. Sure, there are ways to create a book and publish it for minimal dollars. And, sadly, it usually looks like it.

For me, it’s always a lump when I pick up a book that the author is glowing with proud about … and it looks like … well crap. The cover hasn’t been professionally done; the interior looks like something that was done on Times New Roman on a Word document; there’s no “pop” to back cover copy—if there is any; it needs an editing toothbrush. Clearly, it’s been rushed to publish without doing the prep work necessary.

A momism is, “If you are going to do a job … do it right.” Mom is on the spot.

The lease expensive way to get into the publishing game is via the eBook route or the minimalist version that Amazon’s KDP offers. It’s getting your toe in the water and a way to start learning the ropes.

There is also BookBaby, Lulu, IngramSpark and many more. There are hybrid publishers, there are pay-to-publish publishers (all vanity presses go in this category), there are traditional publishers, small/indie press publishers and there are self-publishers who could be indie publishers.

What you don’t want to get caught up in is the “pay me once and pay me again, and again” publisher. You become the cash cow. Good for them … not for you

Author Beware: Do not pay more later … determine costs now.

With most authors to-be, the up-front costs are the primary concern. Don’t stop there—what you should also focus on is the back-end costs. The true cost of a book to you—be it a copy at a time or hundreds/thousands of them. What’s a reprint going to run you? How about corrections? Or a revised edition—do you have to pay up-front fees as if you had a new book production? If you are with any type of publisher besides YOU, just what are the royalties to you—are they net or gross? What about special sales—are royalties reduced? When will you get paid?

It’s not uncommon for publishers to low-ball up-front fees in exchange for very high back-end costs … We will publish you for $497 … down the road, the moneys start to mount. Think expensive author copies like $8-10 or very low royalties—less than $1 on a $15 retail book.  It’s also not uncommon for you to be baited with a promise of library and major retail exposure and the probability is equivalent to winning the lottery.

Author Beware means you don’t go through this alone. Ever.

One of the traits of successful authors and indie publishers is that they’ve learned that they don’t, and can’t, do it alone. Determine who you need on your team—book designer, cover designer, printer, editor, illustrator, writing coach, book coach … who else?

What do they cost? Determine your book creation cost—whether you elect to publish yourself or contract with a publisher … know from the get-go your FULL COST PER BOOK. Then you know how many you have to sell to recoup. And you can put together a Book Spending Plan to market and move your book so that it can walk and eventually run.



Dr. Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and coach. Often, she must roll up her writing sleeves and become a Book Doctor, juicing up storylines and author words. She empowers authors and works directly with authors who want to be seriously successful and has been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the ’80s. Judith is the author of 44 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book PlatformsSnappy Sassy Salty: Success for Authors and Writers, and How to Create a Million Dollar Speech. Her personal memoir When God Says NO-Revealing the YES When Adversity and Loss Are Present is a #1 bestseller on Amazon and her historical fiction debut Secret Journey. Collectively, her books have earned over 45 book awards. Judith speaks throughout the year at publishing conferences. 

Throughout the year, she holds Judith Briles Book Unplugged in-person and online experiences: Publishing, Speaking, Marketing, and Social Media. All are two-day intensives limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. Join Judith live for the “AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing” podcast on the Toginet Radio Network HERE

Follow @AuthorUYOUBooks and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorYOU, and join the Facebook group Book Publishing with The Book Shepherd. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact her.

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