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“Self-publishing” At a Glance

November 28, 2009
CreateSpace Lulu iUniverse Lightning Source
Set-up Fees $0 $0 $599-$4,200 $75
Market Availability Amazon Only Lulu Store
Online Catalogs
iUniverse Store
Online Catalogs
Online Catalogs ($12/year)
Specialty Services Available for
additional cost
Available for
additional cost
Available for
additional cost
ISBN Rights Optional for
additional cost
(cost of ISBN)
Optional for
additional cost
($75 + cost of ISBN)
None Full ISBN & barcode
(must purchase ISBN)
Publisher Royalties 40% 20% 80% 0%
Break Even Point* $9.17 $14.60 Printing costs
are hidden
from author
Publishing Model Vanity Vanity Vanity Self

* Break even point is the price at which the author makes $0 in royalties, i.e., the minimum allowable price of the book, on a standard 200 page book.

The point of this post is simple: All the traditionally published authors who kept insisting people should use places like and CreateSpace because the author then keeps ‘100% of the royalties’ are wrong, as both those options are vanity options — the very thing they condemn. The only time an author will keep 100% of their royalties — 100% of the profit — is when they cut out the middlemen and choose to go the longer route and do all the work themselves.

Yes, you need to set up a business to self-publish (either a sole proprietorship or an LLC). Yes, you need to purchase your own ISBNs and barcodes ($325 per 10 ISBNs, $25 per barcode). Yes, you need to contract an artist for your cover (I never pay more than $300 for this service). Yes, you need to find your own editor (because you should never publish an unedited book, I won’t pay more than $700 for an editor for a full novel-length manuscript). Yes, you need to do a lot on your own, and you need to foot the bill for those things.

But keep in mind that business expenses are tax deductible and, in the end, a book you sell for $8.99 that you’ve self-published, you receive $3.56 in pure profit. Per book. If you market correctly, produce a quality product, and put in all the hard work necessary, I believe one can make back their initial investment in a book and turn a profit from it without the help of an agent or publishing house.

And this is only in print format and print sales. E-books are constantly gaining more and more of an audience, and with it, a new, cheaper venue to offer books to consumers. Never turn aside an avenue for more revenue, a new path to reach a reader. Print books are not the only available medium now, and it would behoove the writers publishing their works today to recognize and exploit that fact.

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