How Much Does it Cost to Publish?

Whether it is an electronic publication or print media publication, there are four main categories of costs:

  1. Creation costs
  2. Production costs
  3. Marketing costs
  4. Distribution costs


Creation costs

These are the costs involved in actually creating the work. Creation involves researching, writing, taking photographs, and drawing illustrations. The creators are sometimes paid a flat fee for producing the work. Alternatively, they ma  be paid a royalty (a percentage of sales). In some cases, may be paid nothing at all. Some publications may pay for some but not all work that is published.


How can content be obtained for free?

Here are some options:
• Ask for submissions (eg. letters to an editor), making it clear that a selection will be published without payment, or with the payment being in the form of a credit or free copy of the publication.
• Use out-of-copyright material: Old books or magazines, perhaps 100 or more years old, can be a useful source of such material. Some books have been published that contain nothing but out of copyright material (eg. line drawings from the 19th century).
• Use media releases. Some organisations or businesses will regularly submit material to publishers, offering rights to publish without payment. Such media releases are usually designed to promote a product, opinion or idea, which the originator wishes to have seen.
• Use submissions from students. University and college students may submit material on topics related to research or other work if sought.
• Use submissions from government departments or professional associations.


Production costs

Production costs are more than just the cost of printing. Production costs include time spent dealing with writers and designers, and getting quotes and setting up contracts with printers and the like. Production costs also include those involved in editing and proofing text material, preparing and processing artwork, and designing and arranging the material to achieve the desired visual image.

Printing costs are largely related to two things: the cost of labour and the cost of transport. When printing where labour is cheap, a developed country can save on the printing; but the cost of delivering that printing to that developed country may incur high shipping costs. In such situations, you also need to consider taxes. Import/export duties and sales or other taxes may be incurred for two countries rather than one; and that may increase the overall printing cost.


Marketing costs

Marketing involves more than just selling. It is everything that happens to take a product from the “producer” to the end user. Marketing involves raising awareness of a product, fostering a desire to purchase it, then providing any after-sales service needed.

There are costs involved in promotion and perhaps advertising, in order to raise awareness of a publication and foster a desire for people to have that publication. These costs may me minimised if the publisher and creators/authors are inclined to work together and put in the time needed for a reasonable result. When the publisher or author(s) already have a reputation that sells, or a network of supporters, the task of PR becomes not only easier, but also less costly.

The law in many countries requires businesses to provide a refund and service policy. If a product is found to be faulty, there may need to be provision for it to be returned and the customer compensated. Apart from any such legal consideration;, poor after-sales service will damage the prospect of future business.

For any business, an established customer is a potential future customer. Good marketing requires that you consider how you can enhance future business by maintaining contact with existing customers.
This may involve such things as developing a mailing list, posting or emailing catalogues, making routine phone calls or visits, even sending Christmas gifts or cards.

A proper marketing plan should always include appropriate provision for after-sales service. Procedures must be developed and set in place to deal with anything that is wrong, and capitalise on anything good.


Distribution costs

Distribution of publications is a specialised business. Print media publications are generally best distributed through well-established distribution companies. Many magazine and newspaper vendors, and book sellers choose to deal exclusively (or almost exclusively) with a small number of specialist distribution companies.

There was a time in the book industry when it was feasible for small publishers to distribute their own books. In today’s fast-paced world even independent bookshops can find difficulty dealing with a large number of small publishers, each only offering a handful of new titles each year. Many smaller publishers have dealt with the problem of large distribution companies (sometimes owned by large publishers), by grouping together to form distribution cooperatives. This means the one “shared” sales representative can represent many, and the cost of employing that person is shared. Also freight costs on books are more viable when titles from several different small publishers are bundled together and sent in the same package.


How royalties work

The royalty paid to an author is generally based upon the number of copies sold, but beyond that, it can vary in the detail from one publisher to the next. Many publishers pay a percentage based upon the retail price of books sold; some base it upon the wholesale price of books sold.

Some will pay an increased percentage once a certain number of books sell. Some pay an advance, which means some money before publication. Usually this advance is offset against the first royalties that are paid.

Some contracts allow the publisher to sell on the work for use elsewhere (eg. a book publisher might sell the work to a television producer or magazine). When this happens, any additional monies generated may provide an added royalty to the author, but this is often at a reduced rate.

The cost of production must always be balanced against the income received.


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