There’s a lot involved in becoming a self-published or traditionally published author, but there’s nothing like seeing your efforts in a paperback or hardback copy you hold in your hands. Your dream becomes your reality, and it’s a feeling of accomplishment you don’t soon forget. But it’s also a process that involves many steps, as well as costs that new writers need to be aware of.

There’s generally a great deal of excitement about becoming a writer. We have visions of what it will be like, what we and our life will be like, once we’re published. The dream carries us on waves of energy and enthusiasm. But there’s also the reality that most new writers—those who’ve never approached writing a book before, need to know; and most new writers don’t know what they don’t know, which is why assistance and guidance are beneficial.

One thing new writers are typically not aware of are the costs involved in the process of creating a manuscript in final form and moving it forward into publishing, especially if the author intends to self-publish. What follows gives you a general idea of costs involved, whether you intend to self-publish or aim for a traditional publisher; but the focus here, after a certain point, is for authors who wish to self-publish. Note: All costs involved are tax deductible—as long as you publish (and promote)! Keep your receipts.

Getting a first draft (and subsequent revisions) done costs you time. There’s no way around that. But when you’re passionate about your project, you find or create the time and go the distance, however long that takes.

Now you have a first draft. Is it ready to send to a literary agent to represent you, or to a publisher who accepts submissions, or to self-publish? Only if you have the needed expertise, is it ready.
 If you wonder about the quality of the composition (is it truly a good read?), you can use a critique (editorial evaluation) service to let you know where your manuscript works well and where and how it might be improved.
 If you are confident in your creative and technical writing skills (and I mean seriously confident about your competence), you need at least a proofreader with experience to go through your manuscript.
 If you know your manuscript needs editing, you need to hire an editor. You may even need a developmental editor who can assist you not only with the technical matters, but also with the creative ones.

An editor—and especially a developmental editor, will more than likely indicate that your manuscript needs some revision (even best-selling authors go through multiple revisions). You might make the revisions then decide that all is well and proceed toward publishing without letting the editor or a proofreader go through it again. Anytime you make revisions, it’s very easy to miss simple things, which is why another pair of eyes is worth the cost (after each revision), which is really an investment in you and your manuscript. I’m did a book review for a self-published author who did a brilliant job with the story, but missed simple things like using then when he should have used than, and did this more than once (two words that often get confused in their use). It doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the work he did, but I can’t help wonder why he didn’t hire a proofreader to go over it one last time before committing it to print. Another self-published book I reviewed left in notes from the editor in a couple of sections. Another pair of eyes would have caught this.

Editing and or proofreading needs to be done before you submit your manuscript to a literary agent or a publisher that accepts submissions directly from authors, and absolutely before you self-publish. Bloopers happen to the best authors (and editors and proofreaders—we’re all human). I find typos or “oopsies” in nearly every traditionally published book I read. It happens. Please do what needs to be done to have as few “oopsies” in your book as possible.

Now we focus on those who intend to self-publish. Once you have your manuscript into final form, you need to have it formatted and you need an ISBN (the number above the barcode on the back of the book and on the copyright page). The first thing you have to do is decide who is going to do the publishing. If you’re going to use an online print-on-demand (POD) service, you need to decide on the book size and get those specifications, and you need to see what they offer regarding ISBNs. Some services have marketing packages that are either free or for a fee that also allow you to acquire your ISBN through them. Research what they offer so you can make your choice. There are POD services that allow you to publish for free and some that charge.

Then you need to find a professional formatting service or individual who knows what s/he is doing (unless that’s a skill you possess). There are POD services that either offer these services or have guidebooks to take you through it to do it yourself. This becomes a toss-up between paying for this service (which can be minimal if it’s just text, or more if you include images, charts, etc.) or, perhaps, getting a headache figuring it out yourself. If you’re going to also offer your book on Kindle and other electronic devices, you need a separate ISBN (it’s considered a separate publishing from the print version), as well as specific formatting to meet requirements.

Then you need a book cover (even for electronic versions). Some POD services have improved their offerings of gallery covers and allow you to make changes to fonts, and upload photos and descriptions for the back cover so that you create your own cover at no charge. Find out the specifics for photos regarding sizing and DPI quality (sharpness). Many POD services offer book cover creation as a paid service, or you can find an individual who does this professionally, unless you have expertise in this (which includes knowing how to create and size the spine and embed the ISBN and barcode).
You also want to research online services that let you upload your manuscript and book cover files so that you can print your book in bulk quantities for a reduced price (and with good quality), in the event you do book signings, etc. If you’re going to offer an electronic version of your book, you’ll need to get it onto those services. You can either find out what’s required and do this yourself (or pay someone to do this for you), or see if your POD site offers this as a paid service, possibly as part of the electronic version formatting package.

Then there’s marketing your book. There are numerous free and paid ways to do this, and a combination is usually involved. It all depends on how committed to marketing your book you are. No matter how your book gets published, you will have to market it.

The old adage that says to sharpen the ax before you go to the tree applies here. It’s best if you consider everything you need and need to do and create a Next-Steps list to keep track of these, along with any potential or actual costs that will or may be involved, as well as what can be done at no cost—and if you’re willing or able to do these yourself. Do this ahead of time, while you’re still getting your manuscript into final form, so you know how to plan and which steps to take and when (or hire someone to help you with this). Be flexible. Something always comes up, but you learn and gain experience. Make notes for the next time you publish.

Yes, there is a lot involved to become a self-published (or traditionally published) author, but there really is nothing like seeing your efforts in a paperback or hardback copy you hold in your hands. Your dream becomes your reality, and it’s a feeling of accomplishment you don’t soon forget.

I wish you the best with your writing and progress.

Author's Bio: 

Need a Book Doctor or an incentive to write or complete your manuscript? Let Joyce L. Shafer be your writing coach, developmental editor, or provide a critique. Details about her services at