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Economics of Self-Publishing

Does it make sense to publish your book yourself? Maybe.

Here's a real-life example:

Time to write the book

1 year

Desktop typesetting, page layout, putting in foreign-language accents, help obtaining ISBN and Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data, preparing PDFs for the printer


Printing 3000 copies (124,000 words, 304 pages, good paper, full-color laminated cover, shipment of all books to the author)


Average cost per copy of producing the book


Cover price of the book


Author/self-publisher's net earnings per copy


Copies that must be sold at cover price to pay all production expenses


Period in which these copies were sold

14 months

Total revenue if all 3000 copies are sold at cover price


Net profit (total revenue less production expenses)


Number of copies that would have to be sold by a big publisher in order for the author to earn the same amount (at $2 royalty per book)


So there's the magic: a big publisher has to sell more than six times as many books for the author to earn the same net profit.

You can make a profit by self-publishing and selling one-sixth of the copies that a traditional publisher would have to sell. Here's how.

Profiting from the Long Tail: Publish Your Own Book!

The Problem with Print

Declining Print Revenues

Print vs Internet

The Problem with Newspapers & Magazines

The Problem with Travel Guidebooks

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Tom Brosnahan