Coming up with a book production budget

One of the last tips in my previous post, 10 Tips for Launching Your Book, was to come with a book production budget. How do you do that? Easy. A  book production budget is an estimate of what it will cost to get your book published.  It includes everything from the cover design, to editing, formatting, marketing, and  maybe even research materials. (I’ll explain in a little bit). 

What’s the purpose of determining your budget ahead of time? Three things. 

  1. To make sure you have the money to publish a quality book
  2. To estimate how much the book will make over it’s lifespan (about a year, for most indie publications)
  3. To see how much you can spend on giveaways, ads, promos, swag etc.

Remember, an  estimate is not written in stone. Costs and sales may vary from author to author depending on who you choose to contract with, your audience size, and how much you promote. 

How do you calculate this budget?

First,  figure out the possible  “royalties.” Multiply your planned book sale price (figuring that out is a discussion for another post)  by your expected royalty percentage . (How much you’re going to sell the book for is worthy of its own post). If you’re selling both ebook and paperback, you’re going to this twice. You’ll probably be getting less money for the ebook than paperback. So this will give you a best case, worst case scenario. 

Then, add up all of your expenses for creating this book. This includes your editing, book cover, formatting, giveaways prizes, ads, and materials you bought to research the book (if it was only for this book). You may notice that the really snazzy book cover you got blew all of your royalties. You will have to hustle harder to make sure you get that money back.

Then subtract the expenses from the royalties; this is an estimate of  your potential profit . 

Here are my recommendations for maximizing your profit:

  • Make the budget ahead of time. 
  • Plan on doing some sort of revitalization of your book sales at 6 months, 9 months, then at the year mark post publication.  We are aiming to extend the life cycle of your book. 
  • Be prepared to spend time and energy on selling your book.  This may include doing readings and speaking at book clubs. I’ll write more about post-publication marketing in a future post. 

If you’re setting your budget ahead of time, go onto the internet and search average  cost of … an indie book cover and formatting, editing,  etc. Use those figures in your budget. 

At this point, you may get discouraged. Take a moment.  Feel your feelings, and then remind yourself you’re in this for the long haul. You can revitalize sales EVERY time you publish a new book. Your income from your creative efforts doesn’t just come from one book. Eventually, you’ll have multiple books. There are also other ways to leverage your skills and creativity to earn money. This is just one part of one income stream. Income streams are the faucets, if you will, of making money. I’ll talk about this more in the future. 

One of the reasons I hear indie writers say they are indie is because they want control.  Coming up with a budget and taking a hard look at the business aspect of being an indie helps you have CONTROL.  With CONTROL, you have FREEDOM. And freedom is what we indie creatives crave. Take your creativity FULLY into your hands and be the creative entrepreneur that you are. 

Are you feeling lost in preparing to launch your book? Contact me for a consultation. I can help you find clarity in marketing yourself and your book.


Line editor Claerie Kavanaugh.

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7 thoughts on “Coming up with a book production budget

  1. I made $16.86 on my first book last year (my second book is free on smashwords). Living in a small town, I found it hard to market my book besides doing a couple of readings. I think having a marketing plan that focused on nearby cities is a crucial step I missed. Next time, I’ll use my lessons learned.

    1. Hi Jeff! There are ways of doing marketing on social media that don’t require travel. There are “virtual book tours” that you can do. You can also see if there is a bookblogger who’d be interested in reading your book. You write creative nonfiction, so there might be podcasters that could be interested in interviewing you or local public radio stations might have programs that are a good fit.

      1. The NPR idea is a good one. I was listening to a story slam the other day wondering if they have something similar for ‘readers’. I’m somewhat done marketing my first book. My writing has changed (improved) dramatically since publication. It occurred to me that I have 300 blog posts. I should be able to mine that for book content when I’m ready. Gotta gear up to start again. IS there a way to locate ‘influential’ book bloggers? A few bloggers have reviewed my books (favorably) but that didn’t really result in any sales. Does *any* one make decent money as an independent author?

      2. For your first book, you could always rewrite and relaunch. Traditional publishing sometimes does this, as do indie writers. You have some really great posts, so they’d make a great new book. Yes, there’s a way to find influential s bookbloggers. Go in YouTube and Instagram (odd I know. But big in book blogging). Look for bookbloggers that review creative nonfiction — even if just once — to see if they’d review your book. Or. Maybe a blogger on your topic. I’m thinking it was running. Maybe a lifestyle blogger may be interested. You’d have to have somewhat of a presence on social media for them to want to consider you. The currency in social media is potential followers. For influencers you look for number of followers and engagement. At the moment YouTube bloggers are really good way to go. But monetization is changing, so they may be migrating elsewhere in the near future. The most important thing is to be where your ideal audience hangs out. There’s ways to figure that out too. To answer does anyone make a living? Yes and no. Most who are at the top are more of a creative entrepreneur with multiple income streams, like books and monetization of their platforms. Even with Patreon. Some make it because they’re lucky. Most make it because they’ve written multiple books over decades. If you switch your mindset to being an entrepreneur that’s a start.

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