One of the first questions we are often asked is How much is this going to cost? Without any information about a project, this is a difficult question to answer. We do not have a flat cost for all books. A 20-page children’s book is just not the same as a 500-page company history, and costs will vary depending on the needs of the project. To help you understand how we determine book publishing costs, below is an outline of what you can expect and why.
Just like the countertops and cupboards in a custom-built home or the wheel and color options on a new car, you get to choose how to produce your book, and your choices affect its cost. We ask a lot of questions when we talk to you about your book because we need to know as much as possible about your manuscript and your expectations in order to determine a working estimate.
Editing and Design
First, we need to figure out how long it might take to copyedit your book. This is a key element in our estimating process because editing tends to take about half of the time to produce a book. We base editing time on your manuscript’s page and word count, the word-processing program you use, and the state of your writing.
Most word-processing programs, like Word, make it easy to find out your manuscript’s stats, such as word and page count. If you use a program other than Word to write in, there may be some time involved in translating your text into something we can more easily edit. Why? Word’s track changes functionality is a boon for editors and makes the editing process much easier for editor and writer alike. Fortunately, that kind of functionality is becoming more common in other word-processing programs, like Google Docs and Pages. If you’ve done your work on a typewriter or longhand, more power to you! Just know there will be an additional charge to type it into a word-processing program.
The final editing step is to examine your writing for errors, style, and cohesion and logic. We look for what are called objective errors—grammar and spelling, mostly—and see how ubiquitous they are throughout the manuscript. Then we figure how much editing needs to be done to conform to house style, which is based on The Chicago Manual of Style, an industry standard style guide. Finally, we look at the logic of your sentences and paragraphs, your phrasings, and how your writing style holds together and holds up over the course of the manuscript.
Next, we determine how complicated the typesetting and page design might be. Any additional element beyond the text adds time to the typesetting—photos, illustrations, tables, charts, graphs, footnotes/endnotes, quotation blocks, sidebars, and so on. If your book includes photos, in addition to their placement, we need to account for scanning and any editing needed to make them look good in print. If there are tables or charts, we need to see how they are structured and how difficult it will be to recompose them in the book. If there are quotes, we need to see how we can highlight them in the flow of the text and double-check them for accuracy.
Finally, we talk about the cover design. If we provide the art used on the cover, that takes some time to develop and may incur additional costs for art or photos. If you provide the art, while there may be some cost savings, we do need time to make sure it’s actually usable on the cover—Is it high enough in resolution? Is it physically large enough to fill the space needed? Do you have the right to reproduce it? Will it work (or can we make it work) within our design concepting?
The second part of our estimate involves the production of your book. The central decision with a printed book is whether you want to produce it print-on-demand (POD) or offset.
Print-on-demand usually costs more per book because you do not get the economies of scale available in offset, where the more books you print, the less it costs per book. Instead, you have the advantage of printing as few copies as you need at a time—literally, one book, if you choose to pay the shipping on it. You avoid the need to store boxes of books, and you have the ability to update or revise your book as needed by having us send a new file to the printer.
Offset printing allows for more customization than print-on-demand, and it’s more cost-effective for larger print runs. While the cost is generally less per book than POD, you will pay for the entire print run at one time, instead of possibly piecemeal with print-on-demand. Your print run will also need to be significant in order to get a good price break—generally, there is a minimum of 500 books, but we suggest at least 1,000 to 2,000 to further lower the cost per book. You will also need to store those books in a temperature- and pest-controlled space so they stay in good condition.
You will then need to decide which type of binding you would like to use for your book. In general, there are two types of book bindings available: paperback and hardcover. Paperbacks are a book industry staple—they’re reasonably priced, relatively durable, and use a heavier coverstock, often coated on one side, for the cover. Gloss or matte lamination can be used on the outside cover to give a different feel or effect to the cover. Hardcovers are more durable, have an element of prestige compared to paperbacks, and are made using cardboard covered with paper or cloth (or even vinyl or leather). Paperbacks are normally less costly than hardcovers, especially with print-on-demand, but sometimes you can find remarkably comparable pricing to paperbacks in offset runs.
Should you decide to go hardcover, you will need to decide whether to use what is sometimes called a case laminate (board is covered with coated paper, which is then laminated, usually gloss or matte) or a cloth case (board is covered with cloth, which is often stamped on the front and the spine). Cloth hardcovers are commonly accompanied by a dust jacket. Of the two, case laminate tends to be less expensive, especially when you add in the cost of designing and printing the dust jacket for a cloth hardcover.
When we estimate the typesetting, we come up with an estimate for your final page count as well, reflecting how long we expect your book to be once your text is typeset and graphics are placed. Page count is the primary factor in your printing cost because paper comprises about half of the cost of printing. Secondary factors are the physical size—or trim size—of your book; whether your book will be printed in color on the inside and where (covers are almost always in color); your book’s binding; and your print run.
Longer books, larger books, books with color inside, and hardcover bindings increase the cost of printing, while longer print runs, especially for offset, tend to lower the cost per book (increasing your total cost, of course).
We mentioned earlier that offset books are more customizable than POD books. There are customizations for offset books that add to the reader experience and the quality of your book, but they will cost: ribbon markers, specialty headbands and endsheets (hardcovers), deckling, cover cutouts, gilting/edging, gatefold covers (paperbacks), and so on.
So how much does all this cost? We can give you numbers based on books we’ve done over the years. A printed book (sometimes including an additional ebook version) is usually between $2,500 to $9,000, with the average being about $4,500. This cost includes everything it takes to get your writing from manuscript to printed book. Note that there are book projects outside of this range, both less expensive and more expensive.
You can see from all the variables outlined above that it is truly difficult for us to give someone an average cost. The good news is we will happily talk with you about your book and provide you with an estimate once we understand more about your manuscript and your needs.