10 Things independent authors should invest in to be successful

Indie publishingDuring her 2018 TAA Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference presentation, “Independent Publishing: Securing a Return on Your Investment, A Practical Approach to Indie Publishing”, Margaret Thompson Reece shared benefits of independent “indie” publishing options, including greater control and distribution options, flexible pricing, and easier editing. Also, royalty payments for print on demand books are about 30% of the retail price.

These benefits, however, are not without cost. Below are the ten investments Reece said authors must make to be successful book publishers.

1) Marketing

Although some marketing options, such as social media and networking with colleagues are free, indie authors should keep in mind the cost of a website, ranging from $200 to several thousand dollars in financial investment.

2) Professional Editing

Independent publishing requires the author to contract with editors for copyediting and developmental editing needs. Costs vary from about $900 to $5000 for a 300-page book, according to Reece.

3) Book Interior Design

Interior design is an important factor in the reader’s experience with your writing. Although professional designers are an option, Reece recommends using a template, such as those available at Book Design Templates with licensing options in the range of $59 to $249.

4) Permissions & Licensing

Fees for photos and illustrations used in your book can vary. Even photos that you take yourself may be subject to fees or restrictions of use based on where they were taken. Be sure to check the guidelines before use. Sites like shutterstock.com can be an effective way to locate royalty-free photos and illustrations for your book with single image and monthly subscription purchase options.

5) International Standard Book Number – ISBN

Every book needs an ISBN to uniquely identify the publisher, edition, and book format. ISBNs in the US are managed by Bowker Identifier Services and there is an associated fee for attaining an ISBN. Keep in mind that each format requires a separate ISBN.

6) Book Cover Design

Similar to the interior design, a cover can have a large impact on readership. Reece says that your cover should make the focus or topic of the book obvious. You can design your own cover using free tools such as Canva or Create Space, but professional cover design costs between $200 and $700.

7) Copyright Registration

Although each literary work is protected under copyright law, registering a copyright is recommended for published works. This can be done for free at www.copyright.gov/registration, but does require a fairly lengthy application form and a waiting period for response to the copyright claim.

8) Printing & Distribution

Many indie authors take advantage of print on demand options for their titles. Create Space provides free uploads and file evaluation while Ingram Spark charges $25 to $50 for initial upload to their print on demand service. Both of these services use Amazon for distribution. Create Space is part of Amazon and has the advantage of Amazon’s widespread distribution platform. Ingram Spark is the world’s largest book distributor. Any bookstore, library, school or online store, including Amazon, can order books from Ingram Spark.

9) E-pub File Conversion

To distribute your book as an e-book in the e-Pub format, the files must be converted. Amazon provides free conversion to the Kindle format, but for wider distribution on e-book platforms, conversion costs vary from 15-60 cents per printed page.

10) Business Set Up & Accounting

Reece strongly suggests establishing a business entity for your indie publishing efforts. A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is easy to set up and costs between $100 and $1,000 depending on the state in which it is established. At a minimum, Reece suggests planning for accounting software and services as well as legal consultation fees, where necessary. Budgeting about $250 for the necessary software and $500/year for the accountant is a good starting point for assessing costs.

Have you explored indie publishing options? Are there any key items you would add to this list? Feel free to share in the comments below.


Eric SchmiederEric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.