How do I budget a book?

It may interest you to see a rough cost breakdown for a trade publication.

(And this is very rough: figures are a guideline only.)

New Zealand RRP 112.5%
Excl. GST 100.0%
Retailer margin (e.g. bookstore) 40–50%
Unsold & written-off stock costs 3%
Distribution 5%
Sales & marketing 8%
Print, bind, ship 12%
Editorial 5%
Author royalty 12%

If you do the maths, you’ll see that there’s precious little left at the end. If you can sell your book online (or at events such as library talks), you’ll make a bigger margin than if you sell through a bookstore.

Essentially, book production is one of those black-and-white areas that directly reflect the time and money you have available to produce an end result. But don’t be fooled that it’s all bad. Some areas have more impact than others, and knowing your market is vital when deciding how much budget you need to commit. For instance, there’s no point in spending money on designing a great cover without having first worked out how you are going to distribute and market your book.

Your end goal will be a professionally produced book that reflects the time you have put into collating and writing the content. To do this you’ll need to work with a professional to understand all the book production jargon and work out which parts are important to your market. Take advice and listen to suggestions. Also, think it through before you commit. Editing and cover design are high priorities on the list of things to get right, but you’ll also need to work out which format is best and the print values you require. There are loads of variables, so don’t be afraid to ask for full quotes and cost breakdowns up front, and then work back to what is achievable on your budget.