The ‘Real’ Cost of Traditional Publishing: How to Budget for a New Release

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on the budgeted cost for my next project, which happens to be a self-published project. I also have an upcoming book release, The Assassin’s Kiss, coming out on August 15, 2016, from a traditional publisher, a smaller one. Trust me when I say, a big five release would carry a bigger budget sThe Assassin's Kissince I’d likely have an advance to work with rather than my own pathetic lottery winnings and the spare change from under my couch.

I also found a stash of sharpened doggie bones. I suspect my pups are plotting against me.

Anyway, here’s a look at my budget for The Assassin’s Kiss. This budget doesn’t have to be yours. Pick the line items you are interested in and ignore the rest. Also, feel free to add some. I’d love to have your feedback on what you plan, whether it’s new things or subtracting some of mine. The more we share, the better for all of us. Especially when talking money. I had no clue what I was getting into when I started. Who knew I'd need a full-time job to afford my full-time job?

Budget for The Assassin’s Kiss.
Print Copies $10.00 (estimate, likely less) per book 50 $500.00 Buy from publisher after contracted copies (return on investment after selling at book launch/consignment)
Book launch $250 Food, drink, venue   $0 I’ve decided to forgo a physical book launch in favor of an online one. The only cost is my time.
Advertising (Banners) $300     $300 Fresh Fiction/RT (I'm not sure I'll do this, but I'm looking to branch out)
Newsletter $0     $0 Mailchimp free up to 2k
Conferences $1,600     $1,600 Estimate 2 Cons, plus hotel and travel, more if not a speaker
Publicist $2,000     $0 Use of in-house
BookBub $365 free promo   $365 If accepted for 1st book in series
Swag/Business cards       $500  I like to use swag as a tool, but not general swag like postcards, but theme swag for an example I’ve done fortune cookies in the past with witty fortunes or teeth related items for my tooth fairy releases.
Meme/Digital Postcard Design $100     $100 Do it myself. Price to purchase stock photos though.
Blog Tours 50     $0 Haven't found it worthwhile to hire tour companies. Set up own tour, smaller but targeted
Professional Marketer $45 per hour 10 $450 Check into fivver for multiple sources
Other promo sites $300     $300  
TOTAL       $4,115 Depending on your financial picture, all of this can be done for much less. I choose to budget to my dreams and spend to my reality, however sad and bleak it might be….

What did I leave out? How do you select your own release budget?

Since my self-publishing budget topped out about 5k, are you surprised to see nearly as much for traditional? My main point is this, neither publishing option is cheap, especially without an advance to cover the majority of expenses. There are upfront costs a business plan must consider.

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer on Email
J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer is a writer living in Denver, CO. When she isn’t looking for a place to hide the bodies, she spends her time with a pup named Killer. Other hobbies include murdering houseplants. She spent a few years as a bartender and then wasted another few years stalking people while working as a private investigator before transitioning to the moniker of WRITER and penning over 15 titles. Visit her website at

14 thoughts on “The ‘Real’ Cost of Traditional Publishing: How to Budget for a New Release

  1. This stuff is so helpful for me. I know now that I didn’t do nearly what I should have for my first book, but I really thought my publisher would at least tell me some things to do (and I did ask, numerous times). I wasn’t involved in RMFW then and Oh, I so wish I had been! I think the results would have been a whole different story. Thanks, Julie!

    • Hi Terri, I did a crazy amount on my first book, now I spend like $100 bucks. This time I’ve decided to do more, because, you know, my career and all. It’s amazing how we put all this work into our books and revolt at promoting it.

  2. I’m cheeeeep. I’m so cheap, I have hens following me around wondering where the chicks are.

    To keep the costs manageable, I count the costs of publication in the number of books I need to sell to break even.

    Editing: $1200 – 370 units
    Cover: $300 – 93 units
    Total: $1500 – 463 units

    Email once to list: Free
    Post on my blogs: Free (Sunk cost. It costs the same if I post or not.)
    Tweet once: Free (I only do this if the stalkers haven’t already done it for me.)

    I knew I’d sell that many units in the first hours, but that was book 11 in my catalog and the first book of a much anticipated sequel series to my main franchise. I could have justified spending more to launch, but I’m a firm believer in the “soft launch” strategy. For me the challenge is trying to keep everybody from buying it on the first day. I’m terrible at that.

    But it’s a good problem to have. 🙂

  3. I’ll be running my own “show” next month. I’m siding with Nathan. . .on the cheap and lowdown with costs, but also know I won’t share the same results as he does. But a “major” push of funds won’t change anything in my eyes, but I will do a cost analysis to see what it looks like. You do a good job of breaking things down, as we often forget to include all costs along the way.

  4. Thanks for sharing, Julie. It’s so helpful to all of us to compare notes and take some of the mysteries out of the process. I would always put “book signing” at the top of my list. My book signings were a delight. I considered each of them a birthday party I threw for myself, and it was so much fun sharing the excitement with my family and friends. I paid for the venue (at that time $100). I recruited dear friends to sing a synopsis of my book ($0). I bought their costumes ($75) and raffled books written by my critique partners ($120). My daughter videotaped it. ($10 for tape). I did a postcard mailing advertising the signing ($125) + $50 postage). I gave away bookmarks and postcards (used them for many other events so only $25). I advertised my signing in the newspaper (a co-op ad that was around $75, I think). Total $580. ROI: Each book made the regional best-seller list, each book received a strong review. My CPs appreciated my buying another copy of their novel and promoting it at my book signings, and they were as much fun, if not more, than Christmas. 🙂 Were I still publishing traditionally, would I do more? I’d tone it down. They were pricey and time-consuming. And I agree with you about the blog tours.

  5. This is excellent information, Julie, and a bit of an eye opener. Like Nathan, I’m super cheap. I wouldn’t hire a marketer or use promo sites that charge, including Book Bub. I limit myself to a couple of writing conferences a year during non-release years, but add at least one genre convention during a release year. And finally, I found bookstore booksignings to be non-helpful for me, so I hold that exercise to one big signing and launch party. Opportunities to appear at library events or craft fairs have been way more useful. I do have business cards, but found swag such as bookmarks and postcards a waste. In a book release year, I probably spend closer to $2,500 for my promo efforts (of course, that doesn’t include the many hours I spend doing the free stuff…).

    • Hi Pat, it’s so odd about what works for some and doesn’t for others. I agree about booksignings and swag, though I like to give stuff away. What do you plan for on a new release? And how does your blogging fit in?

    • That’s great. For me, the tours my publisher set up worked better than the blog tour companies. But it has to be where I posted, not just when they threw book covers and descriptions up. Good luck on it!

  6. Put me in the cheap camp. I can’t decide if being around so long has made me a cynic or the voice of reason, so definitely take everything I say with a grain of salt. Over the years I have done about every kind of promo there is, from hiring a professional publicist to ads to tons of swag, etc. etc. I spent thousands on promo and I spent nothing on promo and I couldn’t tell any difference in sales between the two. Most of the time I felt I would have had the same results if I had lit dollar bills on fire

    I seem to get the most bang for my buck from sending out review copies (so figure the cost of books or ARCs and postage). I also print up business cards or bookmarks so I have something to hand out when people ask “So what do you write?” Facebook and Twitter and newsletters are free and an effective way to get the word out, I think. Back when blog tours were a brand new thing I did some and got good results, though now I don’t find them to be very valuable. Blitzing local media outlets with press releases has had mixed results — it depends on how strong a news hook I can come up with. (February is always a good month for a romance author to have a new release.) This costs nothing but my time, since I email everything.

    I did participate in a Facebook launch party once and it was fun and seemed to briefly help sales — a whole group of authors got together to take turns posting and giving away stuff and we had a lot of traffic.

    Bookbub is something I have found to be very effective at boosting sales — the trick is for your publisher to discount the book for the promotion.

    Janet, your booksigning/launch sounds like a lot of fun. I never got that kind of response. For me, most booksignings have been a big waste of time, though I know people who are more outgoing and charismatic than I am who do well with them.

    My last single-title release I spent less than $500 in promo. I don’t count conferences as promotion, though.

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