Since I’m within a week of publishing Patrick Anderson’s The Kid in Purple Pants: Structural Approaches to Educating Underprivileged Students, let’s talk about niche books first, then the broader self-published books most likely sold to libraries, bookstores, and your family.
I’ll also talk about open publishing too: Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, Lulu, and others… No money needed there at all!
NICHE BOOKS: You need some money to pretest your market, to see if they want your title, contents, and price. If they don’t, you’re only out $500-700 and a bit of writing, arranging, and mailing to a small, select group of likely buyers. I explain the whole niche process in Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time.
If they do want your book, and there’s enough of them to warrant paying half of the projected book’s income for printing, getting a mailing list, sending fliers, and fulfilling orders, bingo. That’s the time you bet the farm.
Say you have a market of 67,000; 10% respond yes to the test; you are charging $15 a book, and half of that is profit, it should cost you a total of about $50,000 to prep and sell the book. You should also earn about $50,000 profit from that same process. I would print 2,000 books and mail 20,000 fliers, then I’d take the profit from those sales and do it again, and again.
The only time you must go into your pocket or purse is for the first post-test mailing. Then, from the sales you will earn, you can finance all of the other procedures.
Incidentally, I’d probably create other, related products for that same niche market and sell them on the same flyer. And from that I’d niche empire build. My free newsletter talks about that every month.
SELF-PUBLISHED BOOKS. These are paperbacks (or hardbacks) mostly sold the old, now less effective way: to libraries, bookstores, and specialty outlets. Add to that by social networking and, sometimes, through web marketing.
But this doesn’t work until you have a sufficient stock to match the first orders and to send lots of free review copies to the leaders in the field that you address. That could be 100 or 500 books, until you see how they are selling. (It’s easy enough to buy 1-2,000 or more later from an offset press, when the demand requires it.)
So here you need the initial publishing money to get your stock. That may cost you $3-4 a book, plus shipping. That could be $300-2000. Plus cover design costs, proofreading, and any book-creation costs (like travel, office costs, and perhaps shameless bribes).
From there, the future costs will, again, come from profits from the first sales. If you sell that original 500 books and you charge $17.95 each, that’s almost $9,000 gross. Enough for a larger printing!
OPEN PUBLISHING. There’s almost no expense to publish your book in digital format here. You send it to Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords (including iPad and Sony) and they will post it in a day or two, and if your price is between $2.99 and $9.99 (for the first two publishers above), you will receive about 70% royalty. Bingo.
But I would wait to do the ebook publishing until the paperback is out and up for sale. In fact, you can simply use the paperback text, modify it a bit, post the same front cover, and you have the same book in ebook format. (Or you can sell the digital copy yourself in .pdf, just as free of costs to you.)
You can publish paperbacks through open publishing too. CreateSpace is the best vehicle here, and your only expense will be about $25. Royalties are about 35%, but once the book is posted, any profit is almost found money.
My book How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed in Days shows you precisely how you convert your ebook or paperback to all of the seven open publishers.
This is a sort of summary explanation, and yes the doing is more tedious than the talking about it, but if you can write a book you can certainly publish it!
I hope this helps.