I got an email from a reader who asked me if it costs anything to get a book published. I thought it was a good question and other aspiring writers might be interested to know the answer.
A writer doesn’t have to pay a publisher to print their book. Writers have expenses of course (I have to pay for paper, ink cartridges, books, train fare to the library etc.), but when a publisher accepts a book that you have written or has commissioned you to write, they pay you for the right to publish the book. The writer gets an ‘advance’, an amount of money before the book is in the shops. (Though it usually isn’t enough to live on for a year or however long it takes to write the book.) Then the writer gets a percentage of the money earned from book sales.
It is the publisher who pays to get all those books printed. They are the ones who invest money in a book. I only invest my time. The publisher pays for the paper the books are printed on (an expensive item for a print run of thousands of books), cover design, marketing, distribution etc.
Some people think that it is the writer who owns all the books that you see in the shops. That’s not the case. Though the writer still owns the story, it is the publisher who owns the actual books. As part of the contract between the writer and the publisher, the writer gets a number of free books (I get 20).
Self-publishing is another way to get a book published. That’s when you pay for the printing yourself. I don’t know much about self-publishing, but I imagine that (unless you are very rich) you would print something like 500 books, a lot less than a publishing company would print.