In Your Corner: When Free Isn’t Free

When it comes to self-publishing, “free” isn’t always free, if you catch my meaning. In an industry where we’re used to self-publishing and indie presses being the much-lauded “little guy” going up against the Big Five traditional publishing houses, we sometimes overlook an important fact: indie authors still need to read the fine print.

Every publisher is a business–small presses, vanity publishers, and self-publishing companies like Outskirts Press included–and therefore, publishers still must make a profit somewhere. And that “somewhere” part is … well, the key. Rather than learn about hidden fees after you’ve gotten started down the path to self-publishing, wouldn’t it be better to know ahead of time how much you’ll need to spend? Planning, budgeting, and creative control are all vital facets of the experience, and we want to put you in the driver’s seat.

To that end, here are a couple of hidden fees to watch out for:

  • Amazon’s “Megabyte” Fee: If you happen to choose the 70% royalty option when publishing through Amazon’s KDP store, Amazon will charge you for each megabyte of your document. They have a full explanation on their KDP pricing page. It’s also worth noting that Amazon is not the only publisher to invoke this kind of hidden fee; many digital publishers do. So read that fine print!
  • Cover Design: Unless you opt for a bundle or collected service from a self-publishing company which offers professional cover design, you won’t be receiving one for free! And while many online websites offer free tutorials, the results … don’t always look so good. If you need a little convincing to pay out the money for a professional cover design, see one of our many previous posts on the benefits! The same is true for professional copyediting and many other interior design aspects of your book.
  • ISBNs: Unless you already knew you needed one, you might not know about this hidden fee. It’s a sneaky one, too–but there’s help at hand! It’s easy to file for an ISBN, if you know how or who to hire.
  • Street Cred & File Conversion: Some of the unquantifiables of self-publishing include more generic “business expenses,” like establishing credibility by having an imprint’s name rather than your own personal name on the Library of Congress information page, and paying for a good and accurate conversion of your manuscript file to the final format. Neither of these things is strictly necessary, in that you can self-publish without them, but it will take you much longer to get your book out there, and much longer to sell those books once they’re printed if they’re not formatted correctly or attached to a “legitimizing” imprint.

In many ways, you get what you pay for, so hidden fees aren’t strictly an evil thing. They exist for a reason, and your success depends on knowing which of them is useful to bow to and which ones you can forego. Just be aware … they’re out there, and you need to budget them in before committing to a final bank balance.

hidden fees

You are not alone. ♣︎


ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path

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