How Much Does it Cost to Write a Book?

by Fraser Sherman; Updated September 26, 2017
...

Despite predictions that books are dying out, it hasn't happened yet. In 2009, the U.S. publishing industry released more than 288,000 books, according the Bowker bibliographic website. The cost of writing a book depends on the type of book: A novel may cost you nothing but time, whereas a tourism guide could require you to spend thousands of dollars on travel -- although the travel could be tax deductible.

Equipment

Most writers today rely on computers. A number of publishers only accept electronic submissions. If you don't have a computer, decide whether you need a desktop for your home or a more portable laptop. Then find a word-processing program that you're comfortable working with. If you don't have a printer, many public libraries will allow you to print documents at 10 or 20 cents a page.

Research

Even a novel can require research if you're setting it in a foreign country. You'll have to research a historical novel or a book about a business or profession you're not familiar with. If you can't find the information you need in the library or online, you may have to buy books. For nonfiction projects you may have to buy reference books, travel to interview an expert or run up phone bills. If you're planning to self-publish and your book needs illustrations, you'll likely have to pay to get them.

Publishing

If you're writing a commercial book, author A.J. Crispin opines, the publisher should pay you, not the other way around. Nevertheless, many authors sign with subsidy publishers or vanity presses who charge them a fee which can add up to thousands of dollars. Another alternative many authors adopt is self-publishing. The exact costs of these choices will vary with the author, the project, the number of books printed and the elements of the book.

Taxes

If you make money from your writing, you report it to the IRS using Schedule C for self-employment income. You can deduct many of the costs of writing the book -- buying photographs, printing pages, travel mileage -- from anything you earn. If you end up losing money, you may be able to deduct the loss from your other income, though the IRS has a number of restrictions on taking this deduction.

About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.

Photo Credits