Want to write a book?  Great!  Write a story, have a friend or two proof-read it, and start sending out letters to agents hoping they’re interested.

Not so fast.  Back up.  Some more.  Way back here.  Now take a seat.

Now, only is it not as easy as that, but something I don’t think many aspiring authors think about is how much it costs to write and try to get a book published.  If you already work a couple jobs, you’re going to sacrifice sleep.  That comes with a cost to your health.  If you work one job, write, and sleep, you better get a second job for what you can reasonably expect to pay out of pocket trying to “do it right” and get noticed.

Information isn’t free anymore.  Forums can be a great help, but only go so far.  Take a peek at the books out there.  $50 on up for some of them. Want to take a class on honing your craft?  Several hundred you can expect to pay for online classes.  Some universities offer classes, but even at the community college level, you’re looking at $600 on up (going by my local community college pricing).  You can take a session with Neil Gaiman and pay about $6,000 (paying for residence at a certain location is mandatory).

Want to skip that?  Well, prepare yourself to hear about how unprofessional you are for not coming up with thousands to pay for professional editors.  What’s that?  You can’t afford it?  Someone will tell you to just get another job, as if it’s that easy.  In fact a couple people telling me this on Twitter sparked this post.  If all it took to come up wit a couple thousand was to “just get another job,” then no one who is struggling would struggle.  Everyone willing to work would have jobs instead of pounding pavement for months on end, sometimes a year or more.

I’m a bit peeved Neil told me to skip the editor and just attend his seminar back when I was still trying to raise money for an editor.

Conferences?  This is supposed to be a good way to learn more and to try getting your manuscript out there a bit, and every agent and published author I’ve spoken with have said these are becoming vital.  (Caveat: I haven’t spoken with all.  Some might think these are a waste of money.)  Typical costs are $500 or so for a ticket, plus travel, hotel, and other associated costs.

Software programs, printing and mailing things off (some agents want everything digitally, some still want manuscripts printed), contests to get notice, and on and on and on all add up.  I’ve got several writer friends who’ve shelled out five grand or more getting their manuscripts ready to submit, and for those who’ve self-published, $8k on up has been standard.  Layouts, covers, all the other design elements.

For every Stephanie Meyer out there, someone who claims to have just written it and gotten an agent on her sixth try, you’ll find many more published authors who sacrificed every penny they had and then some to get their manuscript ready for agents, and for every one of them, many others who have spend all they had with nothing to show for it.

You may get lucky and be picked up without spending a lot.  But don’t count on it.  Better to overestimate what you may spend and have money left over than to underestimate and quit.

The two months of this year alone I’ve shelled out $500 for a ticket on top of $65 for a membership, a $35-contest fee, for a conference in July, and mercifully am going to get out of spending several hundred more on a hotel.  Printing and overnight shipping for an entry.  $117 on a program that searches for redundancies, cliches, etc., in your manuscript that are easy to overlook when reading.  If I want to be nit-picky, I’d add in the additional coffee I’ve bought to stay awake.  I get about two hours of sleep a night.

And the sad thing?  I’m in it less than a lot of other writers, and that’s only because I’m fortunate enough to have some connections so that I’m not paying for other professional services.

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