Your Book Will Cost You More Than You Expect, So Plan for It. There are lots of hidden costs associated with the process of publishing a book. As just one example, some publishers insist that the preparation of the book’s index is the author’s responsibility. If you’re like me and don’t have the time, patience, attention span, or inclination to do an index, you will be expected to pay someone else to do it. To be completely and entirely candid about it, there are fews things in the world that piss me off more than being expected to pay for the preparation of an index. I’ve always viewed that as the publisher’s responsibility, since it’s part of the process of preparing the book for publication, and with the software that’s presently available for book layout and design, it’s become quite easy to do. But, I’ve had publishers insist on charging me for the privilege of preparing an index, and it’s something that I really don’t appreciate.

Another hidden and unexpected cost is the cost of maps and illustrations. Cartography, in particular, can be very expensive. I am aware of one popular cartographer that demands $200 per map, which I won’t pay. Most are about $50 per map, and some go as high as $100 per map. I am a firm believer that no book can have enough maps, so you’ve got to be prepared to pay the costs associated with map preparation unless you have the skills to draw them yourself, which I do not.

Finally, there can be costs associated with getting permission to use illustrations. This is another thing that angers me. The illustrations are, almost without fail, in the public domain, so it escapes me how an entity can charge to use something that’s in the public domain. However, it’s probably wise to err on the side of safety and pay the requested fees to avoid trouble.

So, the upshot is to be prepared for costs and expenses associated with the preparation of your book that you never anticipated.

Scridb filter


  1. Charlie Knight
    Tue 06th May 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Wasn’t it Vonnegut who said never to index your own book?

  2. Eric A. Jacobson
    Tue 06th May 2008 at 6:36 pm

    Good point about images. I had a certain location demand that I pay them money to publish a photo of Gen. A. P. Stewart in his Confederate uniform. I said no way and published a photo of his in civilian dress from the National Archives. You’re right Eric – be careful. Last thing a author needs is some outfit claiming a 140 year old photo is really their property when I bet they couldn’t even tell me who the subject of the photo is.

  3. Tue 06th May 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Indexing should be the publisher’s responsibility, but more and more of their responsibilities (e.g. promotions) have been offloaded onto authors. If you’re going to have to do your own maps, index, and illustrations, and promotion, what’s left? Editing (you can hire an editor) and layout.

    I ran out of money and did my own maps.

    You should try doing a “modern” book with lots of in-copyright illustrations. Fun, fun, fun.

  4. Paul Taylor
    Wed 07th May 2008 at 7:18 am


    Then there are the various photocopying and research fees that institutions charge. IMO, some are reasonable and others are ridiculously exorbitant. Of course, the author also has to factor the costs of getting to the research facility or, if using a researcher, his/her hourly fees. It aint cheap and will only get worse.

    As for paying to use those old CW photos, as a layman I’ve assumed that though the image’s age might legally place it in the public domain per the copyright laws, a particular person/institution might “own” the actual negative, and therefore feels it can charge for its use. For example, I’m using an image in my next book that a particular institution claims to own. Thus they charge fees for both the hard-copy photograph and its use. I’ve never seen this photograph at any other institution or in any book.

    Do they have a case? What say you, counselor?


  5. Wed 07th May 2008 at 9:35 am

    In connection with Paul’s comments above, Eric, hopefully you’ll do a post about those costs associated with research. Any writing that entails such costs, whether it be military history or otherwise, is also something that an author must be prepared for. As you well know, the vast majority of Civil War writers don’t even recoup their costs even if the book sells extremely well. A well-researched book may have $5-10,000 in research costs behind it, and even if it sells blockbusters, the author may only make half that in royalties.

    It must be done for the love of it, that’s for sure. As you said in an earlier post, if you like to eat, and sleep indoors, don’t quit your day job.


  6. Wed 07th May 2008 at 1:38 pm

    I just finished indexing a book, and it was just down right tedious, hard work. I deserved every penny I got paid. The publishing company told the author (not me) that it was his responsibility to index the book. Fortunately, he managed to get an outside grant to pay for my service. That might be a solution. to your indexing problem in the future. As a scholar myself, I know how important a good index is. So, even if it is an added cost, it makes the books more valuable in the long run.

  7. Wed 07th May 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Having just finished my first book, I can also chime in about images.

    I don’t begrudge anyone the costs associated with reproduction, and I have found them to be very reasonable.

    I also was very surprised by the high costs associated with permissions. Fortunately, in a few cases I was able to get them reduced or waived entirely when they learned my book was being done by a small- to mid-sized publisher.

    A few, however – including the folks at the NY State Veterans Museum – had very high costs; others who offer high quality scans from original Harper’s Weekly’s were wanting $150 for a single image…that’s more than most would pay for an original full issue of even the rarest HW.

    I must give kudos to the people at du Pont’s Hagley Museum and Library as well as the Wisconsin Historical Society.

    My best advice is to scour the LOC – not just the digital image collection like American Memory but also the actual catalog as it will bring up many digital images.

    As my first book was not a battle narrative I did not have maps, but I did do my own indexing, and I’ll say it was the least fun part of the book process.

    All my best to all of you,

    Jim Schmidt

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