How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book?

Aug 28, 2021

How much are you willing to pay?

Okay, all jokes aside, “how much” depends on a lot of factors such as:

  1. Your particular set of skills (can you design your own cover/interior formatting?)
  2. The quality you’re aiming for.
  3. Whether or not you’re planning on having both an e-book version and a print version of your book.
  4. The emphasis you want to place on marketing and advertising your book.

All in all, there are two main considerations: how much you're willing to pay in terms of money or effort in order to produce quality.

That is it.

And because of this, costs vary.

If you're doing everything yourself, it's going to cost close to nothing. On the other hand, if you've outsourced every single task other than writing the first draft (and you have editors, proofreaders, a publicist, designers, etc.) it's going to cost at least a couple thousand dollars.

That being said, nothing can guarantee that your book will sell. Not even spending thousands of dollars on a fancy press release. Not even paying a publicist, or setting up a huge ad in front of a bookstore.

There are self-published authors out there who have sold a ridiculous amount of books without investing a cent on marketing/promotion. There are also authors who have sold hundreds of thousands of books without bothering to pay for a professional edit.

So what do I need money for?

If you’re going to self-publish your book, chances are you are going to incur some expenses. You probably will not want to handle every single task yourself and may want to outsource at least some of the tasks to freelancers. Here’s what it costs to self-publish a book.

Contrary to a still-prevalent myth, you don’t need to pay to make a book available for sale, even for paperbacks. Amazon and others will happily make your book available for sale without investing in a print run.

Still, you need to plan to put down some cash if you’re self-publishing. Please note that these are only ballpark ranges based on my own experience.

Disagree? Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments!

Editing

If you are self-publishing, I’d highly, highly recommend engaging a professional editor to make your work as polished as possible. This will probably also be your biggest expense in the self-publishing process.

You will likely need two edits: one for developmental editing (content, prose, etc.) and one for copyediting (typos, consistency, etc.).

What you can expect to pay:

  • Developmental editing from a professional editor: $1,000-$5,000 or more depending on your book-length
  • Copyediting: $250-$1,000 depending on your book-length

Interior Design

Don’t neglect your interior design! Proper formatting and pleasing font combinations are crucial to making your book look professional. Unless you have a knack for this, I’d highly recommend hiring a pro to handle this for you.

This is especially the case if your book has any sort of complicated formatting like bullet points or illustrations. (And you’ll likely need to pay more if you have an unconventional format).

What you can expect to pay:

  • Interior design: $100-$500 depending on the complexity of your interior design

Cover design

This is the one area where your experience will vary greatly. There are virtually out-of-the-box services that will almost design your cover for you, and there are bespoke artists who may charge a pretty penny.

After all, you can easily design a decent book cover with a tool like Canva for the price of a fast-food dinner.

But there's one thing you should take into consideration when designing your book cover: People do judge a book by its cover.

A professional-looking cover can help you make a great first impression.

If you feel that you just don't possess a flair for this kind of design work, even with the use of templates and such, then by all means hire a designer. You can send an email to [email protected] and you’ll get a reply with a list of cover designers and e-book formatters With prices ranging from $40 to $100, I say it’s well worth the money.

If you do want to design your cover yourself, a great resource is BookCoverArchive. It’s a fantastic website where you can find a ton of book covers, and great info such as the fonts that were used.

And, yes, there's no shame in stealing like an artist. Take a bit of what you love, add a bit of what you feel works best for your book, and voila!, you have a brand new cover for your book.

What you can expect to pay:

  • Cover design: $100-$1,000

Marketing

Once you self-publish you will need to do something to give your book a leg up. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge marketing campaign. You could network with local booksellers, start a blog, or dive into the paid ad world.

Don’t try to do everything, and lean into the marketing techniques you’re best at and actually like doing. But springing for some Amazon or Facebook ads can be an effective technique.

There’s a bunch of stuff to pay for in this category. But I think it’s best to keep things in perspective. And analyze all the opportunities you’re presented with to see which ones suit you best.

An author website, a blog, promotional stuff, such as posters and bookmarks, and even more exotic options like press releases and book trailers can help you sell more books, but I think it’s important not to spend a bucket load of money on marketing. And don’t waste too much time either.

After all, some self-publishers have managed to sell a ton of books with just a simple blog.

And don't forget: if the product isn't great, no amount spent on marketing will make it sell.

I’d say building your platform on top of a blog is a must. You can use whatever content management system you feel more comfortable with. If you want, pay for a premium theme. But more important, buy a domain. It sounds more professional, and it's far better to reach out to folks from an email that reads [email protected] rather than a regular Gmail address.

There are a lot of great promotional tools available for free. Set up a Goodreads Author account, order a few copies of your printed book, and host a giveaway via Gleam.

Send Advanced Review Copies to book bloggers.

Host a contest on your site, offer signed copies of your book, release a limited, hardcover edition of your book for your most loyal of fans. Write guest blogs, do interviews, even do character interviews if you feel like it.

Nowadays, marketing opportunities aren’t limited by how deep your pockets are. No. They’re limited by your imagination.

What you can expect to pay:

  • Marketing: $0 – Infinity

Publishing

Again, unless you are doing something very bespoke or you badly want your own print run, you don’t need to pay anything upfront.

But there may be some additional costs. For instance, you may want to buy an ISBN for your e-book and print editions ($125 each) or you may want to pay someone to write your marketing materials ($50-$250). If you chose to utilize Ingram Spark, expect to pay around $45 to make the book available for sale.

And if you decide to register the copyright for your book, that will be another $35.

What you can expect to pay:

  • I’d plan an additional $500 for smaller/unforeseen expenses

What it costs to self-publish a book

Altogether, unless you’re really pinching pennies and doing a lot of work yourself, I’d plan to spend a few thousand dollars.

Obviously, the economics of self-publishing can be murky unless you are able to do a lot of these tasks yourself or if you’re able to sell a few thousand copies. So be sure to be in touch with your goals and don’t spend any money you can’t afford to lose!

Questions? Let me know in the comments!

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