If you’ve finished a book and want to share it with the world, you are probably asking yourself, how much does it cost to self-publish a book?
On its face, self-publishing a book is simple and free. You write it and then you upload it to Amazon. But if you want a book that: (1) looks professional, (2) people know about, and (3) sells, then self-publishing is going to require an investment.
Self-publishing a book requires investing in editing, book cover design, formatting, and marketing. In an ideal world, you will have the ability to invest in high-quality services for all aspects of the publishing process. More likely, however, is that you will be working with a budget. This article will explore the average costs associated with self-publishing as well as how you might maximize your budget to save on different publishing costs.
*Please note, this article is geared toward fiction books. The averages may not be accurate with regards to non-fiction, picture books, or graphic novels.
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Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. The cost to self-publish a book is going to depend on the length of your book, the level of quality you want, and whether you want to publish print books as well as ebooks.
According to my research, it is estimated that most authors will spend between $2000-$5000 to self-publish their books—this includes editing, cover design, formatting, and marketing. Of course, as you get more experienced in self-publishing this cost is likely to decrease.
You can certainly create your own book cover, format for free, and rely on your own self-editing. Investing in high-quality services, however, will give your book the best shot at competing with traditionally published books.
One of the most critical aspects of preparing your book to be published is editing.
There are four different types of editing that your book can undergo—developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, and proofreading. In an ideal world, your book would go through all four types.
How much each type of editing costs can vary widely among editors but here are some ranges based on my research:
- Developmental Editing: $0.015 to $0.05 per word
- Line Editing: $0.012 to $0.02 per word
- Copyediting: $0.007 to $0.015 per word
- Proofreading: $0.005 to $0.01 per word
A developmental editor will usually charge the most because they will be conducting an in-depth review of every part of your story and provide you with guidance on big-picture issues. Line editing can be close to the cost of developmental editing and involves sentence-level editing that analyzes and polishes each sentence with a focus on clarity and style. Copyediting is moderately expensive because it is a thorough review of the mechanics of your writing. Proofreading is the least expensive because it is only a surface-level check of your writing looking for minor technical errors and formatting issues.
*Note that some editors perform line editing and copyediting at the same time. Additionally, some editors don’t view line editing as a type of editing but rather, do heavier copyedits that include edits others would view as line editing. Always be clear about what work your editor will be performing.
The cost of editing can also be affected by the genre of your work, its length, and how much work will be involved in editing your book.
What type of editing should you get?
In an ideal world, your book would go through all types of editing, but this can add up and may not be realistic for your budget. So how do you prioritize what type of editing to undergo?
—> If you are a novice writer—this is the first manuscript you’ve ever completed, you haven’t taken any creative writing courses or read any books or blogs on the craft of writing, and you haven’t been a part of a writing group—then I wouldn’t pay for any editorial service as you are probably not ready for it yet. Even a developmental edit or manuscript critique/evaluation might not be worth the money because depending on your skills, they might not sufficiently address the issues or may require that you completely rewrite your manuscript.
In this situation, you are better off putting this first manuscript aside and continuing to write and learn more about the craft. Then you can apply your improved skills and knowledge to your first manuscript or write a new, better book that is better suited to editorial input.
—> If you haven’t self-published a book before but you have been writing for a while—you’ve worked with critique partners, have really studied the craft of writing—then I would pursue at least a developmental edit and a copyedit. This way, you can ensure that you are telling your best story and that there are no grammar or consistency issues.
—> If you have previously published, have written several books, have studied creative writing, you’ve workshopped your writing with a trusted writing group, and know how to use beta readers to help you test your story, then you might be okay just paying for copyediting.
How can you save on editing costs?
Self-editing is a significant cost-saving measure. The more you self-edit your manuscript, both in rewriting it and in editing your grammar, spelling, and more, the less work an editor would have to put into it.
You also might pursue more affordable alternatives. For example, you might commission a manuscript critique or evaluation instead of paying for a full developmental edit.
You can also merge two stages of editing together. This would mean less depth to each edit but you could learn from what your editor does to apply further editing yourself.
Cover design costs
Although we’re told not to judge a book by its cover, readers definitely do and that is why you want to use a professionally designed cover.
The cost for a book cover can range between $50 to $1200, depending on whether you use a pre-made cover or commission a custom design and whether you just need an ebook cover or a print cover as well.
Formatting costs means the cost of interior design and typesetting. Formatting is the area of self-publishing that can most often be done yourself if you have the time and patience to learn how to do it.
Professional formatting can cost between $150 to $500.
Similar to cover design, the cost can depend on whether you are formatting your book for ebook format, print, or both.
Marketing is basically a free for all; you can spend as little or as much on marketing as you want, but a decent range is probably between $50-$500. The cost might increase if you decide to hire a marketing professional.
Costs associated with marketing can include building your author website, email list management, and actual advertisements.
You can run targeted ads on Facebook to people who have indicated an interest in your subject matter. Instagram and Twitter also allow you to promote posts.
2. Price promotion on Amazon
If you decide to use Amazon KDP, you can enroll in KDP Select and do price promotions on your book. This is free but your ebook will have to be Amazon-exclusive for 90 days.
3. Book promotion sites
Contact book promotional sites to help spread the word. Some might offer free promotions but others can cost between $5-$50 for a promotional listing.
4. Book promotion & PR companies
You can also work with book promotion and PR companies. These companies often offer promotional services such as cover reveals, teasers, and release blitzes. Here are some I’ve seen on Instagram:
- Candi Kane PR
- Social Butterfly PR
- Valentine PR & Literary Management
- Grey’s Promotions
- The Next Step PR
- Inkslinger PR
How to save on marketing costs?
Grow your following before you publish; building a following early on is a significant way in which you can minimize your spending when it comes to marketing. That way, once you have published, you will already have people to support you and help spread the word about your book.
The main places to grow a following are Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I would recommend focusing on one platform at a time; trying to build a following on all three at once can be a bit overwhelming. You might also consider starting a blog; you can share updates about your writing journey and reach a consistent audience on your own platform.
3 Free Marketing TacticsMarketing your book? Here are 3 free marketing tactics Click To Tweet
1. Promote on social media
Promote your book on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media channels you have. Be strategic in your hashtags.
2. Market through your website, blog, and mailing list
Promote your book on your website and by using your blog and mailing list, if you have one. There are likely going to be underlying costs for having a website or an email marketing subscription, but there are no additional costs to use these existing platforms to promote your book.
3. Work with book bloggers & bookstagrammers
Contact book review blogs or bookstagrammers (book bloggers on Instagram) to help spread the word about your book’s release. You can find book bloggers on Instagram through hashtags such as #bookstagrammer, #bookstagrammers, and #bookstagramcommunity. You might also use fiction specific hashtags.
It is free to publish your ebook on Amazon, Apple Books, etc, but if you are using multiple platforms, you might consider using an aggregator, such as Draft2Digital or Smashwords. They are free but do take a royalty percentage.
As for print books, print-on-demand services are useful for authors so they only print the books they need and costs will vary based on page count and ink type.
3 ways to save on publishing costs
Paying for high-quality services is indispensable to self-publishing but there are ways you can save money while still investing in your book.Publishing a book? Here are 3 easy ways to save Click To Tweet
1. Look for trained but less-experienced professionals
Newer editors or designers with less extensive portfolios, while still having the skills and training to do the work, will likely charge less than those with years of experience.
2. Use a pre-made cover
A pre-made cover will be more cost-effective than hiring a designer to create a custom cover for your book. A photo-based cover over an illustrated cover will also cut design costs.
3. Look for service bundles
This is especially important if you are looking to publish both an ebook and a print book. Look for bundles for cover design or formatting. You might be able to get covers or formatting done for both types at a reduced price. You might also find packages that offer cover design and formatting.
Have any questions about the cost to self-publish a book or any insights from your own experience self-publishing? Share in the comments below!