You may wonder what it takes to get your first book out there and officially become an indie author. So you go to a designated forum and ask with anticipation, how much does it cost to self publish a book?
“Over three thousand dollars. If you want to be competitive!” exclaims an enigmatic writer with an impressive portfolio of surprisingly diverse literature.
“A couple hundred, I’ve heard — a friend of a writer unsurely types down their opinion — I don’t know really, I’m here for the memes.”
“Yeah, 25 bucks, if you count pizza rolls you need in the process,” confidently states a seasoned jack-of-all-trades author who, somehow, has 27 hours in a day.
“Self-publishing? For what?” a traditionally-published writer who got into a wrong forum raises his (virtual) eyebrow.
Who’s right? Well, everyone is right under the right circumstances (besides the last one, we wager). The cost of self-publishing a book depends on your skillset, your desire and capacity to invest, your free time, and your knowledge of where to look.
To better understand what we’re talking about, let’s get down to the details.
The Cost Of Self-Publishing
First things first: it costs you zero dollars to publish an eBook on such platforms as Amazon KDP, Apple Books, Kobo, etc. They just take a percent off of your future sales.
The true cost of self-publishing is not in book distribution though, but book preparation. If you want your manuscript to be as good as it could be, you will have to handle the following.
We assume you’ve heard it so many times your eye starts twitching a little whenever someone mentions it again, but editing is a huge deal (sorry). You can revise your own work, sure, but there’s no replacement for a professional editor. So after your manuscript is ready, it’s time to give it to the mercy of an editor.
The cost of editing depends on the length of your book, how much editing it needs, and the rate of an editor. It’s also important to distinguish between different types of editings:
- Proofreading — checking your grammar, punctuation, spelling — Average price 1 cent/word
- Copyediting — strengthening your prose, polishing sentences — Average price 2 cents/word
- Developmental editing—-plot, consistency, and pacing of your book — Average price 3-4 cents/word.
However, remember that the surest way of determining the cost of edits is requesting a quote from the editor of your choice. No amount of speculation based on the market data beats that.
Punching the aforementioned numbers into a calculator will give you around 1600$ for copyediting an 80.000-word book. Which is, whew…. That’s a lot of money.
You can always look for editors who just started their careers and charge less while they’re working on a portfolio. Also, some vendors charge as low as 200-300$ per 50.000 words for copyediting. Look around Fiverr and other similar places to find them.
Also, finding a suitable editor can be a lengthy quest. Luckily we have an article on this topic from the professional editor coming out soon, so stay tuned.
If you want a reader to open your book and gasp (metaphorically speaking) at how clean, beautiful, and readable everything looks, the manuscript needs formatting.
If you have time, knowledge, or desire to learn, you can do some basic formatting yourself. The Internet is full of instructions on how to do it. The process takes some time though and without prior formatting experience, mistakes are likely to be made.
Professional formatting, on average, will cost you $50 – $300.
A book cover design can be an effective marketing tool. That is, if the cover caters to the target audience well, suits the genre of your book, and intrigues a reader.
Just like with everything else in this list, the costs of book cover design in the self-publishing industry vary quite much.
- For a photo-based cover, you can pay as low as $5 and as high as $500 (some designers can charge $1000 or more).
- Illustrated covers are more expensive because they take more time, and can cost you, on average anywhere between $250 and over $1000.
So dig around, and you’ll be able to find a vendor whose style and prices satisfy your taste and budget. But remember, the cover sells.
Marketing is tricky. On one hand, you can publish your book and be done with it. On the other, it’s difficult to gain visibility without any promotion. There are anecdotes of people who winged marketing, and their books still turned a sustainable profit as well as claims like this one:
“Self-pub is 99% advertising and 1% writing. So if, like me, you don’t like selling yourself or pushing your own work, hope you get incredibly lucky.”
So, the decision to market or not is completely up to you
The average marketing cost for an indie author is around $600 a month. Usually, the marketing of an indie author includes
- Amazon and Facebook ads ($5 – $10 a day each),
- Email marketing (free or paid if the number of contacts is over a couple thousand)
- And maybe some promotional listings once in a while (on average $10 – $50).
You can also do plenty of promotion without spending a cent. We mean social media activity, blogs, cross-promotion with other writers, lead magnets, etc.
Additional costs of self-publishing can include
ISBN, which is required for print books and some book distributors. It costs $125 in the US, £89 in the UK, $20 in Australia, and nothing in Canada and New Zealand. (other countries, take notes; a life of a writer is quite demanding as it is)
Print-on-demand services for print books charge you differently. For example, Amazon KDP has the following formula:
fixed cost + (page count * per page cost) = printing cost.
Some book aggregators (which allow you to hit many online retailers at once) charge flat or set up fees. For example, IngramSpark has a setup fee of $45 for print, $25 for ebook, and $49 for both versions
Conclusion on the Average Price of Self-Publishing
If we were pushed to give any specific, short answer to the question — what does it cost to self publish a book? — we’d answer
- A more-than-enough budget for a super-polished book is around $2000 (+ $500 for promos).
- Around $800 is a decent budget if you decide to go as cheaply as possible without sacrificing any aspect of your book preparation process.
- Authors who are tight on budget or don’t want to risk too much can launch with $100 – $300 (a cover for $10, volunteer beta readers, some basic formatting, and minimum of editing, if any). Also, you can launch your book and improve it gradually as it earns some money.
But all these answers, though give some directions, lack the nuance – each creation is unique, each author has peculiar goals and skills, which affect the cost of their independent journey.
However, we can certainly say that the opportunities of the indie book market are numerous.
So go ahead, create, plan, budget, and get the maximum out of your chances. We wish you all the luck.
In your opinion, what’s the appropriate budget for a self-published book?