There’s one big question we get: How much does it cost to self-publish a book?
“Remember to think of the cost of self-publishing as an investment, not a cost. [A book is] an asset that earns you money long-term.” – Joanna Penn
The reality is, whether you’re going to DIY your book, work with freelancers to do the parts you don’t know how to do, work with a hybrid publisher, or hire a self-publishing assistance business, you WILL pay for some or many elements of your book.
But it is WORTH it.
I can tell you that every time I have tried to skimp on one or more of these elements, I have regretted it. It’s taken years of practice to get most of this stuff right. So, while you can do it all on your own and all for potentially a couple hundred dollars – is the end result going to be a professionally produced and published books that looks no different than a book you would pick up that’s been published by Random House?
I would wager the answer to that is NO.
So, let’s look at the different places you can expect to spend money.
(Disclaimer – can you go onto Upwork or Fiverr and find many of these services for less money? Yes. And if you want a book that looks GOOD and you aren’t planning on entering it into awards programs where it’s competing against other professionally designed books, you can go with the lower cost options. Or, if you’re on a tight budget, you might consider going with SOME of these options through these types of websites. I can only go based on my personal experience. I’ve had some good and some bad. I had my first cover design done through a service like Upwork. The cover was okay. But she didn’t know any of the industry standards in terms of placing the price in the barcode, including BISAC codes, etc. I wound up hiring a professional cover designer 2 years later and paying for a new cover. However, for ebook only, artists on 99Designs and Fiverr can probably do exactly what you need, for under $100. It cost $249 for the ebook only cover through 99designs, and I chose from many competing artists. They were beautiful, but then I had to pay another cover designer to put together the covers for the print version. So, Figure out your goals, then budget accordingly.)
How much does it REALLY cost to publish a book?
Here are the things you MUST have for your book:
- editing (will depend on genre and levels of editing) ($250-$5000)
- a good cover – to include a properly formatted print cover with back flap elements $100-$500)
- an ISBN ($125-$300)
- a properly designed interior ($250-$1000)
- a filed copyright ($35-$55)
- ebook conversion – ($75-$300)
- Illustrations (children’s books or graphic books only) ($1000-$5000)
Here are the things you SHOULD have for launching a book
- a landing page, at a minimum, with info about the book and links to sales pages (varies – from $50-$1500)
- a social media presence – if you do this all on your own, $0
- graphics and other promotional items – $5-$250)
- a marketing strategy and implementation($0-10,000)
The things that are Nice to have, will appeal to broader audiences, and help you make more money
- audiobook ($300-$3000)
- Promo lists and sites ($10-$300)
- book awards programs and review programs ($50-$500)
Let’s look at each of those.
Even Stephen King uses an editor. We all need editors. There are different levels and degrees of editing. A developmental edit is the most comprehensive and expensive. The editor ensures all of your concepts are developed, the book is consistent, your characters are developed, etc. This can run from about $1500-$5000, depending on how much work it needs.
Not everyone needs a developmental edit. You might need a copy or line edit, or even just a proofread. So at a minimum, you’ll want to budget $250-$500 for a solid proofread. We recommend the company First Editing for your editing needs.
Yes, you can go to Canva and design an okay cover. But I’m going to tell you right now, anyone who knows anything about books can spot an unprofessional cover a mile away. You get one chance to stop someone in their scrolling tracks on Amazon. So invest in the money to have it done properly. Because people really DO judge a book by its cover.
Additionally, if you’re having a print book done, there are many things that need to be included on the back cover and spine that you may not have a clue to consider. How does pricing and categorization fit? Where should the different elements be? You can hire a fantastic cover designer for as low as $200. On the high end, if you’re having a bunch of custom designs, it may get as much as $500. But you really shouldn’t be paying much more than that. Make sure your cover designer knows how to do ebook, IngramSpark approved, and CreateSpace approved covers.
We recommend MiblArt and Fresh Design for covers, but there are many cover designers you can find.
Don’t ever accept a free ISBN. Not if you’re self-publishing. This attaches you to the owner of the ISBN as the publisher and can limit your ability to publish the book elsewhere. I have an entire article devoted to the ISBN here. If you purchase it on your own, it will run you $125 for a single ISBN or you can buy a pack of 10 for about $300. If you see more books in your future or want to publish your book on multiple mediums (ie, audio, ebook on itunes, etc) you’ll want to get the 10 pack.
Are you writing a graphic novel or children’s book? You will need to budget between $1000 (conservatively!) and $5000 in illustrations. Other considerations with a children’s book – you WILL need to pay for a layout specialist. Unless you are a graphic designer yourself, you probably won’t be able to figure this out on your own…. in a reasonable amount of time. Heck, not even all of our graphic artists we work with will take on the project of laying out a children’s book. Check out Get Your Book Illustrated for information on illustrations!
Why is Book Formatting Important?
Well, do you want your book to look good when it’s published? You can use templates and figure it out on your own, but it can be very time-consuming and you may make a lot of mistakes. Depending on the nature of your book – does it include graphs, charts, images, a workbook? – it can get really complicated. So yes, you can do it on your own, but you may not want to.
Copyright, ISBN, ebook conversion – these are all costs that you need to consider. The ebook conversion you might attempt on your own – it’s totally do-able. Again, depending on the complexity of your book, it may not be worth the time it takes with you trying to figure it out. The copyright and ISBN however, are things you will have to pay for and you SHOULD pay for. Refer to the ISBN article for more info on both of those items.
There are so many ways you can spend money on marketing. You can find paid and free promo sites, you can use Amazon Marketing Services, you can hire a book launch and marketing service… but you need to have SOME kind of marketing strategy and budget. Because millions of books are published, and people are not just going to stumble upon your book.
There are many companies out there that can help with marketing, but if you’re learning to learn some of the ropes on your own and get recommendations and referrals, we highly recommend joining WIP School – we’ll show you the ropes so you don’t have to guess on your own!
We like to use promo sites and lists to gain attention. The costs vary and there are many more than those on this list, but this will get you started. Do your research as to which sites perform the best for your genre, and for max success, run more than one promo at a time.
For the best results on several paid launches I have used:
The Fussy Librarian ($50+)
Robin Reads ($35)
Professional Development and Training
There is a LOT to learn about being an author-entrepreneur. You can search for training courses on self-publishing and find many, many to choose from. We have our WIP School, which is an indepth training program for authors who are committed to learning all there is to know about publishing and marketing their books. New modules and topics are added monthly, along with guest expert advice and so much more. Check out WIP School here.