There’s a big myth out there that self-publishing a book is very expensive and unprofitable.
The truth is, you can self-publish a book for less than $1,000, depending on how you go about the process.
How Much It Costs to Self-Publish a Book
Have you ever wondered how much it costs to publish a book?
In this detailed post, we’re going to walk you through the real cost of publishing a book so you can see exactly how much you’ll need to budget if you want to self publish your book professionally.
Let’s talk about the costs that go into self publishing three versions of a book: eBook (Kindle), paperback, and audiobook.
Cost of Self Publishing an Ebook
First, let’s look at the cost of self-publishing an eBook edition of your book.
Editing will often be the biggest expense for many authors. I highly recommend hiring a professional editor, but the truth is you don’t have to. I know many authors who have had one or more fellow writers, friends or colleagues edit their book for them. If you’re on a budget, this can be a great option.
When I published my first few books, I did all my editing myself. It was only later when my books were earning a steady income that I hired an editor to go back and polish up the manuscripts. The great thing about an ebook is that you can edit your manuscript, upload the new version to Kindle, and within 48 hours, your new version is now live and available for your readers.
How much does editing actually cost?
I’ve seen highly qualified editors with advanced degrees editing fiction and nonfiction for as little as half a cent per word, and as much as 8 cents a word. Costs vary dramatically, which is why it’s very important you always get at least three bids for any editing work, and do your research on the editors before paying any money. I recommend you don’t pay more than half the editing fee upfront.
Here are the ranges for editing fees from qualified editors that I’ve seen recently for three sample book sizes:
10,000 word manuscript (about 40 pages) $50 to $800
40,000 word manuscript (about 160 pages) $200 to $3,200
80,000 word manuscript (about 320 pages) $400 to $6,400
Most self published authors will probably want to hire an editor in the $500-$1,000 range for a full-length novel of around 80,000 words. Shorter manuscripts will cost less due to the lower word count.
Of course, you can find ultra-expensive editors who will charge even more, but it’s probably not the best choice for most authors.
You can format your manuscript for Kindle yourself for free or hire someone to do it for you. If you hire someone, it shouldn’t cost more than $50 to $300 at most, depending on the complexity and size of your book.
This checklist walks you through the process of formatting an eBook for Amazon Kindle.
Book Cover Design
There are numerous options for book cover designs ranging from incredibly cheap ($5 to $20) to overpriced ($500 and up).
Here are a few book cover design options ranging in price from cheap to expensive:
Really Cheap: Fiverr.com $5
Cheap: Hire a freelance designer (you can find one on Craigslist, Odesk.com, Guru.com, and other freelance design sites) $50-$100
Expensive: 99designs.com $299 up to $1,199
I wouldn’t recommend ever spending more than $500 for a book cover unless it’s the best book cover in the world. If you’re a fantasy author and need a custom artwork created for your cover, that will often cost $300-$1,000 depending on the illustrator.
This free guide shows you the step-by-step process we use to find highly qualified and experienced book cover designers for less than $299.
Stock Images for Book Covers
Remember that you will have to own the rights to any images you use on the book cover. Many designers, like those from Fiverr, may not follow the rules on this so it’s important that you understand where the images on your book covers are coming from. Always buy a license or use photos that you own. Stock photos may cost you anywhere from $10 to $200, depending on the images you buy and where you buy them from.
Getting eBook distribution as a self-published author is free. You can upload your ebook for free at www.kdp.amazon.com once you have your finalized book cover and formatted manuscript.
You can market yourself and your books for free using social media and free publicity.
Most book marketing packages tend to be a waste of money. If you can’t sell your books using free marketing strategies, advertising probably won’t be profitable for you.
We do recommend most self-published authors research and test out Amazon book ads.
Total Cost of Self Publishing an Ebook
Most savvy writers can use the tools and resources in this post to self-publish a book for less than $1,000.
Yes, you can spend more than $1,000 to get an eBook published, but I recommend you start on a budget and then invest more money once you start to see some success and once you fully commit to becoming a self-published author.
Cost of Self-Publishing a Paperback Book
Next, let’s cover the costs of self-publishing a physical book in paperback format.
Editing and Proofreading
Your editing costs for a paperback will be exactly the same as the ebook version, so once you’ve decided to publish an ebook, the paperback version won’t cost you anything extra to edit.
Book Layout and Interior Design
Paperback formatting and layout is a little more technical and detailed than formatting for Kindle.
You can find someone on Upwork.com to do it pretty cheaply, usually between $100 and $400. I wouldn’t spend more than $500 for paperback formatting unless it’s a very large book, you need extensive layout work, or you’re hiring one of the world’s best book designers.
Paperback Book Cover Design
Cost: $25-$50 (above the cost of the initial eBook cover design)
Cover design for a paperback will cost about the same as an ebook. You will need a designer who can create the spine and back cover for you, so it will often cost 10% to 50% more than an ebook-only cover, depending on the designer. On average, I’d say it costs about $25-$50 for a good designer to create the back/spine once the front cover has been created.
Ordering Proof Copies
You’ll need to order at least one physical proof copy. That can cost between $8 and $20, maybe more if you order extra copies.
You’ll need to acquire an ISBN. There’s only one source for ISBN’s and that’s Bowkers. You can buy them here. The pricing is $125 for a single ISBN, $250 for 10, $575 for 100 or $1,000 for 1,000.
Make sure to read our article on how to buy ISBN’s without getting ripped off so you don’t fall prey to ISBN scammers.
Amazon KDP will sell you an ISBN for $10, so if you’re a self published author and don’t want to buy your own ISBN’s, you can use Amazon’s ISBN but I don’t recommend it. That will limit your distribution options for your book so you won’t be able to sell through libraries or academic institutions, and you can only use that ISBN with Amazon’s POD publishing service.
Paperback Print-on-Demand Publishing
Again, this is totally free through Amazon KDP.
This detailed guide walks you through the step-by-step process of publishing a paperback book with Amazon KDP.
Again, you can market your books for free.
Here’s our free video training course on how to market your books like a professional without a big marketing budget.
Total Cost of Self Publishing a Paperback: $265 to $1,000 without editing
Note: This is assuming you already paid for your stock photos, most of the cover design, and editing for the ebook version first. If you’re only publishing your book in paperback without an ebook version (which would probably be a mistake because of the huge growth in ebook sales), your costs will likely be much higher.
Cost of Self-Publishing an Audiobook
Next, let’s look at the costs of self-publishing an audiobook.
Same as before.
Audiobook Narration and Production Costs
Cost: $100 – $2,400
There are two parts to the production of an audiobook: voice talent and editing/mixing. Most often, the editing/mixing is the expensive component. If you record your own audiobook, it will rarely save you any money unless you have a high quality microphone and recording room and also know how to edit the audio properly.
Here are some samples of total audiobook production costs (full production, including voice talent, editing and mixing) I’ve seen:
10,000 spoken words $100 to $3,000
40,000 spoken words $400 to $1,200
80,000 spoken words $800 to $2,400
Check out our free guide to making an audiobook for more details on the entire audiobook narration and publishing process.
Audiobook Cover Design
Cost: $10 (above the original eBook design)
Your cover designer should be able to throw in an audiobook cover for free or a minimal fee ($10 at most). It’s basically just a 2400 x 2400 square version of your ebook cover.
Again, publishing an audiobook is free at ACX.com
Most authors find about 10% or so of their sales are audiobooks, so you would normally focus on marketing the ebook and paperback versions, and customers will naturally select your audiobooks if they’re interested.
Free Audiobook Narration Options
Some audiobook producers will take a share of royalties instead of charging an upfront price, or will at least lower the upfront price in order to share some of the royalties.
Generally, you should never give away more than 50% of the royalties for voice talent/production. This might be a better option for authors on a tight budget.
Total Cost of Self Publishing an Audiobook: $0 to $2,400
Note: You can split royalties with a narrator 50/50, so in that case a “free” audiobook would cost you 50% of royalties which are paid to the production company or narrator.
Got any questions about the cost of publishing your book? Feel free to post your comments below!
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Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.