This is a burning question with A LOT of moving parts: how much does self publishing cost?
It all comes down to your time versus money ratio and your skill set.
Self-publishing itself doesn’t cost anything…meaning Amazon and most other platforms don’t charge you anything to publish and list your book on their sites.
However, if you choose to outsource any part of the process, you can expect to invest. Unless you are some sort of enigma that can do it all from writing to graphic design, you’re going to need help.
Self-publishing requires an array of special skills and if you don’t have those skills, it can be expensive to hire out.
The bottom line is you’re going to need some capital. How much depends on those aforementioned moving parts.
I’m going to break it down for you and make some recommendations on where to find help when you need it.
For the sake of brevity, I’m going to assume your book doesn’t have any crazy extra needs like say, an index.
This is not something the average book requires and is usually reserved for textbooks or reference texts.
Let’s also consider the average book is 60,000 words.
If your book has a lot of images, tables, charts, and things that are more than just text, this is also a special case.
Special cases like these will require a significant investment over what the average book would need.
The Elements of Self-Publishing a Book
Once the writing is complete, the work begins. In order to self-publish your book, you need to:
- Format it
- Get a cover designed
- Perform keyword research
- Write a book description
- Plan a launch
- Begin marketing
That’s just for the eBook. If you decide you want to publish print and audio versions, all of this is compounded.
If you’re going for print formats, you’ll need to:
- Format it again for print
- Have a print version of your cover created complete with spine and back cover
- Perform keyword research, yes, again because keywords for print books are different than eBooks
- Figure out when you want to launch additional formats
- Keep marketing
If you’re doing an audiobook, you’ll need to:
- Hire a narrator or read it yourself, but your recording process has to be pro (I went to a recording studio)
- Perform keyword research because you guessed it, different keywords for audio
- Keep marketing
Let’s break each of these down and talk about cost.
Editing – Up to $2000
If you’ve been following me for any length of time, then you know I’m a DIY guy. My first books were DIY all the way from writing to publishing. I did the covers, I did it all. I don’t recommend it even if you’re cash-strapped. Don’t worry, I’m going to help you out with some cost-effective resources.
Editing is expensive. It’s one of the biggest expenses you’re going to face in self-publishing.
There are different types of editors and that pricing also varies. You’ll need to do your due diligence to find out what kind of editor you need.
Can you edit yourself and save this cost? Yes. Do I recommend it? Not really, but if you must, there’s this.
Formatting – Up to $1000
Unlike editing, you can format your book yourself if you have the skills. I highly recommend at least saving yourself 100 bucks and formatting your eBook yourself. You can do so with basic skills, cheap or free software, and the tutorial linked below.
eBook formatting is super simple and you can absolutely do it yourself. In fact, I have a tutorial on my Substack.
Because of the nature of eBooks, you can upload a Word document which can be created and formatted in any Word compatible platform including, but not limited to: Google Docs and OpenOffice.
Print formatting has a hefty learning curve. There’s much to know about professional typesetting. You can format your print books yourself, but be prepared to spend a ton of time and probably some money on specialized software.
You can format for print with Word, but I don’t recommend it. Depending upon your time/money ration, you’re probably going to want to outsource this as opposed to learning to do it yourself, so just be prepared for the cost.
Cover Design – Up to $3000
I’ve talked quite a bit about cover design over my time as a content creator. Your book cover does the heavy lifting when it comes to grabbing the attention of potential readers. Make it count!
Many self-publishers start out with DIY covers, myself included, only to realize later what a huge mistake it can be.
If you want your book to tank, do your own cover.
Unless you’re a professional book cover designer, you should outsource this. The good news is that it’s very affordable to do so with services from Fiverr.
One of my favorite cover designers is OliviaProDesign. You can get an eBook, print, and audiobook cover from her for less than $50. That means your cover nightmare is done with one action and you’re covered for all 3 formats.
Keyword Research – Up to $100
My go-to resource for keyword research is Publisher Rocket.
Publisher Rocket is a piece of software developed by Dave Chesson, the Kindlepreneur. It makes keyword and category research a breeze. With an investment at $97, you get a lifetime license. Dave keeps the software updated and adds features from time to time. It’s worth every penny.
You do your keyword research for all 3 formats with Publisher Rocket, or you can do it the hard way.
If you don’t want to pay for the software, you can hire someone who has it to do the research for you. There are gigs for this on Fiverr and even my assistant, Ava, can do it for you. However, if you’re publishing more than one book, get Publisher Rocket. It will pay for itself.
Book Description – It Varies
This is something else you can knock out yourself and save some money. Sure, you can hire someone to do it for you, but who knows your book better than you?
It goes beyond just writing a description, though. You want copy that will compel potential readers to click that buy button. Your cover has done its job. Now it’s time to make sure your description closes the deal.
Hire a copywriter or use the template Brian Meeks provided for Book Rescue candidates. You can get it free here.
Book Launch – Time
Planning your book launch takes a significant time investment. You need to research how best-selling authors in your genre are handling their launches and plan accordingly.
A book launch is a methodical timeline of building buzz and delivering what you promise on time.
Remember, you’re in control. Don’t overwhelm yourself. An effective book launch shouldn’t kill you and if you don’t make it doable, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Book Marketing – Time + $$$$
This is the one that makes all the others work. You could write a book, hire the best editor, have beautiful formatting, an amazing cover, hot keywords, and plan the launch of the ages, but it will still languish in obscurity if you don’t actively market it pretty much forever.
The most important thing to know here is that there is no push-button, plug-and-play system to sell books. It takes a lot of work and that work is ongoing. No one can do it for you.
Until you hit Stephen King level, you have to actively market your books.
Here’s the best I can do for you in that respect…FREE.
Narrator – Up to $500 Per Finished Hour
First of all, let’s talk about what we mean by “per finished hour” (PFH). This is actually a bargain because regardless of how long the recording takes, you are only being charged for the amount of time the completed audio takes to listen to.
The bad news is if your book takes 4 hours to read, your narrator just cost you $2000 (at $500 PFH).
You have options.
You can record the audiobook yourself, but the recording has to be professional quality. You can’t record your narration in your living room with the baby crying and the neighbor’s dog barking in the background. Not to mention, you need some decent equipment to even think about recording in the first place.
I removed all the hassle by just booking some time at a local recording studio. This worked out well for me.
You can also get narration done with no upfront cost by doing a revenue share model through ACX. I don’t recommend this because you’re on the line to share your royalties for 7 years. However, if you’re strapped for cash, this will do in a pinch.
Additional Self-Publishing Costs
I’m only covering the basic stuff here, folks, as set forth in our parameters at the beginning of this post. You may run into additional costs during your journey.
- ISBNs – $125 (US) – Amazon and most other platforms will offer you a free ISBN, but keep in mind that ISBN is registered under their individual imprints and there will be multiple numbers. If you purchase your own ISBN, you then have one number for your book across all platforms under your own imprint. The caveat? ISBNs are insanely expensive and you need a different one for each format you publish. Also, ISBN prices vary per region. To find where you can get ISBNs based on your region, visit DaleLinks.com/ISBN.
- Proofreading – Up to $1000 – Editors are great, but proofreaders are also an insurance policy against your book going to press with mistakes. Even the best editor won’t catch everything!
- Amazon Ads – Varies – Amazon is a pay-to-play platform. Very few books gain momentum without advertising.
Just like with anything else, unexpected expenses can arise with self-publishing. Be prepared!
So, How Much Does Self Publishing Cost?
See what I mean? A lot of moving parts. The cost is going to vary wildly across the board and how much you actually end up spending is going to depend upon your skills and how good you are at research and saving a dime.
Have you saved a ton on some aspect not discussed in this article? Let us know in the comments below. You never know who you’re helping!