How much does it cost to self-publish a book? This is one question every indie publisher asks and one for which the answer varies. First of all, there are two types of costs associated with self-publishing a book: intangible (your time and effort) and tangible (that's the money part). For now let's focus on the tangible: how much money it takes to publish your book independently.
Earlier this year, NetGalley and IBPA joined together for a study: How Authors Budget for Their Books. They found that "the majority of authors spent between $1,000 – $6,000 on their books."
That's a pretty large gap! The cost to self-publish a book varies widely, depending on your budget, the type of book you'd like to print, and ultimately, your publishing goals.
So let's talk about the most common costs—the ones that almost all self-published authors incur, and how much you can expect to pay for each.
How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book?
There are a few main categories of costs associated with self-publishing a book. We'll hit on each one individually:
- Book Editing
- Interior Design
- Book Cover Design
- Printing and Shipping
- Book Marketing
Editing Your Book
Book editing is one of the most important aspects of publishing a professional book. You've undoubtedly seen negative reviews on Amazon, discouraging readers from purchasing a book because of writing mistakes and typos.
There are various, each of them serving a unique purpose in the publishing process.
Based on the condition of your manuscript, your work may require any of the following edits:
- Developmental Edit
- Content Edit
- Line Edit
The first few types of edits are more substantive: focusing on the big picture and the overall structure of your book. Copyediting focuses on spelling, grammar, and syntax, while a proofread is the final edit on a piece after it's been typeset.
The cost of editing depends on both the type of edit and the editor's experience level. Some editors charge per word, some charge per page, and some charge per hour.
The Editorial Freelancers Association provides rough guidelines to give you an idea of common editorial rates.
Common Editorial Rates
- Developmental Editing (estimated pace 1-5 ms pgs/hr): $45-55/hr
- Substantive or Line Edit (estimated pace 1-6 ms pgs/hr): $40-60/hr
- Basic Copyediting (estimated pace 5-10 ms pgs/hr): $30-40/hr
- Proofreading (estimated pace 5-10 ms pgs/hr): $30-40/hr
To give a more specific example, for a 50,000-word novel, you might expect the following costs:
- Manuscript Critique: $1400 - $1700
- Comprehensive / Line Edit: $2500 - $3500
- Copyedit: $1200- $1500
When you're ready to hire an editor, do some research and request a few different quotes.
"Get a few bids and consider paying a couple of different editors for two hours of their work and compare. It’s important to judge the work rather than the fee." - Brooke Warner
Decide what works within your budget, and remember to view editing as a necessary investment to produce a professionally published book.
Interior Book Design
Interior book design, or typesetting, is a fairly standard design process. Your interior book designer has the opportunity to add flourishes to things like your table of contents and chapter breaks, but mostly he or she is focusing on readability with proper spacing, fonts, and beyond.
According to exclusive data from Reedsy, a marketplace to hire book publishing experts:
- 17% of people pay less than $500 for book formatting
- 47% of people pay $500 - $1,000 for book formatting
- 19% of people pay $1,000 - $1,500 for book formatting
- 16% of people pay $1,500+ for book formatting
In many instances, publishing services companies will package typesetting with proofreading for a final look at your book. If you'd like your interior designer to proofread your book, or if you have images, graphs, and tables in your book, that will push your costs up on the higher end.
Book Cover Design
Your book cover is your book's calling card and its first impression. It needs to be good and it needs to convey the quality of the story readers can expect to find inside!
Book cover design costs will vary depending on the professional designer you hire.
The cost can run anywhere from $300 up to $1,500, and the price will be directly related to the designer's level of experience.
Most authors can expect to spend around $500 for a professional cover design.
We recommend that you publish an ebook in addition to the print version(s), so as not to limit your readership, and you'll save money if you have the same book cover designed for both formats at once rather than starting over if you decide to add an ebook version later.
Before you hire a cover designer, ask to see their previous work, consider having them provide a few different covers for you to choose from, and get everything in writing. Your cover or interior should never be the reason a potential buyer decides not to purchase your book.
Publishing Your Ebook
It's free to create an IngramSpark account. This includes:
- Global book distribution for more sales opportunities
- Online sales reporting
- Free publishing tools and resources
- Discounts with outside experts on publisher services
- 24/7 customer support
- Affordable advertising opportunities
Your only expense for actual publication is the cost of purchasing your ISBN.
Purchasing an ISBN
Each format of each book you publish must have its own unique ISBN so you'll need several of them if you plan to publish 1) one book in multiple formats, or 2) more than one book—in which case, the block of ten is your best buy, even if you only use three or four of them.
ISBNs are sold by country: In the U.S., ISBNs can be purchased from Bowker directly through your IngramSpark account for $85 each. You can also buy a block of ten ISBNs from Bowker for $295. In the UK, you can buy them from Nielsen Book, while Canadian publishers get ISBNs for free. A full list of all ISBN distributors by country can be found on the International ISBN Agency’s website.
Keep in mind that ISBNs are sold by country: find out how your country offers ISBNs, and purchase your own. While some self-publishing platforms offer free ISBNs, we have an article on the benefits of owning your ebook's ISBN.
Printing and Shipping
The cost to print and ship a book with IngramSpark depends on the following elements:
- Trim Size
- Interior Color and Paper
- Binding Type (paperback or hardback)
- Laminate Type (gloss, matte, or textured)
- Page Count
- Ship-To Address
To put it quite simply, a 48-page black-and-white paperback book will cost less to print than a 400-page premium color hardcover book. IngramSpark has a Print and Ship Calculator to help you understand your cost.
When you determine the cost to print a book, this will help you decide how to price your book so that you make a profit on each book sale.
Marketing Your Book
Marketing your book is another leg of your indie publishing journey and can be one of the expenses associated with it as well. A successful book marketing campaign begins before the book is even published.
According to the NetGalley study, "as authors' budgets increased, so did their corresponding spend on marketing and advertising."
What's important to note from the study is that even authors with budgets under $1000 allocated a portion of it to marketing.
Start with a book marketing strategy, including things like ARCs, tip sheets, an author website, and more. In the digital age, many authors are turning to social media channels to build a platform and connect with potential readers directly on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more. While it's free to set up these social platforms, it costs time to build an engaged audience, and increasingly, it costs money to reach them through paid advertising.
The important thing is to set a budget and spend your money, and your time, wisely.
Self-Publishing a Book: An Investment That Pays Off
All the costs associated with publishing a book should be considered an investment, not an expense you'd prefer to avoid. You've spent months (or even years) writing and rewriting your book until it's perfect. The investment you make in book editing, book design, publication, and book marketing is what makes it professional; give your writing its best opportunity to be read by investing in a professional product.