How Much Does it Cost to Self-publish a Book?
Let’s take a short trip back to the 2000s. You have written your book, and want to get it published. There are the usual traditional publishers. You submit your book, and it lands on the editor’s desk. You hope it doesn’t make it to the slush pile, the dreaded dead letter office of the publishing world. Of course, someone would read your sparkling prose and ready wit and rescue your manuscript. Of course, that’s a fairy tale and like all fairy tales don’t happen in real life. The reality is that publishers sift through tens of thousands of manuscripts and choose one based on its ability to generate profit. Traditional publishers want a return on their investment because the book business is also a business. So publishers play it safe. And your book is not chosen. There is a vague inkling of choosing self-publishing at this stage. You steer clear of its high cost and added stigma.
Now let’s look at what would happen if you think about publishing a book now. Fast forward to 2020, and the whole publishing landscape has changed. You don’t have to stick to traditional publishers. You have Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing,CreateSpace, and IngramSpark to help you apart from full-fledged self-publishing companies willing to help. You are literally spoilt for choice. But there are questions in your mind. Especially questions about the cost.
When you, the author, decides to self-publish a book, the average cost is about $2000 to $4000 inclusive of editing, cover design, formatting, and marketing services. You can go via the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) route as well in which you format it for free and sell on Amazon in under 72 hours. But if you want to really sell your book and make sure people read it, you will need to invest time and money to make it attractive and error-free. Definitely, you don’t need to use ALL the services listed below, but certainly, some of them are obviously important, like strong cover design.
Let’s now look at the cost of self-publishing your book in detail.
Types of Self-publishing
Before we get into the cost in detail, let’s look at the different types of self-publishing. Once you are aware of them you can make a knowledgeable decision about which type you want to follow. This, in turn, will affect the total cost of the book.
- DIY: As the name suggests, DIY publishing means doing it yourself. So this means thatyou, the author, are responsible for every step of the self-publishing process. You will do the editing, designing, and marketing of your own books. As you can imagine, this is challenging because doing this effectively means mastering the entire publishing workflow. Usually, expert publishing professionals handle each step of the process. So for you to step in and handle everything can be a bit daunting.
- Assisted publishing: Once you know that you can’t do it all yourself, you can get help. That’s called assisted publishing. You take the help of the experts in the field, such as freelance editors, proofreaders, designers, and marketers to put together the final product, your self-published book. You can take it easynow that your book is good hands when you choose this method of self-publishing.
- POD publishing: Print On Demand publishing is a type of publishing in which you are able to print your book at a moment’s notice. You can customize the number of copies you need, whether that is two or two thousand.
- Subsidy publishing: If you choose subsidy publishing, your publisher reduces or subsidizes the cost of publishing your book. The publisher has their own team quite like a traditional publisher. But they also keep the copyright as well. So you will get a royalty amount from them quite like a traditional publisher if you choose this method. Do keep in mind that subsidy publishers are not considered to be traditional publishers.
- Hybrid publishing: If you choose a hybrid publisher, it mixes some aspects of self-publishing and some aspects of traditional publishing. Hybrid publishers use many different business models and approach for marketing, and distribution. This type of publishing is still evolving.
Editing and Proofreading
Now that you know which type of self-publishing you want, you can proceed to the first part of the publishing process—editing your manuscript. To know more about the editing process, you can go here. Let’s look at the cost of hiring freelance professionals to do this job.
Doing it yourself might sound like a great money-saving hack but as an author, you are too close to the book to be objective. Of course, if you have editor friends who are willing to help you out, by all means do take up the offer. That is a great help if you are on a tight budget until you can get professional advice.
If you are not sure where your manuscript stands, you can get an editorial assessment done. If you are sure, proceed to the next step.
As an author, you will work with a development editor, a copyeditor or line editor, and a proofreader. Ask for samples or recommendations to find out the quality of the work they will provide.
The average rates for a 60,000- word manuscript are:
- For developmental editing, the cost is $1440, which comes to about $7 per page.
- For copyediting, the cost is $1,020, which is about $5 per page.
- For proofreading, the cost is $600, which is about $3 per page.1
If you want to hire a professional on a per hour basis, here are the average rates:
- For development editing, an editor charges $17 for an hour.
- For copyediting, a copyeditor or line editor charges $15 to $20 per hour.
- For proofing, the freelance professional proofreader charges $10 to $15 per hour.
So, for example, if you have a 40,000- word book in your hands, if you were to use the per hour rate for professionals, this is what it will cost you.
- For development editing, the cost comes up to approximately $960.2
- For copyediting, the cost comes up to approximately $680.3
- For proofing, the cost of comes up to approximately $400.4
Factors that Affect Editorial and Proofreading Costs
The prices given are liable to change depending on a few factors. They are:
- The readiness of your manuscript. The more ready your manuscript is, the less it will cost. You can revise it many times or try and edit it as much yourself to get to that level of readiness.
- The density of your text. This depends on the genre you have chosen. An academic or subject-specific text might be more costly than a written prose novel.
- The experience of your professional. The professional whom you hire will charge according to their experience. If you want an experienced professional, you will have to pay more. The less experienced the editor is, the less you pay. Or you could just choose someone who is in the middle.
After you have decided on the editing cost, you need to think about formatting your book. Book formatting, also called typesetting, is an important step. The same way book design is crucial when it comes to self-publishing your book. Unless the book is designed well, it won’t sell. You could attempt to do this yourself. However, a professional will guide you based on the genre, and that is invaluable advice. Readers easily accept a book that follows the ‘look’ of the genre you have chosen.
You can hire book formatting or typesetting professions for your printed book for around $60 to $200.The whole process of book formatting could cost you anywhere between $500 to $1500 dollars.5
If you want to get a feel for the market rates, it’s a good idea to ask a few self-published authors for their opinion before you start this process.
Factors that Affect Book Formatting Costs
The factors that affect book formatting costs are:
- The level of experience of the typesetter.
- The length of the book but not so much the complexity of content. The longer the book, the longer it takes to typeset. The typesetter has to check for widows and orphans and make sure that the layout is aesthetically pleasing.
- The number of illustrations/infographics/flow charts. If you do have many of one or either of them in large numbers, then the illustrator or book designer will have to be consulted on presentation styles. This will also affect the number of pages in a book. It might, in turn, affect the total typesetting cost.
You may wonder why you need someone to work on formatting an eBook. Only formatted eBooks go for various distribution channels. eBook formatting is the standard design process that converts your eBook’s text and images into an attractive layout for readers to read and enjoy.
If you are selling your book as an eBook, you’ll have to hire an eBook developer. They will give you a quote based on the complexity of the manuscript.
You also have the option to use some websites like Fiverr, where you can pay someone to format your eBook for as low $7 depending on the number of pages. Or you can use simple programs like WordPad, which allow KDP to format your eBook.
Factors that Affect eBook Formatting Costs
The same factors that affect book formatting costs also affect the eBook formatting costs. They are:
- The number of pages. In other words, the length of the book.
- A massive amount of graphics impacts the length of the book.
The next stage is the cover design. Book formatting and cover design should complement each other. So your search for a professional typesetter and cover designer should be done parallel. They might probably also need to consult with each other.
The cover design is perhaps the single most crucial part of the book that the reader sees. It can make or break the buyer’s mind. So you should not try to skimp on the cost for this step. Human beings judge a book by its cover.
A cover designer will design your book in a way that matches the expectations of the reader for that particular genre. It is apart from the fact that cover designs should be appealing, aesthetically pleasing, and convey all the information it is supposed to convey.
You could hire a good book cover designer anywhere from $50 to $500. But it is definitely money well spent. And like book editors, the more experienced a book designer, the most expensive his or her services.
You will be happy to know that there are several talented book cover designers from which you can take your pick. After you find one whose style appeals to you, reach out to them and discuss to work out their availability, price, and deliverables. Some of the less expensive book designers might even let you choose from a list of templates. That might cost you less than $100. For customised unique designs that you work on with a designer, the prices go up.
Before the book designer starts working on your book, let them know if you need a cover for digital publishing, print publishing, and a 3D mock-up of your cover for the website. This will push up your cover design costs a bit more but it saves you a headache later. Ask for the source files of the designs as well not just the Illustrator or Photoshop files. This way, you can make any changes, if required, later.
Before you approach your cover designer, research your niche. The covers of cookbooks look different from thrillers. Cookbooks rely on bright, colorful images, while thrillers use dark, fearful images. So spend some time going through bookshelves online and offline to get the hang of how a book cover should be depending on the niche of your book.
If you have ideas to expand or to bring in relevant important imagery, you should let the cover designer know this before he or she starts working on the design. Giving this input before the design process begins will reduce the time spent going back and forth on the cover design.
Depending on the cover designer’s fee, you will have two rounds of changes. Tell the designer what you like and what you don’t. You can even get some friends who are aware of cover design to give some feedback.
Factors that Affect Cover Design Costs
As with editorial costs, the prices of cover design costs can change depending on a few factors. They are:
- The number of iterations. If you back and forth with the design, the cover designer will have to put in more effort each time.
- Print or eBook format. Print book covers have to adhere to strict dimensions for the front cover, back cover, and spine. It can add to the costs.
- The experience of your professional cover designer counts. An experienced professional cover designer will charge more than an inexperienced one.
- A new designer charges $300 to $500.
- An experienced designer with 2+ years of experience charges $500 to $800.
- An expert designer with 10+ years of experience charges $800 to $1,500.
The more experienced the designer, the more they charge. You might discover an experienced designer who charges less. Most self-published authors pay about $500 for a high- quality book cover design.
It brings us to the marketing costs for a self-published book. After you have self-published the book, you will need to market it.
Usually, authors spend about $50 to $200 dollars on marketing campaigns. It is less expensive if you market your own books. Still, as with other stages in the workflow, a marketing professional will be better able to promote your book.
The costs also differ depending on the marketing for print books and eBooks.
It’s a crowded market, and your marketing campaign has to stand apart from the rest in to get the buyer’s attention. You need to budget for advertising and marketing. Perhaps even give away a few free copies.
If you intend to market your book on your Amazon, this is all the information you need.
One way to reduce your marketing expenditure is to use your social media networks. If you have a blog or mailing list, use them to reach out to your readers. If you use Facebook advertising, the costs may add up since it costs $5 a day. You can reach out to bloggers who will write about your book and spread the word. That may either cost you nothing or $5 to $50 per promotional post.
Factors that Affect Marketing Costs
Your marketing costs will change depending on how extensive a campaign you want. And how much you want to outsource. As with other processes, you can do it all yourself or outsource a part of it.
As you can see, self-publishing a book is a long and detailed process with many steps in it. It requires many decisions which have to be made based on what you want and the budget you have decided. Now that you know the details of the cost and the factors that affect it at each stage of the self-publishing process, you can go ahead and make informed decisions about them. Congratulations, and good luck!