Cost to Self-Publish

How Much Does it Really Cost to Self-Publish Your Book?

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

I spent quite a bit of time this year getting A Freelancer’s Tale ready for publishing. Although I thought it was going to be expensive, the majority of the cost to self-publish was that of time. Well, at least to get it up on Amazon.

The whole idea behind setting this first book up was to see how much I could do for free.

Today, I’ll break down each element of self-publishing and how much I had to spend to get the paperback book in my hands. Keep in mind that this is all based purely on my own experience.

The Real Cost to Self-Publish a Book

When setting up your book, there are six primary steps to consider. They are:

  • Writing the Book
  • Editing the Book
  • Designing Your Cover
  • Converting the Book for Online Sales (ePUB, PDF, or KPF files…etc)
  • Submitting to Book Dealers
  • Marketing

When creating A Freelancer’s Tale, I decided to use Amazon since it is one of the most popular platforms for books sales on the Internet.

Before you ask, yes, I do plan on submitting it to Barnes & Noble in the very near future.

In reality, Amazon is one of the best ways to go about low-cost self-publishing as your costs are virtually non-existent. At least until you get to the market aspect, anyway.

Writing the Book

In reality, writing the book is perhaps one of the cheapest aspects of self-publishing. You can literally use any word processor with which you feel the most comfortable.

In fact, I used LibreOffice to write my entire book. It’s a free office suite of tools you can download and install. It works similarly to Microsoft Word, only without the glitz and glamor.

The biggest impact was essentially time. It took me about nine months to fully write A Freelancer’s Tale. Though, I did put it off quite a bit throughout the year.

Writing Software

Writing software itself can cost a bit of money, depending on the platform. For instance, Scrivener, a nice writing app, costs a one-time $49. While Atticus, a robust writing app, can run you around $147.

The hardest part is finding something that will fit your exact needs.

Ghostwriters

A lot of people will use ghostwriters, even for books. This is when you pay someone to write part or all of your book. In most cases, the ghostwriter doesn’t receive royalties once you publish. He or she is paid up-front by you to create the piece of content.

The cost for this varies greatly on the ghostwriter. For instance, I usually charge $0.25 per word nowadays. For me, this is a fair price, especially considering how much content I can create on any given day.

The Editing Process

Editing your book is going to greatly add to the cost to self-publish your material. In my case, I had a friend eager to read the book while I fed it through the free version of Grammarly twice.

Between myself, my friend, and Grammarly, I feel we did a pretty good job editing A Freelancer’s Tale. And so far, the results have been good.

Editing is one of the most vital elements of publishing of any kind. This is because readers will be quick to point out any mistakes within the book. And a lot of them will pounce like starving sharks going after a seal.

Grammar-Checking Apps

Personally, I’m a big fan of Grammarly. I’ve been using it for several years, and it works perfectly in WordPress. And for $12 per month for the Premium plan, it’s not that bad of a deal if you plan on producing a lot of books in the future.

At any rate, grammar-checking apps are quite useful for those who don’t really have the budget to pay for a professional editor. In some cases, it could literally cost you thousands less to use these kinds of apps.

Freelance Editors

Freelance editors are a good choice if you have a bit of a budget. I’ve seen editors charge anywhere from $400 to $4000, depending on the length of the book.

If you’re looking for editors, I suggest starting with LinkedIn or perhaps asking around the writing community on Twitter. You can also pay someone on freelancing sites like Fiverr or UpWork. But I personally prefer having direct interaction with people I hire.

Editing Companies

Like freelancers, there are a lot of companies online that will charge a fee for editing your book. And like most freelancers, it often depends on the number of words it contains.

In many instances, I’ve seen these companies charge more than $1000 for an average-sized novel. I’m not sure if I’d ever use these services as I would prefer to pay the editor directly.

Need help writing your book? Knowing how to structure your manuscript can go a long way to providing a better exeperience for your readers. Take a look at the Reedsy Masterclass for How to Write a Novel. It was perhaps the most influential three months I’ve spent for crafting my books.

Designing Cost of the Cover to Self-Publish

You want a book with an attractive cover, and yes, people will judge it. For my first book, I used the free version of Canva. It has a lot of great tools and features that give you absolute control of the image.

I was debating on using Photoshop, as I’ve been using the app since the 1990s. But remember, I wanted to see if I could create the book for free.

Since I use Canva an awful lot, especially for YouTube videos, I am debating on paying for the premium service.

Graphic Design Apps

As I said, Canva has a lot of flexibility for designing covers for just about everything. In fact, I demonstrated how I used it to create the book cover for A Freelancer’s Tale on YouTube.

However, there are a lot of graphic design apps out there that can do a decent job. Still, if you want to go the premium route, some of these apps can run around $150 per year.

Freelance Designers

There’s nothing wrong with paying freelance designers to create your book cover. It’s a cost of self-publishing that many authors will gladly fork over, especially if the freelancer is quite talented.

You can find designers all over the Internet. For example, Fiverr.com is full of freelance designers who will charge anywhere from $5 to $500 depending on the design quality and experience.

Graphic Design Firms

You can also go the route of using a design firm for the eBook cover. Sites like Penji are full of talented individuals. Though, using firms directly in such a fashion could set you back a couple of hundred dollars.

The trade-off, though, is often an extremely high-quality end product.

Converting the Book for Amazon

A lot of writing apps will convert files for you with no problem. But if you’re like me and write everything in apps like LibreOffice, you’ll need something else to covert the book into a usable file.

In my case, I used Amazon’s Kindle Create app. It’s a free program Amazon provides to convert your book into a KPF format, which is Amazon’s book file. This can be used for both eBooks and printed copies.

However, it also means your book is restricted to platforms that use KPF files – Amazon. Other apps often have the ability to save as PDF, ePUB, or MOBI file types.

The cost of converting your book to self-publish will depend on the writing app you decide to use. This is because most professional writing apps have it all built into them.

Submitting to the Platform

In every instance I’ve found for self-publishing, there are no fees to submit your book. Now, you can pay for a publishing tool like IngramSpark as part of the process. But I view IngramSpark as more of a marketing tool, which I’ll cover in a moment.

So far, I haven’t come across a self-publish platform that comes with a cost for your book. If you know of any, feel free to let me know in the comments.

In any case, the only cost to self-publish my book on Amazon in terms of submitting it was that of time. Although Amazon says it will take up to 72 hours before your book is live, I was able to buy my copy of it within four.

Marketing and Promoting

Marketing your book is going to be the biggest expense for self-publishing. This is mostly because marketing and promotion are reoccurring expenses for as long as you want to get the book in front of people.

Bear in mind that no one will buy your book if they don’t know it exists.

There’s only so much you can do to market your book for free. And if you want to get more people to read it, you’ll have to spend some money on marketing.

Platforms like IngramSpark will help you reach thousands of retail sites, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And from what I can tell, the initial setup is only $49. Though, I haven’t used them yet. I’m not sure if there are any other underlying fees.

Currently, I’ve only done the bare minimum for free. But I plan on updating this part of the post as I invest in different marketing avenues. This includes using Amazon’s advertising tool.

How Much Have I Spent Thus Far?

In total, I’ve spent $0 to self-publish my book on Amazon.

Like the marketing aspect above, though, I plan on updating this blog post when I start spending money on marketing. So far, I’ve made about $50 in commissions over the past 2.5 weeks using free methods of promotion.

Now, I did buy the first printed copy at full price and ordered 10 author copies to autograph for friends, family, and Buy Me a Coffee supporters. But I don’t consider that a necessary cost to self-publish the book.

That’s because I really don’t need to buy those copies in order to get the book up and ready for readers.

So, in the beginning, I’ve spent nothing in terms of costs on Amazon for self-publishing the eBook and the paperback versions.

Grammarly Grammar Checker

Is It Better to Spend Money on Writing Tools and Professional Help?

For some writers, spending money to self-publish a book might be in their best interest. Especially for those who do not have graphic design backgrounds or editing tools.

This isn’t to mention how the best writing apps can greatly help put out a great book.

For example, I am very interested in Atticus simply because it provides an on-screen word count. Plus, it has a lot of functions and features I’d probably utilize quite a bit.

Scrivener has the notepad-type layout next to your writing screen to keep track of notes, characters, and other continuity information.

If you have the money to put into the cost of self-publishing, it might be a worthwhile investment. But I was able to produce my book without spending a single dime.

Being an author might be something you enjoy doing. At which point, paying for apps and services is merely an investment to help you along the way.

I’d advise investing a bit of money to create your book if it’s something you plan on doing more than once. For me, I plan on writing a lot of books in the near future.

And yes, I am leaning towards some costs that will greatly cut the amount of time it takes for me to write and edit.

How Do You Cut the Cost to Self-Publish Your Book?

There are a lot of things you can do to promote a low-cost book for self-publishing. A lot of the expenses depend on how much you plan on doing yourself.

Just remember that no author should edit his or her own work. Even the most successful of creators have editors. So, this might be something you’ll want to consider as an immediate expense.

Carefully consider what you need and how much you have to spend. It doesn’t take a lot of money to produce a good title people enjoy reading.

Michael Brockbank
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