With places like Amazon direct publishing it’s never been cheaper to self publish a book. It’s not the actual publishing costs that are expensive though; there’s all kinds of design and promotional costs associated with self publishing that fall on the author. So really, how much does it cost to self publish a book?
How Much Does it Cost to Self Publish a Book?
Depending on what you need to hire out for services, it could cost a low as $0 to self publish a book. For professionally designed books, self publishing authors should be prepared to pay $2000 or more for design, publishing, and promotional fees.
It’s important to keep in mind when self publishing that you are acting as the publisher. In traditional publishing, once a book is accepted the author usually steps back and follows the promotional plan set out by the publishing house. This might include book trailers, book tours, and other advertising. In self publishing the burden of this is on you.
Self publishing doesn’t give you an advance
Usually when books are purchased by a publisher the author receives an advance for their work. The actual amount of the advance will vary between publishers and authors and averages from about $5,000 to $15,000. The advance isn’t extra money, it’s a prepayment for that amount of future commission from the book’s sales.
When you self publish there’s no publisher to give you an advance so you won’t get paid right away for your book. Like the publisher, you’ll have to wait until the book makes some sales to actually see a return on your investment.
Total cost: $0, but your cash flow takes longer to establish
You have to design a cover for your self published book
If you already have some design skills this can easily be done yourself. Just find out the right dimensions for your book’s format and create something eye catching and beautiful. This is best done in a program like Photoshop, but you can also use free online software like Canva to get the job done.
For everyone else, hiring this out might be the best option. Actual design costs can vary dramatically between designers and your location. Graphic designers sometimes charge a flat rate for their services but it’s usually per hour.
Many self publishing services also offer cover design options. These can vary from as low as $20 (for a very basic design) to over $500. The upside to bundling it with your book’s publishing cost is that the publisher will know the best formatting for their printers or eBook publishing software.
Total cost: $0 to $600+
Self published book interior design and illustrations
If your book requires any special formatting on the interior you’ll have additional design needs besides the cover. Novels will only need basic formatting, but poetry books, cookbooks, children’s books, non-fiction, etc. books need someone to design the inside pages.
Again, anyone with these skills can do it for free, but not everyone has the time or patience to take a DIY approach to their book design. Formatting will vary by format so what looks good in print might not in the eBook version. Like with cover design, many publishing companies offer design services for the inside of your book.
Total cost: $0 – $500+
Ordering print copies of your book
Had you gone with a traditional publisher you would have been sent a box of your books to use for promotion. Don’t be fooled, though: authors sometimes do pay for these out of their commission.
If your book is strictly eBook formatting getting copies to give away won’t cost anything. For print on demand services, again, there’s no upfront cost. Unless you want to order yourself a copy (or a few, depending on your local promotional strategy), of course.
Ordering printed books to sell yourself is where you run into high costs. Pricing will also depend on how long your book is and whether you opt for soft or hard cover publishing. With shipping, expect to spend around $1000 for 100 copies of your book.
Total cost: $15 – $1000 (for printed books, eBooks are free)
Promoting your self published book
Once you have your book published you need sales to start earning an income. Just like with any product, you could easily spend thousands advertising your self published book. Or you could spend next to nothing, especially if you already have an established following somewhere.
Sending review copies to bloggers is a popular promotion tactic in the self publishing industry. If you’ve self published an eBook there’s no cost for you. For print books you’ll be out the cost of book. Although you can ask, you shouldn’t expect someone to review your book if it won’t benefit them. Many bloggers ask for compensation for their time in exchange for honest reviews.
Some self publishing services offer marketing services for your book, too. If it’s tied to a bookstore, for example, they’ll be able to promote your book in-store. Amazon advertises popular books on their best seller lists and has promotional options within their KDP platform.
Other advertising costs might be: promoting posts on social media, running ads, creating your own website or blog, having a book trailer designed, and doing in-person promotion.
Total cost: $100 – $2000+
Actual self publishing cost
To actually publish the book the cost isn’t terribly high. For some services, there’s no upfront price and you pay a percentage of your book’s sales to the publisher. Others charge a setup package for $30 – $200 for printed books, plus the cost of printing.
eBook publishing can be done for free through your own online store, or services like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Other self publishing places charge a fee to publish eBooks, but this includes formatting as well.
Finally, depending on your location there may be costs applying for an ISBN. An ISBN for a single copy and format of a book will cost $150 in the US. That only covers one edition, so if you’re publishing both print and eBook versions you’ll need to buy two.
Many self publishing sites include the ISBN with any upfront costs. Be cautious with this, though: some (like Amazon) will list them as the publisher instead of yourself.
Total cost: $150 – $1000
Total cost to self publish a book
Depending on what you choose to do you could possibly self publish an eBook entirely for free, especially if you already have a great place to promote your work. The average self publishing author working on a tight budget could easily get their book published for under $300.
If you order print copies, need to hire professionals, or want to give your self published book a strong launch you’ll likely find yourself spending hundreds, or even a few thousand. If you project high sales, though, then it’s a sound investment in your work. After all, there’s a reason traditional publishing houses spend money on these services!
Now that you know how much it costs to self publish a book you can accurately set your budget. Don’t let price deter you, though. Many authors have self publishing success without investing anything but their time into self publishing eBooks.