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How much does it cost to self-publish a book?

For many writers considering self-publishing, cost is the first question and concern. The range authors spend to self-publish varies dramatically. You can choose to self-publish completely free doing everything yourself, or you can spend thousands upon thousands of dollars paying for printing, marketing and other services. The trick is find the happy medium of buying what you need and doing what you can on your own. Read on to see three distinct budgets for authors that wish to self-publish a book.

I see authors spending an average of $2300 on each self-publishing project. In his book “APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur ”, Guy Kawasaki puts this amount higher, at about $4000.

A writer can easily spend a few thousand dollars getting books printed, only to have them become a permanent fixture in their garage because she has no idea how to get them into bookstores. Or, a writer can create an ebook completely on their own, and his mom and his friends will buy it, but then sales will stop completely because he is not a book marketer.

So where does the money go? Let’s assume you have an 80,000 word novel you’d like to publish. What will you spend? Let’s break down some possible scenarios.

Budget publishing – Under $500

  • Developmental edit  – free (Workshops, friends, class)
  • Copy editing $300 (College student)
  • Cover Design – $30 (Purchase cover art and do it your self)
  • Book formatting and layout – free (Using free conversion tools)
  • Printing – free (Print on demand only)
  • ISBN – Don’t get one
  • Author photo – free (Your Facebook profile picture is fine)
  • Marketing – free (Rely on social media and friends and family only)
  • Website – free (Use free WordPress option)

Big spender – Upwards of  $20,000

  • Developmental edit $3,000
  • Copy editing $1,500
  • Cover Design $800
  • Book formatting and layout $1500
  • Printing – $4,000 (500 trade-paperback)
  • ISBN – $100
  • Author photo – $400
  • Kirkus Review – $425
  • Google Adwords – $500
  • Facebook Ads – $500
  • Print advertising – $1,200
  • Marketing collateral – $1,000
  • Marketing consultant / PR  – $2,000
  • Events / launch party – $1,000
  • Website – $2,000

Considering that half of self-published authors earn less that $500, any amount more than this may seem disheartening. However, consider that a book a is a product. Quality products are

supported by a whole team of services and experts. According to a survey reported by The Guardian, the average earnings for self-published authors is $10,000 a year. What separates those earning $500 from those earning $10,000? Visibility and quality of product. If you invest nothing in your book, don’t expect readers to be very impressed, or compelled to buy. While it’s easier than ever to get a book to market, readers are savvy and spot sub-par products easily. Even if you create a beautiful product, wonderfully written with professional presentation, if no one hears about it, your book will sit untouched online, gathering virtual dust.

Here is a breakdown I find reasonable for many authors:

Smart spender – About  $4,000

  • Developmental edit $1,000
  • Copy editing $800
  • Cover Design $300
  • Book formatting and layout $300
  • Printing – free (Print on demand only)
  • ISBN – $100
  • Author photo – $100
  • Total marketing spend – $1000
  • Website – $100 (For custom WordPress theme)

This scenario may be tweaked. For example, you can find brilliant marketing help for just a couple hundred dollars. Maybe you spend a reasonable $2,000 on a developmental edit, but then find a student to do your final proofing for just $500.

This is still a formidable amount of money for many authors. Few have $5,000 extra laying around. Luckily, there is much you can do to make this investment achievable. For example, you don’t need to be paying for editing at the same time you’re buying marketing. These expenses may be spread out over many months. Plus, many editors and marketers will work out payment plans with you as well.

Just as there are few writers with extra cash laying around, there are few writers that are only writers. Most of us have a few other marketable skills as well. Perhaps you are a fantastic editor, or an illustrator. Maybe you’re a social media whiz, or can build webpages. Consider taking on freelance work, or even trading services with other authors, in order to get the help you need for your project.

Bottom line, self-publishing costs money. If you want readers to buy your book, you will need to make an investment in order to produce a quality product, above and beyond your beautiful writing. The good news is that with so many paths to self-publishing, there is a way to get the help you need without going broke.

If you’re interested in taking a class in self-publishing, try Udemy!  Here is the class we recommend:

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