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

Want to know how much it’s going to cost you to self-publish your book?

Watch the video for our best answer! While publishing costs vary wildly, we share what top spending priorities for indie authors on a budget. Plus, we tell you exactly what you SHOULD NOT spend any money on.

You really can publish your book without spending any money at all. However, unless you are a professional editor, design, formatter AND marketer, it’s highly unlikely that your totally free book is your best book possible.

If you expect your book to do well in a crowded market, it’s wise to hire professional help for editing and design.

If you would like your book to bring in money, be it through sales, referrals to your other services or products, or by landing you a new job, then consider your costs a smart investment.

The trick is find the happy medium of buying what you need and doing what you can on your own. Personally, I see DIY indie 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.

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 $4,000
  • Copy editing $1,500
  • Cover Design $800
  • Book formatting and layout $1500
  • Printing – $4,000 (500 trade-paperback)
  • Pack of ISBNs – $295
  • Author photo – $400
  • Kirkus Review – $425
  • Google Adwords – $500
  • Facebook Ads – $500
  • Print advertising – $1,200
  • Marketing collateral – $1,000
  • Marketing consultant / PR  – $5,000
  • Events / launch party – $5,000
  • 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

  • Professional editing (developmental & copy edit) $2,000
  • Cover Design $300
  • Book formatting and layout $300
  • Printing – free (Print on demand only)
  • ISBN – $125
  • Author photo – $100
  • Total marketing spend – $1000
  • Website – $100 (For custom WordPress theme and hosting)

This is still a formidable amount of money for many authors. Few writers have an extra $4,000 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.

Note: I mentioned a couple resources in the video. Here are the links!

ALERT: We just published a FREE lesson on the 10 Things You Must Do BEFORE You Publish. Watch to the end of the lesson and you’ll get a special gift from us us to help you on your publishing journey.

If you are going to publish a book, watch this first!

Note: The free gift is for a limited time only. Our apologies if it expires before you get to it.

Kelsye Nelson

Author and world traveler, dedicated to helping artists and creative entrepreneurs achieve the life of their wildest dreams. 

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March 29, 2020

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