“Remember to think of the cost of self-publishing as an investment, not a cost. [A book is] an asset that earns you money long-term.”
– Joanna Penn
If you’re thinking of publishing your first book, you might have some concerns about how much it really costs to get it published. So…how much does it cost to publish a book?
Since the explosion of digital books on Amazon and various other platforms like kobo, ibooks, and smashwords, wanna-be authors and pro authors alike can write, publish and promote their books for less than $1000. On the other hand, you can spend as much as $20,000 on self-publishing and book marketing costs if you have that kind of budget.
Let’s breakdown the costs of the self-publishing process, and we’ll share some secrets to bring those costs down if you’re budget-conscious.
The Rise of Indie Publishing
If you’re an author dreaming of making your books available to millions of readers, you can make it happen. You only have to invest your time, some money, and a little bit of sanity.
The sky’s really the limit. Self-publishing on Amazon has made it possible so that we can all fly with our books.
There are many factors that can affect the cost of publishing your book. What it really boils down to is this: How much are you willing to spend, and how well do you want your book to sell?
The reason I ask these questions is—if you go cheap on everything—you could end up putting out a low quality book that gets panned by bad reviews, and then it won’t sell.
On Amazon, quality sells. And yes, quality costs money. But there are ways you can creatively cut costs and still put out a quality book. Let’s take a look.
Crunching the Numbers: How Much Will it Cost to Self-Publish My Book?
To start, let’s look at a sample budget. Now, these aren’t the high-end numbers for self-publishing. You can spend as much money as you want—this is a list of budget-conscious pricing for getting your book done within a reasonable budget:
- Cover: $5-$100.
- Editing: $200-$400 [depending on word count, and whether it’s a line edit or a developmental edit. This pricing is for a 25,000- to 30,000-word manuscript.]
- Formatting [ebook]: $20-$60
- Formatting [Print]: $35-$60
- Promo Sites [Book Launch]: $40-$500
- Audio Book [optional]: $300-$900
- Author Tools: Courses, blog, domain names
I’ll go into each of these in more detail, with links you can check out for yourself and find what works within your budget. Take some time to shop around see where to get the best value for the best price.
How Much Does a Book Cover Design Cost?
Readers judge a book by its cover, so your cover will make or break your book right away. If there’s any one cost you don’t want to go cheap on, this would be it. While it’s true you can outsource to someone on Fiverr and get a decent cover for less than $20, it pays to do your research and find a good designer that’s going to deliver a cover that sells your book.
I would recommend setting aside a budget of at least $100. This isn’t to say that spending tons of money will get you an awesome cover, but going cheap on it may hurt your sales in the long run.
How Much Does a Book Editor Cost?
A book should always be edited…by a real editor. Don’t try to cut corners here. Even if you’re a professional writer or editor yourself with thirty years of experience under your belt, you need to outsource it to someone else, and that means another professional editor.
Trust me: a book that contains typos will get bad reviews and sales will drop flat. Love your book. Spend the cash on editing. You can find quality editors at Upwork. (Or you can find the editors we recommend in our Preferred Outsourcer Rolodex if you’re a member of the Self-Publishing School community.)
You can get a very short book (15,000 words) edited for about $150-$250. This is for line editing. Ghost writing, developmental, or structural editing will run you much more than that, upwards of $2,000 or more depending on the length of your book (up to 100,000+ words) and the depth of edits you require.
When it comes to your book production costs, there can be no end to the costs you can rack up if you have the cash to invest.
How Much Does Book Formatting Cost?
When it’s time to format your book, if you’re publishing on Amazon, you might want to get it formatted both for print and for Kindle. You can outsource the formatting of both your ebook and print book for around $60-$200. Fiverr has some great formatters at reasonable prices.
How Much Does it Cost to Promote Your Book?
When it comes to spending cash on promo sites, you could empty your bank easily. It doesn’t have to come to this. Set a budget for yourself and go with the best of the best. I have recommendations below you can check out.
Budgets vary but I’ll spend $32 on the low end for Buckbooks and go as high as $1,000 if you add on a bundle of promo sites to launch your book.
Again, this is a major money suck if you’re not careful; you can throw thousands into it and get mediocre results. Choose your promo sites with caution and do your research.
For the best results on several paid launches I have used:
Robin Reads [$35]
ereader girl [$20]
Awesome Gang [$10]
Booksbutterfly [varied prices]
When it comes to paid promotions, you can spend as much as you want, but to get the best value for your dollar, do your research on the top sites that can generate a good return. Check out this detailed list of paid [and free] promo sites.
How Much Does it Cost to Record an Audio Book?
Creating an audio book can run you anywhere from $300 to $6,000 additional cost depending on the length of your book and who you hire to do it. Again, you’ll need to create a budget for this one to keep costs under control.
If you have a novel with multiple characters and want different people to read different roles, it can cost towards the high end of the budget (especially if you’re using high-end talent.)
If you have a good voice or acting experience and you want to give it a shot, you can purchase the basic equipment and record the audio book version yourself. Check out this blog post for setting up your recording studio and doing it yourself.
Additional Author Tools and Expenses
Author tools are a necessary part of your portfolio, and there are tools for every part of the publishing process. How many of these you decide to invest in is up to you.
Here are some of the basic tools of professional authors. This will add a price tag to your book, but many of these are just a one-time payment and then that’s it. Other tools will bill you monthly.
Book Publishing Courses
If you’re new to the game of self-publishing, take a course like Self-Publishing School or join our Mastermind community for everything you need to get started.
You could also look into taking multiple courses on Udemy. But again, you can spend a fortune on various courses. I would recommend sticking with one course until you complete it and then, after getting your first big win, look at branching out to learn other skills.
How Much Does it Cost to Build a Web Site?
Building an author platform is a serious consideration if you’re looking to expand your business, write blogs, and promote your work.
You can sign up for hosting with servers such as bluehost or hostgator. The cost would be around $150 per year; very reasonable for website hosting. You will get a discount when you sign up for the first year, but pay full price when you renew.
You can purchase a domain name to secure your brand and start driving traffic to your site. Check out Name.com. The cost will run you around $10-$15 a year.
Email Subscription Services
If you want to collect email addresses, you’ll need to sign up with an email subscription service to manage your emails. There are several choices:
Mailchimp: this is free up to the first 2000 subscribers. If you opt in to use their autoresponder service or other upgrades, you’ll have to pay around $10 a month depending on the number of subscribers.
AWeber: regarded by most as the premium site for email subscriptions. Cost per month: $19 up to 500 subscribers.
Convertkit.com: a new kid on the block, Convertkit has tons of value. Price is based on subscribers, but starts at $29 a month for your first 1000 subs.
How to Increase Book Sales
We all want to make CASH with our writing. It may not be the only reason we write, but self-publishing your own book is still an investment. And like any investment, it’s nice to get a return rather than taking a loss.
Here is a list of strategies you can implement to increase your book sales and get more eyeballs on your work.
- Run a contest through Goodreads.
- Reach out to podcasters and influencers in your niche and set up an interview. This has proven to be a big game changer for authors like Hal Elrod and Tim Ferriss.
- After your book has been at regular price for a while, wait three months and then drop it to .99 again. Set up some paid ads every other day for one week. Try using the KDP countdown strategy.
- Blog about the topics in your book. Set up a blog and get more traffic and interest in your work by writing about what you love. Traffic that lands on your page can be directed to your Amazon Author Page and that means…more book sales!
- Write another book. Building a catalogue of books is a great formula for generating higher monthly income.
- Apply for a spot on Bookbub. Bookbub is the big gorilla when it comes to book promoting. It’s expensive ($300 and up), but it’s a solid investment and you will make your money back on the promo costs. You can check out Bookbub here and sign up for an author account to get started.
3 Ways to Save Money on Your Book Costs
Self-publishing can be expensive if you let it. There is always something else to spend more money on and the more you spend, the less chance you have of making your money back. Here are a few hot tips to help you save on your book costs, both now and in the future.
Hot Tip #1: Save Money on Book Formatting [if you dare!]
Write your eBook with Scrivener. Not only is Scrivener the #1 author tool for writing and organizing your manuscript but, if used effectively, it can save you money in formatting costs.
Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer.com also offers a bundle of Book Design Templates for both fiction and nonfiction. These templates are at a cost but will save you money in the long run from outsourcing. I have personally been using these to do the formatting for my books. It can be time consuming at first but once you get the hang of it, you’ll save money on formatting costs.
Hot Tip #2: Build a List of Email Subscribers
Although this topic deserves its own blog or (book), I’ll mention it here because if you build up an email list now, it can save you thousands of dollars in promotional costs down the road.
When you launch your next book, you’ll have hundreds or thousands of fans waiting for your next release. Not only that, but these are the fans who will leave reviews if they join your launch team and purchase your book the first week it comes out.
This shoots your rankings up, and this drives sales even further. Sound good?
You can start to build your email list by including a link to a lead magnet in your eBook. A lead magnet is an offer of a free, valuable piece of content that readers will get if they go to your website and subscribe to your email list.
Hot Tip #3: Write a Great Book!
This might seem like an obvious tip, but paying attention to the quality of your book throughout the writing process is going to save you money. The better your book, the less you’ll have to spend on editing.
You will also gain a solid reputation for someone who writes really well. This means loyal fans will spread the word about your book and your blog, your email list grows, and any future books you release will practically promote themselves. Well, almost.
We are in a great era of self-publishing. Anyone can turn their dream into a reality within just a few months, a bit of cash, and a great idea!
Are you ready to make a difference?
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