You already know.
There is a cost to self-publish a book. Much like with any worthwhile endeavor, you may have to sacrifice some cash in order to make more down the road.
“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
Since the explosion of digital books on Amazon and various other platforms like Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords, first-time authors and professional authors alike can write, publish and promote their books for less than $1,000. 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 break down the costs of the self-publishing process. We’ll share some secrets to bring those costs down if you’re budget-conscious.
The Rise of Self-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 for us to all fly with our books. Are you ready to make yours fly?
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 because 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 Does It Cost to Self-Publish a 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.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 Designer Cost?
Even though we’ve been told “you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover,” the reality is, we do it anyway. The design of your book can often determine whether or not people will actually pay for it and read it. Your cover will make or break your book right off the bat.
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 better designer who is going to deliver a cover that sells your book.
Cover designers aren’t just talented creators. Many who do it as a living have inside market knowledge and tailor your book cover for your specific genre.
If you do decide to go through Fiverr, check out this video Chandler Bolt recorded on how to use Fiverr.com to outsource your book cover design.
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 may hurt your sales in the long run.
How Much Does a Book Editor Cost?
A high-quality book should always be edited by a real editor. Whether you hire a line editor or copy editor, you should get a professional to look over your work. Don’t try to cut corners here. Even if you’re a professional editor yourself with 30 years of experience, you need to outsource it to a professional editor.
Trust me: A book that contains typos will get bad reviews and sales will drop flat.
Love your book by spending 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, around 15,000 words, line edited for about $150-$250. Ghostwriting, developmental or structural editing will run you much more than that depending on the length of your book and the depth of edits you require — prices run around $2,000 for 100,000 words.
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 e-book and print book for around $60-$200. Fiverr has some good formatters at reasonable prices.
I’d also recommend asking fellow authors if they have any great recommendations for book formatters. Once you find a book formatter you really like, hang on to their contact information for future reference.
How Much Does it Cost to Promote Your Book?
When it comes to spending cash on promotional sites, you could empty your bank easily. Set a budget for yourself and go with the best of the best within that budget.
Again, this is a major money suck if you’re not careful; you can throw thousands into it and get mediocre results.
For the best results on several paid launches, I have used:
- Bookzio ($19-29)
- Robin Reads ($35)
- Buck Books ($32)
- BKnights ($5-40)
- Awesome Gang ($10)
- Bargain Booksy [$25 for nonfiction]
- BookSends [$40]
When it comes to paid promotions, do your research on the top sites that can generate a good return. Check out this detailed list of promo sites — some are free!
How Much Does it Cost to Record an Audio Book?
Creating an audiobook can run you anywhere from $300 to $3,000 depending on the length of your book and who you hire to do it.
If you have a novel with multiple characters and want different people to read different roles, it can run 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 audiobook version yourself. Check out this blog post for setting up your recording studio and doing it yourself.
Additional Author Tools and Expenses
Here are some of the basic tools for professional authors. This will add a price tag to your book, but many of these are just a one-time payment. Other tools will bill you monthly.
#1 – Book Publishing Courses
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 branching out to learn other skills after you get your first big win.
#2 – An Author Website
Building an author platform is a great consideration if you’re looking to expand your business, write blogs and promote your work. You can build an entire website or just a landing page with a call-to-action to get users to opt in. It’s also important to capture leads to build your mailing list. A lead capture form on your website helps you find quality leads and determine your primary audience.
Here are some things you’ll need to look into in order to get started with building a website:
You can sign up for hosting with servers such as Bluehost or Hostgator. The cost would be around $150 per year, which is 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.
– Domain Name
You can purchase a domain name to secure your brand and start driving traffic to your site. Check out Name.com. A domain name will cost around $10-$15 a year.
– Email Subscription Services
If you want to collect email addresses, you’ll need to sign up for 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: This platform costs $19 per month for up to 500 subscribers.
- ConvertKit.com: ConvertKit has tons of value. Price is based on subscribers but starts at $29 a month for your first 1,000 subscribers. This is now one of the most robust sites for building an email list.
#3 – Publish Under Your Own Company
The ISBN (the 13-digit number above the barcode at the back of your book) lets bookstores and libraries know everything about your book, including the publisher.
If you use a free, generic ISBN assigned to you by CreateSpace or IngramSpark, you’ll limit your chances of a bookstore carrying your own book. Free ISBNs eliminate your ebook from being stocked on Overdrive, for example, which circulated more than 105 million eBooks in 2014 to public libraries all over the world.
Getting your own ISBN and setting yourself up as your own publisher will cost $295 for 10 ISBN codes, but it will help you access all distribution channels.
This isn’t necessary if you’re just starting out — it’s more important to publish your book and get it out there. However, if you are serious about building a self-publishing empire and making a full-time living from your writing, you’ll want to eventually invest in getting your own ISBN codes and setting up your own publishing company.
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.
- Run promos every 3 months. After your book has been at regular price for a while, wait three months and then drop it to 99 cents 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 catalog 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.
4 Ways to Save Money on Your Book Costs
Self-publishing can be expensive if you let it. Here are a few tips to help you save on your book costs, both now and in the future.
#1 – Save Money on Book Formatting (if you dare!)
Write your ebook with Scrivener. Not only is Scrivener the number one author tool for writing and organizing your manuscript but, if used effectively, it can save you money on formatting costs. If you’d like to learn more about how it works, check out this Scrivener webinar hosted by Joseph Michael with Chandler Bolt.
Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer also offers a bundle of Book Design Templates for both fiction and nonfiction. These templates cost money 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.
#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 drives 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.
#3 – Barter When You Can
If you’re just starting out with self-publishing and you’re on a tight budget, look to barter services when you can. By coming to a deal where you exchange your services or something you have that is of value to people, you can save yourself lots of money.
As a writer, maybe you have some copywriting skills. See if you can share some of that in exchange for design work from a cover designer. But it doesn’t have to be just raw skills that you barter — Dana Sitar got a cartoonist friend of hers to do the illustrations for her book in exchange for $50 and 10 percent of direct sales of the book. It’s a decision she doesn’t regret, as the illustrations get her raving reviews.
If you’re on a budget, you don’t need to fully cut back on the quality of your book. See if there are possibilities to cut a deal and get the service you require to set your book apart.
#4 – 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 as 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.
Your Next Step
We are in a great era of self-publishing. Anyone can turn their dream into a reality with just a few months of hard work, a bit of cash, and a great book idea.
We’ve broken down the cost to publish your book so that you have a rough idea of what to budget. Writers have gone on to publish bestsellers with as little an investment as $1,000, while others have required up to $20,000.
It all depends what you prioritize and if you can save costs in a manner that doesn’t decrease the quality of your book.
While money matters, remember the reasons you want to self-publish your book: to get your message out there, build authority, and add something new to the world. Spend what you can to make your book as high quality as possible. If your audience likes it, you’ll be sure to hit your goals.
The best way to learn just what it takes to get your book published is to join your free training. Chandler Bolt will walk you through exactly what you need to start working toward your dream of publishing a book!