How much does it cost to self-publish?

I’ve been keen to self-publish my novels for years and years now. So you may ask… why have you taken so long? Besides not wanting to rush into things, I have a confession to make: I’m not in the best spot financially, and while there’s always something romantic about the idea of being a ‘starving artist’, I’m afraid that’s only if you live in Paris.

I’ll take a guess that most self-published authors will really struggle to afford the costs associated with producing a good quality book. So what options do we have? One is to publish our books without a professional edit and book cover – an option that is not only harmful to our own brand, but that of all indie authors.

Most authors will tell you it’s absolutely essential to get your book edited professionally and find a marvelous book cover designer – and they say you should do this as a bare minimum. I have to agree. If you haven’t already, please go check out Lousy Book Covers.

Now that you’re back, you’re probably wondering… how much will all this publishing stuff cost so I can avoid making the lousy list? And is there any way to shave costs and not make a fool of myself when book launch day rolls around?

Yes, there is!

For a long time I believed self-publishing would set me back at least $2,0000-3,000 AUD per book. After receiving a few helpful hints from a number of published authors, I managed to find a reasonably priced editor and book cover company.

So if I, the Queen of Starving Artists and Baked Beans on Toast, can manage to get a book cover done and at least one round of professional editing, then you my friend, have no excuse.

baking-bread-breakfast-920220
image via pexels.com

The Book Cover Designer (AUD $176)

After shopping around I found a wonderful company called The Cover Collection that was offering book cover designs at an affordable price. So how do they do this? While they do have the more expensive ‘custom cover design’ option (they are fully booked out for the next 4 months), you can actually buy one of their unique premade eBook covers for only $88 AUD!

You can always upgrade your book later to a paperback version when your manuscript is finished (you need a final page count to get the design completed as the spine width varies based on page count). A paperback cover will cost an additional $88 AUD, but the best things is, you don’t have to buy both packages at the same time. This works really well for those of us who might find it hard to offer up $176 AUD in one go.

One of the scariest things about being a self-published author is not knowing if a company is the real deal. Sure, they may have a list of testimonials, but how reliable are they really? I selected my editor via word-of-mouth, but I took a leap of faith when it came to my cover designer. Luckily, I can assure you that The Cover Collection were wonderful to work with: quick, professional and talented.

Still not sure? Here’s my cover:

When She Goes ebook complete

The Editing Company (AUD $594)

One of my author friends directed me to their own editor over at Hot Tree Editing and instructed I try their copy and line editing package. For a 60,000 word novel (the average length of my novels) they quote AUD $594 for copy and line editing. For a few extra dollars you can get the content and line editing package (AUD $675.)

There are plenty of other trustworthy editing services out there, so it’s probably a good idea if you conduct your own research and find an editor that best fits your own budget. No time to research and don’t know where to start? You can always take advantage of the research of others, like Joanna Penn and her flipping awesome list of recommended editors.

Other Expenses

There are plenty of other hidden expenses associated with self-publishing:

  • marketing/advertisement
  • social media promotion
  • book trailers
  • home office expenditures
  • website fees
  • software licenses
  • author/proof copies
  • venue hire (book launch)

And the list goes on…

How much you spend on other expenses really does depend on your budget. If you’re on a strict plan like me, you’ll (hopefully) focus on producing a quality book versus splurging hundreds of dollars on advertisement and social media promotion.

If you do decide to skip professional editing, the downside is that the quality of your books will suffer and they may stand little chance of competing well against traditionally published books or professionally edited self-published books.

I think it depends on whether or not you’re willing to take the risk, jump ahead and publish your books without professional help. But me? I’m waiting until I can afford a book cover designer and a professional editor – at the very least.

P.s feel free to share your own adivce!

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51 thoughts

  1. I do everything myself now publishing wise, start to finish. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries, and my skills/designs have improved as I’ve found better tools, but at this point, I wouldn’t have it any other way. ( Unless someone wants to swoop in with the big book deal.) As far as editing goes, I’ve had stories published that received no editing from editors, and they could have used it, I didn’t know any better at the time. I’ve no advice there other than find as many craft essays written by good teachers as you can, and a copy of Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” is still good to have around. As far as designing your own covers goes, in some circles, those seemingly cheesy-indie covers are actually the goal, independent authors who want something with a different kind of… maverick spirit… to it. Canva is a pretty helpful site for cover design. https://www.canva.com/create/book-covers/ If you’re looking for pre-made covers, Author Kealan Patrick Burke also designs and sells covers, http://www.elderlemondesign.com/premade-covers/4593684737. I’m sure there are many others. Point being, you can do it yourself if you want to at minimal expense. I think it depends on what your goals are. Good luck! Here are a few articles, hope some of it is helpful!
    http://www.ian-irvine.com/on-writing/the-truth-about-publishing/
    http://www.southcoasttoday.com/article/20111008/entertain/110080309
    http://flavorwire.com/429532/10-of-the-greatest-essays-on-writing-ever-written/view-all/
    https://tetw.org/Words_and_Writing

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  2. Wow… Color me suprise 🙌 Ur a writer (one of my dreams). Someday I’m gonna publish my own book too… Well after I graduate. Kudos to you!

    PS. I can’t fully say I understand the situation but gud luck 🙋

    Like

  3. • In-family editor (yes someone, other than yourself, with editing skills is necessary) – free
    • Self made cover (photoshop skills) – free
    • Draft2Digital – free
    • TheBookPatch (hard copies) – free
    ~~~
    Your first book will suck. And probably your third. BUT, you can always re-release them with new covers and extra editing applied. I’d say the single biggest stumbling block is thinking your first book (or third) must be a success.
    Get it done. Get it as good as you can. Get it out there. And move on. Come back later if you think your story really passes muster.

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  4. I watched a good friend of mine spend a lot of money on self publishing. She never complained but secretly I did. I made myself a promise not to go that rout unless I had to. My goal was to have a publisher offer me a contract. About a month ago it happened. Goal achieved.

    I’m not knocking self-publishing. There are lots of pluses to it but I think a certain type of person needs to do it. If a writer feels uncomfortable going this maybe they should trust those instincts and continue pursing a publishing contract.

    Great info. Thanks!!!

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  5. I concur with everything written here. There are two areas where skimping on expenses is almost certainly a “pound wise, penny foolish” endeavor. One is covers, the other is editing.

    If you are short on cash for editing, there are numerous low cost options to explore. English students at universities (preferably grad students) are one. Secondary teachers are another. Next to that are graduate students in writing intensive fields (e.g., political science, history, etc.). In any case, one need not break the bank–but it is probably best to have someone other than a dear friend or relative give the manuscript a thorough once over.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Milly,

    While I understand your reasoning, I don’t agree, on either count. If you want to know why paying for an editor might not be all it’s cracked up to be, look here: https://literarylad.com/2018/06/17/an-idiots-guide-to-self-publishing-part-one/

    With regard to the cover, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a go. I’ve got some design skills, training and experience, so that’s what I’m going to do. If I don’t like the result, no problem; I won’t use it. Alternatively, I could just end up with a truly original cover design that stands out for all the right reasons!

    Another option is that some self-publishing companies have cover design apps that you can use. You load in pictures (either from their gallery, or download your own), add text, and the app does the rest. Not sure if they cover Australia, but as an example in the UK, have a look at Completely Novel (www.completelynovel.com). This way you can get a reasonably professional cover as part of an overall package that costs very little (having copies printed is where the cost starts to add up)

    Good luck with your book, Graham

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Can absolutely see your point, but let’s agree to disagree ☺ I’ve had so many self-published author friends (not editors) give me advice and recommendations that I know which direction I need to take to give my novel the best shot – but everyone’s different!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I don’t know if I’d go with the do-it-yourself editing route. As a writer, it’s easy to get tunnel vision with your own material — plus, you might not be that great at it. I have a friend who writes a good tale, but his manuscripts definitely need shaping up. I did some editing for him as a courtesy (as a copywriter, I’m decent at it, but it’s not my forte), and thank God because his errors would have completely undermined the credibility of his efforts (he is the master of the confused homophone among other things). I mean, there are grammar programs that can help out, but some people’s work benefits from some professional attention.

      That being said, shelling out $$ to have someone edit my material will take a crowbar on my part to open my wallet — be interesting to see how that turns out when I get to that point.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I wouldn’t put it out without having it looked over. My advice is to give it to some of your brightest, best-reader friends. If they don’t find any problems with the plot, nor will anyone else. Plus, they should pick up most of your grammatical errors, typo’s, etc. (you’ll never catch them all, but hey, have you read many books lately?) And they will probably make some suggestions for improving your book (which you can choose to adopt or ignore!) Alternatively, you could give loads of money to an editor who would rather be working for a mainstream publisher, but can’t get the work (very possibly because they’re not good enough).

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  7. I’ve had all sorts of self publishing experiences. Have done everything myself from cover pics and self edit to having books published for me by an editor who seemed to me crazzy and a recent book published by a very stylish as well as intelligent team.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thanks for this information Milly, you’ve been a great help. I’ve started looking at editors from Joanna Penn’s list and got distracted with Reedsy as they have free online courses. 😉 I like the look of some of those covers from The Cover Collection which has given me some ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good on you for putting all this information clearly and in one concise post. Writers shouldn’t recoil from spending some money on their work – after all, people pay for lessons to improve at painting/sports/learning languages, all kinds of things. It’s about getting better at it and putting the best version you can out into the world. And I’ve nothing against beans on toast – it got me through college!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. My oh my, those were indeed some lousy book covers! I know that everyone has their own tastes, so I like to go easy on authors who design their own covers.

    Also, thank you for sharing your list of reputable editors! I know Writers Digest also offers developmental, copy, and line editing. I will be sure to check out your full list of resources ASAP 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Milly one way to save a little on editing is to use the audio function to read your work back to you. It is amazing how many mistakes that you will pick up that way before you end it for editing. The voice is slightly robotic- so little expression but it does allow you to concentrate on the words, I was fortunate enough to find an editor via RWA- she did a sample structural edit for me and I could tell we were simpatico- which I think is important- even while the editor is advising you what is in need of alteration

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Best advice: marry for love, but marry wisely 😀
    I paid for an editor, but my husband did the proofreading (finding errors is his superpower) and he adapted my chosen Public Domain image into a basic cover for the graphic designer to add the typography to. (I did look at premade covers, but I couldn’t find one that ‘clicked’.) End result: a well-edited book inside an attractive cover, for under 1,500NZD.

    A warning for those who are working with a publishing company: if they’re asking you to pay for things, they’re not a traditional publisher, they’re a vanity publisher. They make their money off selling their services to you, not off selling your books, and they target their efforts accordingly. There’s a place for paying people to do things for you that you can’t (or don’t want) to do for yourself, but be aware of what you’re getting and not getting for your money.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Unfortunately, the rise of Indie publishing has also seen the rise of the snake oil salesmen. Two other sites that help self-published authors are Indies Unlimited and The Business Rusch.
      Indies Unlimited has done some excellent [FREE!] articles about so-called publisher scams.
      https://www.indiesunlimited.com/?s=scams
      Kris Rusch also writes must-read articles about agents, contracts and the business side of self-publishing:
      http://kriswrites.com/category/business/
      All the very best with your book!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. This is true. Self-publishing is pricey. For editing, my last book cost me about $800. The cover ran about 150$. Luckily, CreateSpace is free to upload. However, then you’ve got your promotional stuff, giveaways, donations to libraries, copies for reviewers – yeah, a self-published title and easily cost upwards of $1000.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hey Millie, I’m the ultimate cheapskate. For my first book, I made my own cover using art supplied for free by my Nephew’s artist wife, then added my own text. For my second book, I used canva.com (for free!), and am very pleased with the results. For editing, I had an editor friend of mine review a 10-page sample of my first book, and he said that it was “pretty clean,” and that all it needed was a sloooooow reading by me to catch any spelling and/or grammar errors, so that’s what I did. My first few readers (friends and family) caught perhaps three more little glitches, which I corrected and re-submitted as my second edition on Amazon. See more about all this at my blog, frugalauthor.wordpress.com.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I am collecting information for when i publish my next book.
    i thought i was being smart by going with one of the major self publishers (I won’t post the name in case the situation turns around) but every single question seems to be “tell me about your book- wow that’s great, so would you like to give us even more money?”

    I was trying to follow the advice of
    http://lisagenova.com/can-you-offer-me-some-advice-on-self-publishing-2/

    I mainly wanted kindle/digital distrubution and I keep getting calls asking if I want to prepay for 1000 physical copies of my book.or buy ad space in NY times (I am yet to find proof that this is a real thing that self-published authors do.)

    So when I publish my 2nd book I want to go more ‘ala carte’
    😛

    Liked by 2 people

  16. If you haven’t already, check out the Facebook group 20Booksto50K. It is specifically aimed at marketing and there is a group specifically to find cover artists that they can point you to as well. They have strategies to make even the poorest of people be able to at least epublish (we have seen some stories of homeless people publishing).

    Liked by 3 people

  17. As far as covers go, Amazon has a free cover creator tool for Kindle Direct Publishing and (I believe) CreateSpace. That’s what I used when I published my novella via KDP. It works, and you can make a decent cover if you know what you’re doing and put in the time & effort, but the creator’s features and capabilities (and, therefore, your options) are extremely limited.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have done the same using Amazon, KDP and Create Space. It’s true, there are limitations in making the cover, but I had the help of a photographer and artist (my husband), and we were quite pleased with the cover. And I’ve had positive feedback from other people. It also helps to have someone else to assist with the proof-reading.
      All in all, I believe this is a good route to take. However, it’s the marketing which is the killer. That’s something I really haven’t cracked.

      Liked by 3 people

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