How Much Does Self-Publishing Cost?
The most daunting part of self-publishing is the upfront costs that are involved. How much should a self-published author expect to spend? What publishing tasks can they save on? It’s useful to have a clear idea about the cost of self-publishing before you prepare to publish your book.
In this article, we have listed all the potential expenses you might incur as a self-published author. The most obvious expenses here are the cover design, typesetting, and editing costs. But how exactly do these numbers work? Depending on your unique case—your book length, your genre, the format(s) of your choice, and your requirements—these may or may not apply to you. But using these numbers, you can properly calculate the costs you should expect to pay.
Publishing a book may cost anything between $500 to $5000. Some have published for far less and some have spent far more, ending up with a more polished result. Ultimately, it comes down to how much of it you can learn and do by your own self. If you have the time to invest in your book, you’ll spend less money. Even then, though, some things like designing a book cover are best left to professionals: it is wiser to spend your coin than your time on them.
Book editing and proofreading
The most primary publishing task is editing and proofreading your manuscript. If you choose to tackle this yourself, some mistakes might still slip out. So, it’s always better to hire professional help.
(Learn more: How did proofreading change modern publishing?)
A standard industry rate for editing and proofreading a document of 60,000 words is $1600. But depending on the volume of your manuscript and the time duration in which you expect results, the costs can be anything from $700-$1800. Also, the denser your document is in corrections and the faster you want the editor to deliver it, the higher you should expect your costs to be.
Most services offer editing and proofreading together, so the cost is also clubbed together. Based on the manuscript length, you can find out your probable editing and proofreading costs here.
How to cut down on the editing costs?
You can cut down on editing costs by going over your document a few times yourself. Then, ask your family and friends to act as beta readers. The more finished a document you send to the proofreader, the lower your costs are likely to be.
Further, a more experienced editor is likely to charge more than someone with less experience. So, try to find someone in the middle. This way, you won’t have to compromise on quality while saving some bucks!
Book cover design
After editing and proofreading, the book cover is the most important part. Since people judge a book chiefly by its cover, you’ll need an eye-catching cover to sell your book. An intriguing and engaging book cover signals the reader that your book contents are also intriguing and engaging.
If you can design and create your own book cover, kudos to you! But most commonly, designing a book cover is tricky and can easily go wrong. So, it is better to pay artists and designers, and have a perfect cover to promote your book with.
At a standard rate, book cover designing costs around $300, while some get it done for around $250. If you use an experienced artist or service provider, though, the cost may be around $1500, but that also means superior quality, and ultimately, more sales.
How to save on cover design?
Cover design costs are likely to increase if the designer has to work longer, or on several iterations of the cover. This happens when there is miscommunication between the writer and the designer. So, make sure you communicate a clear, concise idea of what you want. Offer references and book sections to the people you’re working with.
Try to find artists or designers online. Often, working with skilled but relatively less experienced people is a bit of a hassle, but if you do things right, you can end up with a superior cover on a budget.
Typesetting refers to the process of setting text onto the pages of your book. It is also called book formatting and interior design. A typesetter cleans up your draft to arrange text and illustrations in a way that is pleasing to the eye and easy to read. Typesetting works differently for print and ebook formats, and the costs vary accordingly.
Usually, typesetting doesn’t cost much because most writers prefer to learn and do this on their own. There are several software that help writers reduce their self-publishing costs. But if your book is a bit more complex, like a picture book or a cookbook, then it is better to hire a professional with some level of expertise.
On an average, writers pay around $800 to typeset a book of 60,000 words. Note that if you’re getting your book typeset for both print and digital formats, the cost is likely to be around $1400.
How to spend less on typesetting?
Where typesetting is concerned, we’re afraid there are only two ways to save:
- Once again, striking that sweet balance between experience and skill can help!
These days, authors are expected to do most marketing on their own. It mostly involves investing your time rather than money, but some paid promotion is always a good idea. If you have cash to spare, you can pay service providers to write a professional blurb, book review or an author profile for you. You can also pay to run targeted ads on sites like Amazon, Goodreads and Facebook.
Depending on where you spend this money, marketing can cost you around $50-$200. There’s no need to spend any more than this on marketing, since the writer can handle most of this with personal involvement and strategizing.
How to market on a budget?
- Develop a dynamic social media profile, interact with people and build a readership.
- Create a mailing list to keep your readers informed about your new projects.
- Use the Goodreads Author Program.
Aside from those who want to publish exclusively on Amazon, every writer needs to get an ISBN for their book. In fact, you need an ISBN for every version of your book, print or digital. Since ISBN is like a fingerprint for your book, you will need multiple numbers to identify multiple versions of the book. Depending on the country of your residence, ISBN rates may vary, or it may very well be free of charge!
You can get ISBNs yourself, or hire service providers who will do that for you, charging around $100 per ISBN (in the US). Done independently, you can get 10 ISBNs for around $300, which is a good investment for authors who want to publish their book in multiple publishing formats.
How to save on ISBNs?
Do it yourself and get 10 ISBNs at a time.
If you absolutely do not want to be involved in doing this yourself, people might charge you around ten times as much as you’ll spend on your own. If you’re okay with that, then go ahead and spare some cash! If not, this is the ideal place to spend your time rather than your coin.
If your book is nonfiction, you’ll want to hire a professional for proper indexing. Book indexing is essential to your book if you want to have it in bookstores and libraries, but it’s also important in books of nonfiction to inform the readers exactly where they can find your topics and subtopics.
On average, book indexing costs something around $400-$800. While this may seem like a lot for something you think you could do yourself, it’s not. Both you and indexing software are prone to make errors that a trained indexer can easily avoid. If you want your book to be easy to navigate, you need to invest in indexing.
It’s easy to get a copyright for your book. Done online, it costs around $45 in the US, while submitting a print copy to the U.S. Copyright Office will cost you $125.
In the UK, you get copyright protection the moment you publish an original book. There is no need to register for a copyright because there is no copyright registry.
It’s common practice to copyright your book yourself. In case you want everything to be perfect and professional, service providers are always an answer! You can also have a copyright page made by experts for around $30.
Ebook distribution basically means uploading your book to the online publishing platforms of your choice. Service providers offer to do this for you, publishing your book on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu, CreateSpace, etc.
You can expect to pay around $150 for this service. If you take time to learn and do this yourself, you can avoid this cost completely.
Based on the most essential publishing tasks, here’s a rundown of your self-publishing costs for a manuscript of 200 pages (60,000 words):
Tips to bring down your self-publishing costs
1. Invest time
As we’ve established earlier, you need to spend either time or money on self-publishing your book. If you can learn and some perform publishing tasks such as marketing and online distribution yourself, do not hire expensive service providers for these.
Try to do as much of it as you can on your own, and only pay for those that you can’t learn yourself.
2. Balance skill and experience
Hiring industry professionals with a lot of experience is expensive. If you do not have the funds for it, it’s better to dig deep and find people who have the skill level you need but not enough experience to charge as high.
Who knows, you may form lasting relationships with these people and grow together!
3. Build a readership
Marketing is one of the best places to reduce one’s costs, since most of it depends on your author brand and social media following. Readers these days seek to connect with the author personally, so having a dynamic and active social media presence helps in selling your books.
Cultivate some genuine relationships with people online on sites like Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook. If you’re able to build a reliable audience, it is easier to sell your book and you don’t have to pay much for advertising.
If you’ve set your mind on paying for publishing tasks, consider getting the combo packs that some service providers offer. These often come at a discounted price, bringing down your self-publishing costs, and you don’t have to run up and down, working with an army of different people on different fronts!
If you’re set on spending your coin, this is a sure way to spend it well!
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