I get asked a lot how much does it cost to self-publish a book these days, and there are actually several answers. There’s the ‘technical’ answer, there’s a minimum answer and there is a recommended answer. In this article, I’m going to explore those different options so that you can put together a realistic budget to publish your book based on what you want to get out of it.
The ‘Technical’ Answer
Technically, you can publish your own book completely for free.
There, I said it… there is nothing stopping you from uploading your manuscript directly to Amazon KDP; using their cover art generator to cobble together a cover, and then have them convert the whole thing to eBook and away you go. BUT… if you actually want to be taken seriously, if you want people to actually pay attention to your book and make a good impression with your readers, this is the last thing that you should do!!!!!
I really cannot stress this enough. There is a reason why the phrase “you get what you pay for” exists, and it applies to self-publishing just as much (maybe even more than) everything else to do with your business. If no one can find your book because you didn’t give any thought to things like metadata, then the time you spent writing your book was time wasted. If no one buys your book because the cover is clearly clipart or doesn’t speak to your audience, the time you spent writing your book was time wasted. If your readers do buy it and then can’t see past the spelling, grammar, and continuity errors in it, then they may not even finish your book and will probably give you a bad review. Which means the time you spent writing it is more than wasted, it was time spent generating a negative effect on your reputation.
So, though you can technically publish a book without spending a penny, don’t! What you have to share with your audience has value – recognise that value and invest in doing it properly.
The ‘Minimum’ Answer
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at what the minimum amount you need to spend on publishing your book should be.
There are two areas that you need to invest in as a bare minimum if you want to publish your book effectively – editing and cover art.
No matter how good you are at English, no matter how experienced a writer you are, always always ALWAYS hire an editor to review your book. As a bare minimum have them do a proofread to catch the spelling and grammar errors that you will inevitably miss because you are too close to your work. However, I would suggest that you don’t stop there and also have them do a full line edit as well. This type of editing goes a bit deeper than just fixing mistakes; it starts to look at how you write and how you get your ideas across. It not only picks up errors with continuity and tense, but it also flags up issues with repetition and potential gaps I your logic or explanations. This is very important for authors who are writing about a subject that they are intimately familiar with for an audience with a much lower level of understanding as what may seem second nature to you may be very complex for a layman.
Think about it… The most famous and successful writers in the world swear by their editors. Whenever they receive prestigious awards for their books, authors will always thank their editors first. This in itself should highlight how important having an editor is to the success of your book.
Depending on the skill level of the editor and whether they specialise in your particular subject; expect to pay around £10-£15 per 1k words. Don’t be tempted to save money by hiring just any old editor… make sure they have experience in editing books as it takes a more specialist skill set to edit a 50k word book than it does a 1k word article.
The second area that you need to invest in is your books’ cover art. That vast majority of book sales these days are made online. Unless someone is looking for your specific book, they will be faced with pages and pages of books to choose from when browsing an online bookstore, and all of those books will initially be presented as tiny thumbnail images. Your book cover has a LOT of work to do to stand out; even in the most niche of categories. Unless you have an understanding of information design, typography, layout and colour psychology, you do not have the necessary skills to ensure that your cover stands out enough to make your reader select your book out of the dozens of others on screen at any one time. And remember that at this stage, they don’t have the benefit of seeing a description of what you book is about… all they have is the book title, your name and the cover thumbnail. If you don’t catch your readers attention with those three things, your book will not stand a chance.
You’ve got a bit of flexibility here depending on your budget. You can buy a half decent cover template that you then edit with your book title and author name for £50-£100 from websites like Envato and GraphicRiver. The downside to using these is that your cover will not be unique to your book. The mid-range option is to use crowdsourcing websites like 99Designs or PeoplePerHour where you can get a cover designed for £150-£250. Generally, these sites will result in a bespoke cover design for your book, but you’ll probably be limited on the number of changes you can request from the designer. And of course, you have the high-end option of working one to one with a graphic designer which can cost from £300-£500 for a bespoke cover design where you work directly with a designer to get your perfect cover design exactly how you want it.
The Recommended Answer
Now that we have covered the minimum that you should be investing to publish your book effectively, here are some other areas that I recommend you invest in.
If you really want your book to stand head and shoulders above the crowd, I recommend investing in your interior typesetting. Granted this is an area that will have very little impact on whether a reader buys your book, but it can have a dramatic effect on their impression of your book once they’ve bought it which can greatly influence wither they recommend your book to others and whether they leave you a good review.
Really good book design is meant to be invisible, which makes it hard to articulate its importance. It’s much easier to explain what makes for bad book design. Have you ever tried to read a book and you just couldn’t concentrate on it… you found your eyes wandering, or you ended up with headache? There’s a very high chance that you were trying to read a book that had been poorly designed. Book design and typesetting ensures that the content of your book is easy to read; that the information is easy to find and presented in a way that is simple to follow.
There are a lot of very minute decisions that go into making that possible. Things like font choice and text size, line length and spacing, heading hierarchy and navigation, colour palette and image treatment, even the trim size of your finished book. All of these things effect how we read and digest information. Get this wrong and you can inadvertently leave readers with a negative experience of your book even if the content itself is amazing.
As with cover design, you have a variety of options depending on your budget and the experience of the designer/typesetter that you work with. Costs can range anywhere between £300 to £2,000+. It is worth noting that there are a lot of variables that goes into the cost of typesetting a book such as word count, number of images, and complexity of the design required. I recommend that you work with a designer/typesetter that quotes based on a fixed variable such as word count; that way you know up front how much your book will cost to typeset and is not subject to price changes resulting from fundamental design decisions.
The final aspect that is worth investing in is self-publishing management; hiring a professional to help you with the actually publishing and book listing process.
It would be a shame for you to invest in all of the above areas of your book to then not have any of your readers be able to find your book because your metadata wasn’t optimised, or not able to purchase your book in their country because you have very limited distribution.
A self-publishing consultant can help to make sure that your book listing is optimised with the best keywords to make your book appears when your readers search for your topic. They can help you determine the most competitive categories to list your book under to help your book rank better and appear top of the lists when readers are browsing for particular genres. And most importantly, they can help make sure that the metadata that sits behind your book listing is as complete as possible making it easier for physical bookstores, libraries and distributors to find out about your book in order to further widen your books’ reach.
This is a fairly new author service that very few companies are providing as a stand-alone service – it is usually bundled into a complete publishing package, so finding comparison data is a bit tricky. But from the very few examples that I could find, you’re looking at between £500-£800.
A word of caution here… with any self-publishing service (whether it’s just publishing consultation or full-service packages that I will mention below) make sure that you own your ISBN number; even if it means paying a little bit extra. The benefits far outweigh the additional cost. If you want to find out why, check out my blog post on ISBN numbers here.
The All-Inclusive Answer
I appreciate that this is all a lot to take in, and lots of various things to think about and different services to source on your own. That is why I recommend an all-inclusive package solution. This is where you work with one self-publishing consultant or publishing service provider and they arrange all of the various services that you will need including editors, cover designers, typesetters and they will manage the process of actually getting your book published.
There are some things you need to make sure of when you’re considering using one of these services. First, make sure that YOU are going to be listed as the publisher of your book. There are a lot of online services professing to help authors with self-publishing when they are actually offering hybrid publishing in which you have many of the same trapping of a traditional publishing deal, but you are paying for the privilege of not having to go through a submissions process.
Also make sure that any contractor agreement you sign includes the following:
- you will own the rights to all artwork
- that ISBN numbers will be purchased in your name
- that you will be given all final artwork files
- that you will have access to self-publishing accounts
- that the service will not take any residual royalties once the book is published
Costs for all-inclusive packages can vary wildly from £2,500-£8,000 depending on word count and what additional services are included such as author copies and book marketing add-ons.
If you opt to work with me at SWATT Books, my all-inclusive publishing package is £3,800 for a 50k word non-fiction book and £3,900 for a 90k word novel. Both packages include:
- Professional editing & proofreading
- Bespoke cover design with full ownership rights
- Bespoke interior design and typesetting
- Conversion of print edition to EPUB for publishing to Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks
- Registration of your publishing imprint in your name and purchase of your ISBN numbers so you own 100% of the rights
- Set up of publishing accounts with KDP (for Amazon), and IngramSpark (for international distribution) in your name so you keep 100% of your royalties
- Fully facilitated publishing of your book on all major Amazon sites as well as 7,000 online book retailers worldwide (including Barnes & Nobel, Chapters/Indigo, Waterstones, The Book Depository, and more)
- Submission of title details to the International ISBN Database, and fulfilment of Legal Deposit requirements
- Access to my extended network of author services to help you with any part of your publishing journey (including marketing & PR agencies, audiobook studios, writing mentors, and more)
To find out more about working with me or to discuss publishing your own book, click here to book a no obligation 1hr consultation with me.
What NOT to Spend Money On
One last point on what you should NOT be spending money on when publishing your book, and rather counterintuitively that’s printing.
With print-on-demand technology being so readily available and of such a high quality, long gone are the days where you would take your book to a traditional litho printer to have a bulk print run of 500-1,000 copies produced in the hopes that you would sell them all.
Traditional printing obviously has its place in the publishing world, however for a first-time author it is too much of a risk and are requires too much in the way of logistics to manage effectively. Using print-on-demand technology to produce your book eliminates the risk of being stuck with hundreds of books that you need to store for months and often years. It also alleviates the necessity for finding distribution partners to get your books from your storage to retailers to your readers.
Yes, PoD printing does have its drawbacks such as limitations on print specifications and slightly higher per unit costs. However, the benefits for authors just finding their feet with publishing far outweigh the restrictions and the time and hassle saved in not having to worry about distribution more than pays for any cost differences.
I hope that has demystified what the cost of self-publishing a book effectively should be. If you have any questions, please do pop them in the comments or book a consultation with me here and we can chat about your specific publishing project.
Don’t forget, if you liked this blog and want to be the first to hear about new content that we publish; sign up to our monthly newsletter to receive blog posts, special offers, and self-publishing news straight to your inbox.