The Cost of Self Publishing

The Cost of Self Publishing

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

When you publish a book through a publisher, they take on the responsibility of marketing it for you, taking it to print, getting ISBNs, and ensuring it’s available in all formats. However, when you self-publish, you take on that responsibility, a responsibility that can be quite costly. But, knowing how much each step in the process will cost can help you significantly reduce the cost of self-publishing.


Your editor is your lifeline. For any book to be a good book, it needs a great editor. But great editors don’t come cheap (unless you have a friend that’s an editor who’ll work for free). If that’s not the case, you’ll have to outsource the task.

Why Edit? 

Once you’ve written a book, you’re blind to its faults. When you’ve been staring at the same pages day after day, it is nearly impossible to see the glaringly obvious mistakes. 

Total Cost of Hiring A Professional Copy Editor

30,000 to 50,000 words: $1050 to $1750

50,000 to 80,000 words: $1750 to $2800

80,000 words or more: $2800 +

Note: These rates are determined using the average hourly fee of freelancers, assuming they can edit 1000 words per hour.

Budget Alternative:

Although it’s ill-advised to edit the book yourself, if you’re on a strict budget you can make some concessions, especially if you’re publishing a book as a trial. 

Proofread Your Document

Spend a week or two proofreading your document. Some writers and editors advise editing it from the last page, so you’re focusing on the structure of each sentence. This can be helpful if you’re editing your work because it forces you to forego reading the story and focus solely on grammatical errors.

Use an Editing Software

After you’ve completed your first round of editing, put your work through editing software. You can use software like Grammarly or ProWritingAid.

Proofread Your Document Again

Wait a few days or a few weeks before you do your second round of proofreading. This will help you be most effective when doing a final proofread or edit because you won’t be engulfed in the book. 

Book Cover Design

We discussed this briefly in the Best Way to Self Publish, but the design of the book will capture the attention of readers. Although avid readers prefer the contents of the book, what will first entice them is the cover image. Therefore, you want your cover image to translate well across all formats but also be visually appealing and enticing.

To achieve this, it’s advised to hire someone with experience creating book covers. Before you hire someone, ask to see examples of previous work or ask them to create a mock cover to give you an idea of what they’re able to create.

Depending on your budget, here are estimates of what it would take to create a book cover with the spine and back cover included.

Cost of A Book Cover Design

Highend: $500

Midrange: $120

Budget: $95

Note: These fees are based on freelancers on Fiverr and the price they charge to design the front, back, and spine of a print book.


If you want people to purchase your book outside of a purely online format, you’ll need an ISBN. An ISBN identifies your book and the particular release to make it easier to track sales, find your books in libraries or databases, etc. Essentially an ISBN is a barcode for your book. 

Using Bowker, you can purchase 1 ISBN for $125, 10 ISBNs for $295, or 1000 ISBNs for $1500. Since ISBNs never expire, it makes sense to buy them in batches as you’ll need one for each edition of a book. 

Formatting for Digital Copies

When you consider that ebooks come in a variety of formats: MOBI, EPUB, IBA, PDF, and AZW, you can see why this would be an additional expense. 

If you have the time, you could spend a few hours learning to format your book. But in many cases, for a book to be formatted correctly you’ll need to use HTML or CSS. Unless you’re familiar with coding, you’ll have to outsource this one.

But if you’re on a strict budget, Apple, Google, and Amazon give you instructions on how to format your book, so it is acceptable in ebook format.   

However, you can hire an expert to achieve a quality result, for between $250 and $1000. These fees will include typesetting, giving your book the same quality as other professionals and bestselling authors in your genre.


Advertising is an optional expense. However, after you have spent money on all these other tasks to get your book ready to publish, the least you can do is spend a bit extra to get your book in front of readers.

Amazon KDP Advertising

Advertising an ebook is relatively easy. All it takes is selecting to participate in an Amazon advertising for KDP books. Because readers are already engaged – and most likely seeing the ad on their Kindle – your conversion rate will be higher.

But Amazon can also be costly. The minimum lifetime budget for a lock screen ad is $100. You can expect to pay approximately $350 to get your book in front of 500 people.

Facebook Advertising

Facebook advertising is possibly the most cost-effective, results-driven advertising, especially for writers. Because you can become so specific about who you’re targeting that it’s more than likely you’ll get better conversions.

For one week of Facebook advertising, you should budget between $50 and $200, especially if you’re managing the campaign.

However, if you’re hiring a professional, expect to pay between $100 and $350.

Google Advertising

Google advertising is probably not the best option for advertising ebooks – or print books – but you may have some success over festive periods when people are looking for books and gifts for loved ones. You can use keywords targeting popular authors in your genre.

Keep in mind Google advertising will also be on the pricey side as more people compete for high traffic keywords.

Budget Alternatives:

Send print copies to popular reviewers

Gift influencers your book

Consider free methods to drum up support like giveaways

Print Copies

Printing your books isn’t a necessity. But, books are still read by-and-large in print. Therefore, as a serious self-publisher, you should consider printing your books.

You don’t have to print your books on your first release. You can wait to determine if your ebook is gaining momentum before putting an investment in printing your book.

Because ultimately, the cost of print is more than most writers bargain. Besides, most print-on-demand options take part of the royalties in addition to charging you to print your books. Here’s a quick look at some of the most common names in the print-on-demand space.


To print 100 books of 100 pages, you’ll pay Book Baby $629. This fee is for paperback only and includes standard shipping at $120. You can also purchase an ISBN for your books from Bookbaby for $39. 

Because Book Baby’s pricing is easy to navigate, you can get an estimate before committing.

The cost per paperback equates to $6.29 with shipping and $5.09 excluding shipping.


Lulu is another easy to navigate option, with a far more straightforward interface than BookBaby. They also have a variety of shipping options from Mail at an estimated $57.99 to Express shipping at $163.49.

For 100 books of 100 pages, Lulu will charge you $3.05 per book. But with all the fees considered, your total will amount to $446 with expedited shipping and a 10% volume discount. 

Lulu also has a helpful feature that allows you to see how much you should charge for your book in other currencies to get the same return.


Blurb has an option for trade books, photo books, and magazines. But for the sake of this pricing guide, we’ll go into detail on the trade book. A trade book most resembles the kind of books you’ll see for authors of any genre.

Blurb starts at $3.55 for a paperback/softcover book of 80 pages. If you purchase more than 50 books at once, you get a 25% discount, making it $2.66 per book. However, this price excludes shipping and taxes.

Blurb’s trade books include a free ISBN and come in a variety of sizes. You can also choose to get an image wrap hardcover or a dust jacket hardcover.

Budget Alternative

The only budget alternative to print-on-demand is to create a paperback book using Amazon KDP. You can then order a few of your books through Amazon and distribute them or send them for review. 


If you’re frugal with the choices you make for self-publishing your book, you can expect to pay $2,500 to publish your book with the first round of 100 print books. If this is more appealing to you than waiting for a literary agent, perhaps it’s time to take your first concrete step to self-publishing.

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