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The True Costs of Self-Publishing Your Book

So, you’ve just finished writing your manuscript, and you’re excited to self-publish your book. Or, you’re still working on your manuscript, but you’re thinking ahead to how you’ll publish it. While the idea of becoming a published author is the realization of a dream for most people, it's crucial to understand the true cost of self-publishing before embarking on this journey. While self-publishing can be a cost-effective way to get your book out into the world, the savings aren’t always worth it when it comes to final output. In this post, we’ll break down the real costs of self-publishing to help you plan and budget effectively. (Here’s an overview of each type of publishing and pros and cons of each.)



The Actual Numbers When It Comes to Self-Publishing


The cost of self-publishing is typically in the range of $0 to $7,500. Yes, you can pay way more than this to self-publish your book, and many entrepreneurs and business owners do, although for them, hybrid publishing is usually the better option. Most people who self-publish pay somewhere in the ranges listed below.


When authors skimp on services or opt to do the work themselves, it usually shows. The telltale sign is that the finished product doesn’t look like a real book. Most people can spot most self-published books a mile away because they don’t look polished and professional.


Now, authors absolutely can produce high-quality, beautiful self-published books. Still, these are the exceptions, because most people who opt to self-publish do so because they mistakenly believe it’s free. And they often don’t realize all the little expenses involved in getting it right. It’s only free if you already have all the skills and software needed to create and format your book. And while uploading to Amazon is free, the company takes a percentage of any sales made on your book. For those authors who do it right with self-publishing, they typically spend more money and a lot of time to get a quality, finished product.


But let’s get to the goods—what it really costs to self-publish your book. In this example, we’ll assume it’s an average 50,000-word nonfiction book. Again, most of these are average rates, but they will give you some idea of what to expect when it comes time to publish.


Typical Book Publishing Costs


Developmental editing (optional) - .07-.12 a word - $4,750

Copy editing - .02-.09 - $2,750

Proofreading - .01-.02 - $750

Indexing (optional) - $2.5-$6 per page that has text that needs to be indexed

Cover design - $300-$2,000

Book cover and product copy - $300-$1,000

Interior formatting - $300-$1,000

ISBN - $30-$150


Typical Marketing and Promotional Costs


Email messaging sequences for early reviews and launch week - $300-$1,000

Book media assets - $200-$500

Social media messaging - $200-$500

Author website - $1,000-$6,000

PR campaigns - $2,000-$10,000 a month


For an average, 50,000-word book that needs no developmental editing, you’re looking at about $5,650 to publish without any kind of marketing or promotional materials include.


A Closer Look at the Biggest Self-Publishing Costs


Now, let’s look a little closer at the biggest costs of publishing your own book.


Cover design


A professionally designed book cover is essential for catching readers’ attention. It is the single most important thing you can pay for your book. Nail it, and you will attract more readers. Fail, and you will have a book that repels people. The cover is what gives away most self-published books, and this is because the author didn’t hire a professional to do it. There is an art to eye-catching book covers, and for this, you want to work with a professional book cover designer, preferably one who has designed covers in your genre. This is because colors, fonts, typography, illustrative elements, and vibe are all topic-specific. Don’t skimp on this.


If you’re planning to publish a print version of your book, you will need someone who can design the full-length cover, not just your front cover, and the specifications will depend on the number of pages of your book, the weight of the paper you use, the thickness of your cover, and other factors.


Editing


After cover design, editing is the next most crucial step in producing a quality book, and yet, so many authors believe they can do it themselves. There is one camp who don’t see why they need an editor when they can run their book through Grammarly or Pro Writing Aid or any other editing tool, and there is another camp of authors who plan to have a friend or family member read their book and give feedback. Let’s be clear, tools are just that—tools—and they require a human on the other side to ensure their recommendations are correct. They also can’t evaluate your book for structural problems or relevance, tone, messaging, flow, and cadence. (Here’s a whole post on the types of editing and why you need an editor.) As far as getting a relative to read your book goes, yes, Grandma might have been an English teacher, but she doesn’t have the skills of a professional book editor. And she probably won’t have the guts to tell you when something in your book isn’t working or be able to give you constructive feedback on how to address it.


I’ve been a professional editor most of my career, and I wouldn’t dream of publishing my own book without bringing in at least one other professional editor on board. If you do nothing else, hire a cover designer and editor!


Formatting


Formatting requires a high-level attention to detail to get everything—chapter titles, table of contents, fonts, font weights, and decorative elements—just right. A poorly formatted book can be hard to read, which will stop readers in their tracks. Your book needs to be properly formatted for both print and digital. If your book has photos, graphics, or illustrations, it’s even more complicated. And the software used to format books is typically in the range of $100-$300.


Time


There is one other big cost of self-publishing we haven’t discussed, and that is time.


When you decide to self-publish, you become the book’s project manager. You’re also the one who has to source, vet, hire, and pay each person doing work on your book. If you’re unemployed or retired or don’t mind how long it takes to publish your book, then there is no problem taking this approach.


Speed to the finish line is one reason you may want to consider using a hybrid publisher. Now, there are no hard stats on this, and there is a lot of individual variability among publishing houses, but most people will get their book published faster using a hybrid publisher. This is because once they turn it over to a publisher, they are no longer serving as the book’s project manager. While self-publishing is faster, it’s generally not for the better. It’s typically because the author skipped the editing process, or edited the book themself, and then just uploaded it to Amazon straight away.


To sum it up, while self-publishing can be more cost-effective than hybrid publishing, it’s not without expenses, and it often costs you in quality of your book. Keep in mind that the true costs of self-publishing can vary greatly depending on your goals and choices. Understanding these costs can help you make an informed decision when you publish!


If you’re looking for a quality hybrid publisher for your non-fiction or memoir, you’ve come to the right place! Submit your manuscript today or book a free discovery call and learn how we can help you launch your book.


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