Warning: if you’re looking for the cheapest way to self-publish a book, this guide probably isn’t for you.
This guide takes a realistic look at how much it costs to publish a book.
But not just any book – you want to know how much it costs to publish a book that’s super high quality, that attracts readers, and doesn’t scream amateur.
Even with limited tech skills, anyone…and yes, anyone…can publish a book. But that isn’t always a good thing.
Since self-publishing allows anyone to write a book, there are now millions of eBooks on Amazon, many not selling, because there are many authors who decided to publish on the cheap and not invest in the quality of their book.
You don’t want to know the cheapest way to publish a book. Because, let’s face it – publishing a book on the cheap means your book will likely look cheap. No one wants to read a low quality book.
You want to know how much it costs to publish a quality book.
The more you invest time, effort, and – yes – money, into your book, the more successful your book will be. And your book needs a fighting chance against all of the other titles struggling for space on Amazon, and other platforms.
Which is why we’re showing you how much it will actually cost to publish a high quality book for those who want to become an author.
A brief history on the cost of publishing
As a self-published author back in 1995, I know that the cost to self-publish was a lot higher than it was today.
The biggest reason for the price difference was because it was before the rise of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which made print-on-demand technology readily available. During that time, scammy vanity publishers raked in thousands from authors whose dream it was to publish a book.
Many authors, rejected by big house publishers, would turn to self-publishing as a final option to seeing their published book dream realized.
There were not that many options for print books, except for going through a publisher or local printer that ended up costing you thousands of dollars. Many of these books eventually took up space in your garage until you could get rid of them.
John Grisham, who printed 5000 copies of his first novel, A Time to Kill, through a small local publisher, experienced this until the book was picked up by Doubleday.
Another example is James Redfield, who self-published his first novel, “The Celestine Prophecy,” in 1992. He sold the book one copy at a time out of the trunk of his car.
Yes, back in those days (and it wasn’t so long ago) the investment and the risk was very high. No one wanted to fork out a bunch of money just to stock their garage with printed books that wouldn’t sell.
Today, self-publishing options, and the costs of publishing a book are much more reasonable than the choices authors were given before. Thanks to digital publishing and print-on-demand technology, we can sell our books through many online platforms with the click of a button.
Modern authors now have the luxury of deciding between self publishing vs traditional publishing when it comes to getting their book on the market.
Although technology has made it easier to self-publish a book, authors still need to invest time and money into creating a high quality book. After all, today’s market is flooded with low quality books that give the self-publishing industry a bad wrap.
Which begs the question: What is the overall cost of publishing a high quality book?
We’ll answer that throughout this article. But first, let’s start by explaining what makes a high quality book.
These are the main elements of a high quality published book:
- Catchy, quality cover that looks professionally designed
- Strong, fluid writing
- Free of grammatical errors and typos
- Thorough editing for grammar, syntax, word choice, and style
- Professional formatting design with zero formatting errors (like extra spacing, awkward page cut-offs, etc.)
- High quality images and illustrations
Gone are the days when you could throw up a book in a weekend and expect to earn thousands of dollars in a month. While writing a book doesn’t cost anything, if you want to publish and sell it (of course you do!) you will have to be prepared to invest in your writing and budget for the overall cost of publishing.
How much does it cost to publish a book with a publisher?
If you’re using a legitimate publisher, and not a vanity publisher, it should not cost you anything to publish your book. If a publisher is asking for a fee in order to accept your book – that is not an actual publisher, that is a vanity publisher.
The traditional publisher often has in-house editors, formatters, illustrators, and designers that will take care of your book’s production, so you won’t have to pay anything monetary up-front. Sounds great, right? Well, not so fast.
If you’re going through a traditional publisher, it’s true that you won’t have to pay for production services directly. But you are paying for it in other ways.
Here’s what it may cost you to publish your book with a publisher:
- Creative control. You’ll be giving up the right to give creative direction and the final say in your books production. This means you most likely won’t have a say in the final cover design and editing.
- Lower royalty rates. Traditional publishers take care of all the up-front production costs for you, but this means there are more hands in the pot. When it comes for your royalty rate, the publisher wants to be sure they will earn their money back, which means you’ll get paid less.
- The rights to your book. When a publisher accepts your book, you sign a book contract that gives the publisher the right to publish your book, and ultimately, the rights to your book altogether.
- Time. It can be a huge waste of time to try to get a publisher to accept your manuscript. Even if your book is accepted, going through a publisher means your at the mercy of the publisher’s timeline. Your book will likely take more time to get on the market.
If you still want to go the traditional publishing route, go for it! Just know that it’s extremely competitive to find a literary agent and a publisher, so you may end up having to self-publish anyway.
How much does it cost to publish on Amazon?
Amazon KDP is the leading self-publishing platform, and it is free to publish your eBook on that platform.
But, actually publishing your book on Amazon is the final step in the publishing process, which means there are some costs associated with getting your book ready to be published to ensure quality for your readers.
Investing the money to have your book ready to be published on Amazon is a crucial step in actually setting your book up for success on the platform. This is where the bulk of the costs to self-publish come into play.
While the cost to publish on Amazon is free, you shouldn’t publish your book without having spent any money. To self-publish your book the right way, you have to invest in professional services, tools, and education, to ensure that your book meets the quality that readers deserve.
What is the average overall cost to self-publish a book?
As a published author of 12+ books, I found that on average it costs about $2,000 to create a book from start to finish.
This does not include advanced marketing expenses, such as BookBub ads and AMS ads, which we’ll cover later. This cost to self-publish is just to get your book on the market.
Of course, you can publish for less, but anything under $1500 is pushing the limits on quality.
On the other hand, you could spend well over 10k if you have the budget. For a first-time author, or if you don’t have a platform, this would be a big expense, proving difficult to recoup on your investment unless you had additional services available as an up-sell.
If you’re on a budget and need the cheapest resources there are, you can definitely still publish a book. But you should know that to get your book’s quality to where it needs to be, this will cost you more time and effort, if you’re on a tight budget.
Even though you are putting in money up front to publish your book, your investments will pay off once you start selling your book. You can use this Book Profit Calculator to determine how many books you need to sell, and at what price, to earn back your initial cost.
As you can see, how much it costs to self-publish a book will depend on every author’s situation. But on average, the cost to self-publish a book should be around $2,000, if you want your book to be high quality, and successful.
Self-Publishing Costs: An Overview
Before we get into the breakdown of the many potential cost, I’ll give you a general overview of the potential expenses to self publish your book.
These prices are based on averages and do not reflect exact pricing.
With the emergence of digital products, on Amazon and many other online platforms, the cost of writing, editing and creating a book product from start to finish is very affordable.
Before I break down the cost to self-publish and the choices available to you, let’s take a quick look at what to expect from publishing your own book. Keep in mind, these costs are based on averages, and your cost to publish will be slightly more or less.
A Sample Budget: The Cost to Self-Publish a Book
There are no cut and dry numbers for publishing costs.
How much you spend comes down to what you can afford but, the size of your platform as well and what you have to pay to scale up your book business.
Here is a breakdown of the costs to self-publish your book:
|Product/Service||Details||Cost Range (US$)|
|Author Tools||Writing software, educational courses, apps, templates|
High quality cover design to give your book th-at look of professionalism it needs
You need an editor to make your book readable and loved by fans.
$500—$1500 (average 2 cents p/word for line editing)
Your book has to look as good on the inside as it does outside. Get formatting for you eBook, paperback and hardcover (optional) book.
$100—$500 (Pricing varies on formatting needs: Book size, graphics, tables, color photos
|Book Launch (promo sites)|
You can purchase book promo services to promote your book at the 0.99 price point to boost sales and Amazon rankings
Make your author branding get noticed with a professional looking website
When it comes to investing in your book project, you need to ask yourself two questions:
- How much can I afford to spend? Knowing your budget is important. You may not have $3000 to spend on publishing a book. That is okay, I will provide cheaper alternatives to publishing and you can still have a quality product.
- How important is profit to you? Of course, we all want to earn back the money we put into our books. So, we will look at the best ways to invest your money in order to maximize profit.
Low quality books are published every day on Amazon and other platforms. These books don’t sell. They are riddled with grammatical errors, have cheap covers, and this screams amateur.
We know that anyone can write and publish a book. But not everyone will do it right and succeed.
Remember: The average self published author, according to recent polls, earns $500 a year. That isn’t very much considering the average cost of publishing is around $1500 (and this is on a shoe-string budget).
If you want to earn more than the average, and create a stream of passive income that surpasses your current job salary, investing in your book and learning everything you can about how to create a high quality book that sells is the best path to take.
But you don’t have to spend $5,000 either. Quality does cost money, but you can still put out a good quality book without breaking your account.
I’ll go into each category of expenses in more detail, with links you can check out for yourself and find what works within your budget. Take some time to shop around to see where to get the best value for the best price.
Now, let’s break down the cost to self-publish a book into each topic.
Courses, Training and Self-Publishing Education
When answering the question of how much does it cost to self-publish, most people may not think about self-publishing education. But this is a huge step in setting yourself up for success.
Before you start writing a book, you should do your research and educate yourself on the process first.
There are many steps to self-publishing. Without the right guidance or education on what it takes to self-publish your own book, you could end up spending more than you have to.
In fact, you could end up investing your hard-earned cash and limited budget into the wrong company.
You might unknowingly get sucked into signing up with a vanity publisher or, wasting cash on promo packages that have no impact on sales.
I would recommend you check out the best self-publishing companies and self-publishing courses. Compare value and pricing and get into a good course so that you have a community supporting you and a step-by-step blueprint for getting everything done the right way.
On average, you can expect to pay $500—$5000 for a quality self-publishing course, ranging from beginner courses for first time authors, such as Self-Publishing School’s VIP course, to advanced courses in marketing.
If a course isn’t an option for you, then you can invest $20—$100 for the best books on self-publishing. From publishing your first book to marketing to writing hacks, there are no lack of resources.
Here are 10 book recommendations to learn how to self-publish your book:
- Published.: The Proven Path From Blank Page to Published Author by Chandler Bolt
- Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should by David Gaughran
- Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox
- Writing Habit Mastery – How to Write 2,000 Words a Day and Forever Cure Writer’s Block by Steve Scott
- Business For Authors: How To Be An Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn
- The Miracle Morning for Writers: How to Build a Writing Ritual That Increases Your Impact and Your Income (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod and Steve Scott
- Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success) by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant
- Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt
- Guerrilla Publishing: Dangerously Effective Writing and Book Marketing Strategies by Derek Murphy
- Why Authors Fail: 17 Mistakes self-publishing Authors Make That Sabotage Their Success (And How To Fix Them) by Derek Doepker
Writing and Author Tools
Another factor to consider in the cost to publish are the writing and author tools that boost your productivity, and save you time.
Effective writing tools also play a huge role in helping you stick to your writing goals.
Setting up your author space for writing doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. But to get started we should consider the tools available that will help you get set up and move the process along smoothly.
For a breakdown of recommended author tools, check out this list of our best 5 tools authors are using to write faster, better and publish with confidence.
#1 – PublisherRocket
Let the software do the work for you. PublisherRocket will save you hours of valuable time by helping to sort out the best categories and keywords for your book. A valuable tool and a must-have for any author.
#2 – Hemingway Editor App
Improve your writing before you publish it, or polish it up before sending to an editor. The Hemingway Editor App is a great tool for just $29.
#3 – MindMeister
MindMeister is an online mind mapping tool that lets you capture, develop and share ideas visually. You can use the free version, or the $12.99 version.
#4 – Scrivener 3.0:
Scrivener was designed just for authors by authors. It has multiple features that help to boost productivity and help you to organize/format your book. It costs around $40-$45 depending on your package.
#5 – Pomodoro Technique
Boost your writing productivity with the world-class Pomodoro Technique, which is a daily or weekly process that allows you to boost productivity by focusing on a task for a specific amount of time.
#6 – K-lytics
This tool will help you sell more books, rank higher, and achieve a higher return on publishing investments.
Professional Editing and Proofreading
No matter what you have been told, you shouldn’t edit your own book. It is vital that you hire a professional editor when budgeting the cost to publish your book.
Self editing and rewriting is highly recommended, but after that, ship your finished manuscript to a professional editor.
It doesn’t matter who you are – even if you’re an editor yourself – you must get your book edited by another professional. This is a non-negotiable when it comes to self-publishing.
Next to your book cover design, the editing is the one area you don’t want to skimp on. Hiring a bad editor can break the sales of your book. It’s exhausting and frustrating for readers to get distracted by a book’s typos and grammatical errors.
How much does it cost for editing?
This depends on the level of editing needed.
Here is a breakdown of the different levels of editing, and the average cost for each service
- Copy Editing: In this type of edit, the editor will correct sentence structure, inconsistencies, tense, spelling and grammar, as well as some content feedback.
- Proofreading: This is what most people think of when they think “editor.” This type is when your punctuation, word choice, dialogue structure, and more is corrected.
- Structural Edit: This is where the editor organizes the structure, moves pieces around, and suggests changes based on how the information comes across in its order.
- Developmental Edit: This type of edit is when the editor pays close attention to how each chapter builds on the previous, as well as comments and feedback on the content itself.
Formatting and Interior Layout
If your cover design is showcasing the exterior of your book, interior layout design is the experience readers will have as they are flipping through the pages. Just like the cover design, a professionally formatted book is a must-have.
Make some room in your cost to self-publish budget for a formatter to make your readers’ experience seamless.
You can outsource the formatting of both your e-book and print book for around $60-$300.
The cost of formatting depends on the complexity required. Books heavy with graphics, fancy fonts, tables, charts or graphs will add to the cost.
Here are 5 sites to find book formatting services:
- Elite Authors/Book Formatting Services
- Fiverr formatters
- eBook Launch/formatting services
- Archangel Ink/Formatting
- Reedsy/Book Design
If you are confident in formatting your own book, we recommend these DIY formatting tools:
- Vellum: $250/Unlimited eBook+Paperback
- The Book Design Templates: $60/Single License—$120/Multiple License
- Kindle Create: Free
When it comes to formatting, hiring the right person for your interior book design is just as important as the cover design. You want to get it right.
Professional Cover Design
Book covers DO matter. Unless you are already a well-established author with a strong following, you can’t afford to go cheap on the cover. It has to look good, and it should be enticing to the browser so that they click on it.
Why is this important?
If a potential book buyer clicks on your book to check it out, they are interested. If they are interested, they will check the reviews and book description. Then, a click becomes a buy.
This is the CTR (click through rate) and is one of the many factors Amazon’s algorithm uses to determine if your book is worthy of promoting in the store.
So, having a great cover is not an option. But, as a self-published author, you may have a budget to consider, so we will look at the range of cover design choices and prices.
For a cover design, you can spend anywhere from $30 to $1500+. But for a high quality cover design, it will cost you at minimum around $300.
For lower budget covers, Fiverr is a solid option. In truth, years ago when everything on Fiverr cost $5, you would get what you paid for – which meant a sloppy, low-quality cover that rarely did the author’s story any justice.
But the cover quality has improved on Fiverr and, although it depends on the designer, you could get a “good” cover for as little as $40 if you choose the premium option most designers offer.
Here are 3 recommended book cover designers on Fiverr:
Let’s take it up a notch. If you have a bigger budget and can afford $200-$1000, you will likely get a higher quality cover and better support.
Here are 5 recommended sites for creating quality book cover designs:
For pre-made book template designs you can check out:
Before your book launch, share your cover design with people in your community, online following, or friends or colleagues you trust to give you honest feedback.
Factoring in the price for a solid cover design when determining the cost to self-publish will give your book the fighting chance it deserves in the busy marketplace!
If you’re learning how to write a children’s book, you’ll have to factor in the cost of a designer for your book’s cover, as well as the interior illustrations. If you’re specifically writing a children’s picture book, the use of illustration is super important, and your budget will need to be higher for this.
The Production Cost of Audiobooks: DIY Or Outsource?
An audiobook can be a great addition to your income stream.
There are basically two ways to create an audiobook:
Either way you choose will cost you money, but the DIY option is cheaper and once you have the equipment set up, can use it again and again to create audiobooks for cheap.
The cost varies if you are doing fiction or nonfiction, too. If you have a novel with multiple characters and want different people to read the many roles, it can become expensive, especially if you’re using very talented actors.
# 1 – Record the Audiobook Yourself
To record this yourself, the basic equipment could run you from $600—$2000, depending on the needs of and quality of the equipment. Also note, prices vary depending on conversion rates for your country.
The minimum recommended equipment for creating an audiobook:
- Audio Technica ATR 2100 Mic / $70—$120
- Blue Yeti Mic / $120
- Dragonpad Pop Filter / $10
- Portable Laptop Noise Reduction Stand / $150
- Shure A 15HP High Pass Filter / $50
- Barrier Curtains / $20
- Auralex Studiofoam Wedgies [for noise reduction] / $90—$100
- Mini-Recording Studio / $140
- GoogleDrive / Free [Backup Storage—15GB]
Total cost for setting up your own audio recording studio: $600—$1000
#2 – Hire a Professional Audiobook Artist
As with the DIY recording studio, the price range varies depending on the audiobook artist talent, experience and the overall length of the book.
If you need to hire multiple people for recording, this could get expensive.
On average, for a nonfiction book ranging in size 30k words, expect to pay anywhere from $600—$2000.
Here are our recommendations for hiring audiobook narrators:
- Upwork – 27 Best Audiobook Narrators
- ACX Narrators
- Audio Book Recording Narrators
- Audiobook Voices
- Fiverr—Audiobook Narrators
A look at self-publishing expenses
The Cost to Promote Your Book
If you want your book to take off when you launch it, consider book promotion sites when you are considering the cost to self-publish.
But be careful, because you could end up throwing cash away on the bad promotional sites.
The prices vary from $5 to $200. These sites will promote your book while it is free, at a discount price of 0.99 cents, or at full price.
You’ll get paid results that count towards book rankings. This will boost visibility for your book and tells the Amazon algorithm that your book is selling, which will help it to be promoted to Amazon shoppers.
The regulations and rules vary for each book promo site so be sure to check before signing up. Sites such as Robin Reads, Fussy Librarian and Ereader News Today require a minimum of 10 reviews before you can use their promotional services.
Here are the best book promotion sites we recommend:
- Bookzio ($19-29)
- Fussy Librarian ($20)
- Robin Reads ($35)
- Buck Books ($32)
- Book Runes ($25-35)
- BKnights ($5-40)
- Awesome Gang ($10)
- BookDoggy ($20)
- Bargain Booksy ($25 for nonfiction)
- BookSends ($40)
How much you decide to spend is up to you. I would budget from $100—$500.
The more you can stack up during launch week, the better your book will rank overall in the store when the launch is over and the book rolls out of the 30-day new release funnel.
Advanced Promotional Tools
When it comes to advanced promotion, there are many ways to spend your money for ongoing book marketing and driving traffic to your books and website.
Here we will introduce three methods you definitely want to invest in to level up your book business.
# 1 – Email Marketing Tools
Build an email list: You should be building an email list if you haven’t started yet. The start up cost for this is relatively low. You will need to sign up with an email service provider (also known as an email marketing platform) where your addresses will be collected and managed in confidentiality.
The top 5 email marketing tools we recommend for authors are:
Pricing: The cost really depends on several factors. Mailchimp provides a free service for the first 2,000 subscribers. ConvertKit provides 30-days free to try it out then you pay a monthly fee after that. Your monthly fees usually depends on subscriber volume.
MailerLite is free if you have up to 1,000 subscribers (with limited features). For a maximum of 2,500 contacts it costs $15 a month, $30 monthly for 5,000 contacts, $50 per month for 10,000.
But keep this in mind: If you are paying $200 to an email marketing service because you have a list of 20,000 subscribers, that is NOT a bad position to be in. With this list, you can market and sell your book products continuously to your fan base.
#2 – AMS Advertising and BookBub Ads
It’s up to you how much you can afford, because when it comes to promotion, you can spend way more than is needed.
Where some authors spend a few hundred dollars a month, there are others, such as Mark Dawson (Facebook Ads for Authors) who spends thousands every month (and generates great results from his ads).
If you start with advertising, before rushing in and throwing down your money, it’s recommended that you spend time researching these sites first and figuring out how they work.
For more information on BookBub ads, check out the Ultimate Guide to Setting Up BookBub Ads.
On average, if you budget $50—$200 to start with for your marketing publishing costs, you can scale up with the ads after some money comes rolling in.
# 3 – Scaling Up Advanced Marketing
When it comes to spending cash on book marketing, you can cut a hole in your pocket and just start dumping money in. There are endless ways to do this, but not everything will deliver results.
It is best to focus on 1-2 strategies at first and then, when you see positive results, try something else.
Avoid scammy publishers that promise to get you massive book deals worth millions or a New York Times Bestseller. Success comes with doing the right things at the right time. Plus, learning from what works for you…and what doesn’t.
Building an author platform is a great consideration if you’re looking to expand your business, write blogs and promote your work.
You can build a complete website, or just a landing page with a call-to-action to get users to opt in for your newsletter.
It’s also important to capture leads to build your mailing list. A lead capture form on your website helps you find quality leads and determine your primary audience.
Here are the essentials to build your author website:
# 1 – Hosting
You can sign up for hosting with servers such as FastComet, Bluehost or Hostgator. The cost would be around $140 – $180 per year, which is reasonable for website hosting. You will get a discount when you sign up for the first year, but pay full price when you renew.
#2 – Domain Name
You can purchase a domain name to secure your brand and start driving traffic to your site. Check out Name.com. A domain name will cost around $10-$15 per year.
#3 – Premium Theme
Your theme is going to boast the overall design of your site…so it has to be good! More importantly, it should be relevant to the brand.
When it comes to themes, you can with free themes that WordPress offers. Or, pay some money and buy a premium theme. I believe the paid themes is the better way to go. You own and it is easier to customize.
Paid themes can range from $20 – $200 [and higher], but for this range you can definitely get the theme best suits your brand.
Recommended paid themes:
Total Cost for an Author Website: $$700 – $1500. This pricing depends on how robust you want to go. There are companies out there that will set everything up for you as well, such as TheAuthorSite.com
Want to jumpstart your book writing process?
Join Chandler Bolt from self-publishingschool.com at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row.
Moving Forward: What is Your Next Step?
Now you know how much it costs to publish a book the right way. Even if you don’t have a lot of cash to put aside for your book budget, it’s important that you do not skimp on quality.
Regardless, while you should avoid going super cheap on creating a high quality book, you don’t have to spend $10,000 either. With less money, you can still publish a quality book – it’ll just require more time, effort, and resourcefulness on your part.
First things first: Write an amazing book.
If you need some tips on how to write your first book, you can check out how to go from blank page to bestseller right here.
Before spending money on your book launch, make sure your novel is polished to the highest possible standards. Then, build a launch team, set everything up on Amazon, and launch it like a rockstar.
With the income you make from your first book, roll it into creating your 2nd bestselling book!
Latest posts by Scott Allan (see all)
- Best Writers Conferences: Top 11 Conferences for Authors in 2020 - December 30, 2019
- How To Write A Nonfiction Book: 21 Steps to Become a Nonfiction Author - December 30, 2019
- Lulu Publishing Review: Is Lulu Press Worth It For Self-Publishing? - December 23, 2019