What does it cost to self-publish a book in 2024 – really? When you look online, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint a number. That’s because there are so many variables in the publishing process and each one comes with its own price range depending on who you ask.
In this article, I’ve laid out the bare minimum requirements to self-publish a quality book (nothing amateurish, please). I'll offer suggestions on finding the best talent, and some sample budgets to get you started.
Let’s consider the following before shelling out your dollars or handing over your credit card:
This guide answers, “How much does it cost to self-publish a book?” covering:
How much does it cost to self-publish a book? A primer
Before you can know the self-publishing costs of a book, you’ll have to decide the type of self-publishing that you want to do.
At the most basic level, self-publishing means that you are acting as the publisher, so all of the decisions about your book begin and end with you. Your three options are:
A. Do everything yourself. This is not recommended since you may not have the skills to design a book cover or format your pages, and learning how to self-publish a book on your own can be confusing.
B. Strategically select an outsourced team of service providers who can take up the slack in your weak areas (e.g. book cover design, interior formatting). This might also include hiring a publishing consultant who can give you insight into the best distribution model to use and how to get set up.
C. Work with a self-publishing company.
We'll focus on B and C.
Below you’ll find the different stages of the book publishing process along with self-publishing costs. For this article, I referenced the Editorial Freelancers Association’s fee list, but you’ll find service providers well above this list of pricing and below.
Manuscript self-publishing costs
$0 – $.10/wd
You can’t have a book without a manuscript. If you write it yourself, it will only cost you your time. If you don’t have time to write or writing is not in your wheelhouse of talents, then a qualified ghostwriter can do the job. Using a ghostwriter can get pricey, depending on the amount of research required, their personal demand, and expected turnaround time; however, some ghostwriters are open to offering discounts if they can share credit on the cover, even if it’s just an editing credit.
Note: Some self-publishers are opting to use AI to create stories for free, but proceed with caution. Many of the stories being mass-produced through AI have tale-tale signs of being artificially created. Some readers don’t mind this, while others are turned off by it. Know your audience.
Editing self-publishing costs
Once you’ve completed your manuscript and self-edited, you’ll move to the professional editing stage. There are many different types of editing, and we covered ten of them in this article. The type and amount of editing you need can make editing one of the most expensive investments of your post-writing process, especially if your manuscript needs multiple types of editing or the amount of work it needs is extensive. The most popular forms of editing include:
- Developmental ($.03 – $/06.0/wd) – This is the “big picture” editing that looks at all of the elements of your work to make sure you have all of the proper pieces in place for the manuscript to make sense. This could include your book’s argument, the proper order and flow of chapters and sections as well as tone, dialogue, and pacing.
- Copyediting ($.02 – $.04.9) – Copyediting looks at the technical bits and pieces that make a manuscript cohesive which can include mechanical editing, correlating parts, language editing, content editing, permissions, and markup
- Proofreading($.02 – $03.9) – Proofreading is the final step in the editing process that comes before the manuscript goes to print. It’s to ensure that nothing was missed during the editing process and that no errors were introduced during formatting.
Design self-publishing costs
By far, the interior and exterior design of your book have the most impact on whether someone will give your book a second look. Your book’s design is the beginning of your story. If it is amateurish potential readers won’t give it a second glance, especially when it is positioned next to other books that look amazing.
Unlike editing, there aren’t standardized prices for design. On the less expensive side, you can create a great-looking ebook cover using Canva or a professional interior using Atticus software or Vellum. On the more expensive side, you can hire experienced designers who know the market and can create a book cover that blows other covers out of the water or a beautiful interior with “personality” that doesn’t look like a template.
The good news is that your budget for self-publishing costs doesn't have to suffer. Professional design solutions come in all price ranges. Below you'll find pricing for interior and exterior design. I based the freelancer and company prices on my personal industry experience, but prices can vary considerably. I also included audiobooks under the design category.
- Interior Freelancer/Company – Depending on the number of pages and complexity of the project, I’ve seen interior book design prices range from $800-$8,500. Although the upper end is hard to swallow, if you have a complex book with lots of pages, images, an index, and more, you can expect to pay for the extra work that goes into making the book look amazing.
- Exterior Freelancer/Company – For both freelancers and companies, you can expect book cover prices to range from $75–$800. On the lower end, you’ll find pre-made covers that you can get the company to customize with your title, colors, and a few other options. On the higher end, you’ll find freelancers and companies who’ll design the cover from scratch. Depending on the designer and their experience, prices can be lower or higher. Always review their portfolio and check their reviews to determine if they are a good fit for your project.
- Audiobooks – $0-$500 -Audiobooks are gaining popularity, and savvy authors are offering audiobooks as an option for those who want to listen to their books on the go. Prices will vary depending on whether you hire a narrator through a company like ACX, do the narration yourself, or streamline self-publishing costs even more by using Voice AI-narration platforms like Google Play Books, Well Said Labs, or Apple Books digital narration.
ISBN – 13 pricing
In the US a single ISBN is $125 and a pack of 10 is $295. This is the barcode number that must be placed on the book in order to sell it online or in bookstores. It's a unique identifier that includes all of your book's information. If you plan to produce multiple books, it's a MUCH better investment to buy 10 ISBNs in one block. (*If you publish through Amazon KDP exclusively, the unique identifier called an AISN is free. ISBN's are also free through Ingram Spark)
Printing/Distribution self-publishing costs
Once your book is ready to be printed and distributed, you’ll want to find a distributor that can offer you the best opportunity to reach your audience. For some, it’s the market leader Amazon, and for others, it’s one of the lesser-known distributors that offer a less crowded marketplace and better opportunities for you to reap the rewards of self-publishing.
Here are some of the top distributors/printers:
- IngramSpark – 40-45% royalties
- Amazon KDP – 35-70% depending on the type of book and program you select
- Draft2Digital 10% of the book’s list price
- BarnesandNoble Press – 65% royalty on books priced over $2.99
Copyright Registration pricing
$45 – $200
From the moment you begin writing, the copyright of your content belongs to you; however, if you want to safeguard that information legally, you need to register your copyright with the U. S. Copyright Office. This will protect you in the event you need to enforce the rights of your book against any infringement. The fees are based on the type of application (electronic or standard) and the type of work.
Budgeting and Outsourcing
Just like every other area discussed in this post, every choice you make affects your publishing budget, so you have to spend wisely. If you'd prefer to go the DIY route and select a professional team yourself, you can find reviews, website suggestions, and more on the selfpublishing.com website. A great place to start is here.
Here are some sample budgets to consider. Based on the current price ranges listed in this post, using the budget examples below, you can mix and match what would work for you and your book.
As you can see, there's a lot to consider when self-publishing, so you want to make sure that your publishing strategy is solid before you make a serious investment. Self-publishing gives authors the flexibility to do things their way, but as the publisher, self-publishing costs are a big part of the equation.
You can shoot for a low budget, especially if you have a lot of followers who you know will purchase what you publish. However, if you're new to self-publishing, this is your first book, or you are just starting to build your audience, trying to figure out everything on your own may not be the most efficient use of your time. A team that understands the publishing industry can give you the support you need to help you publish your book with confidence.
One way to see if working with a company like Selfpublishing.com would be a good fit is by creating a sample budget (using the numbers above) with everything you want in it. Total it out and then compare it to the programs that Selfpublishing.com has to offer. You may find that you get a lot more bundled into a package with Selfpublishing.com than you would pay for everything separately.
Selfpublishing.com offers a team of professionals who understand what it takes to create an amazing book and get it in front of your readers. The available packages are geared toward authors who have a moderate budget to invest and who prefer a guided approach to publishing their books. Many of the team members are authors, so they understand firsthand how self-publishing costs can creep. The programs were created to maximize value so that you can concentrate on what's important.
Are you ready to take the next step in your book journey? Start by booking a free call with one of our book strategists!