How Much Does it Really Cost to Self-Publish a Book?

by Accessory To Success February 13, 2022

Average Costs To Self Publish A Book

Most companies claim that you can produce and successfully market a book for $1,000-$5,000. From the production end this may be close, but allocating only $500-$1,000 to marketing through buying book reviews and paid media is ridiculously low. Books are no different than other consumer goods and should be marketed the same way. More on Facebook or LinkedIn ads here.

Self-publishing a book is more possible today than ever before. However, with extra ownership comes extra responsibility. How much money your book will cost to self publish depends on what kind of book it is, the caliber of professionals you hire to help, the print quality and customization of the book itself, and how you plan to market and distribute it.

Even though it is called “self-publishing,” it does not mean that you are bringing this book into the world on your own. While that is certainly an option through tools like Luluexpress, it is not right for all authors. Hiring a team of professionals can help ensure that your book gets the best possible start in the world. These professionals can consist of graphic designers, editors, web designers, and marketing experts. Depending on where your expertise lies, it might actually be more cost-effective to hire someone with experience in the field than to muddle through it yourself.

Like any puzzle, understanding the cost to self publish a book begins with looking at the pieces. To self publish a book, you must have written that book. Before beginning the publishing process, you will need to set your book up for success with a book cover, quality editing, typesetting, and pick a book title. Then, comes the actual production part. Finally, as the publisher, you are responsible for marketing and distributing your book.

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The Process Of Publishing A Book

Before Book Production Begins

No matter how you plan to print, market, and sell your book, you need to make sure that your book is ready to be read. To get your book ready for printing, you need to develop a book cover, ensure it is thoroughly edited, and arrange for attractive formatting. Getting these three things right prior to printing can prevent a lot of costly mistakes. Although every author has a different skill set, hiring a professional for each of these tasks can mean the best possible book for your readers.

One of the most important factors in successful sales is the book cover. Although no one is supposed to judge a book by its cover, a book cover tells a reader what to expect. Because an effective book cover is so important, it is a good idea to hire a professional graphic designer. This goes beyond putting type over a stock photograph -- a good designer will be able to give your book the polish it needs to attract readers. It is possible to keep cover costs down. Graphic designer rates vary and depend upon experience, talent, and niche. Finding a talented yet inexperienced graphic designer is the most cost-effective strategy.

Communicating effectively with your graphic designer is actually one of the easiest ways to keep costs down. By sharing your vision as clearly as possible, you can cut down on the rounds of changes and discarded versions. Generally, the fewer versions the graphic designer works up, the less expensive this cost will be. Best thing to do is provide a bunch of examples. If your genre allows, forgo an illustrated cover in favor of a photographic cover. Because creating a piece of artwork takes a lot more time and effort, an illustrated cover is significantly more expensive than a cover based on a photograph.

How Much Does A Book Cover Cost

  • Fiverr - $50-$500
  • Freelance Or Company - $5,000+/-
  • Professional Photograph - $1,200

Although it can be tedious, editing is another important process your book needs to undergo before publishing. After all, how disappointing is it to purchase a book only to find it is riddled with grammatical errors or plot holes? There are three general levels of editing: developmental, copyediting, and proofreading. Because developmental editing is the most intense, it is the most expensive. This means paying a professional to give an in-depth look at all aspects of your book from character development to plot holes. Copyediting falls in the middle and focuses on the readability of your work. Proofreading is often the last level of editing before you are ready to publish your book. Like graphic designers, editor rates depend upon professional experience and niche.

Although not as important in the initial sale of your book, a well-edited text means that readers will stay in the world you create instead of being distracted back into the real world. To save money on this pre-publishing step, the best thing you can do is to self-edit as much as possible. If you submit an error-filled rough draft to an editor, it will cost significantly more to get ready for publishing. However, if you are able to present a polished finished draft, you save the editor time which means saving you money. Because every author and every book is different, the right level of editing depends on what is right for you.

Genre can make a difference in editing cost as well. Dense, non-fiction manuscripts can require fact checking or editors with an academic background. A novel written in straightforward prose will cost less. Length is another factor that can determine editing cost. The more words you have, the more expensive your editing cost will be. For many genres, editing rates vary by page or by word. Because children’s books and graphic novels have fewer words, you should expect higher per-word rates.

How Much Does Editing A Book Cost

  • Fiverr - $10/hour
  • Freelance Or Company - $25/hour

Typesetting is the final step before your book is ready to go into production. This includes formatting your manuscript to make sure that each page is aesthetically pleasing. While this is most important for graphically driven books like cookbooks and children’s books, it is also necessary for prose. Although this step is crucial, it is often the least expensive portion of pre-production book publishing. Once your book has a cover, been edited, proofread, and properly formatted, it is ready to begin thinking about printing.

For more information on formatting yourself vs hiring a formatting service read this article.

How Much Does Typesetting A Book Cost

  • Fiverr - $1/page
  • Freelance Or Company - $4/page

The Book Production Process

When you think of self-publishing, books being printed probably comes to mind. Although this section is not applicable for e-books, it might be interesting should you ever decide to print your book into the physical world. In the past, there was only a single method to print books: offset printing. Now, you can choose between offset printing and on-demand printing. Because each has advantages and disadvantages, there is no single cost-effective option.

Offset printing offers a cheaper per-unit price, but a much higher up-front cost. It is an older technology, and consists of ink transferring first from a plate burned with the desired image, to a rubber blanket, and finally to the page. Offset printing is best used for runs of at least a few thousand books. Because you are already paying for the plates that are custom to your book, this option is far easier to customize. If you have a very specific vision of how you would like your book to look or feel, this is the printing option for you.

With a much smaller up-front cost, on-demand printing is a more cost-effective option for many self-published authors. Because this method uses inkjet printers instead of custom-engraved plates to print your book, it is able to print books as they are ordered. Stored as a digital file on the printer’s computers, your book is ready to be printed whenever a reader places an order. On-demand printing is much cheaper at the outset, but there are far fewer customization options available.

Beyond printing method, printing costs are determined by several elements that you have some control over. Paper quality, cover options, and extras are all things you can decide to spend more or less money pursuing. Knowing where you can cut costs here depends on your readers, your vision, and your funds. Will your readers pay a premium for a special edition with a ribbon bookmark and gold gilt pages? If not, then it depends on how important those features are to you and how much money you have available to bring that dream into reality.

Per-unit production cost is the most important number in the self-publishing financial equation. Gorham Printing offers a nice calculator. If your per-unit cost is cheaper, then you can offer more competitive prices or accrue more earnings per book sold. Because the two methods have repercussions in book distribution, choosing between offset printing and on-demand printing is more than looking at a price tag.

How Much Does Printing A Book Cost

  • Paperback - $1/book + shipping
  • Hardcover - $2/book + shipping
  • Usually there are minimums of 50 or 100 books

The Book Distribution Process

Although distribution might sound big and scary, it is really just how you get your book from the press to your readers. A few of the aspects to consider are inventory level, wholesale discount, and author involvement. Some distribution methods require you to keep an inventory of your book while others do not. If a third party sells your book for you, they get a cut.

The traditional approach is to stock brick-and-mortar stores with your book. As a self-published author, you probably will not get into any national chain bookstores, but you might be able to convince local bookstores to carry your book. If you can build relationships with them, other local businesses might be willing to carry your book as well. Because they are providing the service of selling your book, they are entitled to a percentage of the profits. Generally, this is called the wholesale discount, and is usually added on top of your price.

There are a few ways that you can sell your book yourself without having to pay a third party, although they require effort. If you are involved in speaking events, bring copies of your book with you to sell to attendees. For this method to work, you will need to choose offset printing. Selling books directly through your author website is also possible, although your website will need to include a storefront. Depending on how your storefront is set up, you may need to package and ship your books yourself, which also means that you would need to use offset printing as your production method.

Selling online via third parties is another option. Although this will result in a third party wholesale discount (where the retail price increases), it also means that you do not have to sell to readers, package, or ship your book. The reader will pay the retailer, who will then pay you. Depending upon which third parties you choose, it also means that you can select on-demand printing as your production method. If you would like to self-publish a book and move on to your next writing project, this is the distribution method for you.

How Much Does Book Distribution Cost

  • Distributors charge 10% to 25% of net sales. 

Marketing Cost For Self Published Book

The following discusses paid strategies for the purposes of answering the question of how much it costs to self publish a book, but there many organic strategies that can be deployed. We wrote an article all about How To Promote Your Book For Free.

How will anyone read your book if they do not know about it? Marketing is the magic behind letting readers know that your book is ready to take them on an adventure. The best marketing method depends on what kind of book you have written.

The first step to an effective marketing strategy is to build a professional author website. A website will give your book more legitimacy and answer readers’ questions. To make sure your website does everything it needs to do, it might be worth hiring a web designer. This is especially true if you plan to include a storefront to sell your book directly via your website.

As you prepare to launch your book, you might consider hiring a digital marketing professional. Of course, the more experienced said professional is, the more expensive their services are. Money well spent. You'll waste more money on ad spend trying to save fees than you would save on fee.

Different kinds of books require different marketing strategies. Across all genres, creating social media pages for them is a free tool to increase awareness of your book. Paying for social media advertisements are another effective way to introduce new readers to your book, but you will need to build content for ads and strategize their deployment carefully. Because of the relatively steep cost per day, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube advertisements especially are quick to accrue high expense, but worth it as you must create awareness somewhere.

Before you launch your book, make sure to have book reviews. Buying 10 book reviews is necessary. We sell sell book reviews, but we're only one of the companies you should hire to do this. He is an article about Buying Book Reviews.  Depending on where your readers are, these reviews can come from book bloggers or influencers. If you do not have any relationships with bloggers or influencers, professional reviewers are an excellent option. Wherever they come from, a body of book reviews help nudge hesitant readers to click that “purchase” button.

How Much Does Marketing A Book Cost

Total Costs For Self Publishing A Book

Now that you understand all the pieces to the puzzle, how do they fit together? Although there are lots of elements to consider, the cost to self-publish a book can be broken down into an equation.

First, add all the constant costs together. These are the costs that will not change based on how many books you sell. Some to include here are the book cover, editing, typesetting, setup costs for offset printing, and any marketing costs. Hiring professionals to help with these increases this cost, but can help ensure more sales. To figure out how much it costs per book, divide this number by the number of books you plan to sell.

Then, calculate your per-unit costs. This is how much it costs for each individual book to be printed. Add this number to the number from earlier, and you will know how much it costs to self-publish your book. The more books you plan on selling, the less money per book it will cost to self-publish. Because there are so many variables, there is no single cost to self-publish. However, you can solve your own equation to self-publish your book.

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Click here to learn how you can get a premium book review from us!


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