Self-Publishing Primer: Part 11 – How much does self-publishing cost?

You will find links to the other posts in the series at Self-Publishing Primer.

Every author considering self-publishing wants to know how much it will cost. I’ll give some general ideas, but there is a huge variation in costs based on many factors: the length of your book, the method of printing, what kind of cover art you want to use, how much editing your book requires, and more. Marketing is another important element for success in self-publishing, but I’m not going to include those costs in this here.

The major expenses to take a book from the final draft of your manuscript to a published book include:

  • Editing: No matter how good a writer you are, you need another pair of eyes reviewing your manuscript. Editors commonly say, “I can catch everyone’s mistakes but my own,” and that’s true for all of us. The cleaner your manuscript is before you hire an editor, the less it will cost. So use spell and grammar check and edit your own work several times. Follow the advice I’ve given in previous posts: Ten Tips for Self-Editing and Editing: Turning Dreck into Prose. Then shop around for a freelance editor; ask for sample edits and price quotes so you can evaluate both the quality of the work and the cost. Some editors charge by page, some by the word, and some by the hour. Rates can range from a low of $ 4/page, .01/word, or $20/hour to a high of $40/page, .20/word, or $ 125/hour. Editing a book can range from $500 to $20,000, but if you have done a good job of self-editing, you can expect the cost to edit a 50,000 word book to be $ 1000 to $ 2500.
  • Copyright and ISBNs: We covered these items in the last post. You will spend a little over $ 300 for these two items.
  • Layout: If you’re on a very tight budget, you can lay out the book yourself in Word by following the instructions in Perfect Pages: Self Publishing with Microsoft Word, or How to Use MS Word for Book Design, Typesetting, and Page Layout in Formatting Your Books for Desktop Publishing and Print on Demand by Aaron Shepard or The Non-Designer’s Design Book, Second Edition by Robin Williams. However, you may be happier – and less frustrated – with a professional designer who has experience in book design. Like editing, the prices vary considerably, but you can find a designer who will do an excellent job for $ 250 to $ 500.
  • Cover design: Here again, you can spend a lot of money or a relatively small amount of money. The cover is no place on skimp on quality. In spite of the wisdom that “you can’t judge a book by its over,” people do. Your cover has to be eye-catching to capture readers’ attention and make them want to pick up the book and read it. However, you don’t have to have original artwork (which can be very expensive) – personal photos for a memoir or family history or stock photos can be turned into beautiful covers by a creative designer. If the designer doesn’t include the bar code in his fee, you need to add that cost to your total. A cover design using a stock photo should cost you $ 250 to $ 500.
  • Printing: The unit price and total outlay will vary greatly depending on the printing process. If you use a POD printer, you will probably pay a set-up fee of $ 100 or $ 200, then pay $ 3 to $ 10 per copy of your book. Your initial cost is low, but your unit price may be too high to be able to make a profit selling through retailers that require a significant discount. If you use a printer, your initial investment is considerably more, but your unit cost is significantly less: about $ 1.50 each for 3,000 copies ($ 4500), $ 2.00 each for 2000 copies ($ 4,000), or $ 3.00 each for 1000 copies ($ 3,000). Many self-publishers begin with a print run of 1,000 copies ($ 3,000).

So, what’s the total?

  • $ 4800 on the low end for 1000 copies
  • $ 8000+ on the high end for 3000 copies

Remember, this does not include marketing and distribution costs – this is just the cost to go from a manuscript to a printed book. And these are average numbers; your costs may vary, but if any of the items is far out of the ranges described above, you should take a closer look.

For other views on the cost of self-publishing, read these articles:

Next we’ll talk about what you need to do when.

[tags]publishing, self-publishing, writing[/tags]

Share this!