Self-Publishing Costs & Budget (2024)

Self-Publishing Costs & Budget (2024)

Self-Publishing Costs & Budget (2024)

Everyone says “never pay someone to self-publish your book” but then… they also say “self-publishing is expensive.” What gives?! Both are true. Here's a comprehensive look at the costs of getting your self-published book to market.

Everyone says “never pay someone to self-publish your book” but then… they also say “self-publishing is expensive.” What gives?! Both are true. Here's a comprehensive look at the costs of getting your self-published book to market.

Everyone says “never pay someone to self-publish your book” but then… they also say “self-publishing is expensive.” What gives?! Both are true. Here's a comprehensive look at the costs of getting your self-published book to market.

First, let's clear up the misunderstanding caused by this seemingly conflicting advice.

👉 “Never pay anyone to self-publish your book

This is a warning against vanity publishers. They are scams and will usually cost thousands of dollars and they will take the rights to publish your book, and a portion of your royalties. Writer beware! If you are approached by a "publisher" who wants you to give them money, run away.

👉 “Self-publishing is expensive”

This means that while you are both the author and the publisher of your book, you are probably not also an editor, cover designer, illustrator, book formatter, printer or voice actor. Any one of those things you could find ways to do yourself, but in many cases it’s better to hire a professional. You will pay those professionals once to do a job. They will have no claim on your book’s publishing rights, nor will you have to share your royalties with them (unless you want to).

The following sections cover the going rates (updated in 2024) for the various services you may need to outsource when producing, publishing and marketing your book. Again, not all authors will have to hire all of these folks or use all these tools. Usually there is some subset of these things that will apply to you, and others that won’t.

Writing Expenses

You should not have any major expenses when writing, outside of perhaps paying for your writing tool. Will you use Word, Google Docs, Apple Pages, pen and paper? Great, presumably you already have those things and won’t have to shell out to buy them. 

There are also some paid apps built for book writing if you prefer those:

  • Atticus, online writing and formatting tool. Easy. $147 one-time fee

  • Scrivener, downloadable writing and formatting tool. Steeper learning curve. $60 one-time fee

Editing Costs

For a breakdown of what each of these edits means, and if you can do it yourself, see What You Can And Can’t Do When Launching Your Book: Editing. These prices are in USD for fiction works according to the Editorial Freelancer’s Association. For non-fiction, academic works, specialized topics or graphic novels prices will vary slightly.

To calculate your total cost, multiple the per-word price by the number of words in your manuscript.

  • Developmental edit, per word price: 3¢ - 4¢

  • Copy edit, per word price: 2¢ - 3¢

  • Line edit, per word price: 2.5¢ - 4¢

  • Proofreading, per word price: 1.2¢ - 3¢

Costs for some tools you might employ for self-editing:

  • Grammarly, online tool for proofreading. Free, or upgrade to $12 per month

  • ProWritingAid, downloadable tool for proofreading. Free or upgrade to $30 per month. Or pay a one-time fee of $399.

Book Cover Design Costs

Costs for book cover design start at around $200 at agencies like Miblart or BookBrush, and can go up to a couple of thousand for a freelance artist of your choice. Shop around!

There are free tools for creating covers, but there’s just no comparison with a professionally designed cover. You should only design your own cover if you’re a cover designer by trade, in which case you already have the correct tools, so no need to list those tools or prices here.

Book Layout & Formatting Costs

Book interior design is definitely something you can do yourself with the tools listed below. However, if you hire it out, expect to pay around $75 - $250. Just make sure that you are paying to have the master files delivered to you.

Costs for some tools you might employ for any DIY design work:

  • Adobe InDesign, downloadable professional tool. Very steep learning curve. $23 per month

  • Affinity Publisher, like Adobe InDesign but without the subscription fee. Very steep learning curve. $70 one-time fee (Affinity has been acquired by Canva, so their pricing structure may change drastically at some point in the future).

  • Canva, Online, ridiculously easy. Only use this for fixed layout books, like children’s picture books. Free, or upgrade for $10 per month.

  • Kindle Create, free tool to format ebooks.

  • Kindle Kids Book Creator, free tool to format fixed layout picture books for use on Amazon.

  • DraftToDigital, free tool for converting a Word doc into an ebook. Offered as part of their broader distribution service.

Book Illustration Costs

Illustrations can range from $50 for a small spot illustration, up to $250 for a full-spread. Some artists will charge a flat fee per book project. I love this agency for their transparent pricing and their work-for-hire contract which means once you pay for the illustrations, they are yours to employ however you’d like. You can create coloring books, marketing materials, even translations of the book using the same artwork without having to pay out additional royalties.

For illustrated children’s books where the art is as important as the writing, you may consider offering a royalties split to reduce your up-front costs.

Do not attempt to illustrate your own book unless you are a professional illustrator. Here’s a short article on commissioning illustrations.

Book Printing Costs

If you go with a print-on-demand (POD) service, you won’t have any up-front costs, but they will charge you more per book and just take that fee out of the sales they collect on your behalf. 

Here are the printing cost calculators for the two major POD printers: KDP and IngramSpark.

Otherwise, offset printing costs will vary greatly based on the number of pages, whether you want paperback or hardcover, dust jackets, end pages, color or black and white, paper weight and coating, and how many copies you’re printing.

ARC Program Costs

You can run your ARC (Advanced Reader Copies) program completely for free if you’re willing to put in the work. That entails that you recruit your own ARC reviewers, manage sending them the book files, email them separately to encourage them to leave their reviews on Goodreads or elsewhere, then on your publish date, email them again to request they also transfer their review over to Amazon.

Or, you can pay for a service like NetGalley in which you upload your ebook files and they take care of recruiting the reviewers, distributing the files, and collecting the first round of reviews on their site. You’ll still be on the hook for reaching out about the Amazon review transfer, but the bulk of the work is taken care of.

Options for getting your book on Netgalley:

  • NetGalley, go direct. This is expensive. $550 for 6 months (no smaller packages).

  • Use a co-op like Victory. They’ll list your book on NetGalley for you. You can reduce your costs by using only 1-3 months. $55 per month

Project Management Costs

If you’ve gotten this far in the list, you’re likely asking yourself “This is nuts, how am I supposed to keep track of all these moving parts?!” There are free options like spreadsheets and post-it notes which you can use, but be forewarned you need to be religious about keeping them updated. 

Alternatively, Frontlist will map out your entire timeline of tasks all the way through to launch day, and keep you on track with daily tasks. Pricing is TBD as it hasn’t launched yet, but you can join the waitlist to get alerted when the pricing and app are ready.

Publishing Costs

This is free! Signup to KDP, IngramSpark or Draft2Digital and press the buttons all by yourself. 

Book Launch Promo Costs

This can vary greatly based on what kind of promotions you plan for the event. Many authors will run a free ebook download promotion for a few days to bump the book up in rankings. 

To advertise those free promotions, you have to pay to get on services like Free Booksy, etc. There are literally dozens and dozens of them ranging in price from $25 to $100 each. 

Or you can opt for a bundle with a service like Book-Rank or Written Word Media that’ll take care of choosing a handful of promos that best suit your needs, and take care of all the scheduling on your behalf. This technique is called promo stacking. Packages will run a few hundred dollars.

Book Launch Giveaway Costs

In a giveaway, you are basically running a raffle in which one or more people can win a copy of your book.

  • Goodreads Giveaway, done-for-you service for one giveaway, but you can’t add participants to your mailing list. Starts at $120

  • KingSumo, a DIY tool for running your own giveaways. More work for you, but you get to keep all the participant emails. Free, or upgrade for a $49 one-time fee.

Mailing List & Newsletter Costs

Authors can market their book on any budget. Free options include building your own mailing list and participating on social media channels.

Some tools you can use to manage your mailing list:

  • Mailerlite, easy online tool. Free, or upgrade to $10 per month

  • Mailchimp, easy online tool with a cute monkey. Free, or upgrade to $13 per month

  • SendFox, easy online tool, slightly less powerful than the others. Free, or upgrade for a one-time fee of $49

Paid Book Marketing Costs

Paid book marketing options include the promo-stacking mentioned above (it’s not just for launch!) and running ads. 

You can run ads anywhere, but the most common places are Amazon Ads and Meta Ads (Meta owns both Facebook and Instagram). The cost for running ads is entirely dependent on your budget. In other words, you set a budget and don’t spend more than that. If you fail to set a budget, the cost for running ads can quickly wipe you out. Beware!

Miscellaneous Costs

There’s a few items which don’t fall under any specific category, but are nonetheless worth noting.

  • ISBN Numbers – In the US, the only valid place to buy these is from Bowker. At Bowker, a single ISBN costs $125, while a pack of 10 is a better deal at $295 for the whole bundle. Keep in mind, you need a different ISBN for each book format you plan to sell (ex one for eBook, one for Paperback, and one for Hardcover). Prices vary outside of the US. To find the agency for your country, google  “ISBN agency + country name.”

  • Website – There are so many website builders and providers, and pricing for them varies widely. Some popular ones are Wordpress and Wix

  • Domain name & email – If your website is a house, then the domain is the address. A house without an address is hard to find. Often you can buy a domain name from whoever is hosting your website, but you can also buy one separately. Generally, domains cost between $10 and $20 a year.

  • Courses, books & learning – There are a gazillion courses on every aspect of self-publishing you can imagine. They vary from $19 to thousands of dollars. Beware, they can add up quickly. Wherever possible, try reading a book first which costs much less, and looking for tutorials on youtube or in online writers groups.

What’s Your Total?

As you can tell from the wide ranges of pricing and options above, the total cost to self-publish your book is going to vary drastically based on the choices you make. And the choices you make are usually based on your goals. For example, if you’re not trying to hit an Amazon best-seller list on launch day, you may not need to invest in promo-stacking.

It’s really up to you. We have a couple tools which might help:

  • Get a book launch strategy (with costs & time considerations) based on your launch goals. This will help you know which expenses are most relevant to you.

  • Estimate your book budget for editing, design, illustration, and marketing with this spreadsheet. This is to get a high level view of the costs involved.

Hope that helps!

About the Author

Tara Kelly left a cushy Silicon Valley job to pursue writing. Since then, she’s published a book on UX design, as well as seven children’s picture books under the pen name Kelly Tills where she tackles topics like neurodiversity, gender, and why you shouldn’t steal bananas from a monkey. Tara is the co-founder and CEO of where she helps other indie authors launch their books on their own, and without falling prey to the predatory underbelly of the author services industry.

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