Costs for Self Publishing Your Book

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What does it cost to self publish a book How much does it cost to self publish your book?

The quick answer is ‘how long is a piece of string?’ as prices can vary so much – often depending on your own existing knowledge, whether you are self publishing as an ebook only or if you are printing as a paperback too. Another factor that affects costs depends on if you can do some of the non writing work yourself such as creating your own book covers.

There’s now quite a number of self publishing businesses whereby they will undertake to edit and publish your book, holding your hand every step of the way. I’m not a fan of this method as I feel it will have added costs built in plus you are limited to their editorial and design staff. I prefer to outsource to various experts that I find myself.

Experience of Four Authors

This post reveals the costs from four self published authors (and thank you to Clare at The TBR Pile for including it in her curated post where I discovered it).

To summarise the results from the featured authors’ Self Publishing Costs

Editing costs varied between being free (using beta readers only) to $1500. Those paying higher costs were using structural editors, developmental editors, copy editors and proofreaders. However, one writer quoted the $1500 as the cost for one editor and a proofreader so it’s unclear what the full editing cost was for this writer.

Front Cover design costs varied from free (author did it herself) to $360.

Formatting costs varied between free (doing it herself) to $299.

Printing costs – all of the authors recommended using Create Space and print-on-demand to save costs.

As you can see, costs vary hugely. Some authors will do a considerable amount of the work themselves which is certainly brave.  However, is it sensible? I think it is impossible to edit your own work. You may be able to create your own cover design if you have graphic design or photoshop talents though! You will also need a website / blog so people can find you online and of course, your blog should lead to more sales. Catherine Ryan Howard developed her own wordpress site and many other authors will use the free wordpress platform too. However, if you want a customized website or an ecommerce platform, you’re probably going to need to pay a web developer.

For comparison purposes, here are my costs for self publishing Would You Marry A Farmer?

Note my prices are in euro and those above are in American dollars.

Editing - (general editing and proofreading of 50,000 words) €300

Front cover design and 20 illustrations – €500

Formatting - I formatted the manuscript for the paperback myself (although I almost went grey while doing so) but had to get the printer to insert the illustrations. I had to get an expert to format it for the ebook version which cost €250.

Ecommerce website design – €900

ISBN numbers – €170 for ten numbers (if I remember correctly)

Photographs – €130

Printing – I opted for hardbacks for my first print run of 1000 copies which cost €5,500. Subsequent print runs of 1000 paperback copies have cost €3000. What was nice with my third print run was that I received 1080 books but only had to pay for 1000.

Printing your books adds a huge cost. I decided to print partly because I knew my target market (farming families) would prefer the printed books and yes, that has proved to be the case with whole extended families reading the book. I also ran a crowdfunding campaign before I self published which provided me with some capital – not to mention more confidence in my investment. I know some authors have ordered a box or two of their own books on Create Space to supply local shops.

If you are wondering how much do I make on each copy, the wholesalers take 55% of the purchase price. For each copy sold in bookshops, I make €3 per copy. Regarding copies sold from my own website (as I include postage to Irish addresses within the purchase cost), I make almost €7. As you can tell, I’m not going to get rich any time soon. I’ve sold about 2000.

Pat Fitzpatrick is another author who has shared the self publishing costs of his novel as an ebook, totalling at €1517. I’d consider a minimum spend to be €1000 for most authors- for editing, front cover design and formatting. On a positive note, I’ve heard of two authors who each received €2,000 in grants towards their writing. Some of the Local Enterprise Offices provide grants via their Art Links and previously, the Partnerships were giving grants if your subject matter ticked the right boxes. I haven’t applied for any grants so I can’t advise on the ease or difficulty of getting a grant but it’s certainly worth investigating.

What will I be spending on my second book?

I’ll be paying about €650 for front cover design and illustrations, then the editing cost, there will be a developer cost for changes to the website and I will probably invest in getting it formatted for paperback and ebook unless I can work out how to slot in the twenty illustrations! I’ll decide on the size of the print run nearer the time but it is likely to be 1000 books which will cost about €3000.

Is Self-Publishing A Hobby or A Business?

Self publishing a book means that your book is now a business in my opinion. However, even if it is a hobby, most people spend money each week on enjoying their hobbies so perhaps perfecting your writing could carry a weekly cost too. Books need to be marketed, just like any other business. Every small business owner realises that they need to invest in their business be it investing in a website, social media training, printing of business cards and perhaps advertising. Authors need to invest in their products to ensure that their book is formatted, edited and designed to such a standard that it can stand in a bookshop and compare well with traditionally published books.

Perhaps partly because I am a self published author, I really want to see all self published authors flying the flag high and presenting books that compare well to all traditionally published books.  Barter by all means but do recognise your own limitations and hire professionals to do what they are good at. Authors should also invest in using social media, not just to help sell their own books but also if they are hoping to land a traditional publishing deal.

Have you self-published? Were you able to get a grant? Do you think the costs of self-publishing are off-putting to authors? I’d love to hear what you think. 

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  • http://www.thetbrpile.com/ The TBR Pile, Clare

    This is a really helpful post, Lorna, thanks so much for sharing the information. I think a lot of people don’t think about costs until near when they need to spend the money – then it seems like a lot to find. But a book takes some time to write, so if they were to save a bit each week or month, they would have some money towards costs when they need it.
    I’d say you got your editing and proofreading done for a very good price at €300. For the two jobs I would have expected more like €600 or €700.
    I agree totally that self-publishing a book is a business, and that even if you treat it as a hobby you should still spend out for a quality product. People spending their money for a product have a right to expect it to have been produced professionally.
    You are quite unusual, I think, in getting your books printed in bulk by a local printer. But I think with your books you are absolutely right to do that, and it has paid off. It gives you more control over the quality as well, I imagine.
    It would be great if more people shared their costing information, as you and Pat have, so that other self-publishers don’t feel they are working in isolation and will know what is reasonable to spend and to budget for.

    • http://www.writeontrack.ie Lorna Sixsmith

      Thanks Clare, I have to admit I thought it was a good price too. I did send her a small section to look at first and the total word count was prob about 45K. It didn’t need a development edit and although I was horrified (embarrassed!) and the number of red marks, she said it wasn’t bad at all. If I was to do it again, I would have allowed another 2 weeks for the editing because time was so tight, I ended up changing things after she had edited and the occasional typo crept in then.
      I had worked out that the total cost was going to be about €9K and the crowdfunding campaign secured me €5.5K. I just couldn’t commit to that level of money without the reassurance of the crowdfunding, I was terrified of having hundreds of books left in my attic for ever more.
      I probably could have got the printing cheaper if I had shopped around and especially if I had gone abroad but I wanted the cover and the paper to be of good quality and these printers came highly recommended by two other authors. Plus, they were local so it meant I could call in easily enough to check things. I’d really recommend the crowdfunding for authors although it does take blood, sweat and tears for the month ;)

  • B R Maycock

    Very good post! The cost of editing was so low though( not easily come by, I know but a lot lower than anything I’d heard of before?) I must say I went into this self publishing business with my eyes only partially open, so many on the web who said no one could do it without paying an editor and a cover designer. I won’t say that I was so cocky as to want to prove them wrong-I just hoped that they were wrong due to financial constraints. Now I’ve had a manuscript assessment done professionally but am back to worrying about what to do for the next check because even with me correcting all the issues found in the assessment, I’d need to know that they read correctly which means me paying again or finding an editor. It’s like where people say they wished they had a spouse/relative who was a plumber/ electrician/tradeperson for when they’re stuck-my dream person would be an editor!!!!

    • http://www.writeontrack.ie Lorna Sixsmith

      I have to admit my husband was my first editor! He’s a farmer but with a PhD and is fairly analytical. He used to come in at around 10pm and I’d hand him around ten pages and a red pen! He found a lot of errors but of course, the professional editor found a lot more.
      I never knew about all the different types of editing – developmental, structural, copy, proofing and more. I was pretty clueless. My book was non fiction and the structure was chronological in many ways so that made things a lot easier. My one mistake was having a few bits of repetition but part of that was conscious as I thought readers would dip in and out of it rather than reading it in a couple of sittings.
      I did ask about 5 friends to be my beta readers and while they flagged a few things, I just hadn’t given them enough time. I’d run a crowdfunding campaign and having promised my pledgers they would have the book for Christmas, I had just over 3 months to write it, get it edited and printed so I burnt quite a bit of midnight oil.
      Have you asked any beta readers before you send it to an editor? I have heard of writers hiring two editors and while 75% of what they find is the same, it’s often the 25% that’s different that they learn from.

      • B R Maycock

        Ive had a few betas who have been so good but on receipt of the reader’s report I realised that I did need someone professional, some of the stuff I told my betas that the reader had found was unknown to them. She is bang on the money with all of her comments but my huge worry is the knock on effect that inevitably comes with making changes to an ms-if I miss something I’m doomed to the annals of writers that people would never read again because they found a stonker of an error (I’ve done this myself!) but also there’s the thing that if she reads again(for the fee we can barely afford) and finds something else, then I really can’t pay her again! Oh to have a publishing house behind me!!!By the way my husband fancies having a go at beta reading but good god, there is no way it’d work!!!

        • http://www.writeontrack.ie Lorna Sixsmith

          Beta reading can be a bit hit and miss I think – I’m not sure that most of us will see things like missing info in a novel or spot typos. I know I read quite fast so can miss loads of that kind of thing and if there are loads of errors I don’t know where to start. You can’t beat the real thing – as all the red marks testify! Good luck with it :)

          • B R Maycock

            :)

  • http://www.spiderworking.com/ Amanda Webb

    Interesting read Lorna. Do you think you will spend more money this time around? Or less?

    • http://www.writeontrack.ie Lorna Sixsmith

      The total will be less as some things are in situ, e.g. ISBN numbers and the website but expenses like editing, cover design and printing will be similar – except I’ll be doing first print run as paperback this time.

  • http://www.greensideup.ie Dee Sewell

    Fascinating insight Lorna, and my eyes were widening with each sentence, reading how much work goes into self-publishing. Writing the book is just the beginning. More than anything I imagine you have to have the will and commitment to see it through. I have a new respect of all self-published authors knowing the work that’s involved.

    • http://www.writeontrack.ie Lorna Sixsmith

      Thanks Dee, yes, I have to admit that in some ways the writing is the easy part – the marketing once it is published is just as important and goes on forever in a way. I’ve taken a break from it until I publish the second book and am hoping it will give first book a surge. Horse and Countryside magazine contacted me and are interviewing me for their April edition which will be a nice little boost to PR too.

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