• Amanda Clemmer

How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish?


Depending on who you ask, ebook publishing is either expensive or completely free. It’s true you can adapt your publishing expenses to accommodate practically every budget, but knowing what’s essential over what is just helpful for your book can make all the difference once it’s live.

So, what’s the normal range for a self-publishing budget?

It depends. Different writers need different services, and your own experience will shift from book to book and as you gain more knowledge and experience knowing what sells. There’s no “normal” here—you just need to be aware of your needs and take action to bring your book to quality standards.

The Essentials:

Your cover ($15-$500+)

A tinted stock photo isn’t going to cut it in today’s competitive book market. If you really want your book to catch eyes, the best thing to do is hire a professional book cover designer to craft a design. If that’s too far out of your budget, you can find some basic competitive covers on a pre-made cover design site or on Fiverr. These won’t win you any contests, but they will make your book fit in with the others in its genre and likely outperform anything you could design for yourself.

Why it matters: Your cover is the first impression you’ll make on readers. On average, you’ll have only a couple seconds to catch someone’s eye and get a click. There’s no substitute or workaround for a good cover, so it should be one of your bigger investments.

Editing ($30-$3,000)

Even if you’ve worked as a professional editor yourself, you won’t be able to catch your own mistakes. If you’re new to writing and self-publishing, you’ll need to go the extra mile to find an editor who understands your genre and can help you bring out the potential of your book. There is good news: authors who publish frequently usually need to spend less editing as they get more experienced, investing only in a proofreader or an editing software like Autocrit to pick out the smaller errors.

Why it matters: The biggest general complaint about self-published books is the lack of quality control, which in most cases means poor editing. This is an easy fix, and there’s no good reason to skimp!

Marketing (Free-$1000+)

Different marketing techniques come with very different promises of return for wildly different investments, but the more expensive options are not always the most effective. For under $100, you can join a cross-promotion with other authors and give away a copy of your book for a team of readers who will be excited to buy your future releases. If you plan on only releasing a single book, you’ll need to think differently and consider larger promotions geared around making sales.

Why it matters: Just because your book is published doesn’t mean it’s going to sell. You’ll do better and get a higher ranking if you give your book a quality launch with reviews, giveaways, and interviews—and people will take you much more seriously if they encounter your book multiple times.

The Not-As-Essentials

Layout (Free-$500)

Ebook layout has minimal needs, but people will notice if your paperback was formatted without any thought. A custom layout design can cost several hundreds of dollars depending on your book’s publishing requirements, but tools like Vellum and Atticus are making custom layouts far more affordable, and some sites like Draft2Digital give some options for free.

Author Tools ($10-$250+)

There are many tools you can use for every part of your book—plotting, writing, and editing. Any of these can help simplify your work as a writer and streamline your publishing process, but none of them are actually needed. Some people prefer basic tools like LibreOffice over the fancier (and often more elaborate) alternatives that try to cater to writers.

Author website: ($100-$2,000+)

An author website won’t actually get you any new readers. It will, however, give you a base where you can direct readers who want to sign onto your list and discover all the other books you’ve written. If you’re starting out, you can save setting up your author site for when you’ve already become established. You could also make a smaller investment, like a reliable mailer with a splash page.

Skimping on quality: is it ever okay?

When you commit to self-publishing a book, you commit to bringing that book to industry standards yourself. You might not have all of the resources available (though with enough of a budget you can compensate), but you can focus on the more critical aspects of publishing early on to make a good first impression. Successful books have been published on budgets under $100 in cases where the money was well spent.

How do you budget your publishing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below or click the blue button to join my group for self-publishing fiction writers on Facebook.