Download FREE Checklist

How To Publish Your Book on a Budget

budget May 10, 2021

Someone recently asked me, “Is $10,000 enough money to get my book published?”

My response? “You don’t need that much!”

“How about $5,000?”

“That might still be too much!”

“How much do I need?”

When I published my first book, I had no idea what it would cost. I didn’t know the fair price for various services and, thus, I ended up spending more than four times what I needed to spend to publish my book. Now that I’ve been through the self-publishing process many times, I know where to spend money and where not to.

Setting your budget depends on many factors, most importantly:

  • How much of the work are you willing to do yourself?
  • Who can you get to help you at little to no cost?
  • How polished do you want your final book to be?

Depending on your answers to these questions, a fair estimate of your costs could range anywhere from $2,000 to around $5,000. In this article, I’ll explain where you should spend your money. I’ll show you how to allocate your funds based on your budget range. And I’ll show you where publishing service providers try to overcharge writers who aren’t familiar with fair prices.

Note: Price estimates in this article are for books in the 150-to-200-page range with 30,000 to 40,000 words. If your book is significantly shorter or longer, estimates would change accordingly.

 

Guides and Courses

If you've never published a book before, the most impactful place to spend your money might be with a guide or an instructor. You can save thousands of dollars and shave months, if not years, off your timeline with the right person to help you navigate the publishing process.

If you prefer one-on-one attention, look for a guide or a consultant. If you're OK with learning as part of a group, an instructor might be all you need.

Guide ($1,200 to $1,500) - A publishing guide should be someone with a clear, compelling system for getting you through the writing, editing, and publishing process. They should be willing to have a free consultation with you, and they should explain their system to you during that consultation.

A good guide can help you pick the best topic for your book, build your outline, and maintain momentum as you write. They can also help you find your way through the editing and publishing process.

Look for someone who has been through the self-publishing process multiple times. Ideally, they should be an author with books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sites where you'll want your book to be sold.

Check to see if they have useful content on YouTube, a helpful blog, or another platform where they post content. If you can't find content they've produced, or if you don't like the content you see from them, keep looking until you find a coach with content that appeals to you.

Courses ($500 to $1,000) - If you prefer to learn independently, you could take a course to learn how to write, edit, and publish your book. Before you enroll in a course, read the course description to ensure it addresses the parts of the writing, editing, and publishing processes that meet your needs.

Also, choose a course that delivers content in the format that works best for you. If you learn by watching videos, choose a video-based course. If you learn by reading, choose a course with plenty of reading material.

Make sure your course has accountability check-ins built into it. If it only includes videos without any assignments or check-ins with an instructor, you'll be less likely to follow through with it and learn what you'll need to know.

 

Editing

This is another place where it's worth it to spend money. Having good editors is essential to publishing a quality book, so unless you have access to talented editors who are willing to cut you deals, don’t skimp here.

Depending on the quality of your writing, you might want as many as three rounds of editing. Those rounds typically involve developmental editing, line and copy editing, and proofreading.

 

Developmental Editing ($300 to $750) - A good developmental editor will make sure your book is organized in a clear, compelling way. Does your story flow smoothly? Are your characters compelling? Are you keeping readers engaged throughout your book? If the answer to any of these questions is no, a developmental editor can show you how to fix it.

These are the most expensive editors because they often add the most value to a book. However, you can cut developmental editing costs by doing your own thorough self-edit. You can also reduce the need for developmental edits by asking fellow writers to critique, and beta readers to provide constructive feedback, on your book.

 

Line and Copy Editing ($200 to $500) - Once you’re happy with the overall structure of your book, it’s time to edit the details. Is your writing style interesting throughout your book? Are your choice of words clear? Have you struck the right tone? A line and copy editor can ensure your writing is compelling and easy for your readers to read.

This is another area where fellow writers can help. See if anyone in your writers’ group is willing to exchange line and copy editing services with you. I’ve found that if I provide edits for other writers, I can usually get helpful edits in return.

 

Proofreading ($100 to $300) - Before you finalize your manuscript, it’s time for a proofread. This involves an extremely detailed look at spelling, grammar, punctuation, and consistency to ensure your book is mistake-free. OK, it’s nearly impossible to eliminate every error, but a good proofreader can catch most mistakes.

I like to have three or four people proofread my near-final draft. Typically, I can convince friends, family members, and colleagues to do this for free. Still, I find that after they’ve provided their corrections, it’s worth it to pay a freelance proofreader to do one final pass.

 

Formatting and Book Covers

Once your manuscript is edited and proofread, it’s time to put the final layer of polish on it. That means formatting your book and creating an amazing book cover. While many self-published authors do the formatting themselves, most of us hire a professional to create our book covers.

 

Formatting ($40 to $100) - A formatter will go through your entire book and ensure your fonts, line spacing, margins, and other elements are all done consistently and correctly. If your book is entirely text, this is a straightforward process. If your book is graphically intense with illustrations or unusual design elements, you might pay more for formatting services.

Writers who have strong word-processing skills and text-only books might want to do their own formatting. I’ve found that formatting is easier to do when I have a template with the proper page sizes, margins, and other file elements already in place. Click here to download one of my pre-formatted book templates.  

 

Book Cover ($60 to $300) - Unless you have graphic design expertise, I recommend you don’t create the cover yourself. There are three options you should consider based on your budget. The premium option is to hire a professional designer, a service that typically costs anywhere from $300 to $500. To do this, find a book cover style you like, then find designers who create covers in that style.

If you have a lower budget, you can do what I do. Host a design contest on Freelancer.com, my favorite place to find cover designers. For $50 to $70, you can typically get over 100 designers from around the world to compete for your cover design. Click here to see my YouTube tutorial showing how to host a Freelancer design contest.

Finally, if you want to go with a free cover, check out the book cover templates provided by self-publishing platforms like Amazon’s KDP. The YouTube video mentioned above also shows how to use free book cover templates.

 

Publishing Costs

If someone tries to charge you more than a few hundred dollars to simply publish your book, run away. It’s free to publish on bookseller websites including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and others. The process is as simple as completing a few online forms and uploading your book files. Since many authors don’t realize how simple the process is, this is a place where unethical service providers make huge profit margins at the expense of writers.

 

Publishing Fee ($0 to $200) - Nearly every self-publishing platform allows you to publish with them for free. They want the right to sell your books, so they don’t charge you to publish on their sites.

If you simply don’t want to upload your book files yourself, you could hire a freelancer to do it for you. The going rate is anywhere from $10 to $20 per platform, so if you want your book on the top 10 self-publishing sites, you could pay as much as $200.

If you’d like to see how simple it is to upload your book to a self-publishing platform, click here to see my YouTube tutorial for publishing on Amazon’s KDP site.

 

ISBN Fee ($0 to $150) - In the past, every book that was published had a unique number, similar to the Universal Product Code (UPC) you see on products in grocery stores. This number, called an International Standard Book Number (ISBN), is an old-fashioned way of keeping track of books. Retailers used it as a catalog number to ensure they were ordering the correct book when they placed orders with distributors.

Some booksellers still require ISBNs for paperback books, but most of the publishing platforms will give you a free ISBN for any book you publish with them. If you do need to purchase an ISBN, the price is country-dependent. In the United States, ISBNs must be purchased from Bowker and cost as much as $125 each. In other countries, ISBNs are provided for free.

Copyright Registration Fee ($0 to $200) - Some authors choose to register their copyrights because they believe it provides extra legal protection in the event someone tries to copy their work. The price of registering a copyright is country-dependent, costing between $50 and $100 in the United States. You can save money here if you choose not to register your copyright. Note: You own the copyright for the material in your book as soon as you transfer the content from your brain into any written format. Registering your copyright does provide some additional legal protection, but it’s not a requirement when you publish your book.

 

Marketing

Here’s where the most variability exists in book publishing budgets. Some authors spend thousands of dollars marketing their books. Others opt out of marketing entirely.

 

Author Websites ($0 to $500) - Unethical service providers love getting authors to pay for websites. Afterall, who doesn’t want a site that features their books? The secret is that anyone can get a website for free these days. You don’t need a website design expert to create one for you.

Many self-published authors build their websites for free using Amazon Author Central, Goodreads Author Program, Google Sites, or similar platforms. Those providers allow you to create a page with your author profile, links to your books, and announcements that might interest your readers.

 

Advertising ($0 to $500) - This might be the most subjective aspect of book publishing. Does advertising work? Well, it depends. I have experienced some success with paid advertising, particularly with Amazon Advertising. I’ve also poured thousands of dollars into advertising that did absolutely nothing for my book sales.

My advice on advertising is to focus on free options. Use social media, your blog, YouTube, and other free platforms to share news about your book. If you must pay for advertising, spend very little money to test platforms you might think are right for your book. Spending $100 on Amazon Advertising, Facebook, Instagram, or other platforms can go a long way to help you figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Once you find something that works, try to match your advertising spending to the results you get. If you see that spending $50 generates $100 in book profits, then spend $100 to see if it will generate $200 in profits. Stop spending if the cost is exceeding your profits.

 

The Bottom Line

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about when building your budget for publishing your book. If you turn the process over to a hybrid publisher, they might manage the process for you, but that comes at a high price. Many hybrid publishers will charge between $5,000 and $10,000 to provide services that include editing, formatting, publishing, and more.

If you hire self-publishing service providers, you’ll have to manage the overall process yourself. That will save you money, but you’re still likely to pay between $2,000 and $4,000.

I teach my clients to use the techniques described in this article to refine and publish their books for less than $1,000. Of course, that cost will vary based on factors including how much of the work you do yourself, who you find to help you, and the level of polish you want on your book.

Here’s a summary of what it might cost if you outsource everything versus follow the “Self Publishing Fast Lane” approach I now use for my own books.

 

 

Typical Hybrid Publisher’s Fee (not recommended)

Premium Self-Publishing Service Providers

Self Publishing Fast Lane Approach

Fast Lane Recommendation

Guide / Project Manager

$2,500

$1,500

$1,200

Fast Lane package

Developmental Editing

$1,500

$750

$300

SCF*

Line & Copy Editing

$750

$500

$200

SCF*

Proofreading

$500

$300

$100

SCF*

Formatting

$500

$100

$40

self or freelancer

Book Cover Creation

$500

$300

$60

design contest

Publishing Fees

$750

$200

$0

self

ISBN

$500

$150

$0

platforms provide

Copyright

$500

$200

$0

skip

Author Website

$1,000

$500

$0

free

Advertising

$1,000

$500

$100

test, then expand

TOTAL

$10,000

$5,000

$2,000

 


  * SCF: Self-edit (S) and get critiques (C) from other writers before you hire a freelancer (F) to do the final touches

 

I'd love to help you accomplish your goal of becoming a published author. Click here to schedule a free consultation with me or to learn more about the services I provide

For more tips to help you on your self-publishing journey, subscribe to my newsletter and download my free Self-Publishing Checklist now.

Download Your FREE Self-Publishing Checklist

Click the button below to download your checklist with step-by-step instructions for writing, refining, and publishing your first book.

Get Your Free Checklist Now