The True Costs of Self-Publishing

If you dig around online, you will find that you can self-publish a book for anywhere from $1,500 to $30,000. It completely depends on how you go about it. And how you choose to spend your money.


If you are not prepared, or are unable, to invest in your book properly up front, self-publishing is not right for you. In fact, we tell most of our clients that if they aren’t comfortable losing every penny they put in to their self-published book, they shouldn’t do it. That doesn’t always win me friends but it can prevent someone from making a huge mistake. See this related article on When Self-Publishing Makes Sense.




There are dozens of different ways to self-publish, but here are the most common:

  1. Self-publishing company:
    You pick a package. Often there are 3-5 packages for you to choose from. The most basic package may include templates and limited editorial and design work. The most expensive package may include everything from putting your book together to extensive marketing and PR plans. Always know what you’re signing up for. There are good and bad self-publishing companies. Ask the right questions.
  2. DIY using CreateSpace and/or LSI:
    In this scenario, you either use the vendors or services offered by the POD programs or you submit your own files. You have total control over what you upload and can handle the cover design, layout and editorial process completely on your own
  3. Be your own publisher:
    When you are finished writing, you take off your author hat and put on your publishing hat. You work with an experienced designer to ensure that your book cover and interior will stand up in your category. You hire an experienced editor—and take their advice. You secure your own ISBNs and create your own publishing company or imprint.  You put together a sales, marketing and distribution plan. This can include using a POD program or hiring a distributor


Regardless, it will take money to self-publish your book. Yes, you can plan on making some money back through sales, but it takes a long time to recoup up front publishing costs. This is true for those who self-publish as well as traditional publishers.


It’s most important that you have a plan and a budget in place from beginning to end. As a self-publisher it’s important to consider the following list. Many of these items can be wrapped up in a self-publishing “package” but the costs are still there.


  1. Editorial work:  Do you need a writing partner? Will you need a full developmental edit once the manuscript is in place? Do you need a ghostwriter? How much are you willing to budget for this piece?
  2. Copyediting:  Getting the manuscript copyedited is vital to being a successful self-publisher. No matter how good you are, there will be mistakes in your manuscript. Copyeditors can charge by the hour or by the word. Always get a sample and an estimate prior to getting started
  3. Proofreading:  Once the book is in pages, you must get a proofread. We generally suggest two. Proofreaders generally charge by the hour or by the page. Their job is to catch typos, yes, but also to keep an eye out for any design errors: widows, orphans, page numbers, running heads, etc.
  4. Cover and Interior Design:  Book designers know books.  It’s important to work with a designer that has experience in books but it will cost you. Many designers offer a range of pricing. Always ask for samples and references
  5. eBook Conversion:  You need an eBook at the same time as your printed book
  6. Printing:  Whether you are going through POD or offset, you must budget for printing. All to often authors who choose to go POD assume they have no printing costs. True—there are no up front costs. False—there are no printing costs. Every copy you sell, you will be charged to print
  7. Fulfillment and/or Distribution:  If you choose to use a POD company, the options and pricing are pretty straightforward. However, should you choose to print 1000 books or more, you must have a warehousing, fulfillment and/or distribution plan. This involves not only housing the books themselves but also collecting orders, picking, packing, shipping and billing and collections
  8. Sales, marketing and PR:  It is a myth that your book will sell just because it’s on Amazon. It won’t. Partially because people aren’t likely to know it’s there. Whether your budget is $1,000 or $20,000, it’s important to have a budget and plan for selling and marketing your book.


Self-publishing is more accessible, and more cost-effective, than ever before.  But don’t mistake accessible and cost-effective for easy. To truly get the most out of your self-published book, it’s vital to speak to as many people as possible, request as many proposals as necessary and do your research. It’s important to know exactly what you’re getting in to.

Writing the book is one thing, self-publishing it is an entirely different ballgame.  Self-publishing is a business. Many authors forget to treat it like one. You wouldn’t start a business without a full business plan. Don’t start the self-publishing process without a full publishing plan. 


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4 Responses to “The True Costs of Self-Publishing”

  1. Tom Gray says:

    Bethany, Nice summary! I chose door number 3 and used Their guidance and yours helped me understand how to fit into and use the self-publishing process to meet my goal of publicity (not profit).

  2. Mary Pagano says:

    I completely concur with Joe’s comments. My personal experience with a self-publishing company was very costly. Although they did a good job with my book, I believe the costs were outrageous. I will never retrieve the money I paid into this venture. I did, however, receive a good education and now know that my initial instinct was correct: “no writer of a worthy piece of literature should have to pay to be published.” As with everything else in today’s world, there is no fairness, even in the arts. It is not about good writing, it is all based on who you know; greed; the “corporate” method of thinking only about sales and the bottom line; and what the masses seem to be most drawn to: i.e. sex, violence, erotica, etc. Yes, it has been quite a learning experience for me!

  3. joe sixpak says:

    your so called ‘ self publishing ‘ companies
    are NOT self publishing at all

    they are VANITY PRESSES pretending to do self publishing
    and most are terrible bad as well as overpriced and under qualitied

    to be self published you must own your own isbn

    for some people a CHEAP vanity press may be right
    as long as they don’t waste money on useless services
    like covers, ‘marketing’/’promotion’, etc.

    as to covers: anyone smart enough to write a book is smart enough to download a cover template and diy their cover better faster cheaper easier then using any self styled ‘professional’ cover artist

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