March 19

What Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Bestselling Book?

    Once you’ve decided to self-publish your book – knowing you’ll be able to keep more of the creative control and royalties from sales – the next question is obvious: how much will it COST to self-publish a bestselling book?

    Traditional publishing houses take on most of the initial cost for getting the book ready for print. In return, they offer you, the author, approximately 10% of the retail price of your book, as your author royalties.

    Often times, their goal is to recoup the money they invested in getting your book on the shelves by helping you sell a certain number of copies (they are a business, after all).

    Budgeting for your self-publishing project can feel debilitatingly overwhelming, but we’re here to help!

    Following our 5 phases of creating and launching a successful self-published book, let’s break down all of the standard costs you can expect, as well as some additional ones that may crop up.

    Important Note: In the following walkthrough, we’re focusing on the cost to self-publish a non-fiction book, though many of the same costs would apply to fiction books. In this example, we’re using a manuscript that is 60,000 words, the average length of mainstream non-fiction + fiction books.

    Phase 1: Writing

    In most cases, writing your book will cost you $0 in a monetary sense.

    It can be difficult to quantify the financial cost of your blood, sweat, and tears, as well as the time you put into researching and writing.

    Maybe you decided to take time off work to focus on your book.

    Maybe you rent a cabin for two weeks to write your entire first draft in isolation.

    In this phase, the amount of money you spend to “enhance” your creativity is entirely up to you.

    Also, if you choose to work with a writing coach to help guide you through the process + keep you making consistent progress on your first draft, that will be an additional cost (for some of us writers, the additional accountability to priceless!).

    Estimated Cost for Phase 1: $0

    Phase 2: Editing

    During the editing phase, you’ll be hiring three separate editors:

    1. Developmental editor
    2. Copyeditor
    3. Proofreader

    As we’ve previously covered, each editor will be a different person with different specialized skills that your book desperately needs.

    Most editors charge per-word or per-page. The length of your manuscript (and the editor’s experience level) will determine the final cost of working with each professional.

    Developmental editors currently range from $.05 – $.10 per word

    Copyeditors currently range from $.02 – $.05 per word

    Proofreaders currently range from $.015 – $.019 per word

    Possible Additional Costs

    If you have an incredibly complex book (with lots of footnotes, asides, and references to others book), your editor may charge more to analyze all the additional points you’ve included. 

    Note: most editors will NOT review your manuscript for accuracy in terms of quotes + footnotes. They also will NOT check with the publishers of other books to confirm you can use the quotes you’ve included. That is your responsibility.

    Also, if you have a very tight timeline or are rushing to get your book published (which we NEVER recommend), then your editor is almost guaranteed to charge you more.

    If you would like to have an index or list of references included in your book, the Proofreader is often the one who will complete this step – and yes, they will charge you for their time to do it.

    Phase 2 Cost to Self-Publish Breakdown

    For our 60,000-word book, we’ll use the middle of the range of prices listed above.

    Developmental editor = 60,000 X $.075 = $4,500 + $300 (add additional time for them to review your edits before you work with your next editor) = $4,800

    Copyeditor = 60,000 X $.035 = $2,100 + $300 (add additional time for them to review your edits before you work with your next editor) = $2,400

    Proofreader = 60,000 X $.017 = $1,020 + $300 (add additional time for them to review the final, formatted version of the manuscript, to be completed in Phase 3) = $1,320

    Estimated Cost to Self-Publish for Phase 1: $0

    Estimated Cost to Self-Publish for Phase 2: $8,520 + project management

    (You’ll be the one communicating with the editors to make sure both you AND them complete your respective tasks on-time to keep the project moving forward.)

    Phase 3: Design + Launch Prep

    In Phase 2, the process you follow + the amount of money you spent is very straightforward.

    We hope you enjoyed how easy-to-understand that was because Phase 3 is entirely different.

    While you won’t be spending large chunks of money in multiple places, you will be spending small chunks of money in far more places.

    There are more pieces + parts to consider, which means more professionals to find + pay.

    Let’s break it down.

    Here’s a short-list of must-have support for Phase 3:

    • Formatter to take your edited content from a document to the designed manuscript. Like your editors in Phase 1, a formatter will often charge per-word or per-page. Or they may charge a flat fee based on the length of your manuscript. Fees range from $300-$800. This depends on the length of your manuscript, how many graphics you have, and the complexity of your designs.
    • Book cover designer to create the design + properly formatted files for your book cover. For our authors, we run a book cover content on 99designs for a flat fee. This helps to keep the cost predictable AND you can get 20, 30, even 50 different cover options in one place! You may need to pay extra for the designer to create the ebook, paperback, and hardback formats.
    • IngramSpark upload fees + sample copies: this isn’t a person per se, but a set of fees you can’t avoid
    • Purchasing ISBN numbers: you'll need a separate ISBN number for your paperback book and hardback book – having an ISBN for your ebook is optional
    • Graphic designer to help design promotional materials for your launch, including an e-book freebie, press kit, social media graphics, and shareable graphics for your launch team
    • BONUS: Metadata researcher who will help determine the best keywords + categories to feature your book in on Amazon (which will get your book more attention + more sales)

    Possible Additional Costs

    If your book cover uses stock images (whether graphics or photos), you’ll need to pay a flat fee to be able to use each of those images or graphics.

    Want to guarantee that your book has a number of great, honest reviews? You can pay for reputable services to share your book with their list of verified, experienced Amazon book reviews.

    Want help booking perfect-for-you podcast interviews + media appearances to help you sell more copies? You may hire a PR professional who works with authors to assist with strategy + pitching to show hosts and media outlets.

    Do you already have a website, newsletter software provider, + social media post scheduler? If not, those are three elements you’ll need to create ASAP: 

    • There are great free or low-cost email marketing services (MailerLite + ConvertKit) and social media schedulers (Buffer + Later).
    • With website hosting, prices vary widely depending on the type of website you build + where to host it.
    • If you’re building a business around your book, we recommend running your website on WordPress with a host like SiteGround or InMotion Hosting.
    • For websites with less tech + fewer design options, Squarespace is the way to go to get started right away.

    If you’re not tech-savvy (or not willing to learn), you’ll need to hire a tech-focused Virtual Assistant to help set-up your website, newsletter software provider, social media post scheduler, e-book freebie delivery, and more!

    Phase 3 Cost to Self-Publish Breakdown

    Formatter = $550 + $300 (add additional costs for any updates you requests + edits recommended by your Proofreader during their final review) = $850

    Cover Design + Formatting = $1,000 on 99designs + specific cover design formatting

    IngramSpark Upload Fee for both versions of your book = $49 + $49 = $98

    IngramSpark Paperback Sample Copy = $20-$50

    IngramSpark Hardback Sample Copy = $20-$50

    Pack of 10 ISBN Numbers = $295 (ISBNs need to be purchased in your home country, so the cost will vary)

    Graphic Design for Promotional Materials (freebie bonus, press kit, social media graphics, graphics for launch team) = $1,000-$3,000

    BONUS: Metadata Researcher = $200-300

    Estimated Cost for Phase 1: $0

    Estimated Cost for Phase 2: $8,520 + project management

    Estimated Cost for Phase 3: $5,643 + project management + software

    (You’ll be the one communicating with the all of your experienced professionals to make sure both you AND them complete your respective tasks on-time to keep the project moving forward, along with completed the actual upload + schedule steps for your books files, social media posts, freebie delivery emails, emails to your launch team, and more! This is the time you will be the busiest with behind-the-scenes tasks + communication juggling. It can also be the most expensive, depending on the additional support you need!!)

    Phase 4: Launching

    For a 5-day period, your e-book will be free on Amazon, which is what we call Launch Week. Ensuring your 5-day week goes from a Tuesday – Saturday means there will be one weekend day for busy folks to still discover + download your book!

    Before your Launch Week:

    • Your launch team will already have a digital version of your book + be ready to leave a review on Amazon.
    • Your cover files and interior manuscript files for your ebook, paperback, and hardback have all been uploaded + approved.
    • You’ll have social media posts scheduled to go live every day during your Launch Week.
    • You’ll have your ebook freebie set-up to deliver in your newsletter software and a landing page on your website for people to be able to sign up + get access to the freebie.

    Last but not least, YOU will be showing up Live on social media to promote the book every day for Launch Week.

    THIS is the 5-day period you’ve been working hard for (and spending money)! While there aren’t many direct expenses associated with a 5-day Launch Week, your TIME and ENERGY are the most important currencies.

    Possible Additional Costs

    Tech issues? You may want to have a tech-focused Virtual Assistant on-hand in case any issues occur with your website or newsletter software. You may also need a VA that specializes in working with Amazon and/or IngramSpark in case there are issues with your book description or categories on the Amazon site.

    Estimated Cost for Phase 1: $0

    Estimated Cost for Phase 2: $8,520 + project management

    Estimated Cost for Phase 3: $5,643 + project management + software

    Estimated Cost for Phase 4: $0 + project management + software + a celebratory meal/massage/gift for YOU!

    Estimated TOTAL Cost to Self-Publish for 60,000-word non-fiction book: 

    $14,163 + project management + software

    So how do we look at this final cost to self-publish a bestselling book? 

    What else do we need to consider?

    While the cost to self-publish shown DOES include hiring the vital professionals you need to have a high-quality, bestselling book, there are a number of costs it does NOT include:

    • Your time researching which professionals to hire, including interviews + reviewing sample work
    • Emailing back + forth with the professionals you choose to hire, exchanging details, timelines, and the actual content
    • Managing the overall book publishing project, ensuring that both the professionals you hired AND you meet the necessary deadlines to publish on the launch date you’ve chosen.
    • Your time sending out your press kit to media outlets, podcasters, and other places that may feature you + your book (along with following up with all of them!).
    • Setting up all of the tech pieces on the backend of your website, newsletter software, social media post scheduler, IngramSpark, Amazon, and more.
    • Your time trying to find answers to any issues or hiccups that happen along the way (and they always happen!)

    This is EXACTLY why Paper Raven Books exists: to help authors navigate + manage the publishing process with less stress and more time to focus on their creative, business-building possibilities.

    Whether or not you ever choose to work with us, we hope you feel significantly more informed about both the costs + logistics involved in launching a high-quality, bestselling book. 

    Don’t let the numbers scare you. 

    If you feel called to write the book idea that you have, you CAN and WILL make it happen, one step + one dollar at a time.



    Bio: Victoria Klein is a two-time published author (currently writing her 3rd book) and the Director of Operations for Paper Raven Books. Formerly PRB’s first-ever Book Project Manager, Victoria has helped 30+ authors (and counting!) through the self-publishing process from start to finish. Through her monthly posts, she’ll reveal the biggest concerns + mistakes of self-publishing authors, and how to solve them.


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