The True Cost of Self Publishing Exposed

**Please note, this posting is subjective in nature.  I cannot speak universally to the cost of self publishing, your skill set or anything of the sort since books and vendors are all different.  However, this blog entry is filling a void I noticed when doing my own research.  It is my hope that from this you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what to expect as you begin the undertaking of self publish for the first time.   Thank you**

Before my first real rejection burst through my inbox, I had already started to look into self publishing–which was a Plan B of sorts for me.  Along with traditional publishing how-to’s, I bought books on the subject of self publishing.  I read the words, took the knowledge and all of that was fine and well…but, something was missing–something rather large and looming in the not-so-distant future that went hand in hand with Plan B.  While traditional publishing books will go into deep talks over advances and royalties and agent-fees or commissions, self publishing barely brushes the surface of money in terms of what it costs.

The truth is, if no agent took my book and no publisher bought my book–I’d be going Indie, what other choice did I have?  None really, other than let the book die–which wasn’t going to happen.  Since I eventually figured out I wasn’t going to be one of the “blessed” and I wasn’t going to be making money right out of the gate, I needed to know how much I would have to spend.  Everyone budgets for more big things in life, from a vacation to a car to a new home to a start up business, it’s called planning–and it’s the smart person who understands the ins and outs prior to taking the plunge.  I didn’t think finding out the nuts and bolts of expenses would be that hard…only, it was.

No one–not other Indies, not the so called Guides, not the blogs–was talking about that.  I know money at large can be a rather hush-hush taboo sort of topic…those that have, don’t…those that don’t, do.  But in between all of that PC stuff I was left missing the point.  You can tell me all day every day what to expect from the experience at large in abstract–and I appreciate that–but really, what’s this going to cost me?


I did what I always do.  I researched the matter.  Still, nothing.  At least nothing that I could find.  It was as though no one was willing to fess up and share the figures.  I didn’t want to count their money…but I did want to gain some understanding of what to expect…


I went peg by peg.  Finding the team that would build my brand with me.  The editor, the cover artist, the formatter…and eventually…I did a mock up of the cost of self publishing through the eyes of someone whom has never self published before.  I had my estimated around $1,000 to get this book launched and ready to roll.  My guesstimate was a no fluff, no excess estimate.  It was simply a matter of dollar and cents.

I wasn’t that far off.  But, then again, I was. The true cost of going it alone is really an equation of whatever you’re willing to spend and whatever you’re willing to do yourself added and subtracted against one another.  This is my break down for anyone thinking of taking on this huge project.

Please keep in mind, outside of the actual writing, I depended on the kindness of others and their professional know-how.  I outsourced the things I wasn’t comfortable doing–which means, I basically outsourced every nook and cranny.

The Cover

Your cover can cost as much or as little as you’d like.  You can piece one together yourself for the price of a stock image and maybe a fancier font, or you can hire an artist to do the heavy lifting for you.

I ended up doing my cover twice.  My true cost the cover boiled down to this…

Cover Number 1- $120.00.  This included a stock image and the artists time and energy.

Font for cover Number 1- $60.00 purchased from

Cover Number 2- $120.00.  This included the artists pre-exisiting artwork, her efforts and time.

Back & Spine for Cover Number 2- $80.00.  I’ve opted to put my book out in both eBook and print.  Not everyone does.

GRAND TOTAL: $380.00


Editing is an expensive and important part of the process and unless you’re fairly confident that you can do it yourself, and it’s best to outsource this leg of the project.  Actually, I’d like to take that back…I think everyone should be edited professional because fresh eyes are rather priceless.  Unedited books are one of the largest gripes readers have with Indies…they don’t want to read through a writers mistakes and eBook vendors like Amazon or B&N will not tolerate them.  Even if a book is your best effort, even if your a college graduate with a B.A in English…get an editor.  Step back and let someone else raise the red pen.  You’re comfortable with your work–you know what you meant to say–and editor isn’t any of that and will be honest pointing out where you went off the rails.

Quotes can vary depending on the length of your book and the style of editing you want. When I started looking for an editor and taking bids, they ranged anywhere form $3,000 to just over $100.00 to copy edit my 94k manuscript.  I did my research on editors to find one that I was comfortable with, and as it turned out, the $103.00 bidder was highly respected and came complete with glowing reviews from authors who had worked with her in the past as well as impressive resume of over 10 years worth of work.

I opted for a copy or line edit where the editor will correct my punctuation, highlight overused words, and any grammatical errors or oversights.   My editing costs boiled down to this…

$103.00 for 94k words


Formatting can be another DYI project, but the rumor is that it will make you pull your hair out at the root.  Nothankyouverymuch.  I outsourced this to a recommended formatter.

Every book needs formatting, you can’t get around this…what you hammered out in Word or Pages won’t cut it in the big leagues.  What you send to the public needs to read fluently and crisply–everything from proper indentation to flourishes.

My formatting charge included both eBook and print formatting…and it boiled down to this…

$110.00 for Kindle, B&N, ePub, Smashwords and Print


This was a highly unexpected but sage venture for me.  But, as an author, I felt the need to have a web presence that would speak of professionalism and become a place where my fans can connect with me–as my designer likes to say, plan for a miracle.  I started this blog to be my live journal, and while I’ll keep it going because I love it, the truth is, I needed a more professional approach to welcome my readers.

A website is a brilliant investment in your future.  Out of pocket, it’s pricey–I will admit that.  But, like with other things, it can be done for next to nothing if you’re good with computers and know your way around coding.

$870.00 this included a four page from scratch design.

$120.00 this included my domain name (a .com) for a year through, site analytics, 5 e-mail addresses and a pro plan that saves me from spam.

$100.00 for stock images to fill the site up


Another unexpected but important element to the process as a whole.  No one can buy your book if they don’t know who you are or that you even wrote a book!  This is an ongoing budget, one that will cover various fees and various platforms over time.  It’s a budget in the rough because that is the only way to plan and I did set a cap for myself.  

This also a very a subjective one.  You can pour thousands upon thousands of dollars into promotion for press with the NYT and other publications…or, like me, you can keep it simple and attack the market online through various blogs and social media.   

$500.00 ads planned are for GoodReads, Facebook and The Kindleboards as well as others that may be suggested or discovered.  Each outlet charges different rates for different pushes.  Some are pay-per-click, others have a flat rate.  I will do a separate, in depth, discussion of PR at a later point. But, that is my budget.

$150.00 for a month long promotional blitz with a PR agent.


One of the greatest parts of being an author is having a printed book in hand–well, at least for me.  It’s the accumulation of the experience entirely which can be captured no other way.

I opted to use CreateSpace.  My first run of 20 books will be for giveaways, friends, family and bookstores I want to individually approach to carry my book.

20 copies at 6.00 a piece–$120.00 plus shipping

Grand Total: $2,453

Okay…so I was off by a little under $1,500…but, that’s what no one tells you and exactly why I am telling you.  It’s expensive.  And you should plan for it.

Now, lets talk sales…shall we?  Since, it would be kind of nice to recoup that cost eventually…

If I sell on Amazon for $4.99 a book–but for the sake of easy math, lets round up to a nice even $5.00.

$5.00 x .3 (amazon’s cut)= $1.5 (amazon’s take)

5.00 – 1.5= 3.5 (my royalties)

2,453 / 3.5 = 701 books sold before I break even.

The truth is…I write because I love it.  I can’t image doing anything else for the rest of life and I’m thankful that I was in the position to do it at all.  It’s an adventure.  And even if I never sell a single copy…I have zero regrets.




2 thoughts on “The True Cost of Self Publishing Exposed

Your Turn!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s