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The Ultimate Guide to Self-Publishing Costs

Self-publishing costs may grow over your budget if you do not plan ahead or you are not aware of the type of expenses. You may save costs if you have some extra skills or time to develop them on your own. Let’s see what self-publishing expenses you have to cover if you want to publish your own ebook.

In this article we summarise the most important cost types you may have, and we add an approximate amount so that you can estimate your self-publishing costs on the long term.


1. Writing an ebook

As an author you usually write on your own, but in this case, your time is your biggest cost. Depending on what your goal is with your book, the actual writing can take a lot of time and hard work.

If you think of writing as a career, you might want to spend more money to make sure what you create is a quality product (e.g. hiring an editor or a ghostwriter). In this case, think of writing as an investment that can bring you enough money for the rest of your life.

If you write books just for fun or as a hobby, you’ll probably spend less time on writing. You can also hire a ghostwriter to do the hard work for you.

Skills needed: writing, creativity, tons of patience

Alternatives: hire a ghostwriter

2. Editing, or hiring an editor

Editing your ebook can be the highest expense, but it can turn your book from good to outstanding. You can hire a professional editor who does all the work for you including developmental editing, content editing, copyediting.

Hiring an experienced editor can increase your expenses. If you decide to get one, we suggest doing some research first and reach out to more than just one editor before you commit and start shelling out money.

The cost of an editor usually starts at $ 0.005 per word and can go as high as 0.08 cents per word. That is why it is important to do your homework first.

In fact, you don’t always need to hire a professional editor. If you want to keep your costs low, ask writers, authors you know to edit your book. A fresh set of eyes can make a difference.

Skills needed: impeccable grammar skills

Alternatives: hire a professional editor, ask early readers

3. Proofreading an ebook

When you think you’ve finished, review your writing to make sure you fix any spelling mistakes before your final product hits the stores.

Even a book with excellent content won’t be able to bring you too much money (or even jeopardize your reputation in the industry as a professional author) if it’s full of errors.

You have several options for proofreading your book. First, you can use software solutions such as spell check in Microsoft Word or to get rid of the biggest mistakes. Then you can hire people on to do that for you. Or you can even hire a professional editor (which may increase your costs), or you can join a writer’s group to exchange manuscripts with others, which is a cost-effective option.

Skills needed: high level of grammar skills

Alternatives: hire people on, hire a professional editor, exchange manuscripts with other writers,  ask early readers

4. Cost of book cover design

If you want your book to stand out, you need a killer cover.

A good cover design can develop your brand as an author, boost your ebook sales and help your readers identify your book by its cover. You want to make sure your book cover attracts your reader’s eyes because eventually, this is the first thing they bump into.

Designing an outstanding cover is far more work than just choosing the right fonts and colors to make your cover look good. A book cover – that draws interest – demands high design skills and a high level of knowledge of Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator.

You can also find great cover design tips at, or do some research and find free templates online. There are also other great design tools like Canva, Boxshot or a book cover editor software. If it seems too much work for you and you’re thinking of hiring a professional at any point, it should be for the cover design part. Hire an experienced cover designer and save yourself the extra hours to focus on more important things like branding and positioning your book.

Skills needed: design skills, advanced Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator skills

Alternatives: hire people on, research and find free templates, use Canva or other book cover editor

5. Ebook conversion

Ebook conversion may be easy to look over if you want to read on your own device, but you need to invest in high-quality conversion for commercial purposes. If you consider yourself tech-savvy, you can format your manuscript yourself using free platforms like Sigil or you can hire an expert to do it for you. PublishDrive offers ebook conversion services for 0.5 USD per page, and for that, you can download your epub which is ready to use.

Skills needed: HTML5, some common aesthetic skills, Sigil or other HTML editor knowledge

Alternatives: outsourcing to PublishDrive or other services

6. ISBN for ebooks

ISBN is a unique identifier for your book which is an industry standard from ancient times. However, as a self-publisher, you have to buy ISBNs and do the necessary administrative tasks – which are a real pain for an entrepreneurial writer.

At PublishDrive, we got rid of the inflexibility of ISBN and introduced our identifier which is widely accepted by our retailers. So no more hassle with ISBNs which speeds up the publishing process for all of us.

Skills needed: patience, administrative skills

Alternatives: no need for an ISBN when you publish your ebook with PublishDrive

Now you finally reached the point where you can actually sell your ebook! 🙂

7. Ebook distribution

When your book is ready, you can start thinking about distribution models. Many of the authors believe that they can do it on their own, but if you want to focus on your biggest strength, on your creativity and writing skills and building your reader base, the best is if you leave all operational and administrative tasks for someone else.

You can hire a whole qualified team if you want to sell on your platforms on your own, or you can simply partner with a trustworthy service provider who does the job for you. PublishDrive may help in this case with a royalty based pricing, so there are no upfront costs when you start selling your titles everywhere.

But do not forget that you have different expenses for different business models. Many of the publishers only look at the nominal value of the royalties but bear in mind that though these costs may vary, your income from these business models can be in some cases surprising.

Consider volume over value, and you may get a more reasonable profit from a less attractive royalty structure

Agency model

The usual pricing of an agency model is between 30%-50% for the retailers. It means that you set the price and you will receive around 70-50% royalties on the net sales. The agency model is the most widely used business model around selling ebooks.

In PublishDrive we have the following stores with agency model (on 5th December 2016) and with the following pricing structure:

Barnes & Noble
ciando.com in agency model
Gardners Network
iBookstore (iTunes)

Subscription based model

Subscriptions are monthly fees that a reader pays to read either unlimited ebooks or there’s some limit included (such as 5 books and 3 audiobooks etc.). This way, the readers pay less, but publishers may earn more since publishers are paid out based on their list price or in some cases based on the number of pages read. Anyway, it is a fair deal for authors, publishers and even for readers.

We see that subscription business models are valuable: one of our publishers could earn 2.5 times more with PublishDrive and half of their revenue (in value) comes from subscription-based business models. This shows that subscription business models have not just a future, but the present as well.

PublishDrive has the following platforms integrated with subscription based business models:


Library model

There are thousands of libraries out such as schools, public libraries, academies, universities and in some cases, corporate libraries that are waiting for you to list your ebook there.

Library models can help readers to lend a book for a specific period or just simply read it from one spot. We also see that the demand for unique and niche content is specifically needed in libraries who are in the digital transition of their traditional work.

At PublishDrive, we partnered with the following digital library services to make sure your ebooks are available for many librarians in over 40k digital libraries.

ciando.com in library model
Gardners Network, but there is lending opportunity.

Skills needed: business development with all retailers, building out your own accounts, financial terms, managing all accounts, managing all technical requirements, managing all ebook updates, consolidating all sales reports, intelligent analysis of sales reports, billing, managing financial thresholds, then collecting your money

Alternatives: you can do everything by building out your team putting a lot of effort (time and money) to find knowledgeable people, or you can partner with PublishDrive.

8. Marketing costs

When it comes to promotional expenses, you can spend a whole lot of money – but it doesn’t have to be like this.

Depending on your budget, you can partner with ebook blogs to promote your books like GoodReads, IndieReader and Whattpad or you can choose websites to do the same such as Write Globe, Writers Support. Some others offer free services like Noble Authors or Creative Designers and Writers.

You can also collaborate with other authors, use BookBub email list advertising or other software. If you decide not to spend any money on promotion but have the time and effort, you can do all the promotions by yourself. Guest blog, host online events, manage all your social media platforms, build relationships inside the industry and do free ebook giveaways. Your goal is to engage with readers and to put your name out there.

Remember, most of the promotional costs tend to be a waste of money so choose your promotional options wisely.

Skills needed: online marketing knowledge, basic IT and HTML skills

Alternatives: hire someone to do it for you, reach out to your community to promote your book, use your blog and social media sites, create a website, do ebook giveaways

By now you know all about the costs that may arise during self-publishing an ebook and you might want to hear a total amount. Self-publishing costs can depend on many things. If you’re a newbie or an experienced author you probably have different kinds of costs. It also depends on your goals what you want to achieve with your book and on how well you want your book to sell and so on.

So how much does self-publishing really cost?

      •    Writing: free if you do it
      •    Editing: depending on the length of the manuscript, usually between $0.005-$0.08 cents per word, an average total can be around 1500$/book (optional)
      •    Proofreading: depends on the length of your manuscript, somewhere around $700-$1000 (optional)
      •    Professional cover design: $50-200$ (for good featured positions in stores needed)
      •    Ebook formatting: free if you do it on your own, usually $50-200$
      •    ISBN: $19-125$ per title, with PublishDrive you don’t need ISBN anymore
      •    Ebook distribution: depends on your business model – usually a percentage of sales
      •    Marketing: depends on your budget – from free until the sky

All in all, as you can see from this post, there are quite a few factors that can affect the cost of self-publishing so after all, the question is not how much does it cost to self-publish a book but how much are you willing to spend on your book. In this case, the sky is the only limit.

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Order an ebook conversion in Publishdrive

PublishDrive is the most intelligent ebook publishing platform where you may ask for ebook conversion if your books are available only in docx, InDesign file, rtf, html or PDF. After conversion, you can publish your beautiful ebook to iBooks, Kindle, Google Play and to 400 other outlets easily.

Technical details about the ebook conversion

You have to pay a one time fee for ebook conversion based on the complexity and length of the book (average price: 0.5 USD per page). We prefer to receive docx, InDesign file, rtf or html as an input format, but the print PDF can be uploaded as well to make sure your ebook will be similar to the print book version. After successful conversion your files can be downloaded via PublishDrive, so you can use them on your own as well (so you as the copyright holder will be able to sell those ebooks in your own shop, but not in the stores where PublishDrive is publishing your books already).

We will get in contact with you regarding your ebook conversion order and it takes usually 3 business days per one book. But in case of complex and long ebooks it may be a longer period.

Ebook conversion order steps in Publishdrive

Register for free in PublishDrive and log in.

ebook conversion

Choose “Add a book” option in your account and select the ‘Order conversion to ebook’.

ebook conversion

Follow the instructions.

ebook conversion

Provide your book details.

ebook conversion

Upload your book manuscript and cover file. You may add more source files like docx, pdf, indd, etc.

ebook conversion

Provide the accurate number of characters and images. Open a text editor program and check it out.

ebook conversion

ebook conversion

ebook conversion

After typing in the accurate numbers, you’ll be able to see the price of conversion. When you accept the following conditions you can save and pay.

ebook conversion

You can pay via Paypal.

ebook conversion

ebook conversionAfter payment, wait for your epub file getting ready. We use human power to create your beautiful ebook, so it takes usually a few days until it is converted. Your ebook will be high quality, commercially valid file which is the first step if you want to sell your ebooks globally.

After successful conversion your epub file can be downloaded via PublishDrive.

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PublishDrive demo ebook publishing

Check out our demo ebook publishing video, so you can see how PublishDrive works in realtime.

If you like what you see, sign up and start increasing ebook sales by publishing over 400 stores in 100 countries!



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PublishDrive on Product Hunt

Upvote PublishDrive on Product Hunt and support small publishers and authors go global!

PublishDrive is listed on Product Hunt selling books in the most intelligent way!


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New market segment drives ebook sales globally

Publishers and authors are getting more independent and strong-minded about looking for new ways to distribute books globally. They are building sustainable business and managing digital innovation in favor of their long-term goals: finding new readers and increasing their sales globally through new intelligent solutions. But they may miss one selling point in their business: finding new readers in new markets through new stores where Amazon and other major retailers are not the most dominant ones and where English language content is still a scarcity.

Not only innovation in the publishing industry, but demographic trends may help publishers rethink their strategy about exporting their books across the globe. New market segments may arise in a world through mobilization of workforce and education where the market should have been traditionally separated by language and geography. But this situation has changed and marketers have to be aware of the new trends to build appropriate strategy around it.

A UN study (United Nations, 2013) released that 232 million people, or 3.2 percent of the world’s population, lived outside of their countries of origin in 2013. That figure compares to 175 million in 2000 and 154 million in 1990 which shows a significant increase of expatriates community all around the world. An expatriate is “a person who lives outside their native country” according to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Although, these people come from different cultures with different background, they share one common value: they want to be reconnected with their countries by consuming local content which may be even English, German, Spanish, Russian, Turkish or Polish or any other language all around the world.

This common value may be noticed in our sales numbers for a 1.5 year period at PublishDrive in case of one specific Eastern European language, Hungarian content depicted on figure below. A very exciting sales trend may be concluded about these numbers: an average of 31% of sales are coming from people living outside of their home country which shows an emerging new market segment, the expatriates which could not be reached before ebooks and before PublishDrive’s service. Although, Hungarian language is a relatively small language, spoken by 11 million people all around the world and claims to have 350 000 registered expatriates globally (Blaskó, SEEMIG, 2014), this demographic change affects all countries around the world.

As a comparison, you may think that this trend is relevant only for emerging markets on the Eastern part of the world, but data tells the opposite: last year 324 000 people left Britain mostly in hope for better job opportunities somewhere else (Bennett, 2015). As a result, more than 6m British people living permanently abroad counting for almost one in 10 of the UK population. (UN, 2013)

The thorough analysis of sales data in PublishDrive shows that there is a moderate relationship between the increasing sales number of ebooks abroad and the overall sales meaning that there is a new market segment in forms of expatriates who may drive ebook sales. The nominal value and volume of expat sales is constantly increasing showing a higher volume of purchasing power, greater interest in local content and more openness to innovative products from the end-user perspective at expatriates.

Results suggest that expatriate sales are dominant part of overall sales in the industry which may open new doors for publishing revenues. With PublishDrive there are many new stores covered in the East and Baltic area of Europe, Asia and Africa and our partnerships with ebook stores are growing constantly to increase ebook sales globally.


Blaskó, Z., & Jamalia, N. (2014). Surveying Emigration I. Report on the first stage of the SEEMIG pilot study in Hungary and Serbia. Research report developed within the project ‘SEEMIG Managing Migration and Its Effects – Transnational Actions Towards Evidence Based Strategies’. Demographic Research Institute (DRI) and Hungarian Central Statistical Office (HCSO). Budapest: SEEMIG

Bennett, A. (2015): Emigration nation: who are the thousands fleeing Britain each year? Via: Date of download: 20.08.2015

United Nations (2013): International Migration Report 2013. Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division. Downloaded:…/development/…/population/…/Full_Docu…

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