Book Production

How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Book?

how much does it cost to publish a book

Want to publish? The cool thing about doing it yourself is that you don’t have to spend a single dollar. Or you can go all out by investing a ton of funds into your book marketing. The process depends entirely on you. (It’s what self-publishing is about!)

We give a run-down on the costs, and the resources, tools, and services to know in self-publishing. Whether you’re in the writing or distribution part of your journey, you’re not alone.

We go over:

  1. Writing
  2. Editing
  3. Cover Design
  4. Formatting
  5. Publishing and Distribution
  6. Royalty Payouts
  7. Marketing
  8. Tracking Sales

By the way, it’s a swell time to sell ebook, audiobook, and print-on-demand formats online. In 2020, indies made 85% more book royalties on the self-publishing platform PublishDrive. The demand for books has surged and digital content leads the pack.

So, How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Book?

1. Writing

First, how much does it cost to write a book? Just time and energy. You can also co-write or outsource the work:

  • Co-author a book to share the workload and combine resources. This is a growing trend where indies work together to release books faster and grow their back catalogs.
  • Hire a ghostwriter to do the writing for you. This definitely costs money where you may have to split royalties too. Be sure to start with a contract.

Choose from plenty of helpful writing software:

  • Free: Google Docs, OpenOffice, Reedsy Write
  • Paid: Microsoft Word ($140 or $6.99/month), Scrivener ($45)

When you need a break from typing, try dictation apps:

  • Free: Google Voice Typing, Dictation on Apple devices
  • Paid: Dragon ($300 or $15/month)

2. Editing

After completing your manuscript, edit, and edit again. And please get a second pair of eyes to look over your work. If you can, invest in professional editing.

self-publishing costs to invest in

There are three main types of editors:

  • Copy editors or proofreaders who clean up messy style issues, typos, and more. Costs start at $10 per 1,000 words.
  • Substantive or developmental editors who provide suggestions on how to improve your content, like which areas to expand or condense. Costs start at $40 per 1,000 words.
  • Line editors who correct grammar, flow, word choice, and beyond. They’ll do a good chunk of rewriting while keeping the author’s voice. Costs start at $50 per 1,000 words.

Find editors on Reedsy (get $30 off with this link), Upwork, or Fiverr.

If you’re determined to keep costs low, consider:

3. Cover Design

As one of the first things people see, it’s crucial to get your cover design right. It should grab the attention of your ideal reader and compel them to learn more about your book. There are best practices and psychological reasons behind designing a winning cover, so do your research on book designs.

Part of the research requires looking at bestselling authors and titles in your genre. Let’s say you’re in romance book genre, do you see the similarities with these top books below?

publishdrive romance books

P.S. Since 2015, we helped indies publish over 100K books like the ones above. Publishing starts with an easy upload of your files:

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Your reader should know what to expect from your cover. A good designer will adhere to industry standards while bringing your vision to life. Be aware that there are different design constraints between ebook, audiobook, and print book.

To find a designer, browse Upwork, Fiverr, or Joanna Penn’s list. Costs start from as low as $5 to up to $500.

To do it yourself for free, use a tool like Canva that’s built for people with zero design skills. See how to design a book cover for free.

4. Editing

Formatting entails taking care of the internal workings of your book – ebook, audio, and print. You want to ensure your reader or listener has the smoothest experience across physical pages and various devices.

An ebook requires converting your manuscript to an epub or mobi file. But first, you’ll need to review and prep your document. This includes removing formatting like automatic bullets or checking for unnecessary spaces or characters.

It’s pretty straightforward to format your book manuscript. When you’re ready, use this free ebook converter to generate a high-quality epub or mobi file.

An audiobook requires extra production and costs that deal with narration. Hiring a professional narrator can range from $1,000 to $5,000. If you’re confident in being a narrator yourself, use free recording software like Garageband.

When submitting your final audiobook to stores, you’ll need your cover design and set of mp3 files. Learn more about audiobook production.

A print book requires interior and exterior formatting. You can handle all of it on a Word doc or a more advanced software like InDesign. If you’re looking at paperback, you’ll need to know that the common trim size is 6x9 inches. Bleed or margin size are other keywords to know. See here for more on print book requirements.

You can also find an expert to take care of formatting your book. It costs as low as $10 to get your ebook, audio, or print checked and corrected by industry book pros on PublishDrive

5. Publishing and Distribution

Congrats, we’ve made it to the publishing step! With your edited and formatted manuscript, cover design, and related files handy, here are a few more things to keep in mind:

An ISBN is a unique identifier for stores to identify a specific edition of a book. It’s required for print, but not for ebook and audiobook formats. To get an ISBN for a print book, contact your local ISBN agency. In some countries, it’s free. If you’re in the US, get one from Bowker for $125.

Although it’s not needed for ebook and audio, most stores will assign their own identifiers. Amazon uses ASIN. PublishDrive uses PUI.

Book metadata holds important info about your book. It includes ISBN, description, series information, categories, and more. It’s important to optimize or better discoverability and engagement. Accurate metadata helps rank your book higher in search engines. It’s also the only info a reader has before making a purchase.

How much does it cost to print your own book? With print-on-demand, you can list your book online and have it printed and shipped only when someone makes an order. That means no longer having to commit to printing (and paying for) a large quantity of books in advance. It’s a cost-effective and hassle-free route for indies. 

Finally, how much does it cost to get a book published? It’s generally free with most channels like Amazon KDP, Apple Books, and Google Play Books. We go over the top self-publishing companies to know.

If you go through PublishDrive, it takes no longer than two business days to get your uploaded files and metadata reviewed. If everything looks fine, your book gets sent out to stores like Amazon, Google, and thousands of other channels. Simply switch on the places you want to publish in:

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PublishDrive offers the lowest fee for self-publishing of its kind, as low as $9.99 a month. And we take no commission, meaning you keep 100% of book royalties earned with stores.

6. Royalty Payouts

Unlike PublishDrive, most aggregators (companies that distribute for you) take an average 10% cut in royalties. Let’s say you sell a book for $9.99 with an online retailer that pays out 70% of royalties. That means you pocket $5.99 while the aggregator gets $1.

Royalty payouts with popular book channels:

  • Amazon KDP: 70% royalties for books between $2.99 and $9.99; 35% if below $2.99
  • Apple Books: Up to 70% royalties for most books
  • Google Play Books: Up to 70% royalties for most books
  • IngramSpark (print only): 45% of revenue goes to print-on-demand services, + additional fee for printing
  • Kobo: 70% royalties for books priced more than $2.99; 45% if below $2.99

With PublishDrive, you pay a monthly fee as low as $9.99 and keep all book royalties

With print-on-demand, your distributor manages printing and shipping for you. Depending on who you go through, you may have to pay for your title’s setup or a yearly fee to keep it available in certain catalogs. In other models, you pay a share of your royalties for the service.

Here’s what bestselling author Rachel Morgan said about going through PublishDrive:

“It makes sense from a royalty-saving perspective to use PublishDrive for distribution. The reason is simple: Why would I say no to taking home more royalties at the end of the day?! Couple that with the time-saving aspect since I can now manage all my non-direct stores in one place.”

Keep 100% royalties with PublishDrive.

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7. Marketing

To boost revenue, you have to promote your best. Before spending any time or energy on your marketing, develop a solid marketing plan for your book. Then consider all the free and paid marketing tactics and services in publishing doing wonders for indies like you.

Consider these book promo strategies:

  • Maintaining an author website or blogging
  • Posting on social media
  • Collecting book reviews
  • Building an email list
  • Advertising on Facebook, Amazon, or sites like Bookbubs
  • Getting featured in stores’ campaigns or newsletters
  • Running price promotions

Almost every tactic above can get done with a low budget. Create a free webpage on WordPress. Start building your online presence with free author pages on Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.

With paid placements and advertising, your budget can be as low as $5 on Facebook and Amazon. Use free tools like PublishDrive to set up Amazon ads for books easily and improve performance.

In 2020, online book promotions reaped fantastic results for publishing indies. When we looked at 800 book sales campaigns, they generated 10x more sales on average. They achieved an extra 2% growth for non-promoted books as well. The demand for books is at an all-time high.

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8. Tracking Sales

Finally, don’t forget to set up a process for tracking and understanding your book sales performance. Major retailers like Amazon KDP have some kind of dashboard where you can see your financial data. If you end up distributing to more than one channel, learn how to organize your book sales with Excel sheets.

If the calculations are too much to handle, hiring an accountant is one option. We recommend PublishDrive’s sales dashboard that combines all store data into the friendliest view. Track sales in real-time, along with rankings and reviews. Discover trends with different filters across markets. Receive auto-generated financial reports on a regular basis.

publishdrive track book sales

Summary of How Much It Cost to Publish a Book

How much does it cost to self-publish a book? Now you know it costs nothing to as much as you want to put in.

To recap, the total costs of self-publishing a book can go from 0 to up to the thousands:

  • Writing: usually free
  • Editing: free to $2,000
  • Cover Design: free to $500
  • Formatting: free to $100
  • Publishing and Distribution: free to $100/month depending on print services
  • Royalty Payouts: most channels take 10-50% of royalties
  • Marketing: free to infinity
  • Tracking Sales: free to $30/month

The perk with self-publishing is that you’re the boss. You get to decide when, where, and how to publish. In our indie community, we got awesome amateurs publishing on a tight budget. We also got bestselling authors earning more royalties under their terms. Anything is possible.

Take Care of All Publishing Needs for as Low as $9.99 a Month 

Since 2015, we have helped publish over 100K books. In 2020, over 18K indies published (and boosted sales by 85%). The key is going digital and global to as many stores and markets as possible.

With PublishDrive, sell in stores like Amazon, Apple, Google, IngramSpark, Kobo, and thousands of other book channels. With proven tools and solutions, manage everything you need on one dashboard. Ready to streamline your business?

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