I fancy myself a writer.

How much does it cost to self-publish a novel?

createspace, print on demand

CreateSpace (an Amazon company) is just one option for print-on-demand services.

I recently decided I would like to self-publish my current novel project and have been considering all of the hard work that will go into such an endeavor. For example, I am an excellent editor. However, if I want readers to spend their hard-earned money on my product, then I need to hire someone to come along behind me and clean up any errors I might miss. Who knows why it is easier to spot mistakes in someone else’s work than in your own, but it is. So an editor I must hire.

I will probably need to hire a few other people as well. I could probably figure out how to format my own book. But again, I want it done right. If I can find someone to do it properly, I will likely save my readers a great deal of irritation on the back end. One thing I have no confidence that I will ever be able to do is design a captivating book cover. The sad fact is, readers often judge books by their covers. Yes, I need to hire a professional book cover designer.

Bottom line? If I want to do this right, then I am going to need to hire some outside help. The instructor of the self-publishing seminar I attended Wednesday provided the following list of costs that one might expect to incur:

  • Developmental Editor: $3 – $5 per page. I do not have one specific source for this number, but this is the range I have seen throughout my research. This is also about what I would charge to edit someone else’s manuscript. Remember, no matter how good you are at editing, you need to hire a fresh set of eyes to edit your book before you publish it!
  • Proofreader/Copyeditor: $850, per Miral Sattar at PBS.org.
  • Book formatting: $250 without images or illustrations, per thebookpatch.com.
  • Cover design: $425, per thebookpatch.com.
  • ISBN #: $125 for one ISBN, 10 ISBNs for $250, per Bowker.
  • Printing: Around $3.50 per professional trade paperback bound book, size 5.5” x 8.5”, per CreateSpace. I am assuming I will want to purchase at least ten books right away for marketing promotions (giveaways, etc.) and to give to my parents. Aside from this, companies like CreateSpace give you the option of printing books as orders come in.
  • Proofs: Same price as for printing. If the book is professionally edited in advance of this step, then that should cut down on the number of proofs I would need to purchase.
  • S&H: If I go with a company like CreateSpace, I will likely let them handle distribution. In such case, they would handle the shipping and handling for a fee.

Grand total: Around $2500 to properly prepare a book for publishing. In my research, I have come across some self-publishers who claim to have published their books for as little as $70, while another claimed it cost him over $10,000 to publish his book.

Remember, these are just the up-front costs. There will likely be additional costs once you have completed the publishing process.

I would love some feedback from those of you who have more experience with self-publishing than I do. Is there anything I am forgetting? Are any of my pricing guestimates way off base? Please share in the comments below.

~Amanda L. Webster

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10 responses

  1. I think it’s really good to lay it all out and show how expensive it can be and where the money goes. So far, my first novel (Dragon Wraiths) cost me £80 for the cover image but I did everything else myself. I still want to get it professionally proofread but can’t currently afford it (my Mother was my free proofreader, she has sharp eyes!)
    For Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes I did pay for a proofreader (£200 – I got a special deal because it was the person’s first fiction project) but the cover image was around £3 from istockphoto. I do ALL the formatting, ebook and print book, cover design etc. It is tough. It takes hours. But it’s worth it to have control (and save cash!). And once you have figured out the vagaries of Smashwords vs Kindle, it’s not too hard. Of course, it doesn’t look beautiful (if you want a beautiful ebook look at Rinelle Grey’s books – she has lovely headers for each chapter. She does hers in html so has more control). Smashwords and Kindle both have free guides on how to successfully format ebooks and, provided you follow their guidelines to the letter, it does work. That said, I do still have random words in blue, which is frustrating! Alternatively, Smashwords have a list of people who will format ebooks for $40 if you want a budget option. The place to spend the money is definitely the cover and the proofreading. It’s also obviously cheaper to have copies printed by CreateSpace if you live in the US – the postage is a killer for those of us who live elsewhere! It cost me $10 just for postage for my proof copy for BBWS.

    September 27, 2013 at 2:51 am

    • Wow, $10 for postage is killer! Are there any similar print-on-demand companies in the UK? The guy who taught the seminar I went to said he likes to do his own fulfillment, ordering books in batches to save money on shipping. I personally would rather skip the hassle and let CreateSpace do the shipping if I can. But I can see how I might want to consider fulfilling my own orders if the shipping was that much!

      September 27, 2013 at 12:45 pm

      • I think if I decide to do a book signing or something I will try and get them printed locally. But, for sales distribution you can’t beat Amazon. I have used Lulu too, and I prefer their print quality.

        September 27, 2013 at 3:40 pm

  2. I have to say that I would be classified at the “self-published” level.

    I wrote a non-fiction book (~20 K words) and invested $40 for proofreading (editing would be too strong a word; fiverr.com), $10 for a high quality Kindle cover (fiverr.com). I also invested quite a bit of time to learn how to upload it to Amazon, Smashwords, and Google Play.

    In converting it to print, I am using CreateSpace and have paid $10 for their ISBN (they do have a free option) and $10 for proofs. I formatted the book myself with Word and had to learn how to do it from YouTube videos.

    I modified the cover for print, but it probably would have cost another $5-$10 to have it done. The book will be print-on-demand at Amazon, so I don’t have to deal with a lot of costs.

    This is my first book and I will probably invest more in the editing part in the future, but for a first go at it, I think I did OK.

    I spent about $8 for a sponsored post on Facebook and $5 for book promotion on a website (fiverr.com), but those were experiments.

    September 27, 2013 at 8:04 am

    • Thanks for the info! I wonder what the difference is between the full-price ISBN and the CreateSpace free and/or discounted options?

      September 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm

  3. This is the information that they give:
    https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/ISBNs.jsp

    September 27, 2013 at 3:58 pm

  4. Here is the man in the know: Joel Friedlander at thebookdesigner.com

    September 29, 2013 at 9:50 am

    • Thanks Patti, I’ll have to check him out!

      September 30, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      • You are welcome. He has it down to the costs and procedures to actually make your writing a legal business.

        September 30, 2013 at 12:55 pm

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