How Much I Spent Self-Publishing A Standalone Novel and a Paranormal Series
The Cost to Self-Publish a novel varies from zero dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. It depends on your skills (how much of it you can do on your own), your network (what you can beg, borrow and steal), and the level of quality you are looking for.
If money wasn’t an issue for me, I would spend at least 5000$ on each book I published, broken down as:
Editing (Developmental, Copy and Proof): 3000$
Cover Design: 500$
Launch (Promo Sites (Bookbub), ARC copies and Giveaways, Amazon and Facebook Ads): 1500$
In reality, I have spent a lot less.
Shards of Glass
Cover: Awesome Friend
Editing: My mom and I
Launch: My Own Social Media and Nothing else (don’t recommend)
The Owens Chronicles: 1244$ (917 U$)
Cover: 398$ (300 U$)
Editing: My Mom and I
Launch: My Own Social Media and Nothing else (don’t recommend)
Here are the costs you should consider when self-publishing:
In my case, I purchased Publisher Rocket, which is a program that analyzes amazon to tell you how competitive the categories and keywords are on that site. It is a great tool to help you decide which of your many book ideas to write, as well as which categories and keywords to put it in once you do. There’s a tool for Amazon ad terms as well. If you’re interested, Dave Chesson is the creator and has a series of videos explaining Publisher Rocket, as well as other advertising.
Research also encompasses research for you book, especially if you’re writing historical novels, books set in real places, jobs you aren’t familiar with…there are so many things you might need to look into in order to write your book. At my level, it mostly involves books to look things up in, but someday, I would love to go on research trips, to get a feel for the places where my novels are set.
Books on craft, and other books in your genre, also count as research
My favorite software to write in is Microsoft Word. That being said, I purchased Scrivener, and absolutely love their composition mode, and how I can view documents side by side.
I also love writing first drafts in notebooks, and I’ve heard that Neil Gaiman writes his first drafts in notebooks using fountain pens. Notebooks and pens aren’t the major expenses people are referring to when they ask how much it costs, but if every book requires a few moleskines and a Montblanc pen, it is a consideration.
If money wasn’t an option, I would want to put every book through Developmental Editing, Copy Editing, and Proofreading. I would also want to have an outline critique before I got into writing a series, so I could discover series plot holes before I’m three books in.
If you don’t want to be troubled with formatting, there are tons of people and companies who will do it for you. I believe an average range is 100-300$, but I’ve seen way more, and a few less. There are also places where you can do it yourself, for free, such as Reedsy and Draft2Digital. I tried it and didn’t like how the version I did on Reedsy said that it was done by Reedsy, because I was worried it made my book look self-published. So, I bought vellum. Luckily, I had just bought a mac (which I could have added to the writing section of my budget) because vellum is only available for macs (unless you do that thing where you run a mac on your pc, which my dad knows how to do, but I don’t). With Vellum, I was able to format my ebooks, my paperbacks and my hardcover novels.
Along with editing, cover designs will be your biggest expense. You can do it for free on canva, bookbrush, or if you already have design software. If you want to release a quality product, I wouldn’t recommend doing it on your own unless you have experience designing book covers. It involves a lot more than just making it look pretty. There are genre conventions and expectations you need to meet that most people aren’t consciously aware of.
The next price point would be for pre-made covers, which range from as little as 15$, to 300$ and above. When someone orders a cover from a designer, they will often need to make more than one version before the client is satisfied. Instead of scrapping the covers that aren’t chosen, the designers will sell them at a discount. They are usually gorgeous, but the downside is that you can’t customize them.
Having a cover designed also varies greatly, depending on a bunch of things. How many stock images they use, whether they use illustrations and original artwork…some people even set up professional photoshoots to make sure the cover matches their vision. It can get intense.
I used 100 covers, because they had a 50% discount for series.
I am so lucky that I live in Canada, where ISBNs are free. All I have to do is go onto the government website, register for a publishing account, then order as many ISBNs as I want, ordering more whenever I run out.
If you’re American, you can check out Bowker for what I’m told are the best rates.
Ingram Spark charges a 49$ fee to upload your book. They will throw in the ebook for free if you do this (otherwise it is 25$), but if you want hardcover and paperback, you’re looking at 98$. I am very lucky that I have been able to find a promo code every time I published, either from Nanowrimo, 20Booksto50k, or even IngramSpark themselves. That one covered revisions as well, which was awesome, because otherwise I would have had to pay 25$ every time I needed to upload a new file. There were a lot of typos in my first book.
Ideally, once my book was uploaded, I would want to order a copy of my book in each format, from each retailer, so I could check it out and make sure everything looked as it should. It would also give me a physical copy to proofread and catch any final typos or mistakes. So far, I haven’t been able to get proofs for any of my books, but hopefully there won’t be any user errors or pandemics for my next book launch. I would need a paperback and hardocover from ingram, and 2 paperbacks from kdp, which would come to approximately 75$ Cdn. The second kdp paperback would be so my mom could proofread it as well!
I don’t think day-to-day marketing should be included in book production costs, but the launch is definitely a consideration. You can use newsletter swaps to expand your audience, or you can use Promo Sites. Some are free, with the option of paid guaranteed listings, while others always have a fee. There’s a list of them here.
The holy grail is Bookbub, with everyone I’ve ever heard of earning back whatever they spent on their Featured Deal, which varies from a few hundred, to over a thousand dollars.
Then there are the staples, like Facebook Ads and Amazon Marketing Services.
I’m still figuring out the launch, but I’ll have a more detailed post once I do 😉
I hope this was helpful! Let me know if you have any questions or feedback.
Happy reading, and writing,
*Some of the links are affiliate links, which means that I get a tiny percentage for purchases, at no expense to you*