Do you want to self-publish your book?
What services do you need to pay for when publishing your first book?
How much does it cost to self-publish a book for the first time?
These are just three of the questions I faced last year when I self-published A Handbook for the Productive Writer.
In this blog post, I’ll explain how much it costs to self-publish a book on Amazon and other digital stores.
What You Need to Self-Publish a Book
Got a book draft that you want to self-publish?
Great. Here’s what you need to self-publish your book:
- An editor
- A proofreader
- A cover
- A title
- An author platform
Now let’s break down the costs of these self-publishing services.
Editing and Proofreading
Almost every writer needs an editor and a proof-reader.
The editor’s job is to provide critical feedback about the overall tone and direction of a book, and the proofreader’s job is to eliminate typos and grammar mistakes.
What I Did (And the Mistakes I Made)
For a Handbook for the Productive Writer, I hired a proof-reader but I didn’t hire an editor.
Was this a mistake?
Perhaps, but having worked as a print journalist and sub-editor for several years, I felt confident about editing a non-fiction book.
In hindsight, editing my book took up more time that I would have liked, and for my next non-fiction book I will hire an editor.
While writing the book, I turned several chapters into guest blog posts for various websites, and I used the critical feedback I received from the editors of these sites to improve my work.
I hired a proof-reader for EUR250 to review A Handbook for the Productive Writer. This proof-reader found numerous (but not every) error in the book before I self-published my book.
Then, after I uploaded the first version of my book I found some additional errors and typos (the horror!).
A reader also emailed me about three typos. So, I used the online proof-reading service Grammarly to find and fix several other mistakes (USD29 per month).
A month after self-publishing the first version of my book, I uploaded a new version to Amazon.
Total cost: EUR279
For Writers On a budget
If you can’t afford an editor, joining a creative writing group or class is a great way to get free or relatively cheap feedback on your fiction.
Similarly, writing guest blog posts is a free source of editorial feedback for your non-fiction.
I caution against self-publishing your book without hiring or getting an eagle-eyed friend to proof-read your book.
Typos keep me up at night!
If you’re going to self-publish, you’ll need a computer and writing software.
What I did
I use an iMac and Scrivener to write almost everything, and I purchased these long before I wrote this book.
Total cost: EUR0
For Writers On a Budget
You can spend as little as several hundred euro on a computer that can run Scrivener. The software itself costs EUR30.
You can always borrow a computer, but if you can’t afford EUR30 for writing software, you’re in the wrong game.
After the contents of your book, the cover is the most important decision you’ll have to make.
Yes, you could design a cover yourself, or you could even buy a cheap cover for a couple of dollars on a site like oDesk.
Both decisions are mistakes.
Unless you’re a designer, your time is better spent writing than it is tinkering in Photoshop or Illustrator.
Here’s the kicker:
I wasted about ten hours following online tutorials for these programmes, and I ended up with a cover that has almost nothing to do with the contents of A Handbook for the Productive Writer (pictured right).
What I did
I ran a competition on 99 Designs.
Total cost: EUR229
For Writers On a Budget
You could hire a cheap cover designer on oDesk or Fiverr, but you get what you pay for.
For example, I bought the cover for my free Twitter guide on oDesk for USD10 as an experiment.
This guide isn’t a book that I sell; it’s only an ethical bribe to encourage readers to opt-in to my email list. I wouldn’t use a cover like this for a professional book.
If you can’t afford to hire a designer or use 99Designs, Canva provide a series of free eBook cover templates that you can easily adapt.
The indie author Joanna Penn also recommends eBook launch for professional looking covers.
I know what you’re thinking: how can it cost money to write book title? I’m a writer, this kind of thing is my job.
Here’s the thing:
If you’re self-publishing a book, the title of your book is almost as important as your book cover.
Pick an obscure title and customers won’t be able to find your book in Amazon and other stores. Pick an irrelevant one, and they’re unlikely to click on the link and buy your book.
The authors Tim Ferris and James Altucher tested titles for their books using Facebook ads. I didn’t have the time or money for this.
Instead, I came up with ten different titles for A Handbook for the Productive Writer, and I A/B tested them using Pickfu
This is a premium service that enables authors (amongst others) to run marketplace polls about book titles and covers.
You can ask a question like ‘What book title do you prefer?’ and get real-world answers from 100 different people within minutes.
I was able to pick a relevant title for my book using this service and decide on a final book cover.
Total cost: EUR60
For Writers On a Budget
You can always ask you friends, readers of your blog or your family to help you pick a title. At the very least, write down ten titles and search for each one on Amazon.
Seeing what comes up will help you figure out if this title is appropriate (and if it’s a niche you can compete in).
The Real Cost of Self-Publishing a Book
The power of self-publishing means writers don’t have to ask for permission from anyone. <—Tweet this
Based on the above figures, A Handbook for the Productive Writer cost me over EUR550.
I didn’t pay for advertising, and I’m not including marketing costs or how to build an author platform as these are posts in themselves.
The amount I spent self-publishing my book is average.
According to the Write life, the average amount a writer spends on self-publishing a book falls between 200 and 300 hundred dollars.
While according to Book Promotion, more experienced writers spend several thousand dollars on self-publishing services.
Jordan Ring also put together this great self-publishing resource.
I could have reduced my costs if I’d bought a cheaper cover and skipped hiring a proofreader. I could have also spent more money if I’d hired an editor or purchased a more expensive cover.
Here’s the bottom line:
You can spend as much or as little as you want self-publishing your book.
As an indie writer, you’re in charge of your destiny.
Share your questions about the true cost of self-publishing a book below.