How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book?
To be honest, if I had known how much effort and money it would take to get my book The Smallest Horse into the hands of young readers, I probably would have given up before I started. In retrospect, I’m really glad I didn’t know! Having done it, I can tell you that is was worth all of the time, effort and money. My budget, which was obviously done after the fact, won’t be the same as yours, but it will hopefully provide some good insights.
Writing and Editing
Obviously if you are the author, you don’t have to pay yourself up front. You are likely writing a book because you feel passionate about your subject matter. However, you need to budget for an editor. I’ve made my living as a writer, and I’m a very good editor, but I simply cannot edit my own work because I’m too close to it. It is a very good idea to have your friends read your book and give you feedback, but that simply is not the same thing as hiring a professional editor. I wrote a 32-page, 758-word book and spent $300 on editing. I shudder to think of having skipped this step! My editor made some recommendations for plot development that made the story flow ever so much better. She also helped me with tenses, which was something I really struggled with for this particular book. I feel like I got a bargain. However, if you are not writing a children’s book, then quality editing costs will be higher, but still worth it!
The Editorial Freelancers Association publishes the following guidelines for editing rates (2018):
Basic Copyediting: $30-$40/hr
Developmental Editing: $45-$55/hr
Click here to see their entire list of recommended rates.
Pronoun is a website that connects writers and editors: https://pronoun.com/build-your-team/with-the-right/editor/
Watching your book come to life in the hands of a professional book designer is one of the most exciting parts of the process. The first time I saw my cover mock-ups I almost cried. I also almost cried when I first found out how much money it was going to take my manuscript and stack of illustrations and turn them into an honest-to-goodness book that looked like it fit right into the children’s section. I definitely hyperventilated. However, it has totally paid off because bookstores are happy to carry my book and it gets noticed and bought on Amazon all the time. I spent $4200 on cover and interior design, which was worth every penny. I know that seems like a lot of money, but trust me, there is a LOT that goes into great design. There are a wide range of prices out there, but regardless of what kind of book you are publishing, you can expect to spend between $1,500 and $3,000 on a quality cover design. Interior design will range from $1,500 to $5,000. It usually costs less and makes sense to combine interior design and cover design. You can, of course, look for help overseas, but that wouldn’t be my first choice. Check out TLC Book Design for more information on cover and interior design.
In order to self-publish a book, you will need to purchase an International Standard Book Number or ISBN. Don’t let anyone else purchase your ISBN, or they become the publisher of your book. In comparison to the other costs associated with publishing a book, the $125 you will spend on an ISBN is minor. However, it’s a bit crazy-making to spend that much on a 13-digit number, but there’s no avoiding it. You can purchase and ISBN here.
Quality printing is expensive, which is why print-on-demand services such as Create Space and Ingram Spark are a great solution for lots of authors. Using these services also means that you eliminate the cost of shipping your books as well. The advantage to printing your own books is that if you are able to print a decent quantity, then the price per book can be substantially less. You will also have books on hand without having to buy copies from your on-demand printer. When it comes to printing, quantity makes a huge difference. Here are the different quotes I got for my book:
100 = $500 or $5 each
250 = $1,000 or $4 each
500 = $2,000 or $4 each
2,000 = $4000 or $2 each
3,000 = $4700 or $1.56 each
4,000 = $5300 or $1.32 each
I was originally going to print 500 copies, but then I realized I could barely make a profit on Amazon at that price. I took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and printed 3,000 copies. I was fortunate because I had a quality printer in my town and therefore didn’t have to pay for shipping. A lot of people do go overseas to print and I’ve heard good things about Print Ninja. You can plug in some numbers and get an instant quote from them.
So How Much Did It Cost?
The total cost of turning my idea into a beautiful, high quality book was right around $10,000 which includes some miscellaneous costs (such as paying for high quality scans) that aren’t included in the numbers above. There are two ways to look at this number. The first way is to think “Holy hell. That’s crazy.” The second and more appropriate way to look at that number is to think, “Wow. What other kind of business can I start and have an original salable product in my hand for $10,000?” Thanks in large part to a substantial number of pre-orders ($4200) and robust holiday sales on Amazon ($3500), my book paid for itself within six months of publication.