Cost of Self-Publishing

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scifiguy

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Greetings! New SF writer here. I’m planning on taking the self-publishing route (KDP/KU probably), and am curious on the cost to do so. Following is a list of expenses I know about:
  • Editing/Proofreading
  • Formatting
  • Cover Design
  • Website/blog/mailing list
  • Ad buys
I’m sure the list is not complete, so anything else I’m not thinking of would be helpful. Also, if you’ve done this recent-ish or just have an idea of what I should expect to pay for these services, that would be very helpful too.

Thank you!
 

Al X.

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You can spend anywhere between zero and the sky is the limit on a self published book. I spend about $200 on editing per book, which is about the lowest you will spend on professional editing. I can have a cover made up through fiverr for $25 although I have created several of my own covers.

Ads and marketing? That's where things start to get expensive. Even my most effective ad campaigns have only recovered a fraction of ROI.
 

dickson

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Greetings! New SF writer here. I’m planning on taking the self-publishing route (KDP/KU probably), and am curious on the cost to do so. Following is a list of expenses I know about:
  • Editing/Proofreading
  • Formatting
  • Cover Design
  • Website/blog/mailing list
  • Ad buys
I’m sure the list is not complete, so anything else I’m not thinking of would be helpful. Also, if you’ve done this recent-ish or just have an idea of what I should expect to pay for these services, that would be very helpful too.

Thank you!
First off, the very best of luck to you!

I don’t know what your longer term plans are, but if you wish to publish in other venues than KDP you might want to get an ISBN in addition to the KDP-supplied ASIN. Then there is the cost of copyright registration if you want the option of pursuing legal action against infringement of your copyright: That is reputed to be a world of hurt at the best of times, and (as I understand it) is effectively impossible without registration.

Neither of these are obligatory, nor are they very costly. Copyright registration in the US is $65 per title, unless you have up to ten titles that are in the same category and are unpublished, in which case you can get ten registrations for $85. In the US you purchase an ISBN from a commercial outfit called Bowker. In some countries—Canada comes to mind—you don’t have to pay for them. A single ISBN from Bowker currently costs $125; $295 buys you ten.

A final note: Keyword selection is vitally important in the KDP world. The traditional approach involves going to the Kindle store on Amazon and trying search terms. That works, but is quite labor-intensive. For a modest outlay I acquired something called Publisher Rocket, which allows you to enter a keyword and call up current statistics on number of titles using that keyword, number of searches per month, etc. It also has other tools of a market research focus, KDP centric in nature. I’m glad I sprung for it. Cost about $100 US.

None of these items compare in outlay to paying for good copy editing or proofreading for a book-length manuscript, which (as you know) are two of the most important investments you can make in the success of your project.

Again, good luck to you!
 
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dickson

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You can spend anywhere between zero and the sky is the limit on a self published book. I spend about $200 on editing per book, which is about the lowest you will spend on professional editing. I can have a cover made up through fiverr for $25 although I have created several of my own covers.

Ads and marketing? That's where things start to get expensive. Even my most effective ad campaigns have only recovered a fraction of ROI.
What level of editing do you get for $200 (US?)?

And $25 for a cover? What are the covers like? So far I’ve gotten by with doing my own using stock footage in Krita. Krita is free, very powerful, and has the most infuriating user interface you could hope to find, but it does make fine cover imagery. I do the title and author annotation in Preview cos’ it’s dead easy, but Krita can do that too.
 
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scifiguy

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Those prices feel pretty reasonable all around. Good points on ISBN and copyright registration - will definitely want to do that.

I'm a little surprised I guess on the low price of covers on Fiverr. Maybe I'm just overemphasizing the important of cover design/art, but expected that to be of the same level of expense as editing/proofreading.

Anyone else have different cover design cost experiences? Is it as critical as I think it is?
 

Woollybear

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I spent 4000 on my first book (I hired a variety of editors, at a cost of 300 to 1000 dollars a pop; formatting was about 400; cover was 800,; plus incidentals.)

I learned where I could scale back and spent 2200 on my current novel release. (1100 on editing, 300 on formatting, 800 on the cover.)

On the prequel, to be released in January, I made my own cover and did my own editing--using what I've learned, as well as using the free trial of Pro Writing Aid. I only hired out the formatting (and formatting is a learnable skill) so my cost was 200. You can look at the various covers here if you are curious (scroll down for the self made cover.) You can decide if you would want to shell out $800 for those novel covers, compared to free for the novella, compared to other options. I happen to dislike most pre-made covers, but this is a subjective business.

Anyway, the publish button does not need to be the finish line. Authors in the self-publishing sphere can swap out the blurb, the cover, and other items ad lib.

For the $200 novella, the money I 'saved' on cover/editing will go into promoting the novella when it comes out. This is an additional cost you can factor in. The novella is a prequel, very simple, single viewpoint, sort of a prologue but a story in its own right. So, it'll be offered free on a regular basis and advertised. Links to the novels are at the end of the novella, which may mean read-through purchases. So, with luck, this strategy will ultimately grow my readership and begin to pay off some of the red ink.

This is the plan, anyway, and we'll see how it pans out. I need to put another prequel novella out in 2022 and draft the third novel.
 
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scifiguy

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I spent 4000 on my first book (I hired a variety of editors, at a cost of 300 to 1000 dollars a pop; formatting was about 400; cover was 800,; plus incidentals.)

I learned where I could scale back and spent 2200 on my current novel release. (1100 on editing, 300 on formatting, 800 on the cover.)
These prices are more what I expected. I just kind of figured it'd be about 2k to get a book out well but I'm still learning.

I was prepared to do my own formatting, but sounds like there might be some benefit to hiring it out?

Also your covers look great! Looking forward to reading those stories.
 
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scifiguy

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A final note: Keyword selection is vitally important in the KDP world. The traditional approach involves going to the Kindle store on Amazon and trying search terms. That works, but is quite labor-intensive. For a modest outlay I acquired something called Publisher Rocket, which allows you to enter a keyword and call up current statistics on number of titles using that keyword, number of searches per month, etc. It also has other tools of a market research focus, KDP centric in nature. I’m glad I sprung for it. Cost about $100 US.
Yes! I had a coupon for Publisher Rocket and so have snagged it. I assume it's a little like SEO, which I can do even though it's not my fav thing. I've also signed up for some training in this area as I know it's critical.
Again, good luck to you!
Thank you so much! I'm going to need it. 😅
 

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Anyone else have different cover design cost experiences? Is it as critical as I think it is?
There was an interesting discussion the other day about this very topic. Consensus seemed to be that a cover was definitely something to spend on. I'll see if I can find the link... hang on...

Here we go. The thread is pretty short, and worth reading for other self-publisher's experiences.
 
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Woollybear

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These prices are more what I expected. I just kind of figured it'd be about 2k to get a book out well but I'm still learning.

I was prepared to do my own formatting, but sounds like there might be some benefit to hiring it out?

Also your covers look great! Looking forward to reading those stories.
The benefit to me to hiring it out is that the formatters own a bazillion fonts already, and they know tricks and work-arounds (things like how much to cheat away from the fold depending on how far into the book a reader has gotten.)

Plus, by the time I get to that stage of the process, I'm usually so sick of my project I am ready to hire anyone I can to get it over the finish line.

I do expect to learn formatting at some point. InDesign is a common program for this, as I understand things.

I did enjoy doing my own editing on the novella, using ProWritingAid, and time will tell if readers spot any difference. To be quite frank, some hired editors return incomplete work, which can be infuriating. It's tricky to find a good one. I have now found a good one, but it's not easy to get to this point. For them, I believe they dislike working on certain projects, such as poorly written ones, or ones with themes they dislike, and so agreeing to take on a project has its own concerns on their end, at least this is what I understand from certain conversations. Some editors on Reedsy appear to simply use ProWritingAid and call it a day. Why would I pay for that, when I can do that?

Ad spends:

During the time that I ran Amazon ads, I set the cost at $5 per day. In other words, I paid a few cents and up to a dollar for my ad to appear in front of a possible customer. (you only pay if they click the ad.) So, I set my limit at a few dollars a day.

Most days there were enough clicks on the ads that I spent my daily budget. But, I saw very few actual book sales from this. So, the ads were a loss and I discontinued.

Another way to spend is to buy space in promotional emails. These come at 30-80 dollars each and I see a handful (up to about three dozen) sales when I do this. I've never made money with this approach, but I have sold books this way. So, in my opinion, this is a better strategy. My hope is that I can build return readers, but the numbers on this are small. A few percent of readers typically continue a series past book #1.

Another way to calculate the costs in to sell direct. I can buy author copies at cost (about $6 each) and sell them at signings and so on, and the profit margin is greater (plus the customer now has a direct connection with me, the author.) Some authors sell at conventions and make a decent profit from it.
 
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Al X.

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What level of editing do you get for $200 (US?)?

And $25 for a cover? What are the covers like? So far I’ve gotten by with doing my own using stock footage in Krita. Krita is free, very powerful, and has the most infuriating user interface you could hope to find, but it does make fine cover imagery. I do the title and author annotation in Preview cos’ it’s dead easy, but Krita can do that too.

Well do the math, obviously $200 won't give you the same level of attention that $2000 will get you, but I'm not going to drop $2K on a book that may only earn $200 in its lifetime. Yes, I still need to do countless proofing runs, but my editor is pretty good at catching plot and character flubs.

As for covers, I started out making my own but wasn't happy with the outcome so I had four done professionally. I really liked one of them for the style, so I went with the style (font size, type and general layout) and used stock photos that I took personally as backgrounds, and applied a sepia effect. Works nicely. I use MS Publisher to produce them. Easy to use, works fine if you already have graphics ready to go, e.g. photo background. The $25 covers all looked fairly professional.
 

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Those prices feel pretty reasonable all around. Good points on ISBN and copyright registration - will definitely want to do that.

I'm a little surprised I guess on the low price of covers on Fiverr. Maybe I'm just overemphasizing the important of cover design/art, but expected that to be of the same level of expense as editing/proofreading.

Anyone else have different cover design cost experiences? Is it as critical as I think it is?

The reason that covers (and editing, for that matter) is so cheap is because a lot of it is done in SE Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia primarily) and the scale of economy is a whole lot different there. I actually found my editor on Fiverr, local, here in California, and she has since gone freelance, keeping the same prices.
 

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Oh, and a note on ISBN's: KDP, and all of the major aggregators (well, okay the two major aggregators, D2D and Smashwords,) will supply ISBN's for free if you want. There are probably reasons for paying for your own but there is no real benefit for the majority of self published authors.
 
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Holly Green

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Anyway, the publish button does not need to be the finish line. Authors in the self-publishing sphere can swap out the blurb, the cover, and other items ad lib.
I found out, the hard way, that once your book is listed on Goodreads you can't replace the cover there. You can ask them to add the newer version, but if you did a crap cover to start with, it will haunt you... I think the same applies to the blurb, but I haven't checked recently to see if that has changed. (I didn't set up an author page on Goodreads, my books just magically appeared there.)

So, my advice--don't do what I did! Get the cover right before you hit the publish button.
 
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lizmonster

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I spent $769 on my anthology. That covered layout, cover, ebook formatting, and a Goodreads giveaway. I don't expect to make it back, so I wouldn't advise my route for people who are looking to turn a profit. I could probably, for example, have learned how to do the layout - I've got enough experience with such things - but it was easier to outsource that, and I could afford it, so I did.

I haven't hired an editor. Still considering it for my WIP, but I suspect I won't.
 

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I found out, the hard way, that once your book is listed on Goodreads you can't replace the cover there. You can ask them to add the newer version, but if you did a crap cover to start with, it will haunt you... I think the same applies to the blurb, but I haven't checked recently to see if that has changed. (I didn't set up an author page on Goodreads, my books just magically appeared there.)

So, my advice--don't do what I did! Get the cover right before you hit the publish button.
That's interesting.

I'm thinking (talking) mostly about the advantage to promotional ads. I don't use Goodreads much, although my books are there, and yeah, it makes sense to get the details right the first time.

But for Amazon and listings in promotional newsletters, in my experience a person can adjust to market and unpublish and republish or simply change the blurb after the fact. If I discover my readers are fans of some particular subgenre, for example, I can highlight that aspect in the blurb, on Amazon.

Goodreads is still an enigma to me.
 
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dickson

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Oh, and a note on ISBN's: KDP, and all of the major aggregators (well, okay the two major aggregators, D2D and Smashwords,) will supply ISBN's for free if you want. There are probably reasons for paying for your own but there is no real benefit for the majority of self published authors.
Good to know. Although I thought KDP only supplied free ISBN’s for paperback.
 

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For interior formatting, Reedsy provides a free, very easy to use online writing/formatting service with some nice extras like About the Author, Also By, etc. You can get .epub, .mobi, .pdf and a print-ready pdf.

You can also customize your epub options for various resellers (as in, have only kindle links for your kdp version, google links for your google books version, etc).
 
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I've self-published 18 books + 2 box sets (+ another up for pre-order) in the past 3.5 years. I write romance.

I pay 1.5 cents/word (US) for one round of editing. My books are typically 60k, so $900.

I pay $160 for covers. (Includes some basic graphics for ads, etc). If you want custom artwork vs using stock photos, expect to pay more.

I pay ~$100 or so a year for the template I use on Wordpress.com. (I do .com, not .org, which would allow more options.) Plus cost for my domain. I don't may for my newsletter because I still have few enough subscribers that it's free on the service I use. (I do, however, pay for a PO Box as you need an address when you send your newsletters and I don't want to use the address where I live.)

I do not pay for ISBNs because they are free in Canada.

I do my own formatting for ebooks, and one of the benefits is this is that if I find an error or want to update my backmatter, I can quickly do it for free myself. I have a friend who formats them for paperback when I do paperbacks. I just use the basic formatting in Draft2Digital (it's free), and for my box sets, I use Jutoh, which isn't too expensive, but at least for me, wasn't terribly intuitive. Many people swear by Vellum.

Ads can be...quite variable. I have had limited success with CPC (cost per click) ads on Amazon, Bookbub (NOT feature deals), and Facebook, so I've barely used them lately. I mainly pay to advertise in newsletters when I have set the first book in a series free. In my first 2 years or so, I focused on building a backlist and didn't ramp up promo until I had 10 or so books out. What you plan to do here may depend on a bunch of things... (genre, price point, what you're writing next, etc)
 

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I've self-published 18 books + 2 box sets (+ another up for pre-order) in the past 3.5 years. I write romance.
That's awesome!
I pay 1.5 cents/word (US) for one round of editing. My books are typically 60k, so $900.
This is a nice, specific price point. Assume this is a pretty standard price for editing?
I do my own formatting for ebooks, and one of the benefits is this is that if I find an error or want to update my backmatter, I can quickly do it for free myself. I have a friend who formats them for paperback when I do paperbacks. I just use the basic formatting in Draft2Digital (it's free), and for my box sets, I use Jutoh, which isn't too expensive, but at least for me, wasn't terribly intuitive. Many people swear by Vellum.
I was planning on using Vellum since I'm a mac user. Now I'm also considering having the formatting done, but I see enough errors in ebooks that the idea of being able to fix them as I find them (for free) is tempting.
Ads can be...quite variable. I have had limited success with CPC (cost per click) ads on Amazon, Bookbub (NOT feature deals), and Facebook, so I've barely used them lately. I mainly pay to advertise in newsletters when I have set the first book in a series free. In my first 2 years or so, I focused on building a backlist and didn't ramp up promo until I had 10 or so books out. What you plan to do here may depend on a bunch of things... (genre, price point, what you're writing next, etc)
This isn't something I'd considered - waiting, that is. 😅 I do think/hope I've got a series (or maybe a trilogy of trilogies) on my hand, and so definitely have a backlist in my head. @LJD I'm curious what you do to build momentum in the early days (or do you?). I've seen several mentions of newsletters but don't have any experience with that. Is it just a matter of getting the right keywords on Amazon to find die-hards in your genre?

This has been a great thread everyone. Thank you!
 
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This is a nice, specific price point. Assume this is a pretty standard price for editing?

The Editorial Freelancers Association has a median price chart. TL;DR: LJD's cost is low according to this, but IIRC she's also not based in the US.

I was planning on using Vellum since I'm a mac user. Now I'm also considering having the formatting done, but I see enough errors in ebooks that the idea of being able to fix them as I find them (for free) is tempting.

FWIW my formatting guy charges me a flat fee for the whole project, so I don't pay extra for changes. (Including my own edits. My formatting guy is patient, and at least as nitpicky as I am, so we work well together. :))
 
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LJD

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The Editorial Freelancers Association has a median price chart. TL;DR: LJD's cost is low according to this, but IIRC she's also not based in the US.
I'm not, but my editor is.

I don't have a really good sense of what standard prices are as I haven't looked for an editor in a while. And, of course, it depends what exactly you want by "editing." The prices in that chart do seem slightly high to me.

This isn't my editor, but she has edited for various romance authors I follow (some quite successful), and she has a breakdown on her site that explains her different packages, varying from 1-2.5 cents/word. https://www.sashaknighteditor.com/books
 

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This isn't something I'd considered - waiting, that is. 😅 I do think/hope I've got a series (or maybe a trilogy of trilogies) on my hand, and so definitely have a backlist in my head. @LJD I'm curious what you do to build momentum in the early days (or do you?). I've seen several mentions of newsletters but don't have any experience with that. Is it just a matter of getting the right keywords on Amazon to find die-hards in your genre?
For services that send out regular newsletters with books on sale (Bookbub being the most well known), many people set their books to free and make money off the sell-through in the series. Or 99 cents, but I haven't had great luck with that price point. Some will accept new releases, even if they're not 99 cents or free, but I haven't heard of as much success there. BookBub has "new releases for less" and I have heard mixed results for that.

I, personally, do not pay much attention to keywords. I keep meaning to but never got around to it.

I really did not advertise early on, and I think much of my early success could be attributed to Twitter, but that is...unusual, I believe.

My first indie book (in 2018) I consider "accidental marketing genius"...the title was super catchy to readers in my genre (and the cover was decent), and a successful author quote tweeted my pinned tweet...and I got like 80 pre-orders in 24 hours. So that was...kind of lucky.

With new releases, I honestly don't do much these days, which is probably part of the reason I'm not super successful...I just send to my newsletter and post on social media. I have an ARC team, too, so I send advanced copies a few weeks ahead of time to get reviews on Goodreads before release.

Getting your first readers is hardest.
 

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