The Ultimate Guide to Self-Publishing Costs

Self-publishing costs may grow over your budget if you do not plan ahead or you are not aware of the type of expenses. You may save costs if you have some extra skills or time to develop them on your own. Let’s see what self-publishing expenses you have to cover if you want to publish your own ebook.

In this article we summarize the most important cost types you may have, and we add an approximate amount so that you can estimate your self-publishing costs on the long term.

1. Writing an ebook

As an author you usually write on your own, but in this case, your time is your biggest cost. Depending on what your goal is with your book, the actual writing can take a lot of time and hard work.

If you think of writing as a career, you might want to spend more money to make sure what you create is a quality product (e.g. hiring an editor or a ghostwriter). In this case, think of writing as an investment that can bring you enough money for the rest of your life.

If you write books just for fun or as a hobby, you’ll probably spend less time on writing. You can also hire a ghostwriter to do the hard work for you.

Skills needed: writing, creativity, tons of patience

Alternatives: hire a ghostwriter

2. Editing, or hiring an editor

Editing your ebook can be the highest expense, but it can turn your book from good to outstanding. You can hire a professional editor who does all the work for you including developmental editing, content editing, copyediting.

Hiring an experienced editor can increase your expenses. If you decide to get one, we suggest doing some research first and reach out to more than just one editor before you commit and start shelling out money.

The cost of an editor usually starts at $ 0.005 per word and can go as high as 0.08 cents per word. That is why it is important to do your homework first.

In fact, you don’t always need to hire a professional editor. If you want to keep your costs low, ask writers, authors you know to edit your book. A fresh set of eyes can make a difference.

Skills needed: impeccable grammar skills

Alternatives: hire a professional editor, ask early readers

3. Proofreading an ebook

When you think you’ve finished, review your writing to make sure you fix any spelling mistakes before your final product hits the stores.

Even a book with excellent content won’t be able to bring you too much money (or even jeopardize your reputation in the industry as a professional author) if it’s full of errors.

You have several options for proofreading your book. First, you can use software solutions such as spell check in Microsoft Word or to get rid of the biggest mistakes. Then you can hire people on to do that for you. Or you can even hire a professional editor (which may increase your costs), or you can join a writer’s group to exchange manuscripts with others, which is a cost-effective option.

Skills needed: high level of grammar skills

Alternatives: hire people on, hire a professional editor, exchange manuscripts with other writers, ask early readers

4. Cost of book cover design

If you want your book to stand out, you need a killer cover.

A good cover design can develop your brand as an author, boost your ebook sales and help your readers identify your book by its cover. You want to make sure your book cover attracts your reader’s eyes because eventually, this is the first thing they bump into.

Designing an outstanding cover is far more work than just choosing the right fonts and colors to make your cover look good. A book cover — that draws interest — demands high design skills and a high level of knowledge of Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator.

You can also find great cover design tips at, or do some research and find free templates online. There are also other great design tools like Canva, Boxshot or a book cover editor software. If it seems too much work for you and you’re thinking of hiring a professional at any point, it should be for the cover design part. Hire an experienced cover designer and save yourself the extra hours to focus on more important things like branding and positioning your book.

Skills needed: design skills, advanced Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator skills

Alternatives: hire people on, research and find free templates, use Canva or other book cover editor

5. Ebook conversion

Ebook conversion may be easy to look over if you want to read on your own device, but you need to invest in high-quality conversion for commercial purposes. If you consider yourself tech-savvy, you can format your manuscript yourself using free platforms like Sigil or you can hire an expert to do it for you. PublishDrive offers ebook conversion services for 0.5 USD per page, and for that, you can download your epub which is ready to use.

Skills needed: HTML5, some common aesthetic skills, Sigil or other HTML editor knowledge

Alternatives: outsourcing to PublishDrive or other services

6. ISBN for ebooks

ISBN is a unique identifier for your book which is an industry standard from ancient times. However, as a self-publisher, you have to buy ISBNs and do the necessary administrative tasks — which are a real pain for an entrepreneurial writer.

At PublishDrive, we got rid of the inflexibility of ISBN and introduced our identifier which is widely accepted by our retailers. So no more hassle with ISBNs which speeds up the publishing process for all of us.

Skills needed: patience, administrative skills

Alternatives: no need for an ISBN when you publish your ebook with PublishDrive

Now you finally reached the point where you can actually sell your ebook! 🙂

7. Ebook distribution

When your book is ready, you can start thinking about distribution models. Many of the authors believe that they can do it on their own, but if you want to focus on your biggest strength, on your creativity and writing skills and building your reader base, the best is if you leave all operational and administrative tasks for someone else.

You can hire a whole qualified team if you want to sell on your platforms on your own, or you can simply partner with a trustworthy service provider who does the job for you. PublishDrive may help in this case with a royalty based pricing, so there are no upfront costs when you start selling your titles everywhere.

But do not forget that you have different expenses for different business models. Many of the publishers only look at the nominal value of the royalties but bear in mind that though these costs may vary, your income from these business models can be in some cases surprising.

Consider volume over value, and you may get a more reasonable profit from a less attractive royalty structure

Agency model

The usual pricing of an agency model is between 30%-50% for the retailers. It means that you set the price and you will receive around 70–50% royalties on the net sales. The agency model is the most widely used business model around selling ebooks.

In PublishDrive we have the following stores with agency model (on 5th December 2016) and with the following pricing structure:

Subscription based model

Subscriptions are monthly fees that a reader pays to read either unlimited ebooks or there’s some limit included (such as 5 books and 3 audiobooks etc.). This way, the readers pay less, but publishers may earn more since publishers are paid out based on their list price or in some cases based on the number of pages read. Anyway, it is a fair deal for authors, publishers and even for readers.

We see that subscription business models are valuable: one of our publishers could earn 2.5 times more with PublishDrive and half of their revenue (in value) comes from subscription-based business models. This shows that subscription business models have not just a future, but the present as well.

PublishDrive has the following platforms integrated with subscription based business models:

Library model

There are thousands of libraries out such as schools, public libraries, academies, universities and in some cases, corporate libraries that are waiting for you to list your ebook there.

Library models can help readers to lend a book for a specific period or just simply read it from one spot. We also see that the demand for unique and niche content is specifically needed in libraries who are in the digital transition of their traditional work.

At PublishDrive, we partnered with the following digital library services to make sure your ebooks are available for many librarians in over 40k digital libraries.

Skills needed: business development with all retailers, building out your own accounts, financial terms, managing all accounts, managing all technical requirements, managing all ebook updates, consolidating all sales reports, intelligent analysis of sales reports, billing, managing financial thresholds, then collecting your money

Alternatives: you can do everything by building out your team putting a lot of effort (time and money) to find knowledgeable people, or you can partner with PublishDrive.

8. Marketing costs

When it comes to promotional expenses, you can spend a whole lot of money — but it doesn’t have to be like this.

Depending on your budget, you can partner with ebook blogs to promote your books like GoodReads, IndieReader and Whattpad or you can choose websites to do the same such as Write Globe, Writers Support. Some others offer free services like Noble Authors or Creative Designers and Writers.

You can also collaborate with other authors, use BookBub email list advertising or other software. If you decide not to spend any money on promotion but have the time and effort, you can do all the promotions by yourself. Guest blog, host online events, manage all your social media platforms, build relationships inside the industry and do free ebook giveaways. Your goal is to engage with readers and to put your name out there.

Remember, most of the promotional costs tend to be a waste of money so choose your promotional options wisely.

Skills needed: online marketing knowledge, basic IT and HTML skills

Alternatives: hire someone to do it for you, reach out to your community to promote your book, use your blog and social media sites, create a website, do ebook giveaways

By now you know all about the costs that may arise during self-publishing an ebook and you might want to hear a total amount. Self-publishing costs can depend on many things. If you’re a newbie or an experienced author you probably have different kinds of costs. It also depends on your goals what you want to achieve with your book and on how well you want your book to sell and so on.

So how much does self-publishing really cost?

  • Writing: free if you do it
  • Editing: depending on the length of the manuscript, usually between $0.005-$0.08 cents per word, an average total can be around 1500$/book (optional)
  • Proofreading: depends on the length of your manuscript, somewhere around $700-$1000 (optional)
  • Professional cover design: $50–200$ (for good featured positions in stores needed)
  • Ebook formatting: free if you do it on your own, usually $50–200$
  • ISBN: $19–125$ per title, with PublishDrive you don’t need ISBN anymore
  • Ebook distribution: depends on your business model — usually a percentage of sales
  • Marketing: depends on your budget — from free until the sky

All in all, as you can see from this post, there are quite a few factors that can affect the cost of self-publishing so after all, the question is not how much does it cost to self-publish a book but how much are you willing to spend on your book. In this case, the sky is the only limit.

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Originally published at on December 7, 2016.

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