DiceAs I approach the end of my path to publication, money has started to occupy my mind quite a lot. Having made the decision to self-publish my first novel, I have obviously had to think long and hard about how much it’s all going to cost me and the dilemma I have had to face is how to publish the best piece of work I can whilst having no real budget to speak of. I have read enough ebooks to know that many self-publishers just aren’t thinking about quality at all before they hit the publish button or maybe they were but they just didn’t have the money to spend on quality control before publishing their first book. Whilst I understand and sympathise with that situation, I could not do that myself but there is no doubt that it’s expensive and if, like me, you want to publish a high quality piece of writing, then you need to give some thought in advance to the potential costs involved.

1. Editing
It is generally agreed that if you want to end up with a high quality book, you will need to have it edited by a professional. I had my first professional edit done by the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) as part of their New Writers’ Scheme (NWS). I was lucky enough to get on to the scheme which includes a read through of your work in progress by an author. My reader sent me a three page report and made comments on my manuscript too. This was invaluable advice at the time. This edit equates to the developmental edit I guess in the round of edits that you could decide to have done. It cost me £120 to join the NWS for the year. Prior to that, I had asked a number of close friends to beta read for me and I had also made friends with a writer who beta read it for me, all of which was done for free.
As a result of attending the RNA Conference, I made contact with a couple of other professional editors too. When I approached them about editing though, I realised that I just couldn’t afford to pay for their professional services which started from £400 upwards. I felt caught then because I knew I had to have a professional edit and of course I wanted to pay people properly for their services but I couldn’t stretch to this. In the end, one of the editors was offering a special one-off deal of £90 and so, my problem was solved. In all, with some partial editing to my first three chapters, I have spent £150 on editing. With the fee to join the NWS added to that, this brings my total for editing to £270.

2. Cover Design
As you’ll know if you follow my blog posts every week, I have recently finished working with a cover designer for my novel. You can read the post here if you missed it. This service has cost me £187 but there will be a bit more (£50) when I go back for the print version of the cover. I know I could have spent less than this but I don’t think I would have ended up with a cover that I love as much as the one I have. I consider this to have been a very good investment and as you know, people do judge books by their covers and so it was important to me to get that right. Total cost then spent on cover design  will be £237.

3. Proofreading
This past week, I have been looking into proofreading as the final step before publication. Once again, I knew that this was going to be a fair expense because I was going to need a professional. I have joined the UK Society for Editors and Proofreaders myself because I wanted to do their Introduction to Proofreading course and so I had an idea of what sort of cost to expect. Last week, I also took the plunge and joined the Alliance of Independent Authors and I was able to seek the advice of their members for recommendations which was very helpful. Still, it has been a difficult decision when all the people I’ve contacted have been equally well-qualified and professional in their response. They all have excellent references as well. So how you do you decide? In the end, I’ve reached a conclusion based on qualifications, availability, costs and personal recommendation. This is going to cost me around £250. I don’t think I could have paid less than this and still felt that I was going to get a professional service.

4. Everything else
This final section would include things like formatting, which I’m going to attempt myself with some help from my friends (!) and it might also include marketing. I have just run a giveaway on my Facebook Author page and it got me thinking about the promotional materials I might need to get before I launch my book. This would include postcards, bookmarks, business cards etc at the very least but I can’t really commit more than £100 to this.

In total then, for someone who has no budget, it looks like I will have spent about £850 to self-publish my book to a quality that I will be happy with. As these costs have mostly been staggered, I have managed it reasonably well. My understanding is that if I price my book at £1.99 on Amazon, I can expect to receive 70% royalties from them for every book I sell. By my calculations, that will mean that I will need to sell 610 books in order to make my money back. Now all I need to do is make it visible enough for readers to know it’s out there. And that will be a story for another blog post!

Thanks for reading as always. I welcome your comments about your experiences 🙂


34 Comments on How much does it cost to self-publish?

  1. Julie! Before you spend too much money on bookmarks and stuff, please read Joanne Phillips’ blog post about the launch of her book Cupid’s Way. I have read a few posts saying that paying out for all this stuff is a waste of money because everyone’s doing it and (to be frank) it won’t encourage anyone to buy your book who wouldn’t anyway, partly because the launch of a self-published book is an every day event. Joanne has re-thought the whole launch thing since actually finding herself out of pocket after paying out for promotional material and Facebook adverts – and she’s an established and successful self published author. Hang on, and I’ll find the post for you… aaah, I can’t find it. Maybe she’s deleted it, not sure! You could have a word with her about it, though. Hope that helps, anyway – and at least your book is going to look mega professional!!

    • Thanks for drawing my attention to this, Terry. I read Jo’s site regularly but don’t remember this post. I will find it and follow up. Jo is a wealth of good information, like yourself and I have already been lucky enough to benefit from her help and advice.

  2. Great post Julie. Having not self published, but considering it for the future, I had not looked into the cost associated. You’re post definitely puts it into perspective.

    • Thank you, Dena. It is definitely worth bearing in mind and in advance too so you can start saving 😉 Thanks for reading.

  3. This is a fantastically honest appraisal of just how much it costs to self publish at a quality level and I honestly believe that your investment will be worthwhile given the work you’ve put in and the path you’ve chosen.
    Having said that, this post has made me realise that – like you – if I were to self-publish I would also need all of the support and professional services you have bought in so that I could guarantee my product (because, after all, novels are products at the end of the day) was of a sufficient quality to publish. However, unlike you, I don’t believe I am in a position to commit these funds, staggered or otherwise. 🙁 What this means is that I maybe at the mercy of the publishers to assist in producing these costs upfront – provided, of course, they recognise the potential in my manuscript.
    Either way, you still have to sell the novel to make the money back and I admire you immensely for taking this leap of faith. 610 copies sounds like a lot when you’ve not yet sold one, but I’m sure that you’ll reach your target and beyond. I will definitely be one of those who purchases your novel – and shout how brilliant it is from the rooftops to help you reach that target too. You’ve gone about this process in such a practical, honest manner that I know there are many out there like me who will support your debut and buy that book when the time comes.
    Thanks for sharing this information Julie. It’s been great to read about your progress over the last few months. Keep going! 🙂 Look forward to release day!
    Take Care, Cat x

    • Thanks for this lovely reply, Cat. I do try to be honest and share my learning curve with readers and it’s so good to know that you do find it helpful. It’s tough to make that decision, isn’t it? I may find in the long-term that going the traditional route is better for me, dependent on sales of course. I just don’t know at the moment. What I can say is that I now understand the steps involved and it hasn’t been easy by any means so if I do change my mind in the future, at least I will be doing so based on the benefit of having done it for myself.
      Thank you for rooting for me, it means so much to have you and others on my side 🙂

      • Can I just add something else here? Might be of interest to Cat, too. You should shop around for proofreaders – I recommend @ProofreadJulia, @Wendyproof or @GeoffreyDWest. Geoff and Julia both take installment payments. Proper proofreading is essential but you don’t have to pay for editing; not all self-pub books are professionally edited, and if your grammar is good and you’ve got your head screwed on and have some basic talent you can do it yourself; you just have to be prepared for the re-drafting and editing to take as long as the first draft, not be self-indulgent, and read it from a reader’s point of view. It’s a long drawn out process, and you have to go through it line by line (it’s what I’m doing at the moment!) to make sure every one is as concise as it can be, but you can do it. And YOU get to make the decisions!
        Obviously, Julie, you’re in good hands with the RNA, but I’d recommend any debut authors to be very, very careful who they pick to proofread/edit; there are many around who talk a good sell, but don’t actually have the skills to do what they claim they can. I know a lot of people choose to go with a small indie press instead, but then you have the problem of not being able to set your own price, having to comply with someone’s editing requirements, and that someone might not be that well versed in what they do. Traditional publishing is something else, incredibly hard to achieve (though I think some of these romance dedicated ones like Carina UK are easier and, shall we say, less demanding!); if your book is one that gets taken on by by a big publisher you have little to worry about anyway!
        You can format your book yourself, too – lots of people do and it’s not that hard. My cousin does mine!

        • Thanks for this follow-up comment, Terry. I agree that you need to shop around for all the services you use and it can be daunting when you’ve never done it before. That’s an interesting point about some proofreaders offering payment by instalments. I’d not come across that.
          I think that maybe when you’re as experienced as you are, you might be able to go without a professional edit but I couldn’t do that with any confidence. Of course, this is what the trad. publishers do for you but at a cost and sadly, there are mistakes in trad. published books as well which makes you wonder where they can add value to the author these days. I’m not speaking from any experience of doing it though so I’m just trying this out to see what happens and learning as I go!
          I do plan to have a go at formatting because it looks pretty easy if you use Scrivener, like I do but if I try it and it’s hard, well, I may have to look for some help!

  4. A great post Julie! However, I do agree with Terry Tyler. I self-published my first book at the cost of £30, and that was just for the right to use the image on the cover. I designed the cover and did the formatting of the manuscript myself (it wasn’t hard!). It had previously been published traditionally, so it only required a little updating. I’ve never paid for advertising or promotion either. My own personal view is that the best way to sell a book is to write another – and then another! Good luck! x

    • That’s very interesting, Louise. I know that I could have gone with my own attempt at a cover but I do think that the professional cover I have is a great one. You’ll have to let me know what you think when you see it. The proof will be in the sales of course 🙂 I’m not afraid of the formatting bit though. Scrivener is my friend!
      With your book, I presume it had been edited and proofread by the publisher previously but with my lack of experience, I just don’t feel confident enough to go ahead without that professional help but maybe in time, I will change my mind on that.
      I agree about the advertising and promotion. I only have free things in mind, with the exception of the bookmarks etc but Terry has made me wonder about that too. A friend of mine, Ros Rendle, even made some business cards of her own which looked lovely at the RNA Conference. I can’t go mad obviously so will have to think hard about where best to spend my money. Thanks so much for your advice. I do have book 2 on the go, you’ll be glad to know!

      • I totally get what you say about the experience involved with editing, Julie. But I bet by the time you get to book 3 you’re starting to be able to do it yourself!! Congrats on having book 2 on the go, by the way – and I look forward to seeing your cover! I bet it’s fab 🙂

      • Yes, my books have been professionally edited and I’m now at the stage where I’m paying someone else to do the covers too. I love doing it, I just don’t have the time any more – and, to be honest, a professional can do the job much better than me!
        Business cards are a good idea – you can hand them out when you network at conferences. As to freebies (ie: promotional material to give away to readers), anything that can be ‘useful’, such as bookmarks, pens, notebooks, that kind of thing, is popular, although expensive, and I’ve not gone down that route myself.
        Great post, Julie! And good luck with your book!

        • Thanks, Louise. I hope that the cost will be worth it in the end (I’ll have to let you know on that one!) I will definitely get some business cards done. When I was at the RNA Conf., Christina Courtenay was handing out some fans to promote her book ‘The Gilded Fan’ which I loved so much, I’ve stuck one on my wall and it has given me a good idea of something I could do instead of postcards. I’ll have to rein in my love of stationery other than that! Thanks for your good wishes 🙂

    • Oh good, Louise!!!! Mine actually cost me nothing at all, to be honest, as it’s all done in the family – I was clever enough to have a sister called @ProofreadJulia, and the covers are done by a family member too. I have never paid a penny for advertising either – not that I sell loads, but I do sell every day. Agree agree agree re the best way to sell a book – sounds as though you are of a similar mindset to me. I am not saying I couldn’t sell more if I spent out, but you need to make sure you’re paying the right people, especially where promotion is concerned I do also appreciate that I’m extremely lucky to have people who can do stuff for me; I’m not saying “ooh, look at me, I do it all the right way!” I’ve heard so many stories about people paying for advertising that yields nothing, though.

      • Hey, Terry,
        You are definitely lucky to have family members to help out and you have only learnt by your experience. It is so good of you to share that experience with us newbies too. I really hope you like my cover because I value your opinion and I know you know your stuff. I’m going to come back to you re: what to do about marketing when the time comes, if that’s okay.

      • I didn’t realise @ProofreadJulia was your sister, Terry! That is very fortunate! I am very, very wary of all these organisations springing up offering to ‘help’ authors self-publish their books at huge cost. Although it is vital that any self-published book should be as professional as possible, it’s just not worth spending huge sums when you’re first starting out. It is incredibly easy to load a word document up onto Amazon. Anyone can do it. Whether they should or not is another matter 😉

  5. Hi Julie,
    I’ve just started to use Pro writing aid. It’s free or you can upgrade to the all singing all dancing version. I have found it reall useful for editing. It identifies over used words, too long sentences, discrepancies in things like capitalisation and tons of other stuff. It has had good write ups. The free version is comprehensive.
    Your article is really interesting and good food for thought in the self pub. arena. The number of books to sell is worth knowing but you might find you sell more of the first after you have published a second. I think people like to read an author if they know another is also available. If you don’t manage to sell the 610 look to the long term.

    • Thanks, Ros. Do you think though that Pro Writing software could take the place of a professional edit? I’ll have to take a look at it anyway.
      I think you’re definitely right about having another book ready and one of the problems I’ve found is that I haven’t really touched it for the past year because I’ve been so busy with FHTN.
      I will definitely be looking to the longer term. It’s all an investment, I hope for the future 🙂

  6. Interesting post, thanks, Julie. I’d imagined a professional edit would be more expensive. I had bookmarks made for my 2nd book but agree they’re a bit of a luxury – what is good though is little business-size cards advertising the book and your website etc. Vistaprint make nice ones and they don’t cost the earth. They’re good for just handing out to people like sales assistants, waiters – anyone really. My bank advisor was happy to take a pile for her English-speaking friends and colleagues. Wish you all the best!

    • Thanks, Linda. I have to say that I’ve been lucky this time round but a professional edit is usually a lot more, starting from around £400 in my experience.
      I will take a look at Vistaprint, thank you for that suggestion and thanks for your good wishes. It means a lot 🙂

  7. Hi, Julie! Just to say that your expenses are slightly less than you calculated in that only a part of your fee to the RNA goes to the NWS. In addition to the feefor the NWS, the amount you pay covers membership to the RNA, their magazines, reduction in entry to parties and events, etc.
    Very interesting blogs. I’m so glad that I picked them up, and I look forward to seeing the finished product. Many thanks for passing on what you’ve learnt. 🙂

    • Ah, thanks for that Liz, I hadn’t realised. I’m so glad you find the blog useful and I’m really glad you’re still reading 🙂

  8. As someone with experience of self publishing and via professional publishers I would say that the greatest marketing tool is genuine reviews in the right places for your genre: therefore you need to cost in sending out free copies by post to reviewers. Consider also do you need to publish hard copies at all? Although there is some resistance, e books are cheaper and often more accessible to the public with minimal outlay. If you do an Amazon exclusive you get 75% of the selling price. On sales of my older books, e sales are starting to overtake paperback sales. It still doesn’t stop you from doing a limited print run for those who say they will buy it, but only in hard copy.

    • Thanks for reading, Pete and for taking the time to comment. This is a good point you raise. I know there will be lots of little costs like this that I haven’t factored in so I’m adding this to my list of things to remember! Thank you again 🙂

  9. Hi Julie, My first e-pub indie (Sister Issues) cost me $0. I was just ignorant about the entire process. I have two degrees in English plus I teach writing so I thought I could proof and copy edit myself. (A friend found about a dozen proof/edit mistakes I will fix when I finally get it in print edition). Then my daughter-in-law gave me the perfect picture to use as a cover. I still love it. Hey, I love the guitar with the rose you had for your “maybe” cover … hope the one you had done is something like that! And can’t wait for the debut!!

  10. Hi Julie, just caught up with your blog and very interesting to read about your writing journey. Best of luck with your publishing project. So many difficult decisions to make. I just paid for a developmental edit, and it ain’t cheap. Best wishes, Ruth

    • Hi, Ruth, nice to hear from you. Thanks for your good wishes. You’re right about the difficult decisions and about the cost of editing! This is what going it alone, without the hand-holding of a publisher, is all about of course and it is such a steep learning curve, isn’t it? I hope your developmental edit has been helpful and that you’re moving in the right direction too. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment 🙂

  11. Hi Julie, what a great and thoughtful post – and I’m so glad you joined ALLi, of course!
    Here’s an extra thought that might help you next time around (though too late for this time) – engage beta readers to help you perfect your novel before you go to the editing/proofreading stage. Beta readers are effectively voluntary test-drivers for your book and give you feedback, which will include structural editing advice, line editing and picking up typos, verbal tics, etc. Each beta reader will bring a different set of skills, experience and attitude to the process, but if you can rustle up half a dozen or so, you’ll get an enormous cross-section of helpful feedback that will help you polish your ms considerably. You may even decide to bypass the cost of a professional edit, but I’d guard against dispensing with a professional proofreader, as it’s impossible to proofread your own work with 100% accuracy. More info on beta readers on my author blog here: http://authordebbieyoung.com/?s=beta+reader&submit=Search (two separate posts).
    Good luck with it all – I can’t wait to read it when it’s out there! And yes, the best way to sell a novel is to write another one! Received wisdom is that once you’ve got 5 or 6 out there, it all becomes much easier…. !
    Best wishes, Debbie

    • Thanks for reading and for leaving this comment, Debbie. In fact, I did use some beta readers this time round. One of my readers was a new writing friend I met on Twitter and we have established a good relationship and friendship too! The other people who read it were all friends and family and of course, they loved it! They made some minor comments but nothing more. So next time round, I will look for more writing buddies to help me. I will read your articles about it with interest. Thanks for drawing my attention to them.
      I must just say how helpful I have found the ALLi forum already – I have learnt so much from other members in such a short time. I will recommend it to everyone 🙂
      Thanks for your good wishes. I only hope I can live up to everyone’s expectations now but I’m getting on with book 2, as recommended, because it’s a long way to book 6!

  12. Interesting post, Julie. It just shows how much time and effort, not to mention money, goes into self-publishing a quality work. Congratulations on completing your novel and getting it ready for publication. I look forward to reading your release! 🙂

  13. It’s always interesting to read of other writers on a similar journey, Julie. I recently self-published my debut novel (finished it in January, and took a while to decide whether to go trad or indie) and am getting ready to publish my second. There is so much good advice for others in your post, and in the comments, that’s there’s not much I can add, (especially as I probably made every mistake possible!) except to say there is always something new to learn and discover on this exciting journey. Wishing you lots of luck with your book.

    • Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to comment, Teagan. I’m glad you think it’s good advice because if you’ve just done it, you know better than me. I’m sorry it was hard-going for you the first time round but hopefully, the second time will be better! Thanks for your good wishes and the same to you 🙂

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