I’m forever encouraging people “You should write a book about that!”. And in return I am usually asked “How much will self-publishing really cost me?”

A plastic calculator showing the words How Much to figure the amount you can save or afford in a financial transaction such as getting a mortgage or spending on

What’s the number one reason people don’t write their books? No, it’s not the money, it’s because they are usually too afraid (or lazy) to write! Oh, they (you??) will give you all sorts of reasons for not doing it, but more often than not, they are scared to fail.

The number two reason, money. This one is more understandable to me, BUT while it may prevent you from actually releasing your book, it should not prevent you from writing the book.

Why is money a hindrance? Honestly, while the book industry continues to go digital and certain costs are coming down, it can still get quite expensive to self-publish.

Writing, releasing, and marketing a good book involves quite a few steps, and at each step along the way it is possible that you may pay someone for their services to help you help yourself.

Before I go into the most common things you may pay for to produce a professional book, I want to say that while “You Get What You Pay For” is the usual song I sing, do NOT be afraid to use low priced services, including services you may obtain on a site like fiverr.com. Times are hard for some people, and they will charge you less for their services, but that doesn’t automatically mean that they suck. Whether you go with a high priced service or a low priced service, ALWAYS ask for examples of their work.

Anyhow, here are some of the more common things you will pay for, and the ranges of the cost of those services.

Turn-key solutions.

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The easiest way to go would be to use an all-in-one, or turn-key, service. These are services available that will allow you to just provide them with your manuscript and they will do all of the other leg work for you. This can run anywhere from a couple of thousand up to as much as $20-25,000. You need to make sure you understand exactly what services they will provide for you, AND you want to check the company out. Do a Google search for reviews of that company and see what pops up. If you see too many negative reviews, move on.

You may decide to just hire a freelancer to help you with bits and pieces of the process. If that is the case, here are the areas you may consider hiring someone to help you with…

EDITING

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You will get sick of “editing” popping up in almost every post, but the truth is editing MUST be done. Well if you have been paying attention, there are different types of editing that you may decide to go with.

First up is PROOFREADING. This is usually the least expensive form of editing you may get done, and that is because it is the most basic form of editing you will have done. The proofreader will assure that no typos exist in your document. While it is the most basic, it is a very critical part of the quality control process. What should you expect to pay for a proofreader? Between $25 and $35 per hour.
Next, you could decide to go with a COPY/LINE EDITOR. A copy editor (sometimes called a Line Editor) will go over each sentence in your manuscript checking for grammar, punctuation, spelling, consistency and word usage. The line editor may also assist with rewriting/rewording sections that need help. They would generally run you about $25-$50 an hour.

There is your DEVELOPMENTAL EDITOR. You will hire a development editor if you feel you need someone who can help you flesh out your book more. They may rearrange sections, add or delete characters, and basically help your book move along. How much would one expect to pay for these services, oh anywhere in the neighborhood of $45 – $75 dollars per hour.

Okay, I know you may be wondering,” if they are charging by the hour, just how many hours will they take to work on my book?” And the answer is…it depends. It depends on 1) how long your book is, and 2) how proficient is the person(s) you hire.

Let’s say you hire someone who is pretty proficient at their job (regardless of which form of editing it is), and they can complete 5 pages an hour, well if you have a 300 page book, then that person could spend 60 hours working on your book.

Let’s continue…

COVER DESIGN

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Readers judge how a book looks on a shelf and how it looks on an iPad or black-and-white Kindle. For iPhone users, a thumbnail of the cover is probably the first thing a reader sees. It’s important that your cover design be optimized for print, digital, thumbnail sizes, and how it looks on an e-reader or mobile device. You might have your own images, or you might need to buy a license to use the images. Some designers even sell premade cover designs for as low as $50.

But if you want to hire someone to make a custom cover design, you can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $3,500. The higher end is for award-winning designers who have done Random House- or HarperCollins-type covers, according to book design maven Joel Friedlander.

Costs:
Low end: $150
High end: $3,500

FORMATTING FOR PRINT AND DIGITAL CONVERSION

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If you’re tech-savvy, you can set up your book on your own for free using programs called Sigil, Calibre or Pages. If you’re looking to hire an expert, you can find someone to do the print-on-demand conversions for as little as $150 or as much as $2,500 to convert from Word or InDesign. The costs will usually be $200 for a text book that’s less than 400 pages. The higher costs are if your original file is in PDF, has a lot of pictures, or is highly illustrated. PDFs are much more complex to convert.

Costs:
Low end: Free
High end: $2,500 or more based on interactivity and pages, according to book design maven Joel Friedlander.

AN ISBN

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An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is recommended if you’re doing a print book or want it placed in a library. A lot of third parties sell ISBNs, but if you don’t purchase your own ISBN you may not be listed as the publisher of your own work! Not everyone believes you need an ISBN. If you plan on only selling your book in e-book form, then you do have the option of skipping the ISBN and using the default numbering system for Amazon, iBooks or BN (or whoever else you may use).

Costs: 
$125 for one ISBN
10 ISBNs for $250
Bowker is the authorized ISBN retailer in the U.S.

PRINTING

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You no longer have to pay upfront for printing costs because now there are so many print-on-demand options. With print-on-demand services like CreateSpace  (I usually print through them) or Lightning Source, the book only gets printed when someone buys it. It’s also not recommended to print books if you don’t already have a distribution deal in place. Otherwise, you might end up housing 1,000 books in your garage.

PRE-PUBLICATION REVIEWS

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There are many resources for authors to get professional reviews. Sites like Kirkus, Blue Ink, and Publishers Weekly all sell review packages for indie or self-published authors. There’s also a great list of bloggers that you can reach out to for reviews for your book.

  • Cost of review from Kirkus:$425
  • Cost of review from BlueInk Reviews: $396
  • Cost of review from Publishers Weekly PW Select: $149

MARKETING & PR

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This is probably the toughest part after you’ve written the book. You can pay someone to help you market and set up blog tours for $10 to $40 per hour on BiblioCrunch. For $10 you can get a college student, for $40 to $65 an hour you can get a professional marketer. We recommend you pay someone at least 10 hours to market and on the high end 40 hours. If you have the time, you can do a lot of the marketing yourself. Also, good book publicists can get you radio spots and press pickups for anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 per month.

Costs:
Low end: $100
High end: $5,000 and up.

It’s a lot of information, but spending money on quality editorial services will set your book apart from the sea of books in the marketplace.