Someone asked me this question just the other day. It’s a tough one to answer because there are so many variables: your budget, your goals, the length and quality of your manuscript, and your willingness and ability to DIY things like cover design and formatting—not to mention factors such as your service provider’s level of expertise and whether you’re paying for extras such as a rush service.
But since I recently complained about the high cost that authors can incur when they publish through vanity presses, I decided it was only fair to at least try to give you at least a rough guide to expenses. With the understanding that you’ll always be able to find lower or higher prices than these, here’s a quick look at what you’ll probably pay for the most common publishing services:
Your cover is usually people’s first impression of your book, and it’s well worth saving up and studying your options carefully to make sure you have a good one. Expect to pay $100–$500 for a custom design, more if you want custom photography or illustration.
Many designers offer “pre-mades,” pre-designed layouts that they fill in with your name and title after purchase. Expect to pay $25–$75 for a premade.
If you’re publishing a hardcopy as well as an ebook, you’ll need a back cover/spine as well as a front cover. You’ll usually pay $25–$100 extra for a hardcopy cover.
I came across a thread the other day in which an author claimed she’d had her book “professionally edited” for $60. I’m not sure what you get for $60—but it won’t be professional. Expect editing to be your biggest expense. Broadly speaking, there are 3 types of editing service. You may or may not need all three:
Developmental editing looks at the overall structure of your book, makes sure it’s aimed at your audience, excludes redundant or unnecessary information, and has a clear and well-supported thesis. Expect to pay anywhere between 2¢–10¢ per word (many developmental editors charge by the hour but the cost will probably be in this range).
Copy or line editing is done at the sentence/paragraph level. Copy editors will correct your grammar, make your sentences flow, ensure that your style and spelling are consistent, fix redundancies, and do light fact checking. Expect to pay 0.5¢–2¢ per word.
Proofreading takes care of spelling, punctuation, and formatting errors (like extra spaces). Proofreaders won’t usually change sentence structure, but they may fix or flag grammatical mistakes; think of them as the last line of defense against reviews that complain about “too many typos.” Expect to pay 0.3¢–2¢ per word.
For more on editing, please check out my book, Edit Me! How to Find, Hire and Work with an Editor.
Expect to pay $25–$50 per format, more if your book includes a lot of images or has complicated formatting (sidebars, pull quotes, etc.) Typical formats include:
.mobi for Kindle/Amazon ebook
.epub for most other retail platforms
.pdf for hardcopy layout (e.g. CreateSpace)
(It’s easy to DIY your formatting; it’s difficult to do it well. Expect a learning curve and some hair pulling if you don’t already have relevant experience.)
Not everyone’s marketing plan includes paid advertising, but if it does, it’s basically whatever your budget will bear. There are a plethora of email advertising services, such as Fussy Librarian or Choosy Bookworm, that cost around $10–$45 an ad. There are higher-priced ad services such as Ereader News Today (ENT) and BookBub, which can cost several hundred for a single ad, and of course there are social media ads such as Facebook and Twitter, which are based on a budget you set.
You can spend a couple hundred or many thousands of dollars; it all comes down to your budget, your needs, and who you want to work with. There’s no wrong or right amount as long as you feel you’re getting good value for the money.