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Blog > Understanding Publishing – Posted on Jun 23, 2020

How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Book in 2020?

Writing and publishing a book is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life. As an author, you create something beautiful and unique that readers will cherish forever. But once you finish writing, you might be curious how to get your book out into the world — and perhaps more importantly, how much will it cost to publish?

Luckily, this post is dedicated to answering that very query. Here we’ve broken down the cost of self-publishing by type and quality of service, so you can know exactly what you’re getting for your money.

Feel free to jump ahead using the table of contents to your left (we even have a handy-dandy quiz that you can take if you want to get a personalized cost estimate upfront). Otherwise, let’s start with the million-dollar question itself. 🤑

How much does it cost to publish a book?

The cost to publish a book depends on a) the length of the book and b) the level of quality you want. Most authors spend $2,000-$4,000 to self-publish their books — this includes editing, cover design, formatting, and marketing services.

How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Book | Average Costs of Editing, Cover Design, Formatting, Marketing

Of course, if you just want to get your book out there, you can always format it for free and use Amazon's self-publishing platform to make it available within 72 hours! For many people, writing the book is the greatest reward, and publishing is more of a formality.

But if you want to actually sell your book, you’ll need to invest in some high-quality services — otherwise, you have no chance of competing with traditionally published books. Yes, you can pick and choose which services to splurge on, but you can’t deny that certain things (like a strong cover design) are absolutely essential to book sales.

The rest of this post assumes that your goal is to create a beautiful, successful book with the help of qualified professionals. Now let’s see how much those professionals are going to cost, along with the possible price ranges for each.

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Editing costs

There are a few different types of professional editing you can have done — namely developmental editing, copy editing, and proofreading. If your book isn’t quite ready for these steps, you can get an editorial assessment to figure out where you need to improve!

Average editing costs based on a 60,000-word manuscript:

  • Developmental editing — $1,400 (or about $7 per page)
  • Copy editing — $1,000 (or about $5 per page)
  • Proofreading — $700 (or about $3 per page)

A developmental editor will charge you the most because they take an in-depth look at every part of your story. Copy editing is moderately expensive, examining the mechanics of your writing. Proofreading is the least-expensive final-check stage of the process. (Copy editing and proofreading may also be combined at a discount rate.)

The genre of your book can also impact editing costs — which may surprise you, but it makes sense! For example, historical fiction and non-fiction have the highest editing costs, because they often require fact-checking or academic background. Similarly, editors for comics and children's books (genres with a much lower word count) will have a much higher per word rate. After all, a picture book might be 1,000 words long — and an editor cannot pay the rent if they charge just 1/80 the amount that they would for an 80,000-word novel.

To give you a better idea of how much you can expect to pay for editing, use the calculator below.

Pricing calculator

Calculate the average cost of editing services for your genre.

Editoral Assessment

Developmental Editing

Copy Editing

Proofreading

Copy Editing + Proofreading

You can search for professional editors over on the Reedsy marketplace.

What else affects editing costs?

The infographic above should give you a pretty accurate sense of what you'll spend on editing. However, here are a couple more factors to consider:

1. How “advanced” your manuscript is. Are you handing in a super-rough draft that you haven’t even checked for typos? Or has it gone through multiple rounds of self-editing based on other people’s feedback? The former will obviously cost more than the latter.

2. The density of your text. This typically coincides with your genre. However, if your book is unusual in that sense (e.g. a literary novel with fairly simple prose), you should adjust your expectations accordingly. The denser the text, the pricier the edit.

3. What level of experience you want. An editor with years of experience (especially with a major publisher) will cost much more than a total newbie. You’ll probably look for someone in between — a happy medium.

And where’s the best place to look? Reedsy, of course.

Over 2,000 of the best editors are on Reedsy. Sign up to meet them within seconds!

Learn how Reedsy can help you craft a beautiful book.

Cover design costs

While you do have the option to create your own book cover, we strongly recommend hiring a pro designer. Why? Because, again, you want to actually make book sales — and very few people buy books with amateur covers. In that sense, getting an experienced designer is perhaps the most important part of this process.

Cover design costs based on relative experience:

  • Novice designer — $300-$500
  • Experienced designer (2+ years) — $500-$800
  • Veteran designer (10+ years) — $800-$1,500

The longer a designer has been working and the more skills they’ve acquired, the more expensive they will be to hire. Of course, you might luck out and find a talented beginner who doesn’t charge much! But most authors end up paying at least $500 for a high-quality book cover design.

What else affects cover design costs?

1. The style and complexity of the design. For example, an elaborate illustrated cover would cost more than a simple photo-based one.

2. The number of “rounds” your designer does. If their first iteration of your cover looks good, then you’re all set! But you may end up asking for a few tweaks or even an entirely different design, which will obviously raise the cost.

3. Whether it’s an ebook or print cover. Print book covers require attention to dimensions, as well as a spine and back cover design, which can really add up in terms of cost. Ebook covers, meanwhile, need to make sense as thumbnails.

Formatting costs

By “formatting costs,” we mean the costs of interior design and typesetting. However, these terms are pretty interchangeable: it’s the process of setting text onto a page. And once again, there are multiple factors that affect the cost (which we’ll cover in a second).

Formatting costs based on data from Reedsy projects:

  • 48% of people pay less than $500 for book formatting
  • 30% of people pay $500-$1,000 for book formatting
  • 10% of people pay $1,000-$1,500 for book formatting
  • 12% of people pay $1,500+ for book formatting

Exactly what are you paying for here, you may ask? The factors are similar to those previously mentioned:

1. Level of experience. Though not as crucial as with cover design, you’ll want your interior layout designer to have worked on a few books before yours. But no need to hire an expensive formatter with decades of experience unless you have the budget for it.

2. Manuscript length. Longer books take more time to format — not just applying the design to the text, but also double-checking for widows, orphans, and other aesthetically unpleasing elements on each page.

3. How “graphically intense” the project is. A novel, for example, is much simpler to format than a cookbook, which will have many images and unusually formatted text.

Ultimately, you can expect to spend at least $500 on a professional formatting job, the same as cover design. But unlike with cover design, an amateur typesetting job won’t ruin your chances of selling books!

On that note, if you’re on a tight budget, why not take the Reedsy Book Editor for a spin? It’s completely free to use, so you may as well try it before committing one way or the other. Check out the video tutorial below on how to use the RBE.

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Marketing costs

Once you've self-published a book, you usually have to market it to get the word out — but that doesn’t mean it needs to be expensive! Most authors spend between $50-$200 on their marketing campaigns, which is a pretty reasonable range for first-timers.

Here’s a selection of book marketing techniques and how much they cost, so you can decide which path(s) to take. You can also hire a marketing professional to do all this for you if you’d prefer to focus on writing, which will cost around $1,000. However, keep in mind that such marketing experts often pay for themselves, as they maximize your ROI and book sales.

5 low-cost marketing tactics

1. Promote on social media. Advertise your book on Twitter, Instagram, and any other social accounts you may have. This is particularly effective if you already have a large following! Use plenty of hashtags and try to get other “bookfluencers” to promote you. 💰Cost: free!

2. Market through your blog and mailing list. Similarly, if you have readership on your blog or through a mailing list, you can promote your book there too. The costs are more variable here, depending on your platforms, but we’ll give you some ballpark lower-end numbers. 💰Cost: $50/year for a website on Squarespace or Wix, $9.99/month for a Mailchimp subscription.

3. Facebook advertising. You can run targeted ads on Facebook to people who have indicated an interest in your subject matter. Be warned, however, that the expenses can really rack up. 💰Cost: at least $5/day.

4. Price promotions on Amazon. Many self-publishing authors go through Amazon KDP, and if you enroll in KDP Select, you can do price promotions on your book to attract readers! 💰Cost: free, but your ebook must be Amazon-exclusive for 90 days.

5. Other third-party promotions. Contact book review blogs and promotional services to get other people to spread the word! Book review blogs take free submissions, but most book promotion websites involve some sort of fee. 💰Cost: $0 for a review, $5-$50 for a promotional listing.

For more low-cost ways to market your book, check out these lesser-known book promotion hacks.

Additional costs

Depending on which route you go down, you may also have to pay for ebook distribution. The act of publishing your own book on Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, etc. is free, but if you’re using multiple platforms, it’ll be helpful to have an aggregator

Some of these aggregators, like Draft2Digital and Smashwords, are free except for the royalty percentage they take. Others, like BookBaby, require a “flat fee” — which isn’t worth it for most people, so try to avoid paying for ebook distribution if you can.

Print books are another story. Luckily, print-on-demand services make it easy for authors to only print the books they need and not accrue any extra costs or surplus copies. Check out that post for more info on POD services like IngramSpark and KDP Print.

QUIZ: How much will it cost to self-publish your book?

To sum it all up for you, we built this quiz to help calculate your total self-publishing costs. It takes just 30 seconds to take and find out how much it will cost to self-publish your book! All of our data is based on real quotes and collaborations directly from Reedsy’s marketplace.

 

 

5 ways to save on publishing costs

Yes, some paid services are indispensable to publishing. But that doesn't mean you can't save money while also getting what you need! In this section, we'll reveal five tips that could save you thousands without sacrificing an ounce of quality in your book.

1. Scout for talented but less-experienced professionals

There are tons of pros out there who are great at what they do but don’t have much experience (for example, if they’ve only just graduated or changed careers). This makes them WAY more affordable than their “ten years with a Big 5 publisher” counterparts! So try and seek out editors and designers who have just a few projects under their belt — enough to prove their competence and abilities, but not so many that you’ll be faced with an exorbitant price tag.

2. Self-edit extensively before hiring an editor

Another major cost-saving measure is to self-edit your manuscript before submitting it to editors. This is especially important for those hoping to get a developmental edit! If you haven’t rewritten your manuscript as much as possible before submitting it, you’ll end up paying them to tell you things you already know. Self-editing can help with copy editing costs, too; the smoother your word usage and descriptions, the less your copy editor will have to change.

3. Request a photo-based cover design

This one may be hard to hear, but if you really want to cut design costs, go with a photo-based cover rather than an illustrated one. The trick is to get a designer who can make it look classy and professional, not like something you made in MS Word. With a little bit of searching, you’re sure to find someone who can achieve that perfect balance for a reasonable price.

If you’re curious what a great photo-based cover looks like, check out our book cover art gallery! The cover of Damaged Joy, designed by Vanessa Mendozzi, is a perfect example of a simple photo design that’s nonetheless eye-catching and appealing.

4. Grow your following before you publish

We’ve covered how to save on editing and design costs, but what about marketing costs? The best way to minimize your spending here is to establish a following early on — ideally, months to years before you even publish your book. That way, once you have published, you’ll already have a built-in street team to support you.

Of course, building a following is much easier said than done, especially from the ground-up. An easy way "in" is to simply become more active on social media, where you can interact with others and construct your authorial image. You might also consider starting a blog if you don't already have one, so you can reach a consistent audience on your very own platform.

Focus first on providing valuable content and maintaining genuine relationships, rather than promoting your work. Eventually, you’ll be able to snowball these relationships into a full-fledged community — and from there, convert them into customers.

5. Choose professionals who’ve worked in your niche

Finally, make sure that the professionals you hire have worked in your genre or subject before. This may not seem like a big deal, but trust us: while a memoir editor might SAY she can edit a literary novel, they’re two completely different beasts. Stay in your lane so as not to waste time or money on people who don’t know how to deal with your text.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Cost of Self-Publishing

And now, without further ado: here we have all of Reedsy’s self-publishing data presented in a single infographic. If you wanted all the juicy details on the REAL cost to publish a book, you’ve come to the right place.


Cost to Self-Publish a Book Editing Cost to Self-Publish a Book Cover Design Cost to Self-Publish a Book Interior Design


Got any more questions about the cost of self-publishing? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!

 

78 responses

Mia Sherwood Landau says:

25/04/2016 – 15:19

This is a terrific summary, based on professional service providers. It's a keeper!

Donna Barker says:

25/04/2016 – 16:02

Wow! Sharing with all of the writer's groups I'm affiliated with. Gold!

David A. Tatum says:

25/04/2016 – 19:58

Your numbers don't run in line with my experience for editing, at all (yes, even with professional, Big-5 experienced freelance editors, though perhaps not the ones with Manhattan street addresses), and the average number you give for interior design is worthless (you average B&W novel design with color graphic novel design; these are services where the same designer might have a $10,000 difference!). Cover design seems right in terms of range, but the average feels overly weighted towards the more expensive outliers. I don't think you're trying to scam anyone with these numbers, but it doesn't feel like an accurate representation of the real costs of self-publishing.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

25/04/2016 – 21:11

We have explained the limitations of the data we provide for interior design within the post, and provided a breakdown by ballpark ranges. In terms of editing, this is just raw data from 1,000+ quotes, and there wasn't as much disparity in the numbers as there was for, say, cover design. So these are pretty accurate. The editors are based both in the UK, US, and some in Australia and Canada. Only a few of them actually live in NYC or other places with high costs of living. For cover design, again, we have provided a breakdown by ranges so you can see where the majority of the quotes are.

↪️ David A. Tatum replied:

25/04/2016 – 21:33

I suppose there might be a disparity related to genre (I write mostly in the sci-fifantasy genre), but your "1000+ quotes" are more than double (in some cases more than triple, when factoring for size) EVERY quote I've ever gotten for my books, except for one guy who lives in Manhattan and factors in the expense of being within easy commuting distance of several Big-5 offices (and his costs were still below your quotes). Most of the editors I've queried have Big-56 experience. And while not in the thousands, I've gotten quotes from dozens of editors. This article was posted (by Ricardo Fayet) on Facebook in a group I'm on. He had the question "do these numbers match your experience?" The answer is that, outside of the covers, they aren't even close.

↪️ Skye replied:

25/04/2016 – 21:41

These numbers don't match my experiences at all either.

↪️ Julie Mayerson Brown replied:

26/04/2016 – 00:22

Often I learn as much from the comments as I do from the articles. Thanks for taking the time to weigh in on this subject. Best of luck to you!

↪️ ConnieWilson10 replied:

31/05/2016 – 23:20

I agree with you. Maybe take the number here and cut it in half.

↪️ April replied:

26/04/2016 – 14:26

I see now that "the data was extracted from the last 2,000 quotes sent on Reedsy by our professional editors and designers." Does this cost include the 20% of the fee you take to match and editor and client? Plus, these are QUOTES not actual hires. For that reason, and because your sample does not include freelancers who have to pay a fee to Reedsy and others outside of your own business, this survey is NOT representative of the self-publishing business as a whole. Caveat Emptor, people!

↪️ Reedsy replied:

26/04/2016 – 15:28

It includes half of it as the Reedsy fee is shared between the professional and the client. A large majority of those quotes convert into collaborations. As mentioned in the blog post, our objective was not to be representative of the self-publishing business as a whole, but of the cost of working with top professionals, the likes of Neil Gaiman's editor, Stephen King's designer, etc. who are the top talents available on Reedsy.

↪️ ConnieWilson10 replied:

31/05/2016 – 23:21

It was Stephen King's designer who(m) I referenced earlier. (He's working on Joe Hill's book now).

↪️ ConnieWilson10 replied:

31/05/2016 – 23:22

However, admittedly, old Stephen probably has more than just the World Famous Vincent Chong in his stable of designers for covers and, in Joe Hill's case, I heard through the grapevine, for interior art for "20th Century Ghosts." That is the scuttlebutt, anyway.

↪️ ConnieWilson10 replied:

31/05/2016 – 23:23

May I also say that I agree with the person above who said the REAL money goes out for promotion and marketing!!!

↪️ S. J. Pajonas replied:

26/04/2016 – 13:16

Yeah. All these numbers are high, and I've either hired out for these or done several of the jobs myself. I see where the numbers are coming from, but that only makes it harder for me to choose Reedsy when I can get the same quality from other places.

↪️ alex connery replied:

25/09/2017 – 16:37

I agree and additionally it seems like this article could use some serious editing services,, at least in the area of "research," ,,,

Clarissa Wild says:

25/04/2016 – 21:00

Not accurate at all for the romance genre. I've had 2 different editors, neither charge over $500 for a 70k manuscript. Cover Design I do myself and I charge my clients only $100. I know other designers who charge in between $150-300, which is the norm with stockphotos. It's only 500-1000+ if the cover involves a custom cover shoot & exclusive photograph. I don't know anyone who would pay 800+ for the interior design, nor do I think it's ethical to ask that amount for such a service. $100-200 is more like it. Honestly, I'd say this entire article can be taken with a bucket of salt.

Melinda Tipton Martin says:

26/04/2016 – 02:13

Just shared this fantastic resource in my FB group, http://facebook.com/groups/selfpubsupportgroup. (This is a quality group full of authors and service providers. Our goal is to maintain an atmosphere of educating and learning. It is closely monitored to keep out the riff-raff. For serious self-pubbers only, and we'd love to have a member of the Reedsy team in our midst.)

↪️ Ricardo Fayet replied:

27/04/2016 – 11:13

Thanks Melinda, I just joined your Facebook group.

Michiko says:

26/04/2016 – 04:51

Ridiculously overestimated. If any actual authors are paying this much for formatting, covers, even copy and developmental editing, they're fools. The proofreading numbers seem accurate.

Diana Kimpton says:

26/04/2016 – 09:21

Editors charge on the basis of how long they think the job will take so the better your book when you give it to them, the less you should have to pay. So, if these prices look high, do plenty of work on your book before you hand it over to a professional editor.

Michiko says:

26/04/2016 – 13:36

I don't believe these numbers -- they're way too high, absurdly so -- and I'm an experienced author from both sides, trad and indie. My earlier post suggesting as much was removed. Gee, I wonder why. Don't pretend this is an "informational" page if you won't allow any actual information in the comments. To everyone else: beware a sneaky sales pitch.

TMD says:

26/04/2016 – 17:28

Though it seems that this article has data behind it to back it up, the numbers are much higher than any I've encountered after self-publishing ten books. To be fair, for me, I outsource only what I need to - editing/proofing and cover design. I have learned how to properly format a quality looking interior for my prints. I do some design work as well, in fact my bestselling series has covers I did myself. For each book I produce, the total comes in far under the average stated in this article - in fact - I don't believe I've ever paid more than $750 for a new book. It's the advertising and marketing that tend to be my biggest expense during the year. Once a writer finds a quality editor (absolutely necessary but not as easy as one would think), a quality cover designer (if they don't have the tools or the time to do this on their own) and either learns how to format on their own (truly not as hard to do as most think - I learned, and that's saying something lol) finding an affordable and reliable way to produce a book is totally possible. I'll break down what I've paid most recently for professional work, on the highest end: Editing - $300 Cover Design - $150 Formatting - $0 Interior Design - $0 It's very possible to release a quality book for under $1000, in fact, over that and I question the validity of those providing the services. It's important for each self-published writer to do their homework and find the right editor/formatter/designer, etc... for them, but I wouldn't pay the average for this 'study' because it's unrealistic, and within my group of successful self-published authors, some of who make 5-6 figures (a month), I know many of them would fall under the average listed above as well. There will definitely be a large range in this industry for financial investment required to publish a book, however, this article would scare me if I was just starting out. lol Hopefully, it helps people do their homework and find the right fits for what they need. Part of self-publishing is being our biggest advocate/personal cheerleader and our boss/supervisor - but just as one would research details for their story, one should fully research and fact check the financial investment required.

↪️ Michiko replied:

26/04/2016 – 21:07

That sounds just about right to me. Thanks for giving some confirmation, TMD. And thanks for your reply, Reedsy rep. I agree with what you say about editing. That's the most important service any author needs. A professional cover artist comes in second. The rest of your data seems too high in my experience (which includes both traditional and indie publishing) and especially the cost of formatting. Anyone who is interested in self-publishing will figure this out soon enough. For example, an ebook program like Vellum (which is very easy to use) costs $10-15/book, and gives professional-quality results. Print formatting is a little more difficult, but is not beyond the abilities of anyone who knows how to use a word-processing program. My costs, after self-pubbing 7 books, each of which is typically ~80k words long, are similar to TMD's: Editing (total cost) -- $1000 Cover (print and digital) -- $230 Formatting -- $0-15 Interior design -- $0 I've earned a respectable, "mid-list" return on my books for the last several years, which tells me that I've grasped the nature and value of professional standards. I do my own promotional and marketing work, and there's definitely a learning curve to it, but anyone who wants to self-publish needs to expect this. As a self-publisher, we are not just writers. We are also publishers, and we need to learn this side of our business.

↪️ TMD replied:

27/04/2016 – 21:31

I LOVE what Vellum does - alas I don't have a MAC. lol But I did have an author friend run a file of mine through Vellum. It's a wonderful and affordable investment for interior ebook formatting, for sure.

↪️ Emmanuel Nataf replied:

28/04/2016 – 13:20

Did you know that Reedsy offers that service for free? https://reedsy.com/write-a-book. The Reedsy Book Editor creates beautifully typeset ebooks and PDFs ready for distribution, for free.

↪️ Michiko replied:

29/04/2016 – 03:58

I didn't know that. What a great idea! Thanks.

↪️ ConnieWilson10 replied:

31/05/2016 – 23:17

I'm about ready to buy a Mac, so thanks for the tip.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

27/04/2016 – 00:01

There are different ways to "self-publish", and you should certainly research them and pursue the one that seems right to you. What this article and infographic detail are the average prices and ballpark ranges that top professionals in the fields of book editing, design, and typesetting charge. It's raw, unmodified data from over 2,000 quotes from around 400 different individual professionals. So it's as accurate as it gets. The thing is, however: the people on Reedsy (where the data has been extracted from) are of a certain level of quality and experience—more about how we pick them here: http://blog.reedsy.com/how-does-reedsy-select-its-publishing-professionals So, yes, you can find cheaper out there. Much cheaper. But as with anything out there, you get what you pay for. Just think about it from an editor's perspective. Properly copy-editing an 80k-word novel takes around 40 hours. If you charge $300 for that, you're charging $7.5./hour. You can see there is something wrong there… The editor is obviously going to spend much less time, and therefore do less thorough a job. What we're saying is: if you want a fully professional product that respects the standards of traditional publishing, these are the average prices of the different services. Now, if you don't have that budget, or if you simply don't want to pay that, you can obviously cut corners at pretty much any stage. There is no right or wrong answer here, cutting corners is a decision that, we believe, pertains to every author – and it't not necessarily a bad thing. The reason we're open-sourcing this data is to help authors make that decision consciously.

↪️ TMD replied:

27/04/2016 – 21:37

Definitely different ways. I felt compelled to leave an honest reply to this article because the numbers seemed very high when compared to what I have spent, and what most of my established author friends spend. I think it might scare an author away from self-publishing, if they were to look at the numbers above and think that is the dollar amount that they would need to shell out of their pocket. That's not true in each case. I know authors who spend next to nothing releasing a book, because they have a graphic designer husband and they themselves are an editor or something along those lines. That would be the lowest part of the scale, and this article seems to be the highest. Again, this is what I've personally seen and heard of. Every author will spend a different amount because each of us outsource differently, if at all.

↪️ Eric Yep replied:

01/05/2016 – 21:23

Hello. My name is Eric Yep, and I just had a question....what if the dialog in the story is deliberately a skew. Such as a slang or 1850's cowboy? Example: Gettin along in the day, canteens near empty. Been ridin a couple hours now. Don't really wanna push a friend more than he's been already. Gotta try and find a stream or a creek and get a drink, proper. Maybe post up camp. Know we both could use a good nights rest too. Feel parched, yet all thirst is evaporated by the bright pink silhouetted wispy clouds in front of a plum blue canvas. Glancin behind a fiery orange sun blinds as it illuminates the tall dry grasses. It looks like an ocean of gold that rises and sinks with help from a westward wind. email me please at theonlydedmonkey@yahoo.com if you have the time. Thanks for your time.

↪️ Kathleen Ellyn replied:

26/07/2019 – 23:14

That sounds like a first-person account to me and a western to boot! Not sure what the question is?? I know you don't want an English Major to "clean up the language" for you, for sure.

↪️ ConnieWilson10 replied:

31/05/2016 – 23:16

Once again, I agree with TMD. The Reedsy brand may be the Cadillac, while most of us would be just as happy in a Buick or a Chevrolet or a Toyota. Both of them will run and run well, but one will cost a lot more.

↪️ Andrew Chapman replied:

14/11/2017 – 13:31

Not a good analogy. You can be 100% satisfied with whatever car you choose, driving around in a total junker if you want. The difference with a book is that you're creating something to *sell* — and the audience is most definitely going to judge your book by its design and editorial.

↪️ Presley711 replied:

15/03/2017 – 09:07

Hello, I must disagree with your graphic, both in how necessary some of the services you mention are, as well as the price the services you mention which ARE necessary will actually cost if a person takes a minute to look around. I have to date published 23 books on the KDP/Createspace platforms and earn a solid 6 figures from the royalties. They are all 20-30k word serial short stories, I don't expect to be nominated for the Pulitzer. Anyway, here is the breakdown of what I spend... $200 - Ghostwriter (I create the story, plot, etc and plan out what happens in the books, but I have someone else type it with flair) $100 - Editing $ 35 - Cover Art (both print ready and digital) with source files so I can make modifications, and upload ready files for KDP and Createspace. $ 15 - Formatting manuscript for print/digital. Upload ready files returned to me. $200 - Facebook ads. That's a total of $550 for each book to be written and launched. Of course I'll spend more on advertising and promotion after the initial launch as long as it is a good ROI, but that's after the book is proven to be a winner. I allocate $600 per book when I'm doing mental math and planning the monthly publishing schedule. Also to be fair, that number is lower now than it is when I'm launching a new unknown pen name into a new genre. This is due to the fact that I have to start mostly from scratch to build up my promotional channels ahead of time. This requires a higher initial investment in advertising. If I'm launching into a new market with no fan base or contact list built up I usually plan on around 1k per book, including a much greater advertising budget designed to prime my advertising channels with fans of that particular genre well ahead of launching my new books. Many of the services you quote here are, to me, unnecessary. Interior Design, Editorial Assessment... I've never paid for any of those before and I D.G.A.F. about "respecting the standards of traditional publishing" because I'm NOT traditionally publishing. Traditional publishing didn't want anything to do with me before I was successful, now that I've figured out how to do it on my own and I don't need their help, why should I care about respecting their stodgy old standards? The only thing I care about is whether or not the people who buy my books enjoy them, are happy with their purchases, and come back for more. I don't get many complaints and a great deal of my readers are repeat customers, so I must be doing okay in that regard. You said, "You get what you pay for". This is a false truism. Look up "Influence the Psychology of Persuasion" by Robert Cialdini for a full explanation of why you are wrong. The fact is you pay whatever price you can negotiate to pay, which another person will agree to accept, for a particular good or service. It's nice of you to share some of your back end data and I can see how you'd have a vested interest in presenting it in a way that makes the ultra high fees you quote here for a "Professional product" seem like the norm. After all, you do provide those same services and charge those high prices for them, it would be stupid of you to tell people that they don't really need half of what you're quoting and they could get the parts they do need at around a third to half the prices you charge. I don't fault you for that. Everybody looks out for their self interest first and it's the consumer's responsibility to protect themself. The problem I have with this article is that it gives a false impression of a high barrier to entry in the self publishing world which will end up discouraging people from getting started who may otherwise have been successful if they'd just gone ahead and did it. I think too many people are hung up on doing it the "traditional way" things have been done. But let me ask you this... What has the "traditional way" done for you lately? We are all here discussing SELF publishing after all. I presume it's because the majority of the people here haven't had any success doing things traditionally. Anyway, thanks again for sharing your data and giving us a chance to compare notes.

↪️ Judith Gotwald replied:

27/04/2016 – 19:47

Great to save the money, if you have the skills. The number of books I read (at least 12 per month) with serious typos, grammatical errors and awkward construction points to the unrecognized need many authors have for a few extra hands and an extra set of eyes. It's interesting that proofing skills rank lowest in author investment. Poor proofing is probably the biggest factor in perpetuating the stigma of self-publishing as inferior.

↪️ TMD replied:

27/04/2016 – 21:44

I know not one author who ranks editing and proofing at the bottom of the 'must do' list. Self-publishing has definitely helped me strengthen my computer skills, as far as using photoshop and formatting, but I'm not an editor. Not everyone wants to make the time investment to learn something new, which is where more money will be spent in outsourcing. For me, and for the authors I personally know, the fees we pay for editing are always the highest. But that doesn't mean that every Indie author does the same. Self-published books range from the really awful to the really awesome. My first book was in the middle of that, and I most likely won't change it much because it's a reference point for me. A sort of rite of passage. But what I write now must go through a professional edit and proofing. At least 5 sets of eyes see my work before it releases. :D

↪️ ConnieWilson10 replied:

31/05/2016 – 23:14

I agree with this, as well, from TMD (Judith Gotwald).

↪️ alex connery replied:

25/09/2017 – 16:41

Well, I think an intelligent "experienced" reader can always find plenty of fault and errors with any manuscript regardless of who published,,,

↪️ sylva portoian replied:

04/05/2016 – 07:00

TMD.... Thank you, I have published 16 poetry books ...I do part of the formatting and cover design...only I pay for publishing ...Xlibris Are never bad ...12 of my books i have published with them, but the very small amount to when they sell the book ...one $ only ...!!!

↪️ ConnieWilson10 replied:

31/05/2016 – 23:13

I agree with TMD and have been publishing since 1989 and self-publishing since 2003, with 30 titles, to date. None has cost as much as this "average" price.

↪️ alex connery replied:

25/09/2017 – 16:42

Thank you much for these "real world" more realistic numbers,,,

↪️ jokawasai replied:

01/08/2018 – 00:15

I agree with you. If you shop around OUTSIDE Reedsy, you can find significantly lower prices and still expect quality services. This comes over as a little to self-promoting for my taste.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

01/08/2018 – 08:15

The main problem is that many authors *think* they're getting quality services when in reality they end up with a poor cover, or with an editor who doesn't have the necessary experience. I don't know how many times I've had to say "sorry, but this cover just doesn't look professional" to authors who had hired a designer on Fiverr or similar places. And re editing, it's just a question of thinking about time. If an editor charges you $300 to edit your novel (whether that's developmental editing or copy editing), what does that mean? It means that for a job that takes at least 15-30 hours, they're charging $10-$20 per hour. Do you know a lot of professionals (in any profession, really), who charge that per hour? Now, I'm not saying you won't be able to sell your book after that. You can barter for services, use a lot of beta readers, etc. to improve the editing. In some genres, readers are also naturally more forgiving than others. But in this article we chose to talk about what it costs to hire *professional* service providers, and open-sourced our data to answer that question.

L (Leigh Matthews) says:

27/04/2016 – 19:06

Fantastic information! I've been lucky, in so far as I have great friendships with talented designers, developmental editors/copyeditors, and a whole raft of beta-readers who are more than happy to point out typos and continuity errors, etc., usually with payment in the form of babysitting (great for writers, when baby is sleeping most of the time!), catsitting, dog-walking. For any self-publishing authors who can't afford the $3,300 average cost for editing/design, I'd recommend looking at the skills you have to offer your community and leveraging those.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

27/04/2016 – 19:39

Ah, that's a good idea! Next we'll publish an infographic with babysitting hours instead of $ prices ;)

↪️ L (Leigh Matthews) replied:

27/04/2016 – 19:56

Ha! Perfect. I find it really interesting to see the different ways in which people value certain things. Just having a couple of hours to oneself as a newish parent can be worth so much! And, as writers, we have a lot of flexibility in terms of time, and can put that to good use by helping friends with things like moving house, picking up kids from school, waiting to sign for parcels or let in/supervise service personnel, and all manner of other things that are tricky when your job requires you to be at your desk in an office or otherwise away from home.

Reedsy says:

02/05/2016 – 13:33

Thanks for sharing it, Dennis, and glad you liked it!

Sally Asnicar says:

06/05/2016 – 03:56

Most professional editors won't quote on a manuscript purely on word or page count as they have no way of knowing how well (or poorly) written it is, or even what level of editing it requires - they certainly can't take the writer's word for it. You will be asked to provide the manuscript or at least an extract of it so they can do a sample edit or assessment and work out a price. The sample edit gives the writer an opportunity to see how the editor works and the communications between you will tell you whether this editor is right for you.

↪️ Melete replied:

15/06/2017 – 20:55

That is correct. At The Copyeditor's Desk, for example, we charge a per-word rate, but it's based on the difficulty of the copy.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

16/06/2017 – 09:28

Yep, this is how it works on Reedsy as well. Authors always provide their manuscript, or an extract of it, when asking quotes from editors. Editors are then at liberty to offer a sample edit or not, but always quote on the project based on what the book needs.

↪️ Paula Beaton replied:

01/10/2019 – 21:56

You're completely right. A sample edit is the best way for professional editors to price your edit - and any editor who doesn't insist on one and instead quotes per word or per page should be avoided. Every book is unique so a free sample edit helps the editor to quote based on their time and also let's the author and editor see if they're a good match. Did you know - I'm an editor and I was told to remove mention of sample edits from my Reedsy profile as Reedsy editors "don't offer free sample edits". They clearly want editors to price per word or page. If they had any real knowledge and experience they wouldn't expect this.

Kristen Steele says:

27/05/2016 – 18:11

This is great information. When it comes to self-publishing costs it's important to remember that quality does matter. If you get a cheap quote for editing or design, it's not the help you want.

↪️ Steve replied:

02/10/2017 – 10:41

Freelance editors tend to be reviewed by the folks they've worked for - it's easy to find highly competent, well-reviewed freelancers without the need to go through an agent. Going direct to get the service you need tends to recuse the cost as there's no-one taking their 'cut'. You can find high-quality designers, editors etc.

Manish Barik says:

18/01/2017 – 10:03

Collaborating with editors who have worked for bestselling authors, is pretty affordable. Thanks, Reedsy.

William Rick Graham says:

20/06/2017 – 01:57

Sharing on the publishing page.

Trynda E Adair says:

15/07/2017 – 06:15

Looks like some of the links are having problems. If anyone is having issues seeing the infographic and subsiquent images, you can see it at this link as well - https://blog.reedsy.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Reedsy-Infographic-RETINA-compressed1.jpg

↪️ Reedsy replied:

17/07/2017 – 17:39

Thanks for flagging the links/images issue, it's all back to normal now :)

Stephen Tiano says:

23/08/2017 – 00:40

Except, of course, these are prices based on Reedsy's service providers, and as stated elsewhere, part of that jobs board--whether or not Reedsy considers itself a jobs board--reverse leapfrog mambo, where freelancers essentially see who can underbid the most to win a project. The figures quoted I am sure are quite accurate. In Reedsy's experience. But skilled, experience professionals not only know how to find work without resorting to the mambo I spoke of, we also don't accept and could never afford to accept a diet of such prices (whether editors, proofreaders, cover designers, or interior designers). The exceptions, of course, are pro bono work and what I call "pay-it-forward" projects. I do a certain number of the latter each year, both because my book design practice has been good to me over 26 years and about a hundred books, and because there are some books I want to make sure get off the ground. (One such project has grown into an affiliation with a young author's own imprint--with her parents'assistance--that I've signed onto, because she's a kid with lots of good things to say and the discipline to write well.) But aside from such exceptions: beware; you do tend to get what you pay for. When you choose to self-publish, you've gone into business as a self-publisher. It's not for the faint of heart and folks who aren't willing to put their money where their mouth is. And parasitical jobs boards who make money no matter what, once you use their connecting-with-freelancers services, don't have skin in the game the way professional editors, illustrators, book designers, and proofreaders who earn a living by such work do. That all said, I understand when self-publishing authors are trying to get their books out on a shoestring. I can sympathize with them for having only the wherewithal to go this route and I wish them well going forward, as I want to see the ranks of the self-published grow, as it's pretty much the only way forward for first-time authors and those without followings. Or you can take a shot at finding pros like myself who do the occasional pro bono or "pay-it-forward" project. Whatever way, keep the faith!

↪️ Reedsy replied:

23/08/2017 – 10:06

Hey Stephen, thanks for getting in touch here. I hope we can address a few of your concerns regarding Reedsy and the professionals on our marketplace. Firstly, Reedsy isn't a jobs board at all. It's a marketplace more akin to Airbnb (or perhaps even Match.com, some have said). Authors and publishers will search for freelancers based on their experience, portfolio, and aptitude with the genres they're working in. Jobs aren't, in any way, listed publicly on the site. Authors contact their shortlisted freelancers directly through our request system and invite offers on the project. Reedsy has no hand in setting the rates: those are controlled exclusively by the freelancers themselves. Secondly, your concern of "reverse leapfrogging" is also completely unfounded. When our freelancers make an offer on a project, they cannot see what other editors or designers have bid on the project — they cannot strategically underbid. As a nefarious parasitic organization that works on commission, it's not in our interest to encourage a bidding war to the bottom. Lastly, the suggestion that freelancers on Reedsy are anything but skilled and experienced professionals is inaccurate and very unkind to your peers. Most freelancers on our marketplace will have worked for a major publisher and — we can comfortably say — are among the best in the world at what they do. We offer authors the chance to collaborate with professionals who have worked at the very highest levels of publishing, giving them the best chance to improve their craft and create better books. Many of our freelancers will bend over backwards to make their services affordable to first-time authors (as you do with your pro bono work) and often find the experience of working with indie authors to be a creatively fulfilling one — which, really, is what brought many of them to freelancing in the first place. I hope my reply hasn't come across as snarky, but I do feel like we've been entirely mischaracterized in your comment above (as well as in your comments across numerous other comments boards). If you have any questions or reservations about Reedsy that you want to express, please do contact me at martin@reedsy.com — I'll be happy to help in any way I can.

Jane Ann McLachlan says:

25/09/2017 – 16:42

Wow, these numbers are REALLY high! I get excellent, professional high-quality interior design and book covers for way less than that. People make comments about how good my covers and interior design are, and I pay $300 USD or less each. I think these numbers would discourage many people from self-publishing.

↪️ alex connery replied:

25/09/2017 – 16:44

You're so right,, it's almost as if this article is "marketing and advertisement" for these publishing services, lol,,,

↪️ Jane Ann McLachlan replied:

25/09/2017 – 17:38

Well, that's not quite what I meant. I've also seen much higher prices than these. People should just shop around and decide what they want and how much they can afford. And Reedsy is an excellent resource for authors, with great articles on all kinds of subjects. I've gained a lot of valuable information here.

Steve says:

02/10/2017 – 10:25

The cost estimates here are far higher than I've experienced - a resourceful self-published author can outsource many of the services listed here more cost-effectively.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

02/10/2017 – 10:36

Hi Steve :) It's undoubtedly true that the services here can be obtained at a lower cost — the figures we've collected here are based on what the professionals at Reedsy have quoted to authors. I don't know the background of the freelancers you've had experience with, but the cast majority of professionals on our marketplace have years of experience with large publishing companies (and continue to work with them). Accordingly, we would expect the averages to be on the higher end of the spectrum. Thanks for reading the post!

↪️ Steve replied:

02/10/2017 – 10:44

I don't doubt that the folks you have on your marketplace are among the best. But we can easily find freelancers that have and do work for the Big Five publishing houses and go to them direct. I'm just saying it's not difficult to go direct to freelancers and save money.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

02/10/2017 – 23:44

For sure. What you get with Reedsy is a wide selection of top professionals and the ability to easily get and compare quotes from four or five in just a few days. And while we charge you a 10% fee, we offer a project protection to both the author and the freelancer: https://blog.reedsy.com/reedsy-project-protection

MommaT says:

23/01/2018 – 21:14

Sadly, for service providers nearly all categories are showing lower prices than the last survey. I guess that's great if you're an author. Not so much if you're trying to make a living as a designer or editor. Sites like this that have professional service providers bidding for the work (especially of this caliber) will always force prices down. Again, great news if you're buying. But I am willing to bet hard-earned money that these pros are expending far more hours on projects than they bill. This forces wages down even further—approaching minimum wage or less when you factor in expenses, taxes, and insurances that all get paid by the freelancer out of their meager earnings. (And also Reedsy's cut.) But hey, you're getting some great work super cheap, yay you. Inequality just gets worse and worse, and the gig economy is accelerating the pain. This type of economy we're living in is bad news on the short or long term.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

24/01/2018 – 00:04

Thanks for your comment. May I ask which survey you're referring to? As indicated in the post, these *average prices* all come from an analysis of over 2,000 quotes from some of the most experienced book editors and designers in the industry. Prices are not forced down since Reedsy is not a bidding marketplace. We're actually offering a new model for freelance editors, to avoid the "gig economy" effect you're mentioning.

↪️ MommaT replied:

24/01/2018 – 01:03

I saved the one you did from April 2016. By contrast, average cover design was $700 on 2016, and above is listed as $650. Average interiors listed at $850 in 2016, today: $830. Average cost of combo: $1250 vs $1100 today. Editing similarly takes a hit. While Reedsy may not explicitly create a bidding competition, essentially that's exactly what happens. There's no doubt in my mind that the ease with which authors may indeed pick the lowest bidder of their choice, this does in fact have the effect of freelancers underbidding to get the work, because bills need paying. I'm not blaming Reedsy. You do have very, very talented people. It's also true that publishers have let go their professional staff, most of whom are freelancing and struggling to get by. And yet just below my comment, "Steve" complains that your prices are "far higher" than what he pays. (Reading other commentors, it gets worse.) My complaint has more to do with the attitude that freelancers must take whatever is offered and often this leads to true starvation wages. And yet many (particularly new) authors see nothing at all wrong with that. It's rather depressing from this freelancer's point of view. So again, I am not faulting Reedsy, you did your data gathering and this is what's happening. It's pervasive everywhere.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

24/01/2018 – 10:15

Got it. Our research actually shows that authors don't tend to accept the lowest offer. In general, they'll go for one in the middle (neither highest nor lowest). In any case, we have been encouraging many of our freelancers to bring their prices up when we noticed they were under the market rates. Re the dip in cover and interior design you noticed, it's mainly because back in 2016 we had a couple of designers who charged $2k+ for covers and more for interiors who got a few jobs and skewed the averages up. As you well mention, many publishers have let go of their editorial staff, but what we're seeing is that this staff is actually doing much better freelancing than they ever were at the publishing company. We work with some of the biggest publishers as well, and I can tell you that what they pay freelancers is well, well below the averages in this post.

Gary Zenker says:

14/04/2018 – 04:57

Did they pay you by the word? It;s a lot to get some basic info.

Gail Maynard says:

10/07/2018 – 20:30

Thank you for this great info! Now for your NEXT blog post can you do this same kind of eval comparison of what it costs to distribute and market the book through various companies? My head is swimming trying to compare and they bundle everything together even though I don't need it all. I am a designer and my client wants me to do all the cover and interior design, and author website. My client has also had all the proofing done by pros and editing so I don't know if it is worth it to pay for things I don't need to get what I DO need. I don't know how, nor have the interest in learning how to do the distribution and some of the marketing these companies offer. My client has a book that is very niche - a HOW TO book and another that is a small book on living the wisdom of the Tao that has more mass appeal. Any advice is welcome! Thx

↪️ Reedsy replied:

10/07/2018 – 21:43

We actually already have a comprehensive comparative post on the different ebook distribution options: https://blog.reedsy.com/ebook-distribution/ We're now working on one for print distribution, which we hope to publish this summer :)

↪️ Gail Maynard replied:

10/07/2018 – 22:21

ahhh - thx!

Dennis Sweatt says:

08/05/2019 – 12:31

Posted on my comic book art page. https://www.facebook.com/dsweattcomicartist/ I will throw it on Twitter as well. Good on ya.

↪️ Thabo Mooke replied:

04/06/2019 – 08:27

The prices are reasonable, but certainly out of reach for South African considering the Rand/Dollar exchange.

FLN says:

04/06/2019 – 23:53

good to know, how much extra cost for a decent marketing campaign?

Terri says:

12/07/2019 – 18:18

How much does it cost to publish children books?

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