How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book? – Data from the Reedsy Marketplace
One of the questions we get asked most often at Reedsy is “What’s the cost of self-publishing my book? How much should I budget for editing and cover design?”. Since our launch at the end of 2014, we’ve been able to collect a lot of data about the book publishing industry – data that answers this and other pressing questions for authors and publishers. It’s always been our plan to open-source that data, and now we’re ready to share it.
After 15 months of transactions, we believe we can provide quality information that promotes transparency and clarity. In fact, Reedsy is the only company that can do so: our marketplace allows us to collect thousands of data points from hundreds of professionals in the UK and North America. We hope this data will be shared and become a reference for all publishing professionals, whether they are authors, publishers, editors or designers.
Why can I trust this data?
We are proud of being able to provide unmodified, factual data that comes directly from the Reedsy marketplace. In fact, the data was extracted from the last 2,000 quotes sent on Reedsy by our professional editors and designers. We haven’t modified it and the information presented below is the raw data from our database.
Without further ado, here's the infographic! Read the post below for more in-depth data and analysis about each service (editing, design, typesetting).
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How should the data be read?
Before we start giving numbers, we should mention that Reedsy’s data is for professional services. As a reminder, about 90% of our editors and designers have worked with Big Five publishers, and all of them have worked on bestselling titles. The pricing presented in our data reflects the high quality our professionals bring to their fields of expertise. Read more here about how we carefully select them.
Those prices are also the result of several linear regressions. For the most scientific minds, the R-squared values were around 0.6, giving us a good level of accuracy.
Lastly, we should mention that we didn’t give pricing recommendations or influence how our editors or designers quoted on projects. The numbers below strictly reflect the state of the market for professional publishing services. Remember also that Reedsy’s quotation system is freelancer-blind. Two professionals quoting the same project will not know what the other bids are.
Where do Reedsy users come from?
Reedsy is available from anywhere in the world. However, as our service is only in English, most of our users (authors and publishers) come from English-speaking countries. In particular, a large majority of Reedsy’s users are based in the US. The UK, Canada and Australia follow.
A similar geographical distribution can be observed for Reedsy professionals, most of whom are based in the US or UK. While we realize there are disparities in the cost of living from one country or city to another, we didn’t take them into account for this blog post. With this in mind, authors and publishers hiring professionals based in cities like London, New York or San Francisco can expect to pay a premium for their services, while hiring a professional coming from a smaller city or suburban area might be less expensive. In some cases, work experience trumps location, but further exploration of a different set of data is necessary to understand the relationship between location, price and experience more fully.
Additional data about the Reedsy Marketplace
While collecting pricing data we were also able to analyze some key metrics for the Reedsy marketplace. The following chart presents the number of offers received per request (requests are sent to 4.3 professionals in average).
- Reedsy professionals offer a 99% response rate to clients (note: the response rate includes declination to provide a quote).
- 90% of requests sent on Reedsy get at least 1 quote, 50% at least two quotes.
- 10% of requests don’t get quotes from Reedsy professionals but still get some feedback. Here are the main reasons for not receiving quotes:
- “The book is too early at this stage for an edit.”
- “My skills are not not suitable to work on the project.”
- “My schedule cannot accommodate this project’s timeline.”
Cost of professional book editing services
To begin, it’s interesting to look at the type of content submitted to professionals on Reedsy. The average editing project submitted to professionals in the Reedsy marketplace is 73,000 words. Most books (54%) had between 50-100,000 words.
A significant number of titles had less than 10,000 words; they are mostly children’s books. We plan to provide more data specific to children’s books in the coming months.
While we only recently started collecting information about book genres, the most predominant in Reedsy requests are:
- Fiction: fantasy and science-fiction, thrillers, romance and YA
- Non-fiction: biographies and memoirs, cookbooks, self-help and business.
Lastly, here was the distribution for professional editing services requested on the marketplace:
Editorial Assessment, Developmental Editing, Copy Editing and Proofreading
CAPTION: (If you are unsure about what developmental editing, copy editing, proofreading and editorial assessment are, we are defining them here).
After looking at the data here are the key findings:
- Not surprisingly, developmental (or content) editing is more expensive than copy editing and copy editing is more expensive than proofreading.
- The cost of copy editing and proofreading services is a linear function of the word count.
- Editorial assessment and developmental/content editing services have “fixed costs”, which means that the cost is not strictly a linear function of the word count. Collaborations started at $180 in both cases (see graph below).
- Many of our clients requested both copy editing and proofreading at the same time (bundles). This turned out to be less expensive than paying for copy editing first and later for proofreading. We can assume that the price is only slightly elevated because the freelancer does the proofreading on the first pass, then only charges a premium for reviewing tracked revisions.
- Some authors contracted with a second proofreader after an initial copyedit or proofread, a practice we have endorsed as quite necessary for authors intending to self-publish.
To make the data simpler to digest, we created a few charts that show the average price of the different services for a 40,000, 60,000 and 80,000-word book.
Or for those who prefer graphs:
Query Letter Review
Query letter reviews are a slightly different type of service we only started to offer recently on Reedsy. A query letter is a vital document for writers seeking traditional publishers or literary agents, and one even good authors often get wrong.
We defined a “query letter review” as an evaluation of the letter itself – making detailed recommendations on structure, tone and content – as well as an assessment and/or editing of the first 10 pages of the manuscript (the ones likely to be requested alongside the letter).
The average cost of a query letter review on Reedsy is $280.
Reedsy recommendations when looking for your editor
- Avoid services that are not transparent. You should know what you are paying for and who you will be working with. Reedsy provides completely transparent pricing when you receive quotes.
- Always give yourself choice. Reedsy gives you access to a community of hundreds of top editors and we recommend you reach out to several professionals before making a decision.
- Don’t hesitate to request sample edits, but don’t be greedy!
- Do hire separate people for copy-editing and proofreading. Though "bundling" is less expensive the whole point of "proofreading" is to have another, separate, and final pair of eyes on the manuscript. You don't want to skip that.
More tips on how to select a book editor:
- What To Look Out For When You're Looking For An Editor, by Rebecca Faith Heyman
- 4 Tips to Find Your Dream Editor, by Ricardo Fayet
- How To Find the Right Editor for Your Book, by Jen Blood
Cost of professional book design services
For design services, we simply calculated the average for all the quotes sent via the Reedsy marketplace and presented the distribution.
- The average cost of a professional book cover on Reedsy is $700. The median is $630 and about ⅔ of quotes were between $200 and $800. The distribution was a good surprise for us: it proved Reedsy could tailor design services to most budgets.
- The cost of book design services varies more than that of editing services. When sending a request on Reedsy for design services, one can expect to receive a wider range of offers.
- The high-end quotes – those for $1,000-$2,000 – mainly come from award-winning, sometimes agented designers. As there is a strong demand for their services, their pricing increases significantly.
To see what factors will influence the cost of professional covers, take a moment to browse through this in-depth piece on book cover design.
Book Interior Design
Book design is both a science and an art. To make a book truly unique, working with a book interior designer (or typesetter) can make a real difference. As famous typographer Erik Spiekermann told us a few months ago, “Design works not because people understand or even appreciate it but because it works subliminally.” Professional typesetting is vital for authors looking to create a physical version of their books.
It is fair to assume that the cost of book interior design varies based on the length of the book, as every page is different and requires a lot of care. However, you can expect to pay for fixed costs as your designer has to build a template for the book (margins, heading styling, fonts, etc.), independently of the word count.
Please note that all quotes over $500 here were not for simple "ebook formatting". Ebook formatting generally costs <$100, or can be done for free (in most genres) via our Reedsy Book Editor. Print formatting, depending on the level of customization you're looking for, can already be much more expensive (more about that here). And finally, if you want to self-publish a cookbook or a coffee table book, you don't need just "formatting". You need interior design and typesetting. That is expensive because it requires design skills, knowledge of the genre, and a lot of page-by-page work.
- The average amount spent on Reedsy for professional book interior design services is $840 with most transactions between $500 and $1,000.
- In many cases, book interior design services are more expensive than book cover services. The reason is that they tend to be quite time-consuming for the designer as every page of the book is different.
- “Book interior design” encompasses a wide array of services, from simple ebook formatting for novels, to the design, typography and typesetting of heavily-illustrated non-fiction. This explains the strong variation in pricing.
Bonus! Combo Cover Design + Book Interior Design
- Working with a designer on both the exterior (the jacket) and the interior is often less expensive than buying the services separately.
- This also offers the advantage of having a strong visual identity respected both on the outside and inside of the book.
Here's an example of what a book designer can do for you
A few months after our launch we published a case study about an author who used Reedsy to get his cover and the interior of his book done: Life in the Loop by Matt Bieber, a book about OCD. His designer, Jason Anscomb, offered a process with 2 iterations for the cover (note that you can also request 3 rounds of edits):
Here is also what Jason did for the interior of the book:
Reedsy recommendations for finding a book designer
- Give yourself choice: When reaching out to professionals, compare portfolios and try to get a sense of how a designer would work on your book.
- For your book cover, work with a great designer who has experience in the publishing industry, and particularly in your genre. Only they know what type of imagery or illustration will sell (even at thumbnail size).
- For book interior services, two options are available to you:
- If you are on budget, the Reedsy Book Editor is probably the best tool available on the market. It is free and allows you to create professionally formatted books in seconds, exporting both ePub and PDF files for digital and physical distribution.
- If you are looking for a more personalized and premium result, you should hire a professional typesetter who will tailor the interior so it works perfectly with your story.
- Hiring the same designer to design the cover and the interior of all your books in a series will give your work a strong and consistent visual identity, reinforcing your brand.
More advice on finding and working with the right book designers:
- What to expect from your book cover designer, by Simon Avery
- How to find a book cover designer, by Jenny Bravo
- What is typesetting, and why should you care? By Ricardo Fayet
So, how much does it cost to self-publish a book?
Producing a high-quality book is not cheap but remains accessible. If you hire an editor, a copy-editor, a proofreader and a cover designer, self-publishing an 80,000-word book will cost you between $2,500 and $4,000. The cost will depend on:
- Your writing experience: Not all authors need the same level of editing, and debut authors should expect to go through a learning curve.
- Your personal objectives: Are you writing with the ambition of reaching millions of people or just to share your story within a small community?
- Your genre: Graphics-heavy books, such as children’s books, cookbooks or other non-fiction, can require a lot of illustration, which can be expensive. Books that require high-level expertise or specialization will also cost more to edit.
- The length of the book: At Reedsy, we recommend that authors be lean – publish often, even short stories, to learn how publishing works and rapidly improve craft and market understanding. Gradually build a loyal readership.
We hope this data can help you project some realistic costs for publishing your book. That said, to paraphrase one of our authors — Michael Doane — the real cost of self-publishing isn't money; it's time.
Writing, editing, learning how to publish, working with various editors and beta readers, sharing with friends and family and waiting for a response. Having your work torn down by editors so you can build it back up. Patience and effort. This is the true cost of self-publishing. — Michael Doane, author of The Crossing
This is just data, of course. Quotes can vary a lot based on your genre and the quality of your writing. So if you want to get an editing or design quote on your project, head to our Reedsy marketplace! If you sign up through this link, you'll even get a nice $20 to get you started.