How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Book in 2023?
It costs authors between $500 and $4,800 to publish a book. The cost of publishing depends on the services (editing, cover design, formatting, and marketing) you require, the genre and number of words of your manuscript, and your budget. From Reedsy’s 2022 data, prices range up to $2,000 for an editor and $750 for a book cover designer.
This guide will go into detail about the average costs of publishing services rendered by Reedsy freelancers, who represent some of the world's best and most experienced publishing professionals. For a closer look at the most up-to-date averages for each service, enter your email below and download our 2022 Cost of Self-Publishing Report.
Note: The averages in this guide are the result of over 20,000 quotes (adjusted for inflation) provided by professionals with years of experience in publishing. You can find cheaper alternatives, though they may not come with the level of expertise your project requires.
The average cost of professional editing on a 60,000-word book ranges between $2,400 and $3,400. This assumes one round of developmental editing, plus a combination of copy editing and proofreading.
To see how much you can expect to pay for each kind of editing, you can use this pricing calculator, which draws from Reedsy’s most up-to-date averages.
Note: The average rates for children’s book editing do not include picture books, for reasons we will reveal later on.
Types of editing
If you’re not familiar with some of the types of editing mentioned in the calculator, here’s a quick breakdown:
Editorial Assessment. This is a popular and cost-effective first step for authors, ideal for those at an early stage of their rewrites. Editors offering an editorial assessment will usually:
- Read and analyze your manuscript;
- Provide an evaluation in the format of a report, covering all aspects of the story, structure, and commercial viability;
- Offer suggestions to guide your rewrites.
Developmental Editing. A nose-to-tail structural edit of your manuscript for authors who have taken their book as far as they can by themselves. A developmental edit often includes everything in an editorial assessment, plus:
- Detailed recommendations to improve “big picture” concerns like characterization, plot, pacing, setting, etc.;
- Specific guidance on elements of writing craft;
- In-line suggestions and edits in the manuscript.
Copy Editing. A “fine-tuning” of your manuscript. This usually includes:
- Direct edits to the manuscript on a sentence level;
- A focus on prose (eliminating repetition, purple prose, awkward dialogue, etc.);
- Corrections for inconsistencies.
Proofreading. The final stage of the editorial process. As standard, a proofreader will:
- Sweep the manuscript to catch remaining spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes;
- Make suggestions based on the publisher’s chosen style guide to guarantee a consistent reading experience.
As you can see, each type of editing asks the editor to examine your manuscript on a different level, and as such comes with a different price.
For a masterclass on the process of self-publishing your book, enrol in our free course below.
What else affects editing costs?
The genre of your book. Categories like historical fiction and nonfiction have the highest editing costs because they require fact-checking and a working knowledge of the subject matter. Similarly, editors for comics and children's books (genres with a much lower word count) will have a much higher per word rate. A picture book might only be 1,000 words long — but the editor must handle each of those words with extra care. Plus, children’s editors couldn’t pay the rent if they charge just 1/80 the amount they would for an 80,000-word novel.
The state of your manuscript. Are you handing in a super-rough draft that you haven’t checked for typos? Or have you gone through multiple rounds of self-editing? Naturally, you can expect to pay less in the latter case.
The density of your text. This perhaps applies more to copy editing. If you write like Ernest Hemingway (in short, spare prose), you can expect your copy editing fees to be lower than if you write like David Foster Wallace (with 10-page run-on sentences and footnotes galore).
The level of experience you require. An editor with decades of experience at a major publisher will cost much more than a newbie. As with most things in life, you might be looking for a happy medium.
Now that you've got your editor sorted, it's time to make sure your book looks as good as it reads.
Cover design costs
60% of professional covers from experienced designers on Reedsy cost under $750. The range of quotes you may receive from cover designers can vary enormously, depending on a few key factors.
What affects cover design costs?
Your designer’s relative experience. A novice book cover designer (one who may have recently transitioned from other types of design) might charge between $300 and $500 per project. Professionals with over a decade in the industry might offer quotes upwards of $800.
The style and complexity of the design. An elaborate illustrated cover would cost more than one that involves working with stock images — if only because of the different skills and time requirements. To find out more about why certain styles cost more, take a look at our guide to cover design.
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.
Whether it’s an ebook, paperback, or hardback cover. Print book covers require attention to dimensions as well as a spine and back cover design, which can add to the cost. Ebook covers, meanwhile, only require a front. If you are publishing in two or three of these formats, you can expect your designer's quotes to increase in line with the additional work required.
However, the cover isn't the only part of a book that requires design. So let's take a look between the flaps.
Book formatting costs
Around 50% of book interior design projects on Reedsy cost between $250 and $750. But… this could also be free.
The vast majority of self-publishing authors can format their books with free tools like Reedsy’s Book Editor. However, certain types of books — especially those with a lot of graphics, images, and exotic formatting — do require the help of a professional book formatter.
For a detailed breakdown of average book formatting costs, download our 2022 Cost of Self-Publishing Report. But for now, let’s have a quick look at whether a free book formatting option is suitable for you.
Formatting your book with the Reedsy Book Editor
If your book is a novel, memoir, short story collection, or nonfiction title — basically, any type of book that is primarily “words on pages” — then you’ll get professional-grade results using the free Reedsy Book Editor app.
You can import your manuscript file to the app, add your chapter breaks and configure your front and back matter in a matter of minutes. The app will preserve any formatting you’ve already done to the text (italics, bullet points, etc.) and automatically adjust your book's font, margins, and size. All you have to do is add your book cover files, hit ‘Export’, select your preferred styling option, and you’ll have an ePUB file (for ebooks) and a PDF (for your print editions).
To take the Reedsy Book Editor for a spin, just sign up for a free account and start using it straight away.
However, if your book requires a lot more specialist formatting — for example, a cookbook or an educational book packed with pictures and graphs — then you may need to invest in a professional book formatter.
What affects professional formatting editing costs?
You’ve probably noticed that there’s a pattern when it comes to the factors that affect the various costs of publishing a book — and book formatting is no exception. These factors are:
Level of experience. As always, veteran professionals bring a lot of experience and insight to the table (and they will charge accordingly).
Manuscript length. Longer books take more time to format — the designer isn’t only applying the design to the text, but also double-checking for widows, orphans, and other aesthetically unpleasing elements on each page.
How “graphically intense” the project is. Even the most simple cookbook will involve images that must be carefully placed and text that must be tastefully and legibly arranged. Formatting such a book will be more intensive and costly than formatting a novel.
Ultimately, you can expect to spend at least $500 on a professional formatting job, the same as cover design. If the way your book looks on the page is just as important as the words themselves, then this investment can be a no-brainer.
The publishing process doesn't stop as soon as you've printed your first copy — there's plenty of marketing work to be done, which also comes with its own costs.
Publishing a book doesn’t stop once you’ve finalized your ebook and print editions. After all, what’s the point of publishing a book if nobody knows about it? As such, you may wish to plan for some of the following marketing activities:
Reviews will validate your book in the eyes of prospective readers. But without the ability to pick up Amazon reader reviews before your launch date, it’s important to land editorial reviews (which you can feature on your product page at any time). You can submit your book to hundreds of book reviewers on Reedsy Discovery for a write-up to be shared on your big day.
Cost: $50 to submit your book to Reedsy Discovery
Targeted digital ads
Digital advertising is one of the few ways indie authors can quickly reach new audiences. If you’re fairly good with ‘the internets’, you can learn some of the basics of ad testing with our free courses on Facebook ads and Amazon ads.
Cost: From $5 a day for Facebook ads. You can test out your potential audience with a small daily budget and scale up your budget once you see some success.
Promoting a price promotion
While it costs nothing to run a price promotion (where you temporarily discount your ebook to drum up some interest), you’ll need to make sure people know about it! For that, you may want to pay for listings on free/discount book sites that alert voracious readers to your promo.
Cost: From $15 to $120 per promotion slot. The actual cost will vary depending on the size of the promotion site and how competitive your genre is.
Hiring marketing experts
Every successful self-publishing author must have a strong grasp of marketing strategies and will spend a good part of their time marketing their books. If you’ve yet to master every aspect of this dark art, consider hiring a book marketer who can help you:
- Optimize your book’s metadata, keywords, and product pages;
- Set up your ad campaigns and teach you to maintain them;
- Create and grow your mailing list.
These services not only help you boost your launch, but they will give you the skills to continue your marketing efforts on your own.
Be careful: Indie book marketing is a grind. Anyone who offers a ‘magic bullet’ solution that promises you success with no work is likely scamming you.
For more insights into the average costs of publishing (including ghostwriting rates) remember to download Reedsy's 2022 Report.
It bears repeating that all book projects have unique needs, so it’s impossible to nail down a final budget until you start hiring your collaborators. If you’re looking to keep your budget reasonable without sacrificing quality, check out the next part of this guide, where we’ll give you some money-saving tips — or, for an idea of what money you could make as an author, this post on author earnings.