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GuidesUnderstanding Publishing

Last updated on Nov 08, 2023

How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Children’s Book?

In the previous chapter of this guide, we discussed how to self-publish a children’s book, covering everything from getting your book edited, illustrated, and formatted. But how much will it cost you in total?  

Based on average quotes from the Reedsy marketplace, self-published authors can spend between $2,170 and $4,000 on professional editing, illustrations, cover design, and formatting.

To help you better understand these costs (plus how much you'll be looking at to print and distribute your books), let's dive a little deeper in the average costs of self-publishing a children's book.

Editing

an editor working with an author on her children's bookAn editor’s quote for any given book is hugely influenced by the time they need to put into the project — which is usually determined by word count.

Picture books require less editing

As a rule of thumb, picture books tend to have fewer than 1,000 words, making them one of the most affordable books to have edited. 

For a 1,000-word picture book manuscript, editors on Reedsy charge an average of: 

It’s fairly common for authors to hire the same editor to provide both services since this might reduce the time spent on each stage and thus result in a healthy discount, compared to hiring two separate editors

Middle grade and young adult books require more revision

Editors will treat middle grade (MG) and young adult (YA) novels pretty much the same way they would a book for adults. They tend to come in at around 30,000 to 60,000 words, on average, and though their readers may be younger, the books still require a lot of attention to story structure, character development, pacing, and precise use of language. In addition, there’s nothing more cringe-worthy to a teenager than adults trying to be “hip” — so an editor might also need to spend some time ensuring the manuscript is written in an age-appropriate register.

The average cost of editing a 30,000-word middle-grade book is:

  • $830 for developmental editing; and
  • $610 for copy editing.

The average cost of editing a 60,000-word young adult novel is:

  • $1,584 for developmental editing; and
  • $1,140 for copy editing.
Editing Type

Picture Books

(1,000 words)

MG

(30k words)

YA

(60k words)

Copy Editing

$210

$610

$1,584

Developmental Editing

$340

$830

$1,140

Check out our editing costs calculator for more average rates across all genres and services (including proofreading). Bear in mind that Reedsy professionals have years of experience at the highest level. While finding cheaper options is possible, you may be gambling on the quality of service you'll receive. 

Now that we have a better idea of what it costs to perfect your content, let’s see what you might pay to make your book look like a million bucks.

Illustration & Cover Design

an author holding three book cover options for the same picture book.While children have no shortage of imagination, beautiful artwork can make their reading experience more engaging and highly memorable. 

Fully illustrated picture books

Unless you can draw to a professional publishing standard, the best way to translate your story into a visual narrative is to hire an illustrator. If you’re in the market for one, on Reedsy, you’ll find plenty of amazing children's book illustrators to work with. 

Over the past three years, the average children's book illustrator on Reedsy has charged between $1,400 and $4,500 for a 24-page picture book. 

Their exact quotes will vary depending on: 

  • The illustrator’s experience; 
  • Their illustration style (minimalist vs detailed);
  • The complexity of the project (is research needed?); and 
  • The actual number of double-page, full-page, or half-page illustrations your picture book requires. 

A picture book illustrator’s quote normally includes everything from draft concepts, typography, interior design, and the book cover design. But if you’re looking to work with a dedicated cover designer, their quotes will be roughly in line with the cost of a middle-grade or young adult title, which we’ll look at right now.  

Book covers only 

By the time your reader picks up middle grade and young adult books, they’re probably less reliant on illustrations — but that doesn’t mean they don’t care what your book looks like. Ultimately, authors writing books for these age groups will need a quality cover design to draw readers in.

According to quotes from the Reedsy marketplace, 60% of children’s book covers from experienced designers cost under $750. As we detail in our main guide to self-publishing costs, the final quote you receive will depend on factors like:

  • The designer’s level of experience;
  • The style and complexity of the design;
  • The number of design iterations you need; and
  • Whether you’re just publishing an ebook, or print and audiobook editions too. 

If you are seeking a cover design for a picture book, your designer can adapt an existing illustration from your book, reducing their need to research or create images for your project. This, in turn, can reduce your costs.

In addition to the cover design, you may also be looking to hire a professional to take care of your typesetting and interior design.

Formatting

An editor works with a children's author on their manuscriptProperly formatting your interior design is critical for a great reading experience, especially when dealing with print editions. Professional illustrators or cover designers may do this for you as part of their service for picture books. If they have the right experience with interior design, then this is an option we’d recommend, as hiring a dedicated interior designer can cost between $250 and $750. 

That said, you might be able to format your own book for free.

Format your book for free with the RBE

If your book is mainly text-based (like a children’s novel or a collection of short stories), you can write and format your book with a free tool like the Reedsy Book Editor. It’s an easy-to-use software that allows you to turn your manuscript into a flawless, export-ready ePUB file for ebooks or PDF for print editions. All you need to do is to get those words flowing.

To try the Reedsy Book Editor, sign up below and start using it today. 

Looking for a professional formatting tool?

Sign up for free to start using the Reedsy Book Editor within seconds.

Learn how Reedsy can help you craft a beautiful book.

Once your book is finished, you may want to (understandably) hold it in your hands 一 as well as to sell physical copies to the general public. So, let’s look more closely at print and distribution options. 

an author standing by a printing press and watching their book being createdWhile some parents enjoy reading books to their kids on a tablet, most still prefer buying the physical version — if only to limit “screen time.” Print editions are also a must if you plan to distribute your book to libraries, schools, or if you want aunts, uncles, and grandparents to buy it as a present for their young ones.  

There are two options to print your book: 

Let’s have a quick look at the financial implications of both.

POD is low risk, but expensive for picture books

POD services — which print one copy at a time, based on actual purchases — are the preferred option for authors who are publishing children’s novels, as the cost-per-unit is relatively low, averaging around $7 per book, usually deducted from royalty payments. This solution is also extremely convenient if you don’t want to pay in advance for a bulk order that might not sell, or don’t want to deal with storing and distributing the books yourself. 

On the other hand, POD services are not as convenient for picture book authors. For instance, to print a 24-page picture book, you can expect to pay around $12 per copy 一 depending on factors like book format, page size, page count, and print options (black & white vs. colors). On top of that, you’ll have to add shipping costs, inflating the bill further, depending on whether you choose regular or express delivery. 

There are several POD services you can choose to use. However, here's a quick look at the costs you can expect from two of the most popular printers of picture books.

Service

Trim size

Printing cost per copy

Domestic shipping

Lulu

7.5”x7.5” (19x19 cm)

$10.28

From $3.99

Blurb

8”x10” (20x25 cm)

$15.99

From $4.94

Note: These costs are based on 24-page full-color hardbacks.

When you look at the numbers, you quickly realize that you’re almost guaranteed to make a loss, since you can’t really price your indie book double what well-known authors charge 一 which is between $5 to $10. 

However, don’t despair 一 while POD for picture books doesn’t make sense financially, you could still use it to gauge interest in your book by doing a small print run of around 50-100 copies and getting it into people's hands. If you've already sparked the interest of potential buyers, then you should probably consider offset printing for the following batch. Even though you’ll pay a salty bill upfront, your average cost-per-copy will be much lower, granting you a higher profit. 

Offset printing gives better value, but with higher risk and upfront cost

The cost to offset print a picture book is much lower than POD services, although it comes with a higher risk and upfront expense 一 in case your book doesn’t perform as well as you hoped. With services like PrintNinja or IAPC, you can expect to pay around $4.30 per copy for an order of 1,000 hardcover picture books 一 60% less than what you’d pay with POD. 

The price drop, however, is not as significant for middle grade or young adult novels, since black and white paperbacks (with a color cover) are around $4.90 per copy 一 only a few dollars less than POD services.

Remember that offset printing costs depend on how you customize your book (e.g. binding options, paper quality, cover types). It also matters if you’ll receive your copies from overseas or not. In fact, these prices do not include shipping and storage costs, which can add an extra $500 to $1,500 per order 一 depending on your location. 

Overall, printing your self-published children’s book can significantly bump up your final costs. If you’re just getting started and you don’t know how many copies you’ll be able to sell, it’s wise to use POD services first to gather some data and test your book’s market. However, if you already know your book has buyers waiting to part with their money for it, offset printing is a better option as it will lower your overall costs. 


We hope this guide has helped you better understand what budget you should set aside if you want to publish your work and inspire the next generations with your storytelling.

For the next part of our guide, we'll talk about how to use a children's book template to visualize your story page-by-page before adding illustrations.

RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

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