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Blog • Understanding Publishing

Posted on Apr 28, 2023

5 Ways to Save on Your Self-Publishing Budget

Now that you have a general idea of the average cost to self-publish a book, let’s look at a few ways that independent authors can get more bang for their buck. These tips could save you thousands without sacrificing an ounce of quality in your book.

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1. Scout for talented but newer professionals

There are many pros out there who are great at what they do but don’t have much experience — perhaps they’ve 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

self-editing your writing | an escher-inspired illustration of two hands reaching out of a piece of paper. One is writing, the other is editing the writing.

Another major cost-saving measure is to work on your manuscript as much as possible 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 hiring an editor, you’ll end up paying them to tell you things you already know. 

Self-editing can help with copyediting costs, too; the smoother your word usage and descriptions, the fewer the changes your copy editor will have to make.

Sign up for our free 10-day course on self-editing your manuscript and get the first lesson straight away.

3. Combine services where possible

Many publishing professionals are specialists in a number of skills and niches. Some are happy to bundle together a few services and offer them for less than you would pay if you hired two separate people. Potential combinations to look out for include:

  • Cover designers who can also handle your interior formatting;
  • Copy editors who will also proofread your manuscript;
  • Translators who will also write your sales page metadata.

With some careful combinations, you could look to save up to 30%, compared to getting the services separately.

In case you missed it, here's our free report with the most up-to-date averages for publishing services. 



The Cost of Self-Publishing in 2023

Get an inside look at 2023 rates for professional self-publishing services.

4. Request a cover design based on stock imagery 

This one may be hard to hear, but if you want to cut design costs, go with a cover that utilizes stock imagery rather than a bespoke illustration (which can get quite expensive). The trick is to find a designer who can take a visual asset from Shutterstock and make it look classy and professional. 

save money on self-publishing | The cover for the novel Ghost Forest
(image: Random House)

For example, the cover for Pik-Shuen Fung’s debut novel Ghost Forest looks like it may have been based on a painting commissioned specifically for this novel — but it’s actually a composite of stock images that would have been relatively affordable to license.

On the other hand, once you start getting an illustrator involved, the time required to create your cover will grow exponentially. Even a relatively simple cover like this re-issue of Ramona the Pest (below) would likely have cost the publisher significantly more to produce.

The cover of Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
(image: HarperCollins)

So, when you’re searching for potential cover designers, look for ones whose portfolios show a talent for manipulating stock images in inventive ways. These are the ones who can help your book look like a million bucks for just a fraction of that cost.

Check out our book cover art gallery for more examples of great covers that utilize stock images! 

5. Grow your following before you publish

an illustration of an author and her blog. She is looking out at the viewer and winking.We’ve covered how to save on editing and design costs, but what about marketing costs? The best way to minimize your spending is to establish a following early on — ideally, months or years before publishing your book. That way, once you publish, you’ll have a built-in street team ready to support you.

Of course, building a following is much easier said than done, especially from the ground up. One way to do this 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.

Rather than promoting your work, focus first on providing valuable content and maintaining genuine relationships. Eventually, you’ll be able to snowball these relationships into a full-fledged community — and from there, convert them into customers and start making money as an author.

Like any business, self-publishing requires an upfront investment. With these tips, you’ll hopefully find opportunities to manage your budget while maintaining the highest of standards.

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