I wanted to answer a question that I get on a somewhat regular basis: “How much does it cost to publish a book?” Writing a book can seem scary if you think you have to put out a lot of money. You may have heard horror stories of so-called vanity publishers who charge you thousands of dollars to print a few copies of your book. Luckily, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to get your book published.
The cost of publishing is slightly different if you’re working with a traditional publisher. Your publisher prints your book for you, and takes care of other tasks like formatting and designing the cover. Generally, if you’re working with a traditional publisher, you have a contract with them that covers the services they’ll deliver and how much you will be paid.
If you’re working with a traditional publisher, you’ll usually have an advance that they’ve paid you to support your work on your book. Just be aware that your advance is not free money; you won’t make any other money off your book until you sell enough copies to pay back the advance. So, when planning your finances, keep in mind that your advance is really just that: an advance payment that you will have to pay back.
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I really want to focus on the cost of self-publishing a book. If you’re willing to do a lot of DIY, you can self publish a book at no cost, as long as you don’t want any physical copies of your book. I won’t lie: the DIY option does take a lot of time, especially figuring out formatting by yourself and designing the book cover yourself. These are tasks where you need to have a little bit of skill. But, if you have a lot of free time and not a lot of money to spend, the DIY route may be the way to go.
How do you know when it’s worth hiring out some of the tasks of self publishing your book? If you are terrible with graphics and art, it’s probably smart to hire somebody to do that for you. Depending on your budget, you can work with an inexpensive designer through a service like Fiverr, or you could pay more and work with a more experienced graphic designer. Just be aware that you often get what you pay for with graphic designers. Similarly, if you’re not very detail-oriented, you may want to hire someone to format your book. A formatter is also a good investment if you don’t have the time to read through and follow the requirements of your book’s printer. And, if your writing skills and grammar are lacking, it’s probably worth investing in a copy editor.
Marketing your book is another area where many authors choose to bring on some paid help. To really promote your book well, you’ll need to spend a lot of time on social media, reaching out to influencers, and so on. If you don’t already have a platform built with a blog, social media accounts, YouTube, podcast, or other channel, it may be smart to hire someone to help with marketing. You can definitely do it yourself, but it might be worth working with a strategist to make sure you’re getting the word out about your book. If you’re willing to spend a little more, you could pay someone to copy write social media posts and emails, create your website, and even create a book trailer, if that’s something you want.
How much does it cost to actually publish and print your book? Amazon’s CreativeSpace what most authors are using to self publish their books at the time I’m writing this. It’s completely free to publish with CreateSpace, as long as you don’t want to order any books. (You’ll have to pay for any hard copies of your book you’d like to have, of course.) Other publishing services like Blurb may require you to purchase copies of your book to create and list your book for sale. But, the cost of self publishing is still much less than spending thousands of dollars to work with a so-called “vanity” publisher.
If you’re really bootstrapping publishing your book, you don’t need to pay any money. You can find a printer that doesn’t require you to buy copies of your book, like CreateSpace. You’ll only have to pay for any copies of your book you would like to order. You can always comparison shop printers to find the one that offers you the best price. The ultimate cost of your book depends on how much work you’re willing to do yourself, and how much you’re willing to pay to have someone help you with some of the big tasks of getting your book out into the world.