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How Much Does Self-Publishing Cost?

by Kellyn Roth |
September 8, 2018


I’m a proud self-published author and will probably continue to be for the rest of my life! I love the control it gives me over every element of my book—from final decisions about plot and characters to editing.

But with great power comes great responsibility! You’re taking everything on your shoulders with self-publishing—from the editing and proof-reading of your book to cover design, from the actual publishing project to marketing (e.g. selling your book).

One of the questions I get asked most often is, “How much does self-publishing cost?” Today I’m going to try to answer that question.

How much does self-publishing cost?

The simple answer is “Nada.”

You should never pay to publish your book (and that applies to self-publishing!). The only sites/so-called “publishing houses” that request you do that are either scams or “vanity presses.”

They’ll steal your money. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve heard moaning about how awful it is to go with a vanity press (or of course be taken in by a scam).

So, simply, if someone asks you to pay for the actual publishing process, say, “No!” Nopety nope nope nope.

I go through Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace (which are now merging into one shortly) to publish my books. I also use Draft2Digital for expanded distribution in ebook (e.g. Nook, Apple).

All of these services are absolutely free. No start-up fees. They take a small commission of your book’s royalties in exchange for having it up on their platform, but that’s it.

So, self-publishing itself costs nothing at all.

However, I haven’t begun to tell you about expenses that go along with independently publishing your novel!

There are two things I’d recommend to every Indie published author, and I do believe they are a must.

The first is hiring a professional designer to do your cover.

If you find yourself unable to at least pay for this, I suggest saving up your money until you are able to. Do not publish with something you threw together on Paint! You will not sale books this way.

But Kell! you say. That’s over $300 at the least for a pro cover!

Au contraire, my skeptic!

None of my covers have been $300. I’ve paid an average of $40 for each of my covers. Though they’re not amazing (I’m redoing the covers for The Lady of the Vineyard for that reason), they’re good for what they are.

Do your own research on this, ask for recommendations, etc., but here are some of my favorites:

  1. Willowy Whisper

    1. She’s the designer for my Chronicles of Alice and Ivy books as well as Baby Mine (coming soon!). I just love her!
    2. Comes to about $30 ebook, $40 front/back, $50 full wrap.
  2. Victoria Lynn Designs

    1. Made the old cover for Flowers.
    2. Her services come to $25(+) for ebook and $65 for paperback.
  3. Reveries Designs

    1. 😉😉😉
  4. You can view more recommendations here.

    1. Many of them are on the cheaper side!

I’m currently working with Dragonpress Designs, which is super pro! The designer is amazing, but it’s a bit more spendy ($75 ebook, $100 for ebook/print). WORTH IT, though!

Make sure to run your cover by several professionals through Facebook groups or some such if you can. You always want a second opinion!

So the cost ends up at:

$40 at the least, $150 on the high end of things (recommended to go high end or, as I said before, you will not sell books).

The second thing I recommend is editing!

Editing is another more spendy matter. Most editors run in the $1,000 range (or more!) for a single manuscript.

Now, first of all, I say have as many alpha and beta-readers as you can and go through your novel multiple times. Make sure you’ve refined it as much as humanely possible. Try to get people to beta-read who are a bit above you as far as skill level goes, too.

And, when you’re ready, start looking into editors!

There are some more affordable options out there; you just have to look. (Make sure you check for references and credibility before hiring any designers, though.)

My editor is Abigayle Claire. She’s fantastic, and her prices run at about $2.00 for every 1,000 words. So for a 50K novel, that’s only $100! Much less than $1,000.

But …

I do understand that some of you are young and jobless, and I didn’t have an editor for my first couple novels. I don’t think I would’ve done a ton better without one.

So I’d say #1 is a cover designer, #2 is an editor … if you can afford one.

However, if you are by any stretch of the imagination able to hire an editor, do so! And if you’re not, just do a lot of proofreading and be as meticulous as you can. (And lots of betas, mind you!)

Additional Costs

  • Interior formatting

    • I have and always will do this for myself. I spent a lot of time reading different articles and whatnot whenever I ran into a wall, but it wasn’t extremely difficult for me.
    • For the most part, you can easily format your novel on Word (or if you don’t have that, like me, OpenOffice is a great free download which does essentially the same thing).
    • I offer interior formatting services relatively cheaply, as do several other people on my resources page if you really need to pass this mantle off, however.
  • Advertising

    • I have yet to do any real advertising, and it’s okay not to. However, once I have a huge budget, I’ll probably put out Amazon ads.
    • Have free days and discounts and whatnot will cost you nary a thing.
    • This can be as little as $1 a day. However, that adds up (pun intended).
    • I’d skip it unless you have a consistent income and are really ready to get out there.
  • Giveaways, blog tours, the works

    • If you hire someone to host a blog tour for you, obviously that’s an expense you need to factor in. However, this isn’t necessary (and I’ve never done it).
    • Giveaways are another consideration! They’re a great way to draw a buzz towards your book. And they cost whatever you’re giving away + shipping.
    • Giveaways can be as cheap as you want, but remember, if the prize is bigger, so shall be the excitement! 😝
  • Websites, blogs, etc.

    • You need a professional website at the very least!
    • And I didn’t start out with one (I’ve skipped around with websites and only recently arrived at a WordPress.com paid personal plan for my official website). It’s when you can afford it!
    • At the moment I’m paying $4 a month (billed yearly) for my WordPress.com personal plan website which includes a domain (custom URL) and slightly more a month for this blog (self-hosted WordPress).
    • However, I will eventually be switching to self-hosted WordPress.org. This can be as little as $40 a year (plus startup fees)!
  • Additional Things I’ve Spent Money On

    • I’m a bit of a spend-thrift, so I’ve bought myself business cards (500, about $20), bookmarks (spent about $20, ordered maybe 40), and even a t-shirt ($20) through Vistaprint.
    • It’s fun to have business cards if you can afford them, but not necessary.

In summary …

  1. Self-publishing costs not a thing.
  2. But it does have some costs!

Well, that makes perfect sense …

Seriously, though, at the very least you’re looking at $40 for the cover. Beyond that, it’s up to you, but there are so many things you can look into to make your publishing journey easier!

Before I head out, let’s end on a positive note.

Things That Are Free

  1. Blog tours run by you.
    1. (+ the giveaway prize)
  2. Social media.
    1. Get yourself out there!
    2. Also, there are lots of great things you can do through various social media, like creating a group or event or having a live video.
  3. Alpha- and beta-readers.
    1. Unless you deliberately set out to hire people.
    2. ^^ don’t do that ^^
  4. YouTube.
    1. To a certain extent, anyway …
    2. If you want to take up blogging, this is an option.
  5. WordPress.com, Weebly, Wix, and Blogspot.
    1. It’s not gonna be super pro, but it’ll work for now.
    2. I thought Reveries was great even before the move!
  6. The actual publishing itself (and therefore getting on Amazon and other major ebook vendors).
  7. TONS of how-to blogs.
  8. TONS of great Facebook/Goodreads groups that’ll help you get your feet wet in the Indie publishing world.
  9. Authors who get together to promote each other’s books.
  10. Friendship.
    1. I don’t know why I included this.

With love (& feel free to ask all the questions you want!),


~Kellyn Roth~

Goodreads · Facebook · Twitter


What are you going for, writer: Independent or Traditional Publishing? If you were to Indie publish, what would you probably pay for? Am I being a huge hypocrite because my first couple covers were pretty AND free? 🤣 Was this post at all helpful & what would you like to see me post about next?

What do you think of my thoughts?

42 Responses

  1. This was so interesting!! I’m personally planning on pursuing traditional publishing, simply because that’s been my dream for basically as long as I can remember, but something about the indie publishing route always gives me second thoughts for a few minutes. XD Buuuut I know that I would absolutely fail at being my own boss (and not to mention that if it were up to me, I would never be able to stop fiddling with the story, and therefore it would never get published) so I don’t think I’m going to be pursuing Indie. . . .yet. XD

    However, this was super informative for if I ever do decide to try and go Indie!!! (and also extremely inspiring… It is SO cool how you already have so many books published!!) And also it’s making me want to get some business cards even though I LITERALLY HAVE NO BUSINESS???? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME…? XD

    1. Well, I don’t think Indie publishing is for everyone … there are some people it just doesn’t work for, definitely, and for me, it’s necessary (NEED THAT CONTROL), but for others, it would just be a burden. 😉

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post even though it wasn’t applicable to you necessarily! And yes, you always think you need business cards. 😛 I think I have 500, but I want to buy new ones …

      1. Yesssss. I would absolutely LOVE to be able to be my own boss, so I have nothing but the absolute most respect for indie authors. Just…you deserve all of the cookies, my friend. AND ALSO THE CONTROL IS SOMETHING THAT COMPLETELY TERRIFIES ME. Like I want to pick out my cover and do all that stuff, but…….???? I DON’T THINK I’D BE GOOD AT IT. So. XD


        1. Haha, I get that! Myself, lack of control terrifies me, so I am delaying and delaying submitting to agents. 😛 I am so afraid they’ll mess up my beautiful book …

          YES, RIGHT!? I should … except I have no $$. 😛

          1. FOR SOME REASON MY REPLIES ARE NOT SENDING??? I sent two replies to this exact comment yesterday, and both of them got swallowed up in the great void. UGH.

            Let us try this again, shall we? XD

            I definitely agree. Having someone completely butcher my cover (I have a very vivid idea in mind) but something really cool I’ve been seeing on some debut Authortube channels is that they’re actually able to have a bit of a say in the cover? Like they’re able to send in Pinterest board aesthetics and stuff! And obviously that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what they can do to the CONTENT of the book, but still…

            OH MY GOODNESS SAME.

            1. What?! No way! That’s annoying. I wonder if it’s something on my end …

              That’s cool! Kinda what I do with some of my books – my designer will have a Pinterest board and send me images and stuff. Of course, I don’t have the budget of traditionally published authors, though. 😛

              1. I’m not sure… It might be on mine. My gadgets like to glitch a lot.

                YES!!! Pinterest is awesome when it comes to inspiration… OH GOODNESS, RIGHT??? But then again, you DO have free control.

  2. Thank you soooooooooooooo much for this post!! It answered my questions perfectly!!! I hope to be publishing my debut novel sometime next year (my current status is typing my manuscript for betas) and this post was soooooooooooooo helpful!!!!
    Could you answer a question I have? I have about 80 followers on my blog (which is like, absolutely none compared to most 😂😂) and I have several friends on Goodreads too. But how do I market my book so more people than just my friends will read my book?

    1. I am SO glad it was helpful, Penny! 😀 I was hoping it’d help a couple people out! I’ve had a lot of people ask about costs, so I figured …!

      Well, that’s a bit of a tough question because there’s a lot of different things you can do. First, be sure to get on social media, set up a professional profile, and post regularly (a couple times a week on Instagram, often on Twitter, once a day on Facebook – profile stuff).

      Reach out to other published authors in your genre – through social media, through blogs, even through emails! Even reach out to your favorite authors (the alive ones, hehe). Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Authors work together to support each other! What genre if your novel? I might be able to point you the right way. 🙂

      And … there’s a lot of other things you can do. Keep blogging, for one, and keep reaching out to new bloggers. It’s a long-term thing, marketing … it takes time.

      1. Thanks for those tips! I was really curious how to market my book and I was hoping to get some answers 😄😄
        What genre is my novel? Hmm. I’m working on a contemporary middle grade novel, as well as a middle grade humor book. I know I literally just said the hardest genre to find authors in (The only indie author I know that writes that is my writing buddy, Allyson Kennedy😁😂)
        But all your advice is greatly appreciated!!! Thanks so much again!!! 😀😀😀❤❤

        1. That’s cool! I actually kinda like middle grade. ‘Cause kids. 😛 Maybe look up Millie Florence (www.millieflorence.com). That’s her genre. I can’t think of anyone else off the top of my head, but they are out there! Kate Willis (onceuponanordinary.wordpress.com) also writes some middle grade – and reads tons of it!

          1. Oh cool!! Yeah kids are awesome 😛😛
            Thank you for the recommendations!!! I’m definitely going to look up Millie, and I’m already know Kate a little bit (I’m friends with her sister Anna), but I’ll talk to her!
            Thanks so much for your help!!! 😀😀❤

  3. I’m currently rewriting a book that I self-published in January, because it was awfully written. But the cover is GLORIOUS. Here’s a link to the place I got it:


    They charge in American currency, so it was a bit more pricey for me (Canadian) but totally worth it. 😉

    1. I … had absolutely no idea you had a book out! *blinks and dies because I am such a terrible person for not knowing that* SEND ME A LINK, GIRL! I want to see your cover!

      And yes, that looks pretty fair to me! Definitely worth it to get a nice cover.

      ALSO … I just got onto your blog and say the cover!! IT IS SO GORGEOUS, GIRL! You can definitely get that book out there. People are gonna want it because the cover is fantastic! 😀 Fantasy, right?

      1. That’s totally fine; I’ve been trying to keep it top-secret-hush-hush because, as I said, it was horribly written. I hope it’ll be better this time around!

        They were awesome to work with too! I think I wrote a review of them after I worked with them?? Somewhere in my archives… 😂

        Thank you!! I really love it, haha. THE BOOK WILL BE BETTER THIS TIME. *glares at old version* Yeah, it’s fantasy. There’s a theme in it, but I want to present it better. It’s hardly mentioned in the old version. *glares again at it*

  4. Yes, it’s always good to get the word out about how people shouldn’t pay for publication itself. Conversely, I’ve had some people tell me that self-publishing was the best option because traditional publishing was so expensive. It’s sad this misconception is so wide spread 🙁

    For the time being, I’m planning to pursue traditional publishing because I can’t afford cover designing and editing at the moment, and I won’t publish without them. When this changes, I may rethink my decision but that’s my reasoning for now.

    1. Yes, I know! I didn’t know so many people didn’t know, but they don’t! And educating is definitely something that needs to happen.

      Yes, it does cost some money. I don’t think it has to break the budget, but editing is going to be about $100 at least, so that’s a bit of a chunk.

      1. Agreed 🙂

        Yes, I’m a recent graduate who’s only just achieved full-time employment, so I’m trying to save what I have and that involves avoiding large investments. That said, self-publishing certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility altogether 🙂

  5. Yessss… I mean, I’m nowhere near ready to submit to agents, but the thought of not having my book look EXACTLY how I want it is kind of terrifying. But what I’ve been seeing lately in the publishing industry is that authors are actually getting to have a bit of a say in the covers? Like they’re able to send in Pinterest board aesthetics and stuff, which I think is SO cool. Unless…you know…I don’t actually get that option once I’m published. Aha. XD


    1. Yes, that’s the way I am. And it depends on the author, the publisher, the cover designer, how long you’ve been with the publisher, etc. I also send a Pinterest board to my designers, lol. 😛 And if I don’t want what my publisher wants, I can make the final decision – and yet, I think traditional probably has just as many pros and cons as Indie! They’re just so different.

      1. Yeah, that’s kind of what I figured. XD Oh my goodness that is so cool! So Pinterest actually CAN be a good tool for writers! 😂 I usually just use it as procrastination station, but I’ve been starting to create inspiration boards and stuff! Hopefully I’ll be able to use it with my someday cover designer. 😂😂 UGH YES. There are so many pros and cons to both sides of the publishing world. I’ve definitely been trying to do my research on it all, but sometimes it’s like information overload.

  6. Hey Kellyn! I wrote a short story and was going to release it for people to read in December, but my parents are worried about people stealing it, how do you protect your stories? Like, how do you copy write it or something?

    1. If you publish it online and post a copyright notice ([Story Title] is copyright (c) 2018, Julia [Last Name], all rights reserved). Post that in the book and wherever you share it. If you publish it, that makes it yours. You just have to be VERY clear that you’re the original owner and creator and reserve the copyright. If someone steals it, you can take them to court.

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