Creative Writing Writing 101 21 min2023-02-12 00:00

How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Book?

How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Book?

If you’re thinking about publishing a book, you might be curious about how much it’s going to cost. Knowing the cost can help you plan your budget in advance and prepare for all the expenses you’ll need to take on.

So, what’s the magic number? How much does it cost to publish a book?

The short answer is that you should expect to spend anywhere from $0–$10,000. There are a lot of factors that influence the cost of a book, including your publishing path, the format of your book, and which services you choose to invest in.

Read on to learn the average cost of publishing a book as well as a detailed breakdown of how much money you can expect to invest in each step of publication.

Average Cost to Publish a Book

The average cost of publishing a book is around $2,000–$4,000, but many authors spend a lot less or a lot more.

Publishing a book can cost as little as $0 in some scenarios. On the other end of the scale, there are also authors who spend $10,000 or more.

The average cost of publishing a book is $2,000 to $4,000.

That’s a very large range, but there’s a good reason for it. The cost of publishing a book will depend on your choices as an author.

For example, self-published authors usually have to pay for all the costs of publication themselves. In exchange, they retain full creative control over their work and earn higher royalties on each copy they sell.

Meanwhile, traditionally published authors don’t have to pay for the costs of publication because their publisher will do that. However, they’ll likely earn fewer royalties down the line.

There are many other factors to take into account, too, in addition to self-publishing vs traditional publishing.

If you choose to do a lot of marketing for your book, for example, you could pay thousands of dollars for ads and promotions. Many authors invest heavily in marketing, hoping to generate enough buzz to earn back that money in royalties.

On the other hand, you could easily not pay for marketing at all and save yourself several thousand dollars.

Other factors include the length of your book, the editing requirements of the manuscript, and more.

factors that affect publishing cost

Remember, there’s no single right or wrong way to publish a book. Every author makes the choices that make the most sense for their specific situation, and that’s why there’s so much variation in how much authors spend on publication.

Book Publishing Cost by Genre

Intuitively, it makes sense that a 500-page biology textbook with detailed illustrations costs more to create than a 100-page short story collection. After all, the biology textbook requires hiring an illustrator and a fact-checker—and at the end of the day, it simply requires more paper and ink.

So, one way to narrow down publishing costs is by specifying your book’s genre.

Different genres have different word counts, editing requirements, and illustration requirements. All these factors influence the cost of publication.

Here are some general estimates for the cost of publishing a book by genre:

  • The average book costs $2,000–$4,000 to publish

  • Nonfiction books often cost $500–$1,000 more to publish than the average book, due to indexing costs and fact-checking requirements

  • Science fiction and fantasy novels often cost $500–$1,000 more to publish than the average book. That’s because they’re often much longer than a typical novel, averaging around 120,000 words instead of 80,000 words, and the extra length increases the costs of printing, editing, proofreading, and more

  • Historical fiction novels often cost $300–$500 more to publish than the average book, due to heavier research and fact-checking requirements

  • Young adult novels often cost $300–$500 less to publish than the average book. That’s because they’re often shorter than a typical adult novel, averaging around 60,000 words instead of 80,000 words, and they usually don’t require illustrations

  • Picture books often cost $500–$1,000 more to publish than the average book, due to the added costs of hiring an illustrator and a book designer

Again, these are just ballpark estimates—there will always be exceptions within every category.

Cost of Publishing a Book: Breakdown

One way to get a more detailed cost breakdown is by thinking about each step that goes into publishing a book. You can look at the specific experts you’ll have to hire or the tools you’ll have to purchase to figure out the right budget for you.

You can save money by doing any of these steps on your own, or you can hire a professional to ensure a high-quality book.

self-publishing steps

Here’s an overview of the process involved in publishing a book:

  • Writing: finishing the first draft of the manuscript

  • Revising: rereading and improving the manuscript

  • Proofreading: correcting errors in the finalized manuscript

  • Indexing: making road maps to direct readers to information within the manuscript

  • Cover design: creating the layout, text, and artwork for the book cover

  • Illustration: adding images and illustrations to the book

  • Formatting: creating the layout of the book interior

  • Book identifiers: buying unique identifiers like ISBNs

  • Printing: producing and binding physical copies of the book

  • Marketing and publicity: advertising the book to potential readers

Let’s take a more detailed look at what each step entails and how much it might cost to hire a professional.

Cost of Writing a Book

The first step simply involves writing the first draft of your manuscript.

This step is one of the hardest but also one of the cheapest. You can easily write your book for free, using writing utensils or word processors that you already have access to.

Of course, you can also choose to spend money on this step too. There are certain tools that can make the writing process much easier and more efficient, and many of them cost $100 or less.

For example, you might pay for a special novel writing software like Scrivener or NovelPad. These tools let you organize a large book project in a simple, intuitive way.

You might also want to invest in writing classes that help you learn about the writing craft and story structures. Investing in the fundamentals will lead to a better manuscript in the long run, even if it takes a while to see a return on your investment.  

In some scenarios, you might even choose to hire a ghostwriter to draft your book for you.

Many people, such as celebrities, industry experts, and political leaders, hire ghostwriters to write their books for them. Bestselling novelists might also use ghostwriters if they need to publish novels too often to write all of them by themselves.

If you hire a ghostwriter, you can expect to pay $51–$70/hour for 1–3 pages/hour, according to the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). That means that if you’re writing a 200-page book, hiring a ghostwriter will cost you around $3,400–$14,000.

If that number seems high, remember that you’re paying for someone to write an entire book in your style and based on your ideas. That’s a task that takes a lot of time, skill, and experience, so it’s well worth the price.

Average Cost to Do It Yourself: $0–$100

Average Cost to Hire a Professional: $3,400–$14,000

Cost of Revising Your Book

Revising your book includes several steps. It’s a good idea to work from large to small, meaning that you fix the largest problems first before you move on to the smaller ones.

You should start with developmental editing, which focuses on making big-picture revisions. For a novel, you’ll be revising large story elements, such as character arcs, plot holes, and pacing. For a nonfiction book, you’ll be revising the logic, clarity, and organization of your manuscript.

Once you’re done with developmental editing, you’ll need to do line editing, which involves looking at your story on a line-by-line level. This is the time to revise smaller details, such as sentence structure, word choice, and grammatical mistakes.

You can do both of these steps for free if you edit on your own. The downside is that you might not be able to see all the issues in your book, which means you might not be able to fix them on your own.

Another free option is to get feedback from critique partners and beta readers. They can give you useful comments on the strengths and weaknesses of your book, and you can pay them back by critiquing their work in return.  

You can also invest in AI-powered editing tools like ProWritingAid, which can help you fix grammatical mistakes, passive voice, poor pacing, and more.

ways to edit your book

If you’re planning to self-publish your book, or if you want to make sure your book is top-notch before sending it to publishers, it might also be a good idea to hire a professional editor.  

According to the EFA, a professional developmental editor charges around $46–$60/hour and works at a rate of around 4–6 pages/hour. Assuming your book is around 200 pages, hiring a developmental editor will cost around $1,500–$3,000.

A line editor costs about the same amount. So, if you hire both a developmental editor and a line editor, you should expect to pay around $3,000–$6,000, depending on the length of your book and which editors you hire.

You can also hire just a developmental editor or just a line editor, whichever one your book needs more.

Remember that paying for a professional editor is optional, especially if you’re planning to go down the traditional publishing route, in which case your publisher will pay for your manuscript to be edited.

Average Cost to Do It Yourself: $0–$100

Average Cost to Hire a Professional: $1,500–$6,000

Cost of Proofreading Your Book

Proofreading is the last step in the editorial process after the manuscript has been edited in all the other ways. This step is when you read the final version of your manuscript and correct any lingering errors.

You’ll need to correct mistakes related to spelling, grammar, punctuation, and consistency. That includes finding any typos, inconsistent formatting, en dashes where you should have em dashes, and lots of other details.

Proofreading is important because typos and errors can distract your reader from the story or message of your book. An error-free book will help readers focus on the story.  

It’s a good idea to hire a professional for this step, since you’ll likely miss errors in your own work. Proofreading is easier when you have fresh eyes rather than when you’ve been working on your manuscript for months or years already.

Current EFA rates for a professional proofreader are around $31–$40/hour at a rate of 7–15 pages/hour. That means proofreading a 200-page book will cost around $400–$1,100.

Average Cost to Do It Yourself: $0

Average Cost to Hire a Professional: $400–$1,100

Cost of Indexing Your Book

If you flip to the back of any nonfiction book, you’ll probably find a section called the index.

The index is a list of important words and phrases. Each word is listed with corresponding page numbers where you can find that topic mentioned within the book, as well as related terms that readers and researchers might need to know.

Fiction writers can skip this step. For nonfiction writers, however, indexing is an important part of the publishing process, since indexes are crucial for helping readers navigate the book and find specific information.

It can be tricky to craft a high-quality index because you need to figure out the right words and phrases to include and find every instance they’re discussed in the manuscript.

You can write the index for your own book by using indexing software programs, which are often available on basic word programs, and by making index entries on your own.

You can also hire a professional book indexer. For example, the American Society for Indexing is a national trade organization that specializes in indexing books.

Professional book indexing costs around $36–$40/hour, at around 7–10 pages/hour. For a 200-page book, that comes out to around $700–$1,100.

Average Cost to Do It Yourself: $0

Average Cost to Hire a Professional: $700–$1,100

Cost of Cover Design

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an adage that’s often quoted but rarely followed. A good cover convinces readers to pick up a book at the store, while a bad cover dooms the book to collecting dust on the shelf.

There’s a lot that goes into designing a book cover. Part of it is the cover art, which refers to the illustration or photograph used on the front cover. The other part is the layout, text, and format of the cover, which are separate skills from the cover art itself.

You can make your own cover using tools like Canva, Photoshop, or the KDP Cover Creator.

But unless you have a background in designing, it’s probably a bad idea to design your own cover. Readers can usually spot a homemade cover from a mile away, and if everything between the two covers is high quality, an amateur cover can do your book a huge disservice.

A professional book cover designer knows what covers are popular in your genre and how to use the cover to increase book sales.

There are some cheap professional options available if you don’t have a specific vision in mind for your cover. Many designers create premade covers and sell them online and on social media platforms at a low rate, usually ranging from $20–$500.

If you want to pay for a high-quality cover design that’s fully customized to your specific book, it will probably cost you around $500–$2,000 to commission a designer.

Average Cost to Do It Yourself: $0

Average Cost to Hire a Professional: $20–$2,000

Cost of Illustration

Many books require illustrations, such as picture books and textbooks.

You should figure out the visual tone you want for your book so you can hire an illustrator with a similar art style. Do you want muted, relaxing images, or do you want vibrant and colorful ones?

If you have an art background, you can also illustrate your own book. All you have to pay for are the costs of materials, which can be pricey if you’re using an expensive medium like oil paints.

If you don’t have an art background, it’s probably best to hire a professional illustrator. There are many platforms online, such as Fiverr and Hire an Illustrator, where you can find illustrators with many different styles.

On average, illustrators charge between $300–$2,000 for a complete book, depending on how many illustrations you need. Keep in mind that this might cost even more if the illustrations require specialized expertise, such as illustrations for a medical textbook.

Average Cost to Do It Yourself: $0–$500

Average Cost to Hire a Professional: $300–$2,000

Cost of Formatting Your Book

Formatting a book takes a long time and a lot of work.

You have to plan the entire layout of your book, including page numbers, paragraph spacing, and line indentation. You also need to make aesthetic choices like which fonts to use for chapter headings, how far apart your lines should be, and even what color your pages should be.

Good formatting makes sure your final book is consistent, easy to read, and up to industry standards.

The specific costs of formatting your book depend on what type of book you’re writing. For example, picture books might require more skill to format than novels.

If you choose to format your book on your own, you can do it for $0 with software you already own. For example, Microsoft Word and Scrivener both have export options that can create a publication-ready file, though it won’t be as high quality as a professionally formatted book.

You can also pay around $50–$250 for special formatting software. Atticus is one example of a book formatting tool with customizable templates that can help you create a beautiful publication-ready manuscript.

You can also hire a professional book formatter for about $300–$1,000.

Skimping on the formatting step can lead to a final book that looks amateurish or difficult to read, and you definitely don’t want that. We’d suggest paying for professional services or a specialized formatting tool if you want a high-quality product.

Average Cost to Do It Yourself: $0–$250

Average Cost to Hire a Professional: $300–$1,000

Cost of Book Identifiers

If you want to sell your book in bookstores, libraries, and the majority of other retailers, you'll need to get an ISBN.

An ISBN, which usually appears at the top of a barcode, is a thirteen-digit universal ID number for your book. It’s a unique identifier that helps people find and catalog your book.

You might be able to purchase your own ISBN through the self-publishing site you're using. If not, you can get one straight from Bowkers.

ISBNs cost $125 when bought individually. If you plan to publish your book in paperback, audiobook, and e-book formats, you’ll need a different ISBN for each of those formats.

Average Cost to Do It Yourself: $125 per format type

Average Cost to Hire a Professional: N/A, because the author or publisher purchases identifiers on their own

Cost of Printing Your Book

Printing refers to the part of the process where your manuscript gets turned into a physical book you can hold in your hands. It includes printing the interior pages, binding the cover, and more.

Most self-publishing platforms, such as Amazon KDP and IngramSpark, handle printing for free. As a result, the vast majority of self-published authors don’t have to pay for this step at all.

Another option is to use an independent book printer so you can print your book yourself. This usually costs around $3–$8/book, so how much you spend will depend on how many copies you want to print.

Average Cost to Do It Yourself: N/A, since most authors don’t own professional printing presses

Average Cost to Hire a Professional: $0 if you use a self-publishing platform, or $3–$8/book if you use an independent book printer

Cost of Marketing and Publicity

The average book sells less than 200 copies per year, according to Publishers Weekly.

If you want your book to be more widely read, you’ll need to make sure potential readers know it exists. That means coming up with a detailed marketing strategy.

There are many free ways you can market your book, which are a great place to start.

Social media channels such as TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube have become an increasingly useful way to promote books. They’re free to use, and you can choose the right social media platform based on which one your target audience prefers.

Book reviews are also a great way to get more publicity. You can ask your fellow authors to review your book in exchange for reviewing theirs, or you can ask your favorite book bloggers if they’d be willing to write about your book.

On the other hand, marketing can also get very expensive. Here are a few examples of marketing options you might want to pay for:

  • An author website that includes clear links to your book

  • Industry reviews and professional reviews from renowned book websites like Kirkus

  • Advertisements on social media sites, bookstore websites, etc.

  • Copies of your book to use for giveaways and book boxes

  • Merch to give away for free, such as custom-made bookmarks

  • Travel to book fairs and conventions so you can promote your book in person

Many authors, even traditionally published ones, spend up to $5,000, and sometimes more, on marketing alone. Be prepared to spend a lot on marketing if you want your book to sell well, even if you have a traditional publisher.

You can even hire a book marketing company to promote your book for you. 

For example, you can pay for social media coaching for around $500, or a book marketing and promotion plan for around $500.

In this case, you’ll still have to pay for many of the costs you would normally pay for on your own—you’ll just have professionals helping you decide the right strategy. So, you might still spend up to $5,000 on top of the professional services you’re paying for.

Average Cost to Do It Yourself: $50–$5,000

Average Cost to Hire a Professional: $500–$6,000

Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

The publishing path you choose, such as self-publishing versus traditional publishing, makes a big difference in the cost of publication.

Let’s start with a quick overview of what these different publishing paths look like.

  • The traditional publishing route involves signing a book deal with a publishing house, which then publishes your book for you and pays for the costs of publication

  • The self-publishing route involves publishing a book by yourself and hiring professionals to take care of services like editing, formatting, and cover design

  • The indie publishing route involves signing a book deal with a smaller press, which usually pays for most of the costs of publication, but not always

Let’s take a closer look at how much it costs to publish a book with each of these publication paths.

How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Book With a Publisher?

The average cost to publish a book with a traditional publisher is $0.

If you choose to go the traditional publishing route, you most likely won’t have to pay any up-front costs at all.

That’s because the publisher will cover the costs that it takes to publish your book, such as editing, design, formatting, and distribution. Most publishers will even pay you an advance, which is a lump sum of money in exchange for the rights to sell your book, so you’ll be making money right off the bat.

You should never have to pay a publisher to publish—all the money flows to the author, rather than from the author. If you find yourself having to pay a publisher to publish your book, you might be dealing with a vanity publisher, which is rarely worth the cost.  

The only costs you might incur in traditional publishing are optional services you decide to pay for on your own.

For example, you might choose to hire professionals to help you land a book deal with a traditional publisher, such as a developmental editor or a book coach. In that case, you’d be paying out of pocket for those services.

Most authors who publish traditionally don’t hire an editor or a book coach first, so taking that extra step is entirely up to you.

In addition, you might choose to pay for your own marketing after your book comes out.

Traditional publishers do little to market most of the books they release each year, instead choosing to focus their marketing publicity budgets on one or two bestsellers, so many authors pay for marketing on their own. If you pay for your own marketing, you can expect to spend anywhere from $500–$5,000, depending on what type of marketing you want to do.

How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Book?

If you choose to self-publish your book, you will have to cover the cost of publishing yourself. This can include costs such as editing, formatting, and distribution.

The cost of self-publishing a book can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the length of the book, the level of design and formatting required, and the distribution channels you plan to use.

On average, self-publishing a book will cost anywhere from $2,000–$4,000 if you’re hoping to create a high-quality book. If you’re just publishing for fun and don’t care about reaching a professional standard, you can self-publish for as little as a few hundred dollars.

Another option is indie publishing, where you publish your book with a smaller press. In most cases, the publisher will cover some costs, such as printing your book, while the author will be held responsible for other costs, such as cover design. The overall cost to the author depends on the specific press.

indie publishing

Book Publishing Costs Summary

There you have it—a detailed breakdown of how much it costs to publish a book. Here’s a quick recap:

  • It can cost anywhere from $0–$10,000 to publish a book. The average is around $2,000–$4,000

  • Genres like nonfiction, science fiction, and fantasy usually cost more to publish, while genres like young adult usually cost less

  • Traditionally published authors usually don’t have to pay for anything except marketing, while self-published authors have to pay for editing, proofreading, formatting, cover design, marketing, and more

Remember that all these numbers are simply ballpark figures. They should give you a good range for what to expect, but your own publishing path could always end up on either the high end or the low end of the range.

It’s also important to remember that cost isn’t the only important factor to consider—revenue also makes a difference. The more money you invest in your book, the more you’re likely to make in royalties.

Whichever publishing path you choose, we hope your book finds readers who love it.   

Good luck, and happy writing!

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