top of page

The Not So Hidden Costs of Self-Publishing

As we move into 2019, I've seen several writers with a renewed resolve to finally publish their work in progress. I myself had a similar resolution last year and will finally be releasing my debut novel in a few weeks.

As the popularity of self-publishing grows, accessibility to self-publishing tools has increased. While it is fairly easy and inexpensive to self-publish a book, self-publishing a quality book can quickly become costly. The quality distinction is significant because like most forms of entertainment, writing is highly competitive. While there are other factors that can set your book apart, quality can have a significant impact on its success.

Here are the most common costs that you will encounter while developing, writing, and launching your book. As a note, none of this is prescriptive and your individual situation will dictate these costs.


Grammarly $139.95/ Year

Microsoft Word $120 or $70/ Year

Pages Free

Scrivener $45

Ulysses $39.99/ Year

This one is pretty straightforward. You need a word processor to actually write your book. This is fairly easy since most of us have something like Pages or Microsoft Word. But there are specialized programs better suited for long works. Scrivener and Ulysses are two platforms that allow for organization while writing. Grammarly is also a favorite of mine during editing for its superior checking tools. If you want to go the cheap route, Google Docs is an excellent alternative that I've used extensively. Ultimately, you don't need fancy software to write your book. But you will be spending a significant amount of time with it so purchasing specialized software may be worth consideration.

Professional Editing

$0.015 - $0.090 per word

Once you complete your manuscript, others will have to review it to provide feedback on possible improvements. A review by a professional editor is vital to ensuing you present quality work to your readers. Editors provide a range of services depending on the needs of your book. These services include: manuscript critique, developmental edit, line edit, and copy edit. This can get expensive, especially for longer books as they normally charge by based on word count and type of service.

Cover Design

$50 to $1000

Unfortunately, the adage "don't judge a book by its cover" rarely applies. Because there are so many books out there, readers have a wealth of options. This is why an attention grabbing cover that will appeal to your target audience, can make the difference. Unless you have graphic design experience, this is something better left to the professionals as a poor cover design looks unprofessional and will turn off readers.

Author Website

Wix $14-$29/ Month

Developing an author platform is an important step in the writing process that a lot of writers begin too late or skip altogether. Like any business, having a professional website lends credibility to your platform. It also provides an additional opportunity to engage with readers. Web design tools have become more accessible in recent years making it easy for anyone to build a professional website. Wix and Squarespace are the two most popular, and I found Wix to be very intuitive and hassle-free.

Publishing Setup Fees

Ingram Spark $50 Per Title

Draft to Digital 10% Royalty

This one is actually possible to avoid depending on your publishing platform. Services like Ingram Spark charge a flat fee to publish and distribute your book but don't collect royalties. On the other end of the spectrum, royalty based services like KDP and Draft2Digital don't charge an upfront fee but do collect royalties on every book sold through their platform. They each have their own strengths and quirks but I recommend trying all three to see which one or three works best for you.


Varies Greatly

To ensure your book gets into readers’ hands you must achieve two goals: building awareness and generating interest. Readers must know about your work and care enough to buy it. This means you have to find ways to get it in front of them. Organic marketing through social media is a great free option if you have a large audience of loyal fans. But most of us aren’t that fortunate. This means that we must pay to promote our book through social media, search engines, and even retailers like Amazon. The cost of this varies significantly based on your needs, goals, and budget but it’s a step that’s tough to avoid.

Proofs and Review Copies


This applies only to physical books. Once you’ve setup your book in KDP or Ingram Spark, it behooves you to order a proof so you know what your product actually looks like. These services sell authors their book at cost so depending on the length and options you selected for your book, the expense isn’t terrible. Where it can get costly is Advanced Review Copies or ARCs. These are copies you send out to reviewers. To be honest, most reviewers shouldn’t get a physical copy, but for influencers or those you decide should have one, it a nice gesture.

The the bad news is that this list is not all inclusive and while these are common expense for self publishing, your unique situation may have additional requirements . Thankfully, there are was to reduce some of these costs without sacrificing quality. In the end, publish a quality book does cost money. But with the right knowledge and proper planning, you can achieve success without breaking the bank.


Want to learn more? Don’t forget to subscribe and follow us for more writerly and bookish content.

Our new novel Refractors Volume : Evoke is out on February 5, 2019. Check it out here.

Let’s stay positive and keep moving forward!

18 views0 comments


bottom of page