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The Cost of Self-Publishing

Gwynneth Ever After marks my first self-publishing effort — and a huge learning curve in my career. While I posted a little bit about my journey here, here, here, and here, I thought it would be nice to provide a wrap-up of my experience — complete with a cost break-down for those of you who may be considering a similar path.

1. Editing: Normally the first thing you need when you’re thinking of publishing a book is a good editor — well, more like three of them, because editing comes in several phases: first, a substantive or developmental edit; second, a copy edit; and third, a proofread. Because Gwynneth Ever After had previously been released through a small press, it had already been through all three levels of editing. That said, I’d learned a lot since writing it and felt it could do with a fresh polish. That said, I felt comfortable tackling the polish myself and so I was able to do away with hiring a professional.

If I’d needed an editor (or three), however, it wouldn’t have been cheap.

According to the Editorial Freelancers’ Association, a substantive editor is going to cost you anywhere from $40-$60 an hour, with an expected work rate of 1-6 manuscript pages per hour (they differentiate between a developmental and a substantive edit, but there really isn’t a difference, in my opinion). With a standard manuscript page defined as 250 words, a 50,000 word book will be 200 pages long and cost you anywhere from$1,333 (at the lowest rate and the highest page output) and $12,000 (higher rate, lowest output. Add to this the cost of a copy edit at $30 – $50 an hour for 2-10 pages/hour (low-end $600 to high-end $5,000), and that of a proofread at $30 – $35 an hour for 9-13 pages/hour (low-end $461 to high-end $778), and you begin to see the value of what publishers do. And that’s just for the edit. 😉

2. Cover: While I’m relatively artistic, I had no interest in learning how to use Photoshop and so I hired out this task. Cost: $200. Result: brilliant. 🙂

Gwynneth Ever After Web (1)


3. Formatting: This is something that many authors do themselves, but technology and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship: when I know what I’m doing and it cooperates, I love it…otherwise, not so much. 😛 So again, I hired out. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, this cost me a fair chunk more than it would have done if I’d been better organized. The basic formatting for an e-book through the service I found (after much research and deliberation, I settled on e-book Formatting Fairies) was $50, plus $10 per book for customization — the adding of links to my other books in the back of each format (Kobo, Kindle, Nook, and iBook) — for a total of $90. More than reasonable, in my opinion.

Of course, if you do things backwards the way I did, you’ll end up having to have revisions done in order to insert the ISBN number and review quotes because you forgot to do those things first. sigh Additional cost: $50.

Also, because this was my first self-publishing effort, I paid $100 for an extra “hand-holding” service. This seemed a little pricey at the time, but ended up being more than worth it when my “fairy” spent more than an hour on the phone with me, walking me through the extremely convoluted uploading process for Apple iBooks. O.O

So, the grand total for formatting (including a 10% Paypal fee) was $264. Yes, it was a lot, but I figured my sanity was worth it. 😉

4. ISBN: This was actually free for me because I’m Canadian (Canadian authors, you can go here to learn more), but if you’re not in Canada, you’ll have to pay for one ($125) through

5. IBPA: This is the International Book Publisher’s Association. It wasn’t a necessary step, but it was certainly a time-and-sanity saving one when it came to having Gwynneth put up on Netgalley for reviewers to access. Again, Netgalley can be a do-it-yourself thing (cost: $399); again, I didn’t want to go there. Instead, I paid $129 to join IBPA (they offer a host of support services), and then a further $350 to have them take care of the whole Netgalley issue for me — including approving reviewer requests. (In other words, this particular piece of sanity cost me an additional $80…again, well worth the investment. 😉 )

So, in summary, here’s what I spent:

Item Cost Details
Editing $0 Because the book had previously been published, I was able to skip this step & the associated cost. Otherwise, three levels of professional editing (substantive, copy, and proofreading) could be anywhere from approximately $2,300 to several thousand dollars.
Cover $200  
ISBN $0 ISBNs are free for Canadian authors through the government. If you’re not in Canada, it will cost you $125
Formatting $264 $  50 basic formatting$  40 customization (putting links to my other books in the back of each digital format: Kindle, Kobo, Nook & iBook)$100 consultation (hand-holding) fee$  24 Paypal fee (10% of above subtotal)
IBPA membership $129 This allowed me access to a reduced-price Netgalley service package
Netgalley upload $350  
Grand total $943  

And there you have it, the sum total (no pun intended…well, maybe a small pun! 😀 ) of my self-publishing experience. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

P.S. Oh, yes, and in the spirit of recouping some of my costs, Gwynneth Ever After is now available on Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iBooks…download your copy today! 😉

P.P.S. For those of you who have inquired, the cover design is by Kanaxa.







22 Responses to “The Cost of Self-Publishing”

  1. Sandy Williams Avatar

    A hand-holding service? Is that through ebook fairies, too? If/when I do this, I’m going to totally need someone holding my hand. lol

    In all honesty, this doesn’t sound like much money. And with that gorgeous cover (and your gorgeous writing!), I bet you make it all back, easy.

    Thanks for sharing all this info!


    1. Linda Avatar

      Hey, Sandy! Good to hear from you. 🙂 And yes, it was e-book fairies who provided the handholding…they were totally awesome, in my opinion, and I have no hesitation in recommending them. So glad you liked the post…and the cover! 🙂

  2. Jocelyn Rish Avatar

    Thank you for sharing. I bounce back and forth about whether I want the control of self-publishing or to try for traditional publishing, and having this information helps with making decisions.

    1. Linda Avatar

      You’re most welcome, Jocelyn! I’m glad it helped. Let me know if you have any questions! 🙂

  3. Brenda Hammond Avatar

    Excellent post, Linda. I’m going through this process right now in order to publish my next two romantic comedies very soon.
    Your cover is truly fabulous. Would you be willing to tell us who designed it?
    Here’s wishing ‘Gwyneth’ many sales!

    1. Linda Avatar

      Thanks, Brenda! I added the designer’s link at the bottom of the post for you. 🙂

  4. JillA Avatar

    Thank you! My sister is wanting to self publish and she should find this information extremely helpful

    1. Linda Avatar

      You’re very welcome, Jill — and wish your sister all the very best for me!

  5. Carol Avatar

    Great post. This is exactly why I won’t self publish again. I tried it for the learning curve. I could save money on the cover and formatting but there is no getting around the other bits. Plus the headache just isn’t worth it for me. I’m a writer not a publisher. I get so tired of hearing SP pundits go on about how easy it is and how anyone can do it. Most people don’t have the thousands involved in editing. If the book didn’t sell, and even sometimes great books don’t, I don’t want to be gambling with my own money. It’s nice to see someone talk about the reality and the expense. I wish you the best of luck with it. The cover is beautiful.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Thank you, Carol — and so glad you like the cover! I’m not ruling out self-publishing again in future, to be honest. Now that I’ve been through the learning curve, I think (hope!) it might be easier second time around. 😉

  6. Elaine Faber Avatar

    Your costs were fairly minimal because you did the editing yourself, which is NOT the wisest choice for MOST new authors. If you had paid the editing services, your costs for SP run to about $3-4000, then you have to get someone to print your books, unless you go e-book. All this and then you have to take on the ENTIRE marketing process alone. For me, I’ll hold out for a traditional publisher, though must admit, that’s about like winning the lottery. I’ll wait a while longer. Sigh. As old age and decrepitness sets in, I may crumble… and do it myself.

    1. Linda Avatar

      You’re absolutely right about authors (and not just the new ones) needing editors, Elaine, which is exactly why I pointed out that the book had previously been edited and only needed a final polish. I’m a freelance writer/editor as well as being an author and I still wouldn’t put out a book without at least one other set of professional eyes on it.

  7. Linda J Pifer Avatar

    Love your journal through the self-pub process; two comments – the ISBN’s are cheaper by the 10’s – just $50 more for ten numbers than just buying the first two. Also, I too self-published Ohio Girl via a wonderful Canadian company, in Winnipeg who totally held my hand, guided, designed a cover, etc. always asking for my approval before going ahead. Will I selfpub again? For my second book, I agree with Elaine Faber and will attempt to sell it for all of the reasons she gives. I would like to write more often than conducting all the marketing that goes into “doing it yourself”.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Very true about the ISBNs, Linda — I should have mentioned that. Thanks for the catch! 🙂

  8. Joseph Simas Avatar

    Thank you for the no-frills account (s). As I mean to become a publisher of e-books I’ll looking for a variety of such hands on approaches. Anymore practical suggestions on reducing costs? within guide lines you have set?

    1. Linda Avatar

      You’re really best to do a ton of research, Joseph. I’m just one author writing about her experience with a single self-pub effort, so I’m FAR from having the kind of expertise you’re looking for. Good luck! 🙂

  9. Carol Bodensteiner Avatar

    Thanks for the thorough analysis of your experience and costs, Linda. I self published my memoir “Growing Up Country” and my assessment would be similar to yours. Though I paid substantially more for my cover. I’ll be looking into your design resource as I move into publishing my novel later this year. Thanks for sharing their link. It is a lot of work, but for me the payoff was worth it.

    1. Linda Avatar

      You’re most welcome, Carol! Sorry you got gouged on your cover…hope this next one works out better for you!

  10. LK Avatar

    Thanks for sharing this behind the scenes of self-publishing I had no idea editing costs so much!
    Is the cover for ebook only? I’ve done a bit of cover design work and am trying to find out the standard rates (it does seem like my rates are quite different…)

    1. Linda Avatar

      Hi, LK — editing costs vary widely, but so do skills, so it’s kind of a “buyer beware” scenario. Definitely ask for references from anyone you’re considering, and I would recommend taking a first-hand look at a couple of the books that person edited, too. As for the cover design, I only have the e-book version for this book…I don’t honestly know if my designer would charge an additional fee for print. I’ll try to remember to ask her! 🙂

  11. Peter Prasad Avatar

    Persevere. My first two books cost $2500+ each. Now with a writer’s group and Beta readers, I have it down to about $250.
    Attorneys make the best beta readers because they know a court case can hang on a word. The average Indie book sells 300 copies. So work your fanny off and beat the Big Five publishing houses. They can not take risks, turn on a dime, or be nearly as sham-dunk relevant as you. Huzzah Indies! – Peter Prasad (Gurl-Posse Kidnap)

    1. Linda Avatar

      Thanks for the encouragement, Peter! And you’re absolutely right about the increased mobility an author has as an indie. I think both traditional & indie approaches have their advantages and disadvantages…the trick is in deciding what fits best for an individual writer.

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