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What Does It Cost to Produce a Self-Published Book with Excellence?
Written by
Stacey Aaronson
November 2013
Written by
Stacey Aaronson
November 2013
Hello She Writers,

I thought you might find my latest Author Q&A helpful, where I address the budget self-publishing authors need to consider when producing a bookstore-quality book on every level. Enjoy!

If you want your book to reflect you as

a credible author, read ahead!


A u t h o r   Q u e s t i o n   o f   t h e   M o n t h
N o v e m b e r   2 0 1 3

I know there are some cheap options out there for self-publishing a book, but what does it really cost to produce a book that’s as excellent as one from a publishing house and that no one would ever guess was self-published?
This is SUCH an important question, precisely because companies, individuals, rates, and books all vary greatly in the publishing field. I’ve seen some crazy ranges—some so low I know they can’t truly be professional services, and others quite high that encompass marketing as well—but what I can share is what books cost to produce from cover to cover from experience in my own business, offering competitive rates and only books of excellence as an end result.

There are six major components to book production from manuscript to market:

  • Editing (including the phases of developmental or content editing and copyediting)
  • Book Cover Design
  • Book Interior Layout and Design
  • Proofreading
  • Ebook Creation
  • Publishing Facilitation
While I’m unique in that I offer all of these services to my author clients, some providers may only specialize in one; likewise, many companies offer package deals that encompass certain elements, with add-on costs for others.

The key thing to be aware of is that every book is distinct. Assigning a package deal number or flat rate to any book, when each book has a different total word count, number of chapters, writing style, graphic elements, and level of complexity is nearly impossible (and a bit suspect in my opinion). Therefore, I recommend seeking out providers who can give you a thoughtful breakdown of your book’s costs, after reviewing at least a portion of your manuscript to give you a fair estimate of the work it will entail. And if it’s a company with one-size-fits-all packages, make sure you know exactly what they include—hidden costs are not something you want to find out later.

Here are the typical ranges I’ve had for the main components of a book’s production, which each depend on the level of writing, length of book, and complexity of material and design, fluctuating based on the needs of the individual book and author:

  • Editing: Anywhere from $800 for a short, well-written book to $3000+ for a full-length novel or work of non-fiction
  • Book Cover Design: Between $200 and $500+ for a front cover only; $400 to $1000+ for a full cover layout
  • Book Interior Layout and Design: Anywhere from $400 for short and very simple to $2000+ for long and complex
  • Proofreading: I personally charge either $2 per 250 words or $40 per hour, whichever is lower cost to the author, for multi-pass methodical proofing of all elements.
  • Ebook Creation: $150 for basic to $600 for complex
  • Publishing Facilitation: Anywhere from $100 to $200 to set up titles on various platforms and perform uploads and reviews
  • Grand total: $3000 to $6000+ is the average cost to produce a full-length book with excellence from cover to cover.

While this may sound like a big number to you, I can assure you that publishing houses put the same investment into your book, only no one tells you the actual cost. Instead, they strive to balance their investment in you with a small advance, and typically a long wait before they pay you any royalties—believe me, they want to make their cost back first.

Now, because you’re a self-publishing author, that production cost falls to you. So if your goal is to publish a book that rivals or exceeds a traditional house publication, enhance your credibility, be taken seriously as an author, and maybe even hit bestseller status, you must be prepared to pay for top-quality editing, cover and interior design, and proofreading at the very least. There is no comparison between a book done by the author on the cheap and one that has had professional attention from cover to cover. You can absolutely trust your friendly Book Doctor on that one. :-)

Bottom line: If you don’t have the budget to produce your book professionally, wait. Save the money. Do it right the first time. You’ll be so happy you did.

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