Authorpreneur Nuts & Bolts #3: Cost of Self-Publishing


The Cost of Self-Publishing

When you want to publish your own book, often times the question is not HOW to self publish, but how much it will COST.

The cost of self-publishing is a remarkably grey area, with some authors claiming one figure and other authors claiming another. The truth is that what it will cost YOU to self-publish YOUR book may be very, very different from what it costs any other author—not only because of who you use, but because of your book itself.

The four stages of production for any book are Writing, Editing, Cover Design and Formatting. Each of these breaks down further, with different costs for different levels of service. For example, you can simply hire a copy editor to make sure your book doesn’t have any glaring typos, or you can hire a developmental editor who will help you tighten your story and turn your book into the best version of itself.

In today’s Authorpreneur Nuts & Bolts video tutorial, Garrett takes a look at each part of the self-publishing process and gives a rough estimate of low to high costs, giving you grand totals you can use to estimate how much your book will—or can—cost to publish.

About Garrett Robinson

Garrett is a long-time Sterling & Stone buddy and the author of such works as the Nightblade and Realm Keepers series. You can find him on his website,, or follow him on Twitter. He also has a Patreon page where you can contribute to all the free art he produces every week, in exchange for free copies of his ebooks.


  1. Where in that four (Writing, Editing, Cover Design and Formatting) would you include marketing?

    • Marketing is a COMPLETELY separate beast, and outside the scope of this video. This is the cost to take a book to print, which is all most authors seem to care about anyway—at least at first. After that, marketing budgets are basically “What you can afford.” There are great marketing plans that cost nothing (permafree, with a strong CTA to get the second book) and great marketing plans that cost quite a lot (BookBub and paid featured placement in every other big ebook retailer). That is the sort of thing covered in the Self Publishing Podcast.

  2. robert bucchianeri says:

    Good stuff, Garrett. Thanks. I’ve been through the process seven times now. While I think a copy editor is essential I can’t quite wrap my brain around the need for a developmental editor. Hopefully my beta readers provide some of that input. I think you’d have to be careful about finding the right developmental editor, one that tunes into the same radio you’re listening to.

    • That is SO, SO important—for copy editors as well, because otherwise they might endlessly correct something that’s part of your style.
      Beta readers can provide great insight that will help you develop your story, which is why many indie authors on a budget will eschew a (costly) developmental editor in favor of (free) beta readers. BUT, beta readers are very rarely professionals, and as such they might not KNOW what they don’t like about something, or why a book has problems. A truly professional developmental editor can spot problems with laser focus and address them.
      Another alternative is co-writing. Co-writing often takes care of many of the problems of a developmental editor, because you’re both expert story tellers, and you spot the flaws in each others’ ideas long before they even reach paper.

  3. robert bucchianeri says:

    Forgot to add a question. Isn’t there an additional cost for a print book cover? I’ve had to pay an additional fee for wrap around covers for a print version.

    • Thanks, Robert—that’s what we tried to include in the additional cost for a “Hardcover” in the formatting section. Generally hardcover formatting is a print book with a dust jacket, and that costs extra.

  4. Why is Garrett yelling at me?

  5. I know you are sponsored by 99 Designs, hence there is benefit in promoting them in this series to you (kickbacks and all that) but is it really accurate to portray the ‘best’ cheaper option for cover design being 299 via their site? I agree they have some great artists, but there are a number of high quality artists with websites taking commissions and putting out high quality pre-made covers for a fraction of this price. Yes there is some tat around, but many of these places have significantly upped their game and are putting out top quality work between 30 and 100 dollars. Just thought if you were talking about the best (or cheapest) deal for indies starting out, that would have been the better option. If you aren’t aware of these sites then a bit of research will deliver quick results.

    • Garrett Robinson says:

      As with all things across the S&S spectrum, we’ll only explicitly name people WE know and can vouch for. I could google search and list a dozen different cover artists in five minutes. Are they any good? I have no idea. Their portfolio doesn’t mean anything until we’ve worked with them.

      I won’t include anyone in any of my videos who I can’t vouch for, or who the SPP guys won’t vouch for.

      A side note: I didn’t say 99Designs was the “best” cheaper option. My exact words: “You can get very good professional cover design services at” Later I listed them under the “Smart Minimum” option because, again, they’re a resource I know and who ANYONE can go and access for the same price. Never said “Best.”

      As far as pre-made covers go—I will never recommend pre-made covers, and unless I’m mistaken, the SPP guys steer away from them as well. There were some pre-made covers on S&S books in the early days, and then those covers started cropping up on a bunch of other authors’ books, too. That required a whole bunch of double-work, getting new covers because the same pre-made covers were now used a whole slew of other, crappy titles sold by cut-rate cover designers who re-used the same stock photos.

      If you have suggestions for other cover designers sites, feel free to list them along with your personal recommendation. Even more helpfully, list them on the YouTube page where more people will see them. I won’t put my name on the recommendation, because I can only speak from my experience—if you add your own experience from your own book covers, you make this resource more valuable for the whole community.

      As a final point, I don’t get any kickbacks from They don’t sponsor ME or this video series—they sponsor the Self-Publishing Podcast. And conversely, the SPP guys don’t write, shoot, edit or produce these videos—I do. Feel free to reach out to me privately in the future if you think I’ve missed an important disclaimer, and if I have I will fix the video.

      • Will you two just get a room? The sexual tension is killing us

      • Well I’m sorry to say Garrett that this comment leads em to believe you are quite out of touch with the current industry, outside of your personal experience. Which makes it difficult then for me (or anyone really) to take this series seriously. I understood it to be a true wide reaching series aimed at you researching the entire space, and providing all of the information from as many sources as possible, giving indie authors a true A to Z guide on HOW TO indie publish. Not just items from your personal experience or that in your opinion are the best.
        How many best selling authors did you survey for their opinions? How many books did you review to come to your conclusion on covers? It sounds like none.
        Some of the best selling indie books now don pre-made covers.
        If you had read what I said, many of these products are now significantly higher than they were in the past.
        I really appreciated the idea behind this series and that someone was doing it. I had hoped it would be a great tool for all authors, from a guy who is on the cutting edge of video content for indies (which I still believe you are)
        Now I wonder if I can actually recommend it if things are going to be based solely on your experience, or with whom SPP/you have worked with.
        This isn’t an attack (although your response certainly seemed quite defensive & aggressive)
        I am merely attempting to help you improve your product so make it as wide reaching & in depth as possible.

      • On your final point Garrett. I wasn’t aware this wasn’t a Sterling & Stone production. I was under the impression that you were affiliated and employed by this site to produce the series. The series was also being posted here and on the S&S channel. It is quite an obvious mistake to make.

        In relation to feedback. I thought this was the appropriate place to post a response to the video, being it was posted on this site & is on this channel? As I said above, wasn’t attacking you. Just supplying feedback which I thought important to point out. Not everyone is going to agree with you 100%. (I didn’t even disagree that 99 designs were a great service. Just that some research would have given authors a great cheaper option)

        Part of being an authority means sometimes you are going to have people offering a different opinion than you. I’m sorry you weren’t able to take it that way.

  6. If anyone’s thinking about Scrivener, you can get a 50% off code for it by succeeding at Nanowrimo.

    Just FYI.

  7. Kacy Kazmierczak says:

    Great job, Garrett.

    Maybe one thing that authors can think about is identifying their strengths and outsourcing the rest. Its probably rare that a creative is good at only one thing (writing) and won’t be good enough (or find it interesting enough) to get involved in other aspects of a book’s creation. The trick is identifying what you are really good at, and there you almost certainly need others to do the evaluation.

  8. Ronnie Pelletier says:

    Thanks Garrett. Nice to know I’m not spending foolishly. So far it’s been all about the producing of the books for me (ie – $ going out). But, I worked hard on writing the series – why not send it out into the world dressed in its best? I’m loving your course – my treat to myself.

  9. This is really interesting, I think a lot of writers don’t factor in editing, design, formatting etc into their idea of what’s necessary to publish. Just because I can write doesn’t mean I can edit – sometimes I can’t even spell! Luckily I have an editor and a designer to help out with this.
    It’s very helpful to have everything laid out like this and explained the way it has been here – this is a nicely done, neat and balanced article.
    Some of the costs mentioned seem pretty steep to me as we include editing, design, formatting, a pre-print run of 50-200 books and a bit of publicizing in our packages (£350-750) but i suppose English costs are lower and it’s cheaper for us as we do it all in-house.

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