Disclaimer: The costs associated with writing, editing, publishing, and marketing a book can vary widely. Any cost estimates or cost ranges provided below are based on what you might expect to pay in the United States. You must conduct your own research and quote requests to determine reliable cost estimates for your individual book project.

Question: What are all of the costs I should consider when writing and publishing a book?


Before embarking on the journey to write and publish a book, it's important to understand the potential costs of each step in the process. This will help you properly budget for your project, make smart decisions along the way, and determine how many books you will need to sell to make a return on your investment. A well-tracked budget can also inform any decisions you make for future book projects.

Creating a budget for your book before you start is important.The costs associated with writing, editing, publishing, and marketing a book can vary greatly from project to project. Your chosen publishing path, skillset, book’s length and genre, and long-term goals can all affect cost. The more steps you can complete on your own in the process, the less you’ll have to invest financially

Writing Costs

The writing process itself can cost you little to nothing, depending on your writing skills and if you plan to do the writing yourself or hire some help. Here are some potential writing-related costs to consider:

Software – if you’re comfortable with technology, you may want to upgrade to a feature-rich writing platform such as Scrivener ($60), or use dictation software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking. ($200)

Courses or Education – many writers want to continue honing their writing craft and industry knowledge through writing courses or online education platforms such as The Author Learning Center. ($100/yr +)  

Writing Coach – if you feel stuck in your writing or need guidance from someone more experienced, a book coach can help hold you accountable, mentor you, and provide valuable industry insights. ($50/hr +)

Writing Group Fees – a group of like-minded people can provide feedback, support, and advice. You can find groups online or in your local area and some will have a membership fee. ($50 - $300/yr)

Ghostwriting Services – if you are looking to hire someone else to write your story, you will need to hire a ghostwriter. This can be expensive depending on the ghostwriter’s experience level. ($5,000+)

Other Tools: Notebooks, Binders for Research, etc. – you may need to invest in supplies to keep track of your notes, outlines, or research. You may also need to get out of the comfort of your writing space to conduct research. This can include travel, visiting museums and landmarks, or purchasing books that inform or inspire you. (costs vary widely depending on need) 

Editing Costs

Editing is an essential part of any successful book. Often, it’s what turns an average story into a great one. The amount of editing your book needs depends on two things: your publishing method and your personal practices and skills. Professional editing can cost a few hundred dollars or several thousand, depending on your book's word count and the level of editing required. Here are the four main levels of editing, ranging from most expensive to least:

Online courses and education can help writers, especially when it comes to self-editing.Developmental Editing – the editor looks at the manuscript as a whole and evaluates what works and what doesn't. For fiction books, the editor examines the characters, plot, structure, continuities, and pacing. For nonfiction, the editor focuses on the organization and structure of the work as a whole. ($$$$)

Line Editing – the editor reviews writing style, word choice, paragraph structure and flow, redundancies, and areas that need clarification. A line editor is not focused on grammar and typos, but helps to improve the quality of your writing. ($$$)

Copyediting – the editor fixes errors in grammar, syntax, and punctuation. ($$)

Proofreading – the editor ensures there are no formatting mistakes, typos, or inconsistencies. ($)

Writers can save time and money by doing as much self-editing as possible, and then using beta readers to get some valuable feedback before submitting to a professional editor.

Design and Formatting Costs

This is where your book goes from bare bones manuscript to a shelf-worthy product that can be treasured and enjoyed by readers. The design and formatting work is pretty standard for most novels and memoirs, but will be more substantial for children’s books, graphic novels, and nonfiction genres such as how-to, business, and academic.

Interior Design: Typesetting and Layout – to meet reader, retailer, and reviewer expectations, your book must have a professional interior that adheres to industry standards. This includes front matter, the body of the text, and back matter. The amount you’ll need to invest depends on your skillset and chosen publishing path. ($50 - $500)

Photographs/Illustrations – obtaining high quality illustrations is a critical part of publishing children's books, comics, and graphic novels. Photographs or illustrations may also be necessary for some The interior design of a book is just as important as the book cover.nonfiction books. While some authors are talented illustrators, most will benefit from hiring an experienced artist or designer, or purchasing stock images. You can also refer to this article for information on how to find free images legally. (costs can vary widely depending on need)  

Cover Design and Copy (print and digital) – readers DO often judge a book by its cover, so cover design is not an area where you want to skimp. It’s critical your cover is eye-catching, readable, and appropriately fits your genre and story or topic. ($100 - $600)

eBook Formatting – eBooks are a cost effective way to add another reading format option to readers. Creating eBooks does require special formatting and specific file types that you may be able to produce yourself, or you can hire it out. ($100 - $300)

Audiobook Creationpublishing an audiobook is an excellent way to expand your distribution, reach new readers, improve your online discoverability, and earn additional revenue. You will likely need to invest in some equipment to record it yourself, or hire voiceover talent, which can be pricey. There may also be fees for software, file set up, and distribution. ($500+)

Publication Costs

Your chosen publishing path is one of the biggest factors in how much you will have to invest in the production of your book. To learn more about the four primary paths to publishing and the advantages and disadvantages of each, watch this recorded webinar.

ISBNs, Barcodes, LCCN, and PCIP – the back cover of your physical books must contain certain codes for retail stores to carry them, and libraries require additional codes for placement in their establishment. These codes have fees associated with acquiring them. ($150 - $300)

Copyright Registration – Copyright gives the owner the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, and display the work publicly. There is a fee to register copyright. ($45 - $125)

Books are typically printed either offset or digitally.Advance Reading/Review Copies – to acquire reviews before your book is officially released, you’ll need to execute an advance review copy (ARC) program for your book. This involves providing a free, pre-publication copy of your book to reviewers in exchange for an honest review. You will have to pay a per book print cost if providing a physical copy.

Printing Fees – printing costs are dependent upon your chosen publishing path. If you traditionally publish, you won’t incur any printing costs; your publisher will cover them. If you self-publish using a service provider, they will offer either offset printing or print-on-demand.

In offset printing, a printing press is used to produce larger quantities of books (1,500+). This is the highest quality of printing available and the cost per book is lower due to the large quantity. The downside is that it requires a big, upfront investment ($4,500+). Print-on-demand (POD) is a form of digital printing where books are printed as ordered. The cost per book will be higher due to printing one at a time, but you won’t have to worry about warehousing a large quantity of books or upfront payment. POD quality has improved greatly over the years so platforms like Amazon and IngramSpark utilize it for printing.

Distribution Costs

In order to get your book in the hands of readers, you will want to explore both online and brick and mortar distribution channels. Online channels will require upfront fees and/or take a percentage of every sale (up to 60%), while brick and mortar will likely require your book to be available through wholesalers or distributors who buy your book at a deep discount (up to 55% off list price) or for a substantial percentage of sales. (10% - 30%)

All distribution paths come with a price, whether in the form of a fee or in the form of taking a chunk of your profits. Example fees might include set up, storage, warehousing management, and shipping.

Most authors realize the importance of having their books for sale on Amazon, but underestimate the untapped markets outside of Amazon. This includes independent bookstores, libraries, museums, and other retail outlets. Other platforms to consider include IngramSpark, Smashwords, and Draft2Digital. Ingram's catalog, for example, is accessible to all of the major and independent bookstores. An aggregator like Draft2Digital can make your book available through Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive, and more. The more places your book is available for sale, the more you will reach new readers. Any costs incurred will likely be worth the investment.

Marketing Costs

Marketing is where authors tend to see the biggest variance in potential costs. There are “free” marketing initiatives that only take your time and effort such as posting on social media, and there are initiatives where you can easily spend thousands of dollars such as a publicity campaign. At the end of the day, authors need to determine what they can afford to invest in book marketing, and research the most cost effective ways to spend that budget. The best avenues will depend on where you can reach your target readers and your financial limit.

Website – a simple website or blog can be created for free using platforms like WordPress and Wix and be your central hub. If you want a more robust website, you may need to factor in design, domain, and hosting fees.

Book Launch Event – celebrate your achievement with friends, family, fans, and the media with a book signing event, themed party, or even an online event. For an in-person event, you may need to account for the costs of the venue rental, food and drink, entertainment, décor, and more.

Social Media – you’ll want to be active on at least one or two platforms. The platforms themselves are free to set up an account and post, but if you need to hire creative help or use a scheduling platform, you’ll need to budget for these costs.

An author website is just one of many marketing expenses an author can incur.Email Marketing Platform – sending a weekly or monthly email newsletter to your contacts can be a great way to communicate and build a fan base long-term. Platforms like MailChimp and MailerLite offer free, basic accounts to get started, but there might be fees as you gain more followers.

In-Person Events, Speaking, and Signings – offering to speak or do book signings at your local bookstores, libraries, schools, and relevant organizations can be very effective in connecting with potential readers. There may be costs associated with these events such as travel expenses. In return, some speaking engagements may be paying events, making it worth any investment.

Printed Materials – this includes any items you take to in-person events to hand out such as bookmarks, one-sheets, business cards and more. This can also include any signage or banners you might need to dress up a booth space.

Book Giveaways – you’ll want to plan to give away several copies of your book to reviewers, media personnel, librarians, or to secure speaking opportunities. In some cases, a digital file may be acceptable, but a physical copy usually makes a bigger impression.

Paid Reviews – while consumer reviews on sites such as Amazon and Goodreads are important, so are reviews from other sources such as independent review outlets. Some review outlets may charge a fee for the review of an independent or self-published book.

Paid Advertising – allocating funds toward paid advertising can be worth the investment when done strategically. You just have to be wise about testing the waters first and finding which advertising methods are most effective for your book’s genre and target audience. Online advertising through Amazon, Google, and social media tends to be more budget-friendly than print advertising.

Multimedia – this can include assets like a video trailer or any equipment or software required to record, edit, and prepare video and audio for social media or podcasts.

Public Relations/Publicist – at a minimum, you’ll want to have a press release ready for launch. If your marketing strategy includes media coverage, you’ll want to have an author media kit prepared as well. You can create these tools yourself, but may need to hire assistance.

Marketing Service Providers – your publishing company may offer book marketing packages that include a list of services to help create awareness for your book. There are also many providers and platforms online offering various book marketing services from email promotions to book tours.

The Author Learning Center offers a handy book budget tracking tool.We invite you to use this handy “Book Project Budget – Tracking Sheet” to plug in cost estimates when researching and planning your budget. As noted above, costs can vary widely for many of the items. There may be things you can remove from the list because they don’t apply to you or your project. You can also use this worksheet to track your actual costs and calculate your total investment.

0880.ALC Book Project Budget - Tracking Sheet.xlsx

In addition, you can search any of the above items on The Author Learning Center website and find more information and resources to guide you.

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