How Much Does It Cost To Publish A Book? [2021 Prices]

How much does it cost to self-publish a book? Depending on how high-quality and how marketable you want the final product to be, self-publishing a book can cost between $100 and $5,000. 

That’s quite the range! You’re likely looking for a cost breakdown to assess exactly how much it will be to publish your book.

In this comprehensive post, I’ll break down the individual costs of every line item in publishing a book. I’ll also talk a bit about the cost of going through traditional publishers.

How much money does an author make per book? Self-published authors make an average of $1-$5 per book on Amazon. Traditionally published authors make an average of $0.50-$2 per book. Bestselling authors can expect a six-figure advance against their royalties for each book.

How much does it cost to publish your first book? It can cost $300-$3,000 to publish your first book, depending on how high-quality you want your final product to be and the amount of marketing you do. The cost of self-publishing changes with different genres.

In this article, you will learn:
  1. The average cost of publishing a book by genre
  2. Cost of each line item involved in publishing
  3. Marketing ideas that won’t break the bank

Links in this article may earn me a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you, and it doesn’t affect my opinion. However, it does help me continue writing these handy articles that anyone can read for free!

Average Costs For Book Publishing

What is the average cost to publish a book? The average cost to self-publish a high-quality book is between $2,000 and $4,000. Many authors spend a lot more or a lot less, depending on their marketing strategy and how much editing and proofreading they pay for.

The average cost to traditionally publish a book can be close to nothing before marketing because editing, formatting, cover design, and proofreading are covered by the publisher. However, marketing costs can still range from $500 to $10,000.

Do you have to pay to publish a book? No, you do not have to pay a publisher to publish a book. You do have to pay for editing, cover design, and marketing. 

What is the difference between a self-published book and a traditionally published book?

  • Self-published books are published by the indie authors themselves. The author covers editing, formatting, proofreading, and cover design fees.
  • Traditionally published books are published by legacy publishing companies, traditional publishing services, or smaller imprints. The company covers editing, formatting, proofreading, and cover design fees. Although they do help with retailer distribution, they do very little to help with marketing.

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Publishing Costs By Book Genre

If we assume that $3,000 is an average cost to self-publish a book, here are all the genres that will cost more or less than the average book:

  • Nonfiction books: Once you factor in indexing costs and higher editing fees due to increased fact-checking, we can figure that nonfiction books cost $1,000 more than the average novel.
  • Historical fiction: This genre of fiction usually requires more fact-checking, so editing rates increase. Historical fiction novels may cost $300-$500 more than other novels.
  • Science fiction/fantasy: These genres tend to run double the length of a typical novel. 120,000-word novels can cost double to edit, format, and proofread, ultimately increasing the publishing costs by about $1,000.
  • Children’s books: Because children’s books have a much lower word count, editing rates tend to skyrocket per word. Also, illustrators can cost thousands of dollars and take half the royalties for very young children’s books. Although publishing a children’s book may only cost slightly more than the average novel, an author’s royalties (profit) are likely to be split with the illustrator, so it takes longer to recoup your initial investment.
  • Comic books: The average comic book will greatly reduce editing costs overall. However, illustrators cost a lot of money and split the royalties. Similar to children’s books, comic books may cost less to edit, but profits are divided between authors and illustrators.

Steps In Publishing A Book

After you finish writing the first draft of your book, here are all the steps to publishing a book, as well as how much they cost:

  • Self-edit your book. Read through the whole book twice, editing along the way. This is free book editing, of course.
  • Send your manuscript to beta readers. Take their comments into consideration for another round of editing. This is also free.
  • Hire a professional editor to edit your book. This can cost $1,000-$2,000 depending on the length of your book.
  • Index your book if you’ve written a nonfiction work. Book indexing can cost $70-$500.
  • Format your book. You can DIY for $0-$250 and a ton of time, or you can hire a book formatter for $50-$1,000.
  • Hire a book cover designer. This can cost $299-$2,000. If you’re selling print books, you need to hire a cover designer after you’ve formatted your book (because the girth of your book spine affects spine design). If you’re only selling an eBook, the order doesn’t matter.
  • Market your book. You should be marketing your book before it’s finished and long after it’s published. There are plenty of inexpensive marketing solutions, but you can expect to pay $200-$2,000 for various book marketing tactics.
  • Purchase an ISBN. Most eBooks actually don’t require ISBNs, but all print books do. ISBNs cost $29.50 (if bought in bulk) or $125 (if bought individually).
  • Hire a proofreader. A proofreader checks that every letter and punctuation mark is in the right place. This is the last step before publishing. After proofreading, you shouldn’t make any more edits. A professional proofreader typically costs $500-$1,000.
  • Publish your book on Amazon. This is absolutely free!

Cost Of Book Editing

You need to hire a professional editor to edit your book. This may end up as your heftiest cost: $200-$2,000. If you can’t find a good deal or friends and family-type discount, you might be looking at the higher end of that price range.

Yes, you have to pay a professional editor to edit your book (unless you can somehow get a legit editor to look at your book for free). Every little typo, grammatical error, and misplaced word increases the risk of a reader closing the book and leaving a bad review. 

Developmental editors help authors shape the big picture of their book, so they cost more: $0.07-$0.012 per word. You don’t need developmental editing, but it can be a lifesaver.

Copy editors are a necessary expense for self-publishers. They typically ensure that spelling is immaculate, grammar is exceptional, sentence structure is flawless, and some copy editors even fact-check your work. Copy editing may cost between $0.02 and $0.04 per word.

Proofreaders should be the last step before hitting the Publish button. Hiring a proofreader can cost $0.01-$0.02 per word.

Your editing pricing will increase with each of these caveats:

  • Your genre or subject matter lends itself to increased fact-checking. (Nonfiction, historical fiction, etc.)
  • Your medium or age category typically has fewer words. (Graphic novels, children’s books, etc.)
  • How long your book is. (A 120,000-word book may cost double to edit compared to a 60,000-word book.)
  • Your chosen editor is more experienced.

I wrote a comprehensive guide on Choosing the Best Editor to make this part of the publishing process easier for you.

On the Reedsy Marketplace and other websites, you can look for freelancers which can decrease the total cost of professional editing. Beware — you usually get what you pay for.

Cost Of Indexing A Book

An index is the long list of info in the back of a book that helps readers find information within that book. Indexing a book may cost between $50-$2,000, depending on the length of the book. $500 is a typical average you can expect to pay for an indexer to index your book.

I recommend indexing your book if it is nonfiction. Fiction books typically do not contain an index.

If you want to DIY your indexing, there are affordable software downloads available like PDF Index Generator. They offer a free trial before buying their $69.95 indexing software.

You could also hire a book indexing service, such as Brookfield Indexing (available in North America) who charges $3-$6 per page.

Cost To Format A Book

You have to format your book, but it doesn’t have to cost very much. DIY book formatting software costs $0-$249.99. Book formatting services can cost up to $1,000, but can sometimes be bundled with book cover design services for overall savings.

Why you have to format your book: Formatting includes margins, headers, typesetting, page numbers, spacing, and so much more. If any of these elements doesn’t look professional, many readers will put your book down, leave a bad review, and badmouth your book to all their peers.

If you are a very technical person with a ton of spare time, invest in book formatting software like Atticus or Vellum. Learn how to use whatever software, and don’t stop formatting till every inch of your eBook (and print book, if applicable) looks perfect.

If you are not a detail-oriented person, or you are short on time, hire a professional book formatter. It’s more expensive, but it will probably take less time overall, and you’ll be sure that your book is as professionally formatted as possible.

FYI: book formatting is also called interior design on some websites.

Trying to land a book deal? You may need to hire a professional to format your manuscript when you send it off to literary agents. This isn’t necessary for self-publishers.

Cost of DIY book formatting software:

  • Atticus – $139.99 (available to Kindlepreneur email subscribers now, launches July 19th to the public. Sign up for our email list for early access to cutting-edge items.)
  • Vellum – $199.99-$249.99
  • Adobe InDesign – $19.99/month (steep learning curve)
  • Scrivener – $49 (steep learning curve)
  • Microsoft Word – $139 (what-you-see-is-what-you-get formatting)
  • Jutoh – $45
  • Reedsy Book Editor – FREE (not as robust)
  • Kindle Create – FREE (not as robust)

Bonus: I don’t recommend MS Word for book formatting, but if you’re going to use it, check out Amazon’s video tutorial on MS Word book formatting.

If you do your own formatting, there are tons of templates that you can download off of the Internet. IngramSpark, microsoft.com, and other websites offer free templates.

Cost of book formatting services:

Cost Of Cover Design

Unless you are a professional graphic designer with experience making professional-looking book covers, you need to hire someone else to make your book cover. Book cover design can cost $200-$3,000. You can get amazing book covers for under $1,000.

Your book cover design is your number one marketing tool. When people browse Amazon, all they’ll see is your book cover and title in the search results. If you have an unprofessional, messy book cover design, readers will think the rest of your book is amateurish and not worth their time.

Book cover design will be more expensive if you:

  • Require a more intricate design.
  • Need a specific detailed character design.
  • Request more than a few edits (called rounds).
  • Want both an ebook cover and a print book cover design.
  • Get a custom design from an experienced artist.

DIY cover design options:

Book cover design services:

It is normal to pay these services half upfront and half once you approve the final design.

Cost of Book Marketing 

Book marketing can cost anywhere from $0 to $10,000 — it all depends on how much you want to spend. Reminder: You have to market your book and yourself as an author, even if you spend nothing but your time.

Check out my 71 Tips on Book Promotion.

First-time authors typically spend less than $300 on their book marketing. As you publish more books and grow your audience, your marketing budget should get bigger.

Here are some handy free marketing suggestions:

  • Set up a professional Facebook page for your book and yourself as an author.
  • Post relevant, interesting images on your Instagram page (whether for your book or yourself as an author) as well as other social media. Check out my Hashtags for Authors breakdown.
  • Some book reviewers don’t require payment to review your book and share it with their audience.
  • Without being annoying, name-drop your book on relevant subreddits and Facebook groups.
  • Write a killer book description that displays both an interesting premise and a professionally written book.
  • Enlist beta readers to review your book on Amazon when it goes up and to tell their friends about it.
  • Seek out every social gathering possible. Humbly mention your book to everyone you meet.
  • Local bookstores may allow authors to hold signings in their space for free.
  • Send press releases about your book’s release to local newspapers and TV outlets. Who knows? Some executives may be looking for a special interest piece.

However, there are some common costs if you want to sell your book to a wide audience:

Read more about book marketing costs in my Book Marketing 101 article.

Other Costs In Publishing A Book

Other costs to publish a book include:

  • ISBN registration: $29.50-$125 (Read this article for more info on getting your own ISBN.)
  • Proofreader: $500-$1,000 (about $0.01-$0.02 per word)
  • Ebook aggregator or distribution: $20-$300 (if you publish on multiple platforms)
  • Author headshot: $0-$1,000
  • Making an audiobook: $3,000-$8,000 
  • DIY printing costs or print-on-demand services [POD]: $4-$14/book (Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing subtracts printing costs from your royalties for each book, so you shouldn’t have to worry about printing costs if you’re exclusively on KDP.)

The Bottom Line

How much does it cost to publish a book in the United States? It usually costs between $500 and $5,000 to publish a book in the United States. A lot of that cost comes from hiring an editor, book designer services, and marketing.

The average self-published book costs about $2,000 to publish and market. First-time authors typically spend less on their first book and increase their budget with each subsequent book.

Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone. Check out Kindlepreneur’s Book Marketing Show podcast to learn from experts about selling your own book. The more your book sales soar, the more all these costs are justified. Cheers to your finished product!



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