How Much Does It Cost To Publish A Book

Jun 19, 2020 | Publishing

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The question of how much does it cost to publish a book is a challenging one to answer succinctly. Over the years, I have worked with authors that spent considerable amounts of money getting their book out, and others who produced a similar quality book for half of the price.

How much you spend depends on a couple of things:

How resourceful are you?

How much time are you willing to commit to looking around?

While hard and fast numbers are impossible to offer (every book and every author are different) there are a few areas you need to understand. In each of these main categories, I offer you basic cost ranges, ways to save some dough, and a pro tip that may help your decision making.

Editorial Costs

Cost Range?

Editorial rates fall in wide ranges. Different editors charge different rates based on the type of editing and their experience. 

For the most part, editors work within the ranges described by the Editorial Freelancers Association. You can see from the chart, the basic going rate for most editorial services runs between $40 and $60 an hour, not too bad.

When I edit books, I charge in the middle of that rate with developmental editing taking roughly seven to twelve hours for a 60,000-word book.

Way to save some money?

One way to save money on editorial costs is to get involved with a writers group. Workshopping with other writers allows you to work out some of the inevitable story kinks, especially around plot and character.

You can also use services like Grammarly to give your manuscript a basic line edit and proofread. It’s not perfect, but it does help clean up your manuscript before you get to the proofreader, thus costing you less of their time

Pro Tip:

Professional editorial rates fall within the guidelines above. Sometimes editors are considered hot commodities within their genre, but for a beginning writer, you likely don’t need the “hot commodity”. 

You need something solid.

Don’t skimp here. When your book gets to readers, it needs to be both well-written and sharp. Don’t allow your book to suffer poor reviews because you went without editorial services or a proofreader.

How Much Does It Cost To Publish A Book: Layout & Design

Cost Range?

Book layout and design is a fairly easy service to locate. Most designers charge in the range of $300 to $600 for a book, depending on the complexity of the layout. Layout complexity comes down to questions like: how many pictures? does the book require footnotes? how long is the book in terms of words and/or chapters?

The cost of this service also may come down to what exported platforms. Most authors want their book exported into files that allow them to publish on Apple Books, Kobo, Google Books, print as well as, obviously, Amazon.

Way to save some money?

This is a tough place to cut costs. Professional layout & design are necessary for your book to look right.

If you are a self-publishing author and you envision yourself writing and publishing many books, buying a program like Vellum may be a good route. For a small upfront cost and the commitment of time, you could teach yourself basic layout and skip this on-going cost altogeher.

For simple books not requiring many pictures, graphs or citations, Vellum creates a strong product that is professional grade.

Pro Tip:

Don’t just stick your manuscript up on Amazon.

Yes, there is an option to upload your working .doc or .docx file, using their internal formatting software. The results are usually shaky though, they don’t look as good as a professionally designed book.

This comes back to the previous idea about poor reviews. You simply cannot afford to risk negative reviews of your book because layout and design are sloppy. If you don’t believe me, look at Amazon reviews for self-publishing authors. Reviewers are tough.

Cover Costs

Cost Range?

This service may provide the widest range of costs. Designers charge anywhere from $10 to $1,000 for a cover design, with the going rate for an eBook falling in the area of $150-400. When you’re looking at a print book version, you can expect to pay 30-40% more.

Way to save some money?

Don’t make your own. Unless, of course, you’re a graphic designer with a keen eye for cover styles.

Many cover designers offer pre-made covers from their portfolios. The pre-made covers are almost always discounted, usually costing 50% of a custom cover. That is a great deal when you’re trying to cut down on costs.

Another route to saving money is a service like Fivver, Upwork or Thumbtack. You can get a decent cover for a great price if you hunt around.

Pro Tip:

Don’t skimp here… but that isn’t permission to overdo it either.

What do I mean by that?

On my first book, I engaged a cover designer who offered an original painting. The project was going to cost $500 (a steep cost I know now) but for my money, I was only getting rights to the eBook cover. He wanted to charge me considerably more to license the image to print books, audiobooks, and advertising.

Look, I know your book is your baby. Your career may yet yield successes that afford you expensive covers.

For the first book, however, consider something more modest.

How much does it cost to publish a book?

How Much Does It Cost To Publish A Book: Traditional Route

Cost Range?

This is really difficult to answer. The traditional route to publication hinges on getting the right manuscript into the right agent/publisher’s hand at the right time. That becomes, in many instances, a numbers game.

How many people can you pitch? How many hands can you shake?

How much rejection can you stand?

The conventional route here is a writer’s conference. You can attend a local or national conference for the cost of attendance ($200-500) travel (check your trusty discounted ticket site) and lodging. This can add up pretty fast.

If you want a solid, predictable answer to the question of how much does it cost to publish a book, this route is mostly the unknown.

Way to save some money?

Social media. There is a lot of mud out there and it can, at times, be difficult to navigate, but agents and publishers have a public face. They’re part of a community. If you ingratiate yourself to that community, you can start building the kind of connections you need.

Pro Tip:

The traditional route to publication is a long tail. That means you’re going to be at it for a while. 

The myth of the home run is mostly a myth.

If you have the time and you’re certain you want the editor/agent/publisher relationship, it’s important to look at the process as one of building long term, healthy professional relationships. Your mindset needs to be around making friends, both with your colleagues and your target professionals.

Why is that? Because the people you meet on the way up are part of your network. You can never have too many allies in the publishing game.


Whatever route you choose, publishing a book costs money. You can spend a little or a lot on editorial costs, layout and design, and covers. Going the traditional route, seeking an agent or a publisher, incurs costs in terms of time.

The key to understand is this: when it comes to how much it costs to publish a book, you always have options.