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I'm Charlie
Book Designer & Self Publishing coach

Self-publishing Book Costs


December 20, 2020

What am I getting myself into?

Almost universally, the first question my prospective clients ask is, “How much will it cost to self-publish my book?” Determining the costs of self-publishing your book is one of the most challenging planning steps. Every book is different, and you have to be specific to be accurate. The good thing is, the more work you do upfront, the more money you can save down the line.  This list gives you an idea of the types of costs that come up when producing a book.  To save on costs, you may choose to do much of this work yourself, rather than contracting others to do it. 

To get an idea of book self-publishing costs…


  • Editor—This cost varies depending on your manuscript’s size and what you want the editor to do. Editors charge different rates depending on how deep you want them to go. You may only want basic grammar and consistency finessing, or you may desire more in-depth continuity work.  These are 2008 rates are suggested by the Editorial Freelancers Association.
    • Basic copyediting, prices range from$25–$40/hr, completing possibly 5–10 pages/hr.
    • Deeper copyediting, prices range from $35–$50/hr, completing perhaps 2–5 pages/hr.
    • Line editing, prices range from $40–$65/hr, completing possibly 1–6 pages/hr.
    • Developmental editing, prices range from $45–$50/hr, completing around 2–5 pages/hr. 
  • Proofreader—The cost varies for a proofreader as well, but unlike in editing, proofreaders usually do not make changes for clarity. Without a rush, proofreaders charge 10–$45/hr. Some will charge 3–6¢ a word.
  • Professional indexing—$3–$6 a page depending on the average number of entries per page. Indexing happens after the book has been laid out and finally approved.


  • ISBN and barcode art—I recommend you purchase your own ISBN and barcode if possible. Some publishing services offer an ISBN with their services. It may be convenient, but not purchasing your ISBN may limit where you can print and distribute your title. Buying your own ISBN ensures your book title is directly associated with you. You will need an ISBN for every format of your book: hardcover, paperback, and ebook. ISBN barcode art may incur an additional cost, while some publishing services generate a barcode from your ISBN. A single ISBN and barcode can run as low as $55 for one, or you can buy a package for a reduced rate. Bowker is where most of my clients purchase their ISBNs.

Photography and Illustration

  • Photography/illustration—Prices depend on the job. 


  • Design—covers can range from $500–1,500. The lower rate is usually if your designer is also designing the book’s interior. I see freelancers offer cover design starting at $50 from services like Fiverr, but I would be wary of such offers unless you supply the images.  With prices like that, it seems unlikely that they are aware of stock image rights (see who owns the source files) or do not get permission to use the images.
  • Book interior design text only—(limited images) approximately 200 pages—$3,500–5,000
  • Book interior graphically dependent, with color— $5,000–up
  • Creating an ebook—cost varies, but a text-only ebook can run as low as $200. The range is usually $500–$1500. A graphically-dependant book can go upwards of $3,000 or more 


  • Domain name—You will likely want a domain name associated with your book to market it online. Domain name prices vary, but typically a .com previously unregistered runs around $20/yr.
  • Website—you can build a free website yourself through a service like WIX if you do not mind their banner ad, or you can pay for hosting at your ISP. You can also create one through a host like Godaddy for around $300/yr. Or hire to have one to be professionally done from $300–$1200.
  • Printer’s proof and printing—This price varies by the book. To get estimates, you first need to know what size you want your book to be and how many pages it will be at that chosen size. But don’t despair! If you have a manuscript, you can get page count estimates by modeling your book after another book you like at the same size. Download my Fact-finding Mission Workbook and my Page Count Worksheet to get all the information you need to get accurate printing estimates using your undesigned manuscript.

Obviously, costs vary by the book, and the less you have to contract out, the less expensive it will be. In-depth editing, design, and indexing are usually the most costly steps in self-publishing a book. And creating a squeaky clean manuscript can save you gobs of time and cash.

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